How to Make Longer, More Successful Cold Calls

A report from the Bridge Group Inc. illustrated that the average sales rep makes 46 calls per day. Experts continue to argue over whether cold-calling is dead or alive, but ultimately this method of outbound prospecting provides results that are difficult to deny.

DiscoverOrg surveyed 200 leading companies, and 55 percent of the companies with the highest growth insisted that cold calling is alive and well. Meanwhile, the companies that claimed cold calling to be obsolete experienced 42 percent less growth than the cold-callers.

So, cold calling is certainly relevant, though often stressful. It can become a habit to rush through the call in an attempt to make a sale. Alternatively, others may be hesitant to get to the point of the call and feel like they’re wasting time.

So, how long does an effective cold call really need to be?

Buying Time

SalesHacker analyzed their database of over 90,000 sales calls in order to identify the anatomy of a good cold call. They defined a successful call as one that “ended up in a held follow-up meeting,” and they only analyzed calls that at the very least included some form of conversation.

They found that successful calls lasted an average of five minutes and fifty seconds. In cold call time, that can feel like forever, but don’t lose hope.

Chris Orlob, senior director of marketing at Gong.io, explains that “the longer the call, the greater your odds of getting a meeting.” He says that the goal of each sentence is to get the customer to listen to the next sentence, describing cold calls as “won inch-by-inch, second-by-second.”

Stop, Cold Call, and Listen

It’s been mentioned many times before that listening is an important component of any sales call, but keep in mind that the talk-to-listen ratio is a delicate balance. SalesHacker found that in successful calls, the rep held up 55% of the conversation.

Conversely, in unsuccessful calls reps did only 42% of the talking. This may not seem like much of a difference but in many cases, it’s the difference between whether you land that follow-up meeting or not.

Many salespeople become discouraged when the prospect doesn’t offer lengthy responses and may feel like they’re talking too much, but SalesHacker also reminds us that “successful cold calls have 50% longer uninterrupted bursts of talking, mostly on the part of the sales rep.” Now, be warned: this doesn’t mean that you should keep talking for the sake of keeping a prospect on the phone, but it does demonstrate the value of the prospects time and how a longer call can indicate better chances of success.

Keeping Conversation Going

Keeping a prospect on the phone for those precious six minutes is no easy task, and requires some elements of strategy. Thankfully, there are ways to lengthen your conversation that are still beneficial to everyone involved and won’t make you feel like you’re blabbering.

One of the keys to making cold calls less painful is asking good questions, which can really help to lengthen a call. Think deeper than the usual general questions and consider what information you truly need from the prospect.

Chris Orlob recommends asking targeted questions to keep the conversation on course because open-ended questions can steer the call into uncharted territory. Crystal Williams at Close.io warns that “the wrong questions can turn you into a passive listener,” but asking the right questions can be very powerful in directing the conversation.

Brian Tracy, the author of The Psychology of Achievement, suggests planning out your questions for a cold call in advance and then organizing them from most general to most specific. General questions may get the prospect talking, but the specific questions are the ones that will get you the information that you want from the outset. Use questions to direct the conversation to accomplish your goals for the call.

Additionally, keep those overall goals for the cold call in mind. Notice that the criteria for a successful cold-call is not making a sale. The successful cold call is defined by eventually leading to a held follow-up meeting. That means your goal for the call is not to convince the prospect to invest in anything right away. Use the cold call to explore how you can fulfill the needs of your customer and describe what you have to offer.

Go Forth and Call

The idea of a long cold call can be daunting, but research shows that a long cold call is actually good news. Keep clear, attainable goals for your cold call, plan good specific questions, and relax knowing that the initial cold call isn’t always a make-it-or-break-it situation.

You can maintain control of the cold call, and lead it to that sweet spot of a five minute, fifty-second success!