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The Best Approach to Cold Calling for SDRs

Phone calls. Love them or hate them, they’re a big part of life for sales development representatives (SDRs). 


As the Lead Outbound Strategist (aka SDR) for SalesLeap, I spend a lot of time on SDR training and coaching our clients’ SDRs, so I know first-hand that cold calling is a big source of anxiety.


Part of the problem is that there are so many “experts” giving contradictory advice or tips that feel awkward or unnatural to follow. Some say to start with a rehearsed pitch, others say to act natural. Thinking like a hostage negotiator, as the famous sales book recommends, might help in terms of strategy, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts of calls, the SDRs I work with want more specific advice. 


Plus, there’s the fact that a lot of people are not so happy to receive cold calls. So how can an SDR push past the awkwardness and engage with prospects in a productive way?

SDR team working on sales


My top SDR sales training tips

When I work with SalesLeap clients on B2B sales development, I like to get a sense of how their SDRs interact with prospects.


All too often, I find that SDRs get so tangled up in crafting the right pitch and presenting their company perfectly that they become stiff and awkward. And there’s nothing like an uncomfortable and obvious sales pitch to get a prospect to hang up the phone.


It’s not surprising that this happens so often. Many sales reps don’t receive much SDR sales training and instead are left to “sink or swim.” But you don’t need an MBA to understand the tip that, in my experience, makes the biggest difference.


Be yourself.


Given a choice, we’d all rather have a friendly, personable conversation instead of listening to a scripted pitch, right? Simply relaxing, worrying a little less about perfect grammar, and listening to your prospect make a huge difference. You don’t need to tell the lead your life story, but using your natural tone of voice, making a joke or two, and keeping things informal can make a big difference.


You had me at hello.

Putting your best foot forward starts with a friendly greeting. It can be tempting to launch straight into a pitch or, at the very least, an explanation of what your product does. Resist that temptation!


Introduce yourself, but keep the part about your company light. Ask how they’re doing. Check in on the weather where they are. Whatever you do, stay away from the dreaded robotic telemarketer voice. 


Be sure to take a few deep breaths before you call, and keep breathing as you chat. Most people talk faster when they’re nervous, which can be extremely off-putting (and hard to understand). And remember, the energy you bring to the call is everything. Unless you’re an Oscar-worthy actor, the person you’re talking to will be able to tell if you’re going through the motions. If you need to pump yourself up with an extra cup of coffee or some feel-good music before you start your cold calls, do it. 


Get to know their pain. 

As I tell people in SDR training, your role is not to make a sale or close a deal. That’s for the account executives to handle. Your job is to get the prospect thinking about their pain. 


The problem is, you don’t know what their biggest problems are yet. That’s why you need to start by asking open-ended questions about their work (related to your product or service, of course). For example, you might ask a physician’s group how they manage their billing and recordkeeping or ask a company’s chief technical officer how they ensure their customers’ data is safe. More than likely, their answer will reveal their worries and concerns, which your team can then use to target your pitch. 


This kind of conversation is effective because it gives you the information you need to keep moving the prospect through the funnel, and it also primes them to think about how a solution might make their lives better. 


Practice makes perfect.

Being friendly and cheerful is easy, right? Not so fast. Even though this approach should feel a lot more natural than the more scripted tactics you might have tried in the past, I’ve learned through SDR sales training that it takes everyone some trial and error to perfect their approach.


Experiment with different greetings and questions to get your prospect talking. Don’t be afraid to be a bit informal or to laugh at yourself. Over time, I promise that these conversions will become second nature.  Cheers. I hope these tips help.



Looking for some extra help nailing your cold-calling technique? Reach out to learn more about SalesLeap’s B2B sales development programs. 


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