For rookie and novice salesmen alike, there may be nothing more frightening than the task of cold calling on potential clients.

Although it’s easy to believe that a cold call will lead to rejection and, therefore, failure, a salesperson can’t let the possibility of rejection keep them from putting their best foot forward. As former soccer player and coach Sven Goran Eriksson says, “The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”

With the resources available on the devices carried in the modern salesperson’s pocket, there’s absolutely no reason for there to be anything “cold” about your first call with a potential client. You just have to make sure that you’re prepared before you ever knock on their door.

When preparing for a cold calling opportunity, gather some relevant and telling information about the potential client’s business. Some questions that have helped me with the research phase include:

  • What does the prospect excel at doing?
  • Who are the prospect’s main clients?
  • How does their product or service work?
  • Who is their competition?
  • How could the prospect benefit from my products or services?
  • Does the prospect do business with one of my competitors? If yes, what might I be able to offer that’s different?

Always make an effort to find a mutual contact, business partner or client. Referencing a mutual acquaintance during a cold call can help initiate a feeling of trustworthiness and, if nothing else, can serve as a simple conversation starter.

After the initial research phase, set a rough roadmap of how you want the sales call to play out. In other words, visualize the ideal sales call with that potential client. It’s a good idea to not only have a rough script or a list of questions that you plan to ask, but also to think ahead in regard to the responses you may receive.

Sometimes comments from potential clients will come out of left field, and nothing can completely prepare you for those. But if you’ve anticipated at least some of their questions and answers, you can work through your responses beforehand. Be sure to rehearse in front of a mirror or role play with a friend or fellow salesperson so that you are comfortable with your plan of attack.

When making a cold call, introduce yourself and your company with a brief 30-second elevator speech.

Don’t use gifts to gain entrance; all this says is, “I am afraid to confront you, so I need to hand you a token of my potential friendship.”

Instead, make a connection with the person you’re speaking to by looking around their office for a picture of their family, or something personal, such as a golf trophy or business award. Then break the ice by asking questions about it. Don’t waste too much time on small talk, but get the person you’re speaking with comfortable talking to you.

Once they seem comfortable, begin to ask qualifying questions about what their needs are for your product or service. Once you have a good idea of those needs, begin to talk about how your product or service can help.

A very important point when conducting your sales interview is to ask the client questions that require them to say yes — they agree — when you’re matching their needs and wants to your services. It’s also important to address any concerns or objections, and when you do, make sure to restate the concern as if you are clarifying the statement. Then, make the move to sell the product or service, or schedule a follow-up call.

While these steps don’t guarantee that you’ll close the sale with success every time, they’ll take you a long way toward better calls and better relationships with potential clients.

Just be yourself and enter the room with a smile, a firm handshake and a positive attitude, and you’ll find that cold calling can be anything but cold.


John Monroe is a Business Development Advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA), the largest consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Monroe is a leading expert in marketing, sales and sales management for the restoration and cleaning industries with over 30 years of experience in those fields. Through Violand, Monroe works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit or call (800) 360-3513.