How to Build a Cold Calling List: Techniques, Tips & Why You Shouldn't Buy Call Lists

So there you are, trying desperately to hit your sales numbers when someone suggests cold calling.

But wait—people aren’t dialing phone numbers out of the blue anymore, are they? As it turns out, they are. And it’s working, especially when it comes to B2B sales. Fifty-seven percent of C-level buyers prefer to be contacted over the phone. Enter: the need to build a cold calling list for your sales efforts.

preferred contacts cold calling list guide

Source: RAIN Group

There is one caveat, though: avoid buying your cold calling lists.

It might seem like the easy option, especially if you’re just beginning your cold-calling efforts, but who you’re calling matters a lot. You want to focus efforts on prospects who've shown some interest in your product or service so you aren’t wasting time on people who will never convert.

This guide will share proven, actionable techniques for building a cold-calling list (the right way) and tips for creating effective cold-calling scripts that help turn leads into happy customers.

But first…

What is a Cold Call?

A cold call is an outbound marketing technique that involves calling people who might be interested in buying your product or service. Sometimes this means calling people who’ve never shown any interest in your product.

They may not even know your company exists. Other times it means calling prospects who’ve interacted with your brand in some way but haven’t had any contact with your sales team yet.

In either case, the main objective of cold calling is typically lead qualification. Is the prospect interested in your product? Is it a viable sales opportunity? If so, move them to the next stage of the buying process.

You’re not trying to close the deal at this stage. Instead, you’re trying to gauge interest in your offer. And if you schedule a follow-up call or meet with a decision-maker in that process, that’s a major win.

Top-performing salespeople optimize cold calling using a data-driven approach, proper sales training, ongoing call coaching, and mock sales calls. They also get their contact information through a targeted, purposeful lead generation that provides high-quality prospects. (More on this in a bit!)

And it doesn't matter whether you're in business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C)—cold calling works in both markets.

(If you're still unsure whether cold calling (or maybe even cold emailing) is right for your business, this article will help you decide.)

The Dangers of Buying Cold Call Lists

Buying a call list from a lead generation company may seem like a great way to save time, but it’s often fraught with problems. Here are the biggest reasons to stay away from buying a list:

1. It’s Usually a Giant Waste of Time

When you buy lead lists, especially cheap ones, you can expect a high percentage of the data to be outdated. In our experience, this percentage is 30 to 40 percent. Your salespeople might spend 40 percent of their time making useless phone calls.

Up-to-date numbers are often a waste of time, too, because about 80 percent of people in the U.S. ignore calls from unknown numbers.

This results in low conversion rates, with sales reps spending most of their time chasing down prospects with no potential.

So, buying lead lists is not the route you want to take in most cases. Instead, consider persuading prospects to give you their contact info before calling them (we'll cover how to do this in a bit).

2. Cold Calling is Expensive (and Has a Very Low ROI)

The cost of buying a cold calling list depends on a variety of factors:

  • The number of leads you’re buying
  • How targeted the data is (a list of B2B SaaS companies will be more expensive than a general list of businesses)
  • What data type are you getting (phone numbers, email addresses, annual revenue, contact names, positions, etc.)?
  • Whether the data has been verified for accuracy

It also depends on your industry. The average cost per lead in retail is $34, whereas you'll pay closer to $160 in finance. This means buying 1,000 leads could cost you $34,000–$160,000.

building a cold calling list cost per lead chart

Source: LinchPinSEO

The price could be worth it if buying lead lists had a good ROI. But it doesn’t. Especially when you consider your lead list will actually cost you twice: first, with the money you spend to buy the list, and again, with the money you spend contacting all those unqualified leads.

3. Buying a Call List Can Ruin Your Reputation (Think About Telemarketing)

We all know how it feels to be interrupted by a telemarketing rep trying to sell us something we don’t care about. “Hi, Bob, in the desert. Want to talk about snow blowers?” Ummm, no.

The problem is that it’s not just Bob who gets annoyed in those situations. All the people (and potential customers) with Bob when you call, or Bob’s friends on social media will also be annoyed. The further this annoyance spreads, the worse your company’s reputation becomes.

Besides this, some call lists that aren't well-maintained may include numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and calling them could get you in legal trouble.

How to Build a Cold Calling List for Lead Generation

Now that you know why you shouldn’t buy a cold calling list, let's learn how to build one.

Provide Value to Your Audience (Content Marketing)

The best way to generate leads ethically is by providing value to your target audience.

Give them a reason to come to you and happily fork over their contact information. Then, your outreach efforts will no longer be cold—you’ll have warm leads that have already signaled their interest in your product.

If you're unsure where to start, the answer is simple: inbound marketing. Often used interchangeably with content marketing, this is a marketing technique where you create helpful, educational, or entertaining content designed to draw customers to your business through SEO (search engine optimization), social media, or other platforms.

Case in point: For us at Close, this has been our top lead generation strategy from day one.

How do we do it? The first step is determining what types of free information or products your audience needs the most. For example, our audience almost always wants to learn about sales. So, we dedicated an entire section of our website to providing the best free books and templates to help them crush their sales goals.

We’ve also published thousands of articles and videos to attract our target market.

The next step is designing a landing page encouraging visitors to stay, learn, and interact. This means having good UX design and frequent opportunities to take action by completing a form, requesting a demo, or sharing their contact information.

Then, find the appropriate channels to promote your content.

Where does your target market hang out? LinkedIn? TikTok? Google? Post your content on the right channels and attract people to your website. For instance, here’s a snapshot of our LinkedIn page, where we regularly share content that provides value for our audience:

cold calling list close call example

Remember, though, not every new subscriber you get from a free download offer will necessarily be a qualified prospect for your business. It still takes effort from your marketing or sales team to further qualify a lead and determine what’s truly a buying signal.

Need more leads? Our LinkedIn lead generation tactics are a game-changer.

Join Industry Associations

Another way to find new leads is to join relevant industry associations, regardless of company size. Maria Ungaro, vice president of the Kellen Company (an association management company), says people join industry associations to network and build leads.

"They're meeting new people at industry events, both peers and more experienced members, to add to their networks," says Ungaro. You will likely meet decision-makers and high-quality contacts since these new people are already engaged in the industry.

Plus, joining industry associations helps validate your product or service. It shows potential buyers your business is professionally recognized within the industry.

Finally, it’s an excellent way to increase your visibility. Many associations have blogs that allow members to write and showcase thought leadership. And you can typically list your business on the association’s directory, publish press releases under member news, and participate on various panels.

Use Affiliate Partners

Affiliate partners promote your product or service using their channels (blog posts, social media, email, and other marketing campaigns) in exchange for a commission on the sale. You’re essentially buying access to someone else’s audience, so it’s an effective way to build a list of prospects and bring in new business for your sales team to qualify.

For example, with the Close Partner Program, affiliates earn a 20 percent recurring commission on any new customers they refer to us.

How to Build a Cold Calling List - Close Partner Program

‎Let’s say one of our affiliates recommends us in a blog post and links to our website. A reader clicks through, checks out our product, and fills out a contact form—becoming a new lead. Our team then makes sales calls to nurture the lead through the sales process, and they become a customer! The affiliate then earns a commission.

It’s an effective way to build lists because the affiliate does all of the promotional work, and you get access to new audiences.

Remember that not all partnerships are created equal when establishing an affiliate marketing program. It’s best to look for partners already connected to your product or service, as their recommendations will carry more weight.

For more ways to build a list of qualified potential customers in your target market, check out our list of the best lead generation ideas for your business this year.

How to Create an Effective Cold Calling Script

Once the leads start coming in, it’s time to start making calls. Creating a script is one of the best ways to set your team up for successful cold calling. This section will walk you through five tips to create a cold calling script that converts.

1. Get Your Sales Team (and All Cold Callers) Trained & Ready

Some sales reps may balk at using a script for their cold calls, saying it turns them into robots. But when you use a script correctly, it does just the opposite. Here are a few reasons why scripts are the way to go:

  • They help you train new hires faster and more effectively.
  • They put everyone on more equal footing, minimizing the impact when top performers have a bad day.
  • They allow your reps to listen to customers because they’re not stressed about what to say next.
  • They’re often based on best practices gained from prior calls and customer research, empowering your SDRs to be more successful.
  • They give your top performers a framework to riff off when they feel creative.
  • They keep your messaging focused and concise.

A more creative way to skirt around the need for a full-blown call script these days is to develop a set of sales talk tracks your team can use to address common objections and move a prospect through the qualification process during a call.

2. Get to Know Your Customers

Before you begin working on the script, you must answer an important question: Who are your customers? This allows you to choose your words carefully, focusing on the language likely to connect with them.

Before we started Close, for example, we launched an on-demand sales company called ElasticSales. Our ideal customers were Silicon Valley tech startups who’d raised a few million dollars in venture capital. We aimed to close one deal in four weeks; instead, we landed seven paying customers in 14 days.

Here’s the exact opening script we used:

steli cold calling script example screenshot

When we wrote this script, we intentionally chose the term “beta program” because our ideal customer was in tech. This wording was a subtle way to let them know we spoke their language.

3. Collaborate and Draft the Script

Having your team work together on the script is important, as each person will have unique insights and suggestions. When writing the script, we suggest following these six steps:

  1. Clearly state who you are, what your company name is, and why they should care.
  2. Give your elevator pitch—a one-sentence overview of what you’re offering and who you’re offering it to (company size and industry are often good qualifiers to add here.)
  3. Ask a simple question that allows prospects to say no or let you continue.
  4. Ask questions to learn about prospects' needs and define if they are a good fit.
  5. Ask questions to discover price sensitivity, decision timelines, and other factors.
  6. Schedule the next steps with the prospect.

4. Test and Refine

Now it’s time to test out your script with real prospects! When you’re just starting, you can A/B test different introductions, conclusions, and phrases to gather information on how each prospect reacts.

Use these results to refine your script until it’s truly outstanding. But even after you’ve landed on the perfect script, you should continue to look at reports and create a script variation based on the historical performance data.

If you regularly refine your script, you’ll keep finding new ways to close deals. This doesn’t have to take much time—we recommend setting aside 15 to 30 minutes every month for a focused sales script session with your team.

Best Practices for Successfully Using Your Cold Calling List

Now, let’s dive into a few best practices for building a cold calling list and optimizing your chances of success when making cold calls—whether you’re in SaaS, real estate, finance, insurance, or otherwise.

Build Your Ideal Customer Profile

Normally used by B2B companies, an ideal customer profile (ICP) defines the characteristics of a person or company most likely to buy your product.

This includes demographics, preferred social networks (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), and pain points. Building an ICP saves your sales team time because they can focus on prospects most likely to convert.

Refine and Rehearse Your Sales Call Scripts

You should always be working to perfect your sales script. Adding new information and adjusting to prospects’ reactions can increase conversion rates.

And with every change, have reps rehearse the script until they know it by heart; it’s the best way to build confidence.

Schedule Follow Up Calls

Never leave a cold call without a follow-up plan! Schedule another phone call, schedule a meeting, or promise to email useful information to your prospect—anything to keep the sale lead alive.

Otherwise, your chances of reaching the prospect again diminish significantly. If you’re a Close user, scheduling follow-ups is as simple as one click in the Close CRM.

cold calling list guide assign user

This screenshot shows how you can easily assign follow-ups to specific users and schedule dates and times for specific tasks. You can even create automated follow-up sequences using both calls and emails—all within the platform.

Managing all of your communications in one place like this (instead of constantly switching between different apps) allows your team to work way more efficiently.

Focus Your Sales Pitch on Their Pain Points

Here’s an old-school marketing principle: If you can describe your customers’ current problems better than they can, they’ll unconsciously assume you have the solution.

So, to keep your prospect engaged and interested, be ready to articulate common pain points and how you can solve them.

Anticipate Objections

Even your best customers will have objections when you're doing outbound sales.

To prepare for this, create an objection management document so you’re ready to face anything prospects might throw at you. Here are some templates to get you started.

Use Quality Sales Prospecting Tools

The right sales prospecting tools & technology can help you close more deals with less effort. Our predictive dialer, for instance, is built into our sales CRM.

The technology detects when a real human answers the phone and then immediately routes the call to an available rep. We like to say it’s the biggest leap in sales productivity since the invention of the phone itself!

Crush Your Cold Calls with Close

You’re now armed with some serious knowledge about cold calls. You know the dangers of buying call lists, how to build your list, how to create an effective cold calling script, and the best practices to optimize your success rate.

If you’re ready to take it up a notch, try Close—the CRM built for growth and trusted by the world’s fastest-scaling teams.

Close helps you sell more in less time. See Close in action with our ten-minute CRM demo, or start your 14-day free trial today!

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