The Multimillion-Dollar Cold Calling Framework

David Bentham leads Cognism’s stellar global SDR team. In an exclusive Sales Confidence masterclass, he shows us to get cold calling right. Let’s find out more.

Cognism is a global SaaS success story – and it’s not just because they were our first ever Sales Confidence partners back in 2017. Cognism’s SDR team are a massive part of its success, helping to take the company from $1 million to $45 million ARR. But how do they do it?
David Bentham is Cognism’s Global Director of Sales Development. He runs a team of 75 SDRs worldwide and developed the cold calling framework every SDR at Cognism works to. In an exclusive Sales Confidence masterclass, he took us through it. In this article, we’ll share David’s tips for cold calling success. Let’s get started.

☎️ Cold calling works

I’m sure you’ve heard numerous so-called thought leaders try and tell you that cold calling is dead or that it’s not as effective as it used to be. That’s just not true - and Cognism is living proof. 70% of sales meetings booked at Cognism come from cold calling. Its nearest challenger – LinkedIn messaging – only accounts for 20% of meetings booked.
But cold calling only works when you do it right. Here are David’s essential rules of cold calling:

  • There’s no silver bullet – the best sales conversations are human, and no one’s perfect
  • Test, test, test – Keep testing. Take inspiration from others. When something works, double down on it
  • What works for someone else might not work for you
A great example of something working brilliantly for one SDR but not for others was an Australian SDR at Cognism. He’d open his cold calls with his cheery Australian accent and say, ‘Hey. This is a cold call. Feel free to hang up.’ 

Almost every time, the prospect would laugh and be happy to take the call. However, when British SDRs without that Aussie charm tried that line, the prospect usually took their advice and hung up!

📝 The Cognism cold calling framework

To get SDRs at Cognism cold calling in the right way, David developed a 5-stage framework. The five steps to a winning cold call are:

  • Intro – Introduce yourself and contextualise the call
  • Hook – What you say to get the prospect into a conversation and keep them on the phone
  • Discovery – Gathering information. Identifying the prospect’s pain and processes
  • Personalised pitch – Get the prospect excited about the solution by pitching the elements of the product that are relevant to their pain
  • Close – Book the meeting. Close with authority and cement the meeting as the next step
Let’s look at these in order.

🎣 Intro and hook

Your introduction and hook must resonate with the prospect and get them into the conversation. After all, it would be pretty weird if you just called up and started pitching! Pick an intro that works for you and makes you sound as human as possible. 
When it comes to your hook, make it as personalised as you can. The challenge with personalisation is that you always want something that resonates with the prospect’s unique situation, but it’s hard to do it in a way that can be scaled. 
The bottom-up approach is an effective method. Talk to someone who would be the end user of your product if the company bought your product. They won’t be the decision maker, but don’t worry. Talk about their day-to-day processes and the challenges they face. Then, when you get on the call with your decision maker, you have first-hand information that you can use for your hook. The beauty of this approach is that it shows the decision maker that you’ve spent time on research. It makes them feel special and not just a number on a list.
Other great hook techniques are to tell a story to explain why you’ve called. You should also try to mirror the prospect’s speaking patterns.
Those are the dos. Here are some intro and hook don’ts:

  • Don’t automatically end the call if the prospect says they’re busy. If they picked up the phone, they can’t be that busy!
  • Never devalue the solution you offer, even if it’s the cheaper alternative
  • Don’t make it about you

🔎 Discovery and personalised pitch

The discovery section of your call is all about asking the right open-ended questions. Make a plan. Think about the information you need and how you will direct the prospect to give you that information. This comes with practice.

At Cognism, an SDR might ask the prospect what tool they use to identify prospects. If they say LinkedIn, the SDR knows precisely what to say next to pave the way to talk about Cognism’s Chrome extension.
When you hit a pain point that you have the solution for, double down on it. Focus on that pain point and talk about it with your prospect. Don’t move on to try and discover another pain point. All you need to take the conversation forward is one thing you can fix.

🤝 Close

The best technique is to assume the close. Don’t ask if they want the meeting. Talk to them as if it’s a done deal. David’s SDRs say something like, ‘OK, so the next step for us is a 15-minute screen share. Do you have your calendar in front of you?’
Your job here is to show that the value of attending the meeting is greater than the time it will take. A 15-minute call is ideal as everyone has 15 minutes to spare. 
Like in the pitch section, you don’t need to throw everything you have at the prospect and mention every feature of your solution in order to close the call. In fact, this can often lead to you talking yourself out of the meeting. 

🙅 Objection handling

Sometimes at the closing stage, your prospect will offer up some objections. Don’t fear this. A great first thing to say when you hear an objection is. ‘Perfect.’ That’s because it’s your opportunity to provide a solution and make the prospect feel better.
Firstly, work out whether it’s an emotional objection or a product objection. If it’s an emotional objection, such as if they’re too busy, ask why they say that and move on from there. If it’s an objection about the specific product you sell, there’s a framework for that.
At Cognism, they handle objections with the ‘Feel, Felt, Found, Move on’ formula:

  • Feel – Empathise with the prospect
  • Felt – Tell them about another customer that raised this objection with you. It shows the prospect that their objection is reasonable and they’re not alone 
  • Found – Give a solution by sharing what the other customer found
  • Move on – Be confident in your answer and ask them something else. Don’t wait for their agreement

📞 Happy dialling!

Cold calling is a numbers game. Every time you make a call, you win. Either you get a positive outcome or there’s something you can learn from. Remember, one call can change your life.