7 Cold Calling Worst Practices That Will Give You Frostbite

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A chill is in the air, but it’s not from those icicles forming all around your office complex. It’s coming from the phone/headset combo at your work desk.

Even the most seasoned sales veterans can get frozen out during a cold call. For those new to cold calling, it’s essential to learn what not to do. Avoid these worst practices to keep cold calls from getting frosty:


1) Not listening to the prospect – If you don’t listen to what they want or don’t want, then you’re gonna get left out in the cold real quick. And for the love of Pete, when the prospect is trying to ask a question, don’t just keep plowing through your script like it’s a snowbank. They may actually be interested. Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Listen for information, but also for what they don’t say (it’s like trying to spot the fish under the frozen lake).
  • Make the customer feel heard by rephrasing comments or questions to clarify your understanding.
  • Let purposeful silence linger—it will speak volumes that you’re actually listening.

2) Never shutting up – No one likes a Chatty Kathy, especially when they weren’t expecting your call in the first place. According to Wendy Weiss, The Queen of Cold Calling, you should follow the 80/20 rule: let the prospect do 80 percent of the talking (that means you do 80 percent of the listening).   


3) Not doing your homework on the prospect – Thanks to social media and the internet, there’s no excuse for not doing your homework prior to a cold call. You could find out reams of info on your prospect and their company with just 10 minutes of quality Googling (not in a creepy way). You can even find out their alma mater or favorite sports team in order to warm up that cold call in a matter of minutes. It’s a given you should also know their basic demo and psychographics, too.

4) Being vague or misleading – There’s no reason to be vague and tiptoe around why you called. Just be friendly, respectful, and straightforward. Also, be sure to clarify vague statements made by prospects to make sure you’re not missing an opportunity. 


5) Getting the customer or company name wrong – Think about the last time someone got your name wrong. Did you immediately write them off in your head? The same thing happens when cold calling—except worse. Take the extra minute or two to find out the right pronunciation.

6) Ignoring objections – Prospect objections are all part of the process, especially when you’re cold calling and no interest has been expressed on other side of the phone. Objections can quickly lead to the phone call equivalent of a reindeer in the headlights moment to the unprepared cold caller. If you’re using a script (and why are you still wasting time with a script?), make sure you have a cheat sheet of common objections your team needs to handle by sheer reflex:

  • “It’s not in my budget.”
  • “I don’t need it.”
  • “That will take too long.”
  • “I’m not the one who handles that.”

If you don’t already have a cheat sheet, start logging some of the common objections you hear and share with your team.

7) Bragging or coming across too salesy – Today’s prospects are cynical, just like today’s consumers. Our BS meters are honed to detect the slightest whiff of untruth. Always come from a place of being helpful, but tie back the company bragging points as they fit with the prospect’s specific needs and wants (see the point above about doing your homework).


Keep frostbite at bay by eliminating those worst practices all together. Proper training can help (and save your butt); try role-playing to practice active listening and handling objections. Just-in-time training can help keep your answers from being vague and unclear. Heed the warnings above and you’ll be the hottest cold caller around in no time.

Have any cold calling worst practices to add to the list? Please share them in the comments below.

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