January 3, 2019

I just cold called 5 prospects for the first time - holy sh*t was it hard

I've calculated I need 200 paying customers to go full-time on my saas. This morning I decided to pick up the phone and start dialing.

Holy iPhones was it taxing. Mentally and physically - heart pumping, adrenaline going - my silly reptile brain didn't seem to understand I'm just dialing a number.

Result: 4 to voicemail, 1 rejection

Next: I'll keep trying

For those of you that use cold calling as a prospecting tool, does this get easier?

Edit: Here is my week 2 update https://www.indiehackers.com/forum/today-i-cold-called-6-people-this-week-it-was-only-mildly-terrifying-3a77ca9dd2


  1. 21

    The rule of thumb is 10% will say yes. Super generic rule of thumb. So if you want 200, you may need to contact 2000. Just schedule it and get it done. You will get better with the process, and your pitch gets smooth, and so yes it does get easier.

    GOOD ON YOU for getting started!! If the nervousness of cold calling is all that is stopping you from going fulltime, that's a solvable problem. Many people NEVER get past that...

    1. 1

      Thank you - it was a lot harder than expected, but I agree. Me being afraid of sales is a really dumb reason to not get this thing off the ground.

      1. 7

        In my experience,10% will say yes,but only 1-2% will converted to paying customer

        1. 1

          So, he'll need 10,000 calls to 20,000 calls to get his 200 customers.

          : /

      2. 2

        It will take you some time to overcome the natural fear but you can speed up the process by being prepared.

        Your fear comes from a few places, (e.g, not knowing what to say, not knowing how to respond, not knowing what they will say, what they’re thinking, etc.) , so use a divide and conquer approach to tackle your fears.

        Create a script and repeat it 50x per day until you’re tired of hearing your own voice. Assume possible rebuttals they may make and prepare counters. Also, network with more people publicly in something unrelated. It could reduce the fear of just approaching random people.

    2. 1

      This comment was deleted 17 days ago.

  2. 12

    Try reaching out to them via a personalized email first and then make the call.

    Would you buy something from someone who cold called you?

    Compare that to them sending you a nice email explaining the benefits then saying they'll call to explain in detail

    1. 4

      Awesome you took the plunge. Been sellin' for a while.

      In my experience the goal of cold calling is not about catching someone on the phone to get an appt or whatever. The purpose of it is to simply be another touchpoint in your prospecting campaign for that specific lead.

      That means the call/voicemail is in conjunction with emails as well and more calls/vm's.

      The reality is for cold outreach, people mostly only respond when 1. there is some level of fit and 2.they realize you are probably going to keep reaching out until they respond. Most people flat out ignore the first few emails and voicemails but it is usually after this point that they take a deeper look and the responses start coming in.

      I am not advocating spamming people by any stretch and the quality of your voicemails and emails is critical too.

      Especially given that you have a very niche product, the goal should be to go deep (not wide) with prospects who match your ideal customer profile.

      Reach out to each of these with a more targeted consistent approach. Your goal for each lead should be to get to response of Yes, No, or Reach out later.

      As a starting point, I'd recommend batching in group of 10 or so and doing these campaigns in waves of 6-7 touchpoints over the course of a 4-5 week period.

      1. 1

        This is awesome Danny.

        Do have a few books you suggest to learn more?

        1. 1

          Thanks Blue, glad it's helpful.

          Regarding books....hmmmm....well, I'm sure there are plennnnty are out there but TBH, I think the real challenge with getting good sales advice is that it is sooooo situationally dependent (based on your product, your customer, your industry, your pricing model, your goals, your competition, etc. etc. etc.) that relying on pre-made widely available info can really lead you astray or just be minimally effective...

          I think the best bet is to either read a lotttt of different recommendations and then assess what makes the most sense for your business, or bite the bullet and talk to people really experienced who can provide very tailored information and save a lot of the time and trouble of trial and error.

          Sorry there isn't a simple, 'this one book solves everything'...there are just so many variables to consider. There is totally a chance you could find a book that is the perfect match for your business but there is a lot to consider...

  3. 11

    Just my experience:

    For me, my nervousness is inversely related to how good I THINK my product is. If I GENUINELY believe the product I am selling is going to save the person on the other end time and/or money, I don't feel nervous. If they say no, they are literally losing time or money. I almost feel bad for them. It's more of a frustration that they can't see how much I could help them... I personally think a lot of people create products that DEEP DEEP DEEP DOWN they don't believe in. They don't think they will work. Their nervousness is because someone might actually reveal the sad truth they already know.... I've made this mistake many times - been nervous on many calls selling products I didn't really believe in...

  4. 9

    Nice job!

    Did a lot of cold-calling at my job before going full time on my own Saas.

    Yes. It definitely gets easier. I actually got to the point where I kind of liked it. Especially when you learn that cold-calling and calling people to learn about their business and help them are two different things.

    Here are some general tips that worked for me:

    • I love starting with "Hey X, this is Baird Hall and I'm with x company, Did I catch you at a bad time?". It's a great pattern interrupt. If they say yes, this gives them an easy out with a natural opening to scheduling a call at their convenience. If no, then your good to chat for a few.

    • A little research can go a long way. I'd rather spend 5-7 minutes researching someone and finding a little nugget of info that can help my conversation than get 1 extra call in during that time. This helps separate you from every other sales caller and robo dialer.

    • DON'T SCRIPTED PITCH RIGHT AWAY. People hate this and it turns a good phone conversation into a sales call instantly. Explain who you are quickly but move the conversation to them ASAP. Be authentic about wanting to listen and learn from them.

    • Use questions to bring up pain points and then offer your solution when it makes sense. The best analogy is that of a doctor: A good doctor would NEVER prescribe something before learning what the symptoms are. They use questions to figure out what the problem is and then try to solve it.

    • Leave voicemails, follow up, and send emails. Document in your CRM.

    • People will naturally want something before they commit to anything. Be sure to leave each successful call with some type of expectation being set. i.e., If they want a demo: "Sure, I would love to show you the app. If I'm able to answer all your questions on the demo and the pricing seems reasonable, would you be willing to sign up for a trial?". If you are able to fill your side of the bargain, they will hold theirs.

    • Smile, be genuine and try to help people. This makes it feel a lot less like sales.

  5. 6

    It does get easier but it can be a steep climb. It's tough because it's hard to do a good cold call if you're nervous, but it's hard not to be nervous if you aren't seeing results. You need to be persistent, confident, curious, a good listener -- hard when nervous. If you can, try to depersonalize it, make it like a game. Try to find mini-rewards, because it's a long slog to get comfortable.

    First try to get your 10-15 second pitch down. Being able to pique a total stranger's interest in 15 seconds over the phone is pretty cool. That feeling can give you a boost. And that's about all the time you have. Even if you stumble after that, hold on to that and keep going. Next call your 15 second pitch will be even better, and you'll be more comfortable keeping the momentum going. And so on.

    Also try to find the right time to call people. Sometimes just before or after the workday is best. Figure out how to handle gatekeepers: receptionists, assistants. Learn to leave a good voicemail.

    You'll get rejected a vast majority of the time. Sometimes the rejection will be unpleasant. But remember people are primed against cold calls. People can default to their worst selves when cold called in the middle of the day. Just be aware of that and don't be bothered.

    But cold calling is time and labor intensive, and emotionally draining. I think it's only worthwhile if there's no other way to get in front of people. Is there another channel?

    1. 3

      Thanks - I did practice a fair amount with a dedicated 15 second pitch with the goal of setting an appointment for further info gathering. I can't say it's super smooth, but writing it down did help. I'll definitely be taking your advice on making a mini-game out of this, seems like you have quite a bit of experience here.

      I'm certainly experimenting with different channels (display ads on niche websites, email, and content marketing), but I can't shake the feeling that the easiest path forward is straight through the phone for my target market (wrestling coaches & club teams) given my low number of targets. I've been avoiding direct sales for too long to simply cover my fragile ego.

  6. 3

    Record your pitch, listen to it and pretend you're the prospect. Will you be convinced from it? If not, polish your pitch, rehearse, record again, and repeat until you're.

  7. 2

    I’ve got opinions on this, but I’d like to encourage you to, after doing some more cold calls, to write down your experience as a short article here.

    • how did you prepare (what questions did you (not) expect?)?

    • why do you think cold calls works for your business?

    • how’d you deal with rejection?

    • did it get easier after the nth call and why?

    This kind of marketing/sales is what most would never get to, so thumbs up for doing it and sharing it a little bit here.

    1. 2

      Thank you, I think I might do this. There isn't too much info out there in the indie space (that I could find), and it will be extra motivation for me to continue the experiment.

  8. 2

    Cold calling does get easier. It is a numbers game 1/100 is going to be a yes. I do think cold calling is a bit outdated way to prospect. I would suggest getting an email list and cold emailing with the ask of them to book a call. Folks that book themselves to a call with you are more likely to buy.

  9. 2

    Wow you did something I'm terrified of (just speaking on the phone in general is scary). Congratulations and keep going, as everyone else has said you'll only get better with practice.

  10. 2

    Everyone hates code calling, even those calling. Just wrestle through it ;)

  11. 1

    Try cold mailing (via email or social) instead. It's better for both - your and your prospects health :)

  12. 1

    Thanks Matt for starting this thread. I am in the similar boat as you. I have been cold calling prospects for a month now and as everyone here already mentioned, the response rate is very very low. It disheartens you and makes you question the entire business. I am full time in my business, my product is ready to ship, still the aspect of cold calling makes me feel so terrible that I do not want to continue at times. In fact, I am on a short break reevaluating the business, other possible marketing tools etc. But deep down I know that If I have to make it work, I need to learn to go out there and talk to random people about my product and be able to sell. The sooner we learn, the better. It is our chance so let's do it.

    I like the idea suggested here about documenting this entire process along with results, I will see if I can get started on that. Good luck to you. I am sure, you will get past this hurdle and thrive.

  13. 1

    I recommend this book: Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling

    I have read it and taken notes from it. I will be implementing his system in my business.

  14. 1

    Hey Matt,

    I'm going to be in a similar boat in a week or two as we're finished with the MVP. Although I haven't started cold calling people yet, I can relate with what you say.

    Have you tried cold email though ?

    1. 1

      Hey EO. I am in the same boat as Matt. In the first round of cold calls, I got a feedback of sending emails first so I did that but it hardly had response. So, I had to get back to straight cold calling people even if some of them find it rude. However, it is still better to send an email as well because if your prospect asks you to send an email first, you already have an answer to that.

  15. 1

    Good on you for giving it a go!!!

    Don’t cold call. Send an email (that adds value, if possible) and then follow it up with a call.

    You could also use a cold email automation system like Quickmail.io (https://quickmail.io) or a tool like LinkedProspect (https://linkedprospect.com) to automate the outreach.

  16. 1

    😅👍 Congrats with the debut

  17. 1

    Personally, I hate cold calls, especially robo calls. Because I hate incoming cold calls, I never dared to call random people and also it makes me nervous.

    If the conversation rate of cold calling is bad then why not consider running ads.

    If you throw $50 or $100 on FB to promote your post to your target audience. For those who like your post, do a follow-up call to them.

    1. 3

      You don't learn anything or build relationships from running ads.

      Cold calling sucks but if you do it right, it's nothing like robo calls.

      Yes, people hate being sold to... but THEY FREAKING LOVE being listened to and feeling like someone wants to help them be successful.

      1. 2

        Possibly... depends what you are selling to them.

        I think this is a good topic to discuss and if someone has some stats on cold calling vs ads (hot leads) that would help. Stats would include conversation rate, time investment, money investment, customer acquisition cost with life-time value of the customer.

        This year I am considering both for my local B2B IT support business. Run Google ads for hot leads and cold calling to local business. Let's see how it goes.

  18. 1

    It does get easier... but as it gets easier, you may find yourself tune out and your pitch will eventually get stale.

    A good way to avoid this is to keep revising your pitch. And remember that if they don't say no, that just means that they are not convinced yet. As long as they stay on the phone, you can keep pitching and address any objections. Objections, as in concerns that either they're thinking about or have verbalized.

    I once had to do 300 calls a day. So trust me, it does get easier. Also, are you identifying these prospects yourself? And are you doing any research on them before calling? If so, then you're in luck. The call isn't as cold as you think. Find a way to connect, like "hey, I stumbled on your blog post" or something.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      I am doing the identification myself, with a slight amount of research (2-3 min).

      I've heard you should give 15 second pitch immediately, don't let them talk. Does this mean I should incorporate this info into the pitch? Or does this connection normally com up in banter during the conversation?

      1. 2

        It's your call, and often comes down to a personality fit with the prospect - which is why, sales teams have more than one person - each attracting different personalities.

        For example, if I've heard a dog barking in the background because someone's at their door and it's interrupting our call, I ask what kinda dog is it. And then I share something personal, like about my 12-year old shih tzu.

        I would definitely let them talk. You can hear things like if they're chewing food, which means that you're probably interrupting their lunch, and can ask for a time to call back. Professionals really respect this, especially when you follow up on the time and date you said that you would.

  19. 1

    Practice your pitch and how you might respond to some questions so you don’t get stuck if they ask. And I definitely agree with @akyker20 in that you should genuinely believe the product will benefit them. Don’t forget the old secret about smiling when you talk. Even if you feel beat down from a bunch of rejections, it helps how you come across on the phone.

    Hey, at least you’re not knocking on a bunch of doors hoping they don’t get slammed in your face!!! Worst thing that can happen is someone says no and hangs up. On to the next!

  20. 1

    I haven't done cold calling for customers, but I have done it, and oh man do I agree with you 100%! I was so nervous, and I'm pretty sure my voice was cracking and I was about as eloquent as a 15 year old haha.

    I only did it a bit, but I did feel how it would get easier. I think it's just a number thing. Like every time you double that number, the difficulty will halve :)

    At the time, I was trying everything to calm myself down. But mixing meditation and cigarettes probably didn't help that much :-P

  21. 1

    That sounds fun!! I'll definitely have to give it a try :)

  22. 1

    You definitely get desensitized, and eventually it just turns into a numbers game - you either get a commitment out of the call or you move on to the next number.

    I haven't yet had to do cold calling myself, but honestly, I'd sooner outsource that to someone who's fluent in the procedure.