In the MHE or capital equipment markets, the task of cold calling in business development is probably the most difficult and uncomfortable for most people. This is because it involves talking to new people whom they have never met or spoken with before. If a salesperson can refine this skill, when coupled with good discipline, they will become one of the most effective salespeople in the company.

In our example below, let’s assume the salesperson has already carried out some prospect research including company name, telephone number, contact name and potential product or service usage. Then, we propose adopting the useful cold calling telephone techniques below for your first telephone contact:

  1. BE FIRM: Get straight to the point and don’t give too much information, e.g.
    “Sheldon England here for John Smith please.”
  2. BE VAGUE: If they question the reason for your call, be vague, e.g.
    “I’m calling about a potential warehouse improvement project.”
    “I’m calling about MHE equipment modernisation.”
    “My call is about a potential quality enhancement project.”
  3. MAKE YOUR PITCH: If they ask yet more questions, treat them like they are a decision influencer by giving them a good reason to put you through, e.g. how your product or service will help them fix their problems or save them money.
  4. STRESS IMPORTANCE: If they still won’t put you through tell them:
    “This is important information that your Manager is going to want to know about.”
  5. ASK FOR AN EMAIL ADDRESS: If they still won’t put you through, ask for the managers email address. If they still won’t provide this, I’d then do two things:
    a) ask for the gatekeeper’s email address and write directly to them, plus;
    b) write a direct letter to the manager/ director and post it. A lot of the time emails get filtered but direct letters or even faxs, that are not sales pitchy invariably get through to the VP.

Then dust yourself down, move on and find someone who WILL talk to you!


  • Be polite because you will talk to them again
  • Don’t lie to them because you will talk to them again
  • Show genuine interest in them because you will talk to them again. If you are doing your job well, you’ll eventually meet them
  • Build rapport so stay concentrated and gauge when to back off

Following a successful cold call, share that success with the senior managers and directors in your company. Firstly, they will be delighted to do so and secondly, it will help you personally because:

  • It will enhance your personal stock in your company
  • Your company’s senior managers may have some important historical information concerning the new customer. This may be useful when you attend your first customer meeting or next scheduled telephone call
  • Success will motivate you. Cold calling will become a challenge you actually look forward to

A general rule in cold calling and business development is to always work to a personal business plan. In my scenario, the starting point was my sales target, broken down into the distinct activities required to give me the best chance of achieving that plan:

  • Annual Revenue or GP target
  • How many FLTs (or unit orders) do I need to sell to meet that plan?
  • Based on the approximate company ratio of 3:1 (or however good you are 🙂 ), how many sales proposals do I need to write to get 1 deal?
  • How many customer meetings do I need in the year to meet my sales proposals and orders target?
  • How many new people or companies do I need to engage with to achieve my meetings, proposals & orders goal?

All these activities can be consolidated to give an approximate number of how many telephone calls you need to make per day in order to give yourself the best chance of being successful in your job and meeting your target. Once you know this figure, on your cold calling days, to keep yourself motivated and fired up, set yourself small daily goals, such as:

  • Say to yourself, you WILL achieve something significant that helps you continue forward motion in pursuit of your annual sales target. This could be a new sales appointment, identifying a new client or a valuable telephone conversation
  • Target yourself with a certain number of telephone calls required to earn your next cup of coffee or mini break from phoning. You will enjoy that cup of coffee even more!

Your cold calling days are focussed sessions. Do not do any other jobs such as answering emails; proposal writing; dealing with customer complaints, service or sales meetings. On your cold calling days, you need to have 2 things only. Firstly, a clear and determined mindset and secondly, a clear set of daily objectives. Do not give yourself an excuse for NOT making calls. By working to your target, the target and it’s activities propels you forward. Life will become easier in this difficult yet incredibly rewarding profession!

So, you’ve been put through to the decision maker or influencer and you want to get an appointment!


Here are four recommendations that will guarantee you increase your cold call to appointment conversion rate.

There are numerous ways we engage new prospects for the very first time. These include:

  • A business development telephone call
  • Meeting at a Trade Show or Conference
  • A social media link, usually Facebook or Linkedin

In the business-to-business world, the very first interaction is usually via the telephone or a chance meeting at a professional event such as a trade show or conference. For demonstration purposes, in this blog let’s assume a cold call, made on the telephone, by the fictional company Global MHE LTD.

Remember, in telephone business development, a prospect decides if they want to stay engaged within the first 7 seconds of contact. So you need a hook which engages the prospect, is low key, to the point and scripted.


The start needs a low key, slow, mellow approach rather than the typical high pitch, high energy sales approach that reeks of a cold call


This needs to be direct and to the point, such as:

  • “Sheldon England here, is this a good time to talk?”
  • “Sheldon England here, did I catch you in the middle of something?”

After your question, then be quiet, listen and wait for the reply.


This needs a script such as:

  • “My company Global MHE works with many companies like yours, helping them to dramatically increase their warehouse productivity”
  • “Right now we are seeing a lot of companies where, in their warehouses, they are looking for NEW intelligent ways to increase their footprint and reduce labour costs”


After your brief explanation you could ask any of the following:

  • “What improvement would you like to make?”
  • “What challenges are you currently facing?”
  • “How are these things affecting your operation?”
    (which is a little less direct and softer)
  • Or any open-ended question that suits your situation

Then, be quiet again. Listen to your client’s reply. Focus intensely on every word. They are telling you how you should sell to them.

If the prospect starts talking about their business you have probably engaged them to such an extent that they no longer wish to terminate the call. At this point, to move forward, we recommend you listen more than talk and have a thorough knowledge of:

  • Work your company has done with other similar clients, including how that work benefitted your client
  • In-depth knowledge of your product range
  • Your company’s after sales service principles
  • Your company structure

Be armed with as much important industry-related knowledge as you can. Only use it if you feel it’s appropriate. Remember, the point of the call is to secure a face-to-face appointment. You DON’T want to talk yourself out of a meeting because you’ve given them too much over the phone.

Ask for an appointment offering options on dates and times. Once the meeting has been agreed, send a short, single-paragraph email that same day confirming the meeting. Attach a 1-page PDF of your professional details.


These principals can also be applied to those canvassing new prospects using Social Media platforms such as Linkedin, with the objective to either set up a telephone call or a face-to-face meeting.

In the space of one, or possibly two, short paragraphs, you need to cover how your product or service has benefitted similar clients citing 2 or 3 examples in bullet form. Below these bullet points write an open-ended question such as:

  • What challenges is your company currently facing?
  • Where would you like to make improvements?
  • Share with me your company’s manufacturing/warehousing/distribution process

The whole purpose is either to obtain a reply or to engage them. By keeping your message really short and focusing on their needs & objectives, instead of your issues, you are giving yourself the best chance of establishing new B2B contacts and developing a new client which is the most difficult job in selling!