Skip to main content

Perhaps one of the most challenging elements of sales, cold calling is a notoriously difficult place to find success—that is, until you’ve found a practice that consistently and sustainably works for you. And mastering the art of the cold call can be a career-long process (if one even is able to master it at all). “In my honest opinion,” Alice Wheaton, business development coach and profitability catalyst says, “only about 4 or 5% of salespeople are elite performers.”

This, Wheaton notes, is largely due to problems in both training and in growing up in a society that considers certain behaviours, such as pressing others for information, inappropriate. For one, Wheaton notes that Western society has a great tendency to teach children that, in many cases where asking questions may resolve a problem, actually doing so is being “nosey”. For another, Wheaton says that many salespeople give up too easily when faced with rejection.

So, how can you overcome these obstacles and improve your approach to cold calling? Read on to find out, as Alice Wheaton guides us toward her top tips for mastering the art of the cold call.

Mastering the Art of the Cold Call with Three Top Tips

While Wheaton first began her career in healthcare, she swiftly found success when pivoting to sales. She achieved a 198% growth in her first year at Xerox Canada, landing her the prestigious President’s Club Award. From there, her success only grew exponentially, eventually leading to her promotion, and eventually, her move across the country to start her own business.

It then occurred to her, she says, that “it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are or how great the product is. If you can’t continue to sell that product, then eventually you’ll have to close your business.” So, to get the ball rolling, here are some pieces of advice Wheaton suggests for those looking to improve their cold call stats.

1. Get to the Sale Faster

One of the biggest mistakes Wheaton has noticed recurs in sales is that salespeople beat around the bush or take too vague an approach to sales. In so doing, they often muddle their practices with niceties that don’t actually achieve what they aim to.

“Years ago,” Wheaton notes, “there was a book written called Relationship Selling, and so the the issue with a that I when I coach salespeople is that they always want to build a relationship first. […] And yet, what happens is that when salespeople make a cold call or a phone, and they say ‘Oh hi, how are you today?’ And there’s nothing inspiring about that.”

This is because, she notes, the expectation is to say “‘fine, thank you,’ and move on without actually considering the question. To avoid these unnecessary and perhaps meaningless niceties, then, Wheaton suggests cutting straight to the chase.

Her practice, specifically, is as follows.

“When I work with sales team people, we have a protocol which is used simply say ‘My name is Alice Wheaton and we’ve never met. The reason I’m calling is that we have new accounting practices which have cut our our clients’ costs by at least 15% annually but increases their productivity by about 40%. Can we talk?”

That is, Wheaton suggests starting with an introduction that gets straight to the point of you calling them and piques their interest by showing exactly how you can help them with measurable and meaningful metrics.

2. Make Your Targets Specific and Direct

The second biggest mistake Wheaton notices salespeople often make is their broad and uncritical approach they take to finding their prospects.

She notes that in sales, you can’t just “go into a situation without having all of the variables identified.” You instead need to think critically and carefully about your prospect and how you might specifically target their needs and wants. Then consider, as Wheaton suggests, what could, might, and probably will happen in response to your pitch and how you might more closely target your prospect with your pitch.

This will be a lot more effective than, say, sending out a countless number of emails and just hoping that something will work eventually with at least one of the many emailed.

So, make sure your message is direct, specifically targeting your prospect, and straight-to-the-point. “The person may still not reply to you,” Wheaton notes, “but they’re never going to reply if [your] email is very vague.”

That is to say, as Wheaton reiterates, “if you’ve done the right research, you’ll know what outcomes that that particular prospect is looking for.”

3. Reach People Who Can Say Yes

The third biggest mistake Wheaton notes salespeople tend to make is not knowing who to address with their sales pitches.
“Most people,” she notes, “can say ‘no’ when you’re talking to them.” That is, when pitching them an offer or even before you introduce your pitch, especially if doing so over the phone, many reply immediately with “I’m not interested.”
“Most people can say no,” Wheaton continues, “but you need to only talk to the people who can say yes.” And doing so, as Wheaton suggests, often requires both digging deeper than many think is appropriate and addressing “the last desk” that you want your pitch to land on.

That is, when writing a proposal, don’t be afraid to ask questions, even after facing rejection. “We’ve been told as children: don’t be nosey,” Wheaton says. And this can discourage further action where it may in fact be possible and necessary for finding success for both the sales team and the client.

More importantly, as Wheaton suggests, address your proposal not to the first person you might have access to, but rather, those who have the power to and can say “yes” to you. So, don’t be shy. Ask to reach your client’s supervisor or even the CEO so that your proposal lands on the right desk and is seriously considered.

Many salespeople, Wheaton says, don’t ask that question. They never dig that much deeper into their opportunities. And as a result, many of these opportunities amount to nothing in particular. Reaching for that final desk and addressing your proposal to that client, she notes, will make a huge difference in your sales.


Alice Wheaton is a white woman with short, blonde hair blowdried with waves and slightly parted bangs. She wears a bright coral blazer, red lipstick, and thin-rimmed glasses. She is smiling contentedly at the camera. This blog, with expert advice from Alice Wheaton, features advice on mastering the art of the cold call, including how to approach clients, how to better target their needs, and to whom you should address your sales pitches. The problem that most salespeople face, Wheaton recognizes, is that they are taking too broad or too cautious an approach to their cold calls. And this often leads to a kind of rejection from which they cannot recover. Re-thinking one’s cold call approach, then, can restructure one’s entire approach to connecting with and sealing deals with clients.

Special thanks to Alice Wheaton for the great insights that contributed to this blog post. To learn more from Wheaton and hire her as a professional speaker, business development coach, or sales trainer, check out her website:

If you have expert advice you’d like to offer us and feature in a blog post like this one, let us know! Leave a comment on our latest LinkedIn post letting us know what expert advice you have to share.

We can’t wait to connect with you!


Don't leave empty handed! Try our AI Job Description Generator for free!
Get Started

[hubspot type="form" portal="6442116" id="dde7bdec-ea8f-48ef-9f15-40bca99c23bc"]

[hubspot type=form portal=6442116 id=57a7df38-6c62-4aa9-b774-1b02d71a39dc]

[hubspot type=form portal=6442116 id=da75ea5f-c238-4ac6-a699-f4d790a26635]