Performing ‘cold calls’ is an essential task for any startup, because through this form of communication the promoters can speak with several key contacts and gather essential information to assess the potential of the business idea. However, it is an unpleasent and time-consuming task. In this article, we give you some tips for successful ‘cold-calls’.


1. Focus on the goal

For most ‘cold calls’, the main goal is collecting information and building a relationship, and not pitching an idea or product. If you talk too much, you will not have time to listen to your respondent. Establish what the goal of your call is and focus on it.

2. Plan and investigate

Preparation is key for ‘cold calls’. First, start by defining what information or feedback you are looking for. What is it that you do not know and cannot know simply by searching the web or print? Then, search for the people that can help you with their information, advice and credibility. Make sure you are calling the right person within an institution, i.e., the person that is best suited to give you the information you are looking for. Then, investigate as much as you can about the institution or person you are calling: google them, consult LinkedIn profiles, search for common connections, etc.

3. Prepare a script

Prepare an appealing and concise opening statement for your script. Think about possible reasons why the person you are calling can also be interested in talking to you. Plan the questions you are going to pose to each respondent and query for an appropriate level of response detail. Think about possible objections the respondents will pose you and plan them in your script.

4. Be kind to gatekeepers

In many of the calls you make, you will talk to gatekeepers before, or even instead, of talking to the people you actually meant. Although this can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, remember to always be nice to gatekeepers. If gatekeepers are your allies, you will more easily gain access to the person you want to talk to.

5. Go where data leads you

Accept the answers that you are given and do not try to second-guess market responses. The best answers are the true ones and not the ones that fit your theories. This does not mean that you are not aware of possible sources of bias from respondents… Also, use the data that is given to you to iterate your ‘cold calling’ process by adding new relevant information, asking for novel contacts from respondents, etc.

6. Respect proprietary information

This statement is both true for you and for your respondents. When you present your startup idea, make sure you use ‘black-box’ conversations, where you focus on inputs and outputs, on what your product or service idea does and not on how it works. Same wise, when you are inquiring respondents for sensible information, please respect their callings. For example, if they give you information but state it is confidential, please do not use it publicly in your pitches.

7. Keep detailed records

Keep track of your calls: write down who you talked to, their name, job, company, contact and the record of the call content. Include new insights they gave and also the learnings from your cold-call process: what went on well and what can you improve?

8. Be positive and start calling

‘Cold calling’ is no one’s idea of a good time. But is has to be done, since it is vital for you to assess the market opportunity of your product or service, gather valuable information and gain credibility. If you are positive, confident and honest the person on the other side of the line will understand it and the ”cold call’ will be more productive. Try to establish a connection with your respondents. And remember Travis Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder, advice: “if you’re cold calling and three out of ten say ‘let’s meet’, you’ve got something!”.