You have to make a cold call. Step one: Pick up the phone and dial, right? Not quite.
You have lots to do before making a cold call, and it all starts with your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).
Saad Khan, our guest on this episode, knows this well! And he lives it, too, as Director of Sales and Business Development at the customer collaboration platform Aligned.
To talk to the right prospects in the right way, you need to truly understand your ICPs: their priorities, problems, and goals. Only then can you sell your product as an extension of what your prospects are already doing to help them do their jobs better.
If you sell to multiple ICPs, you also need to know each one well enough to not confuse them with each other — for example, how would a CFO view your product differently than an IT manager? When you know what each ICP cares about, you’ll go into each cold call with the right hypothesis in hand. And once you’ve validated that hypothesis, you have a much better chance of booking a qualified meeting.
Saad says that sales leaders often fail by teaching BDRs to just book the meeting. Instead, they should teach reps to sell the product and to find better ways to target people who might actually buy. This is why aligning sales and marketing is critical — with the right feedback loop in place, you can essentially automate your outbound efforts.
On this episode of the B2B Power Hour, we sit down with Saad to explore how to actually prepare for a cold call, how to mirror inbound and outbound, and why less is actually more when it comes to targeting the right leads.
He also breaks down his seven-step framework for cold calls that you can take to any organization. Listen in to learn how to reverse-engineer your responses to potential objectives and book qualified meetings.
Featured on the B2B Power Hour: Saad Khan
What he does: Director of Sales and Business Development at Aligned (Former Business Development Manager at Vendr)
Key quote: “For a good cold call, you need to sell problems versus features of your product.”
B2B Power Plays
Top takeaways from this week’s conversation
🔥 Use the FIRE alignment framework.
Most organizations have thousands of accounts in Salesforce, but they don’t actually have to work all of them — they just need to go where the buyers are. The FIRE alignment framework lets you capture and convert the right people and create a funnel through data-driven outbound efforts.
- Fit: Based on your inbound and converting leads, look for accounts that fit your ICP and infographics.
- Intent: Use tools like Clearbit to learn how your ICP fits into the conversation you want to have. Look for tools they’re currently using that align with your product, and let that knowledge steer a deeper-level conversation.
- Recency: Find accounts with context and history, and start cold calling previous Closed-Lost accounts. Yes, you can seek out net new accounts, but as Saad says, “Your next net new win is probably there in your CRM; you just don't know how to find it.”
- Engagement: Which accounts have spent time engaging with your company? This isn’t just those who are booking a demo — it’s also people who visit your website, browse your blog, or download your infographics.
The FIRE alignment framework is a way to work smarter, not harder.
🔄 Build a cold call framework by reverse-engineering the potential objections of your prospects at every step.
Going into a cold call, your goal should be to validate your hypothesis about the prospect, confirming that the problem your product solves is a priority for them. But you should only pitch if and when you’ve earned their respect. You do this by mapping out each part of a cold call, considering the possible objections at each step, and answering them proactively.
Saad prefers using a framework rather than a script because he can flexibly adapt the framework to a range of ICPs and personas. “Same formula, different people,” he says.
🖼️ Frame your cold call conversations around giving prospects the information they need to make a decision.
Once you confirm a prospect’s problem and its business impact, you’ve established that booking a meeting could be helpful to them. Let them know that the worst-case scenario of a 30-minute conversation is that they’ve learned more about a process that they could potentially deploy later and gained more information to make a decision.
If they don’t want to meet and ask you to send them something, this approach helps here, too. Ask a question to make sure what you send them is relevant, but also push for a tentative time on the calendar to walk through what you’re sending together. By focusing on helping them make an informed decision, you show them that a meeting is a step in the right direction rather than a leap of faith.
Inflection points from the show
[1:54] Selling problems, not products: Saad shares the number one thing SDRs miss when they start cold calling — and the importance of booking qualified meetings.
[6:55] Do this first: Before picking up the phone, you need to understand how many ICPs you sell to and the goals of each one — don’t confuse their priorities.
[10:13] Aligning sales and marketing: BDRs fail when they tell reps to just book the meeting rather than teaching them how to sell the product and helping them target the right people to buy the product.
[17:22] Mirror, mirror: Proactivity is key to ensuring your inbound leads match the accounts in your book of business. Reevaluate your scoring model over time to match product changes.
[19:59] More with less: Would you rather have 100 leads that aren’t a great fit or 50 leads that you’re sure are going to buy based on data? Saad explains how to aim for the latter.
[25:05] Framework > script: You can customize the right cold call framework — based on problems and priorities — for any conversation with any organization.
[28:56] Seven steps: Saad breaks down the seven steps of a great cold call and his process for reverse-engineering responses to potential objections.
[33:35] You’ve earned it: When you get on the same page with a prospect and validate their problem, you’ve earned the right to pitch — but not before then.
[37:37] That’s why I called: The best part of a cold call comes when you can transition from the prospect accepting the challenge and business impact you’ve presented to booking the meeting.
[43:37] Abundance mentality: Rather than being threatened when a prospect talks about your competitor, acknowledge what they do well — and what you do well.
[44:25] Pro moves: The difference between an expert cold caller and a novice? The expert makes targeted dials to people who are ready to convert.
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