Cold calling is hard enough, but it’s worse when you’re just dialing for dollars and going straight for the product pitch. Nobody wants to hear that, and if you actually get through to the prospect in the first place you’re going to get shut down quickly.

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to increase cold prospect penetration, and accelerate their interest in both taking your call and spending time talking to you.  Imagine, prospects interested in taking your call!

Here are six specific things to integrate into your own sales efforts.

1. Offer something of value (independent of a purchase)
Know your audience well enough that you can create and offer them something that immediately helps them in their current job. Make it something that’s fast and easy to say yes to, and quick to digest as well. This isn’t the entire sales process, but the beginning of your relationship-building and a great ice-breaker that demonstrates you’re not just about getting the sale, but also helping someone solve a problem or get closer to an intended outcome.  White papers, research reports, free samples.  They all count.

2. Call at a good time
Calling your prospect in the middle of a busy workday isn’t likely to get the phone answered. And if they do answer, they’ll be harried, distracted, and short on time. Try to make more of your calls at the beginning and end of the day. Get in early and call before 8:00 a.m. local time, when prospects (executives in particular) may get in a little early too before their meetings start. Call at this time or after 5:00 p.m. and they’re more likely to not be in meetings, and it’s also likely that any gatekeeper or administrative assistant isn’t at their desk and screening calls.

3. Schedule them in advance
Cold calls, by definition, are interruptions. You’re calling someone who isn’t expecting your call, and who at best might have a few minutes to spare but not be in the mindset of thinking about what you’re pitching. Get permission to have that call in advance (ideally including that offer of value from the first point above), and you’ll have a more focused and prepared prospect. This won’t always be the case, but it may increase the rate of qualified, successful conversations you’re having to move leads into near-term opportunities.

4. Get warm introductions
There are too many tools available today (many for free) that can help you tap into the networks of your peers, colleagues, fellow sales reps, past employees, and more. Depending on what you’re selling and to whom, you’re likely no more than 2-3 connections away from the individual you want to speak with. Are you actively using those connections? Is your LinkedIn profile up to date and are you connected with everyone you know professionally? Are you using tools like IntroRocket to tap into the networks of everyone else at your company?

5. Get the gatekeeper’s buy-in and approval first
The decision maker, your primary prospect, is really busy. Their administrative assistant is busy too, but part of their job is to figure out what’s most important to get through to their boss. Treat that individual not as a gatekeeper, but as an initial decision maker and advocate for the problem-solving and/or outcome you represent. If they think you can help them, their boss and/or their company, they’re more likely to help you get the conversation you need.

6. Reference something important (and recent) to them
Show your prospect that you’ve done your homework, and that you can attach something you care about with something they care about. A recent product launch, a highly-publicized security breach, a round of funding. Something important that you can key in on and play to, that will make what you’re talking about that much more relevant.

What works for you? What angles or information or insights do you use to earn conversations with your prospects?