Cold calling is hard, there’s no getting around that.  It can often feel like a machete in the jungle, but some of the most successful salespeople in the world have and continue to drive their own performance and results based on the cold call.

Here are 10 specific best practices to improve your cold calling approach, performance and results.

1. Have an offer
Don’t make the call with an ask, but call with an offer. Give something of value to the prospect, free of charge and with no strings attached. Make it something immediately relevant to their current business or priorities. Use it as a means of starting the conversation, breaking the ice, and building some quick early trust and credibility.

2. Stay focused on volume
Cold calling is a either a numbers game or a ratio game, depending on who you ask. The numbers game implies focusing on a high volume of activities to reach interested prospects, and the ratio game implies driving a higher rate of success with the lists, offers and context in which you sell. Either way, results are driven by volume. As a cold caller, oftentimes the one and only thing you can control is the number of times you pick up the phone and dial again. Use volume to your advantage.

3. Get in the zone & avoid distractions
It’s all too easy to make a couple calls and find an excuse to get up. Refresh your coffee, chat with your manager, do a victory lap, whatever. Ignore the temptation to get up so often, and stay focused on more activity. Turn off your Facebook, put your phone away, put on your headset and keep working.

4. Get comfortable with rejection and have a short memory
The majority of the time you’re cold-calling, you’re hearing rejection. You will hear “no” far more than “yes,” and the best reps in the world push right through to that and into the next call. The best professionals in the world – athletes, inventors, innovators – all face failure constantly, but know that their next success is just one at-bat or idea or cold call away.

5. Learn from those around you
If your organization has a formal best practice-sharing focus (via a library or team meetings or otherwise), soak it up like a sponge. Find the other sales reps on your team who are successful cold callers and take them to lunch or coffee. Learn their best practices directly. Read books, blogs, newsletters. Constantly improve based on what’s already working around you.

6. Dress up
There is a big difference between cold-calling in ratty blue jeans and in nice dress pants. You may only be on the phone, but you will feel far more professional and your work product will relay that. Dress the part.

7. Use a wireless headset
I’m surprised at how many inside sales reps still prefer the handset phone. Anything that gets in the way of keeping a rhythm and staying in the zone when you’re calling is a distraction. With a headset, you’re also much more likely to evoke passion into your voice when speaking with a prospect, since you’re hands and body are more free to move naturally as you speak.

8. Your lists are always going to suck
It’s not marketing’s fault. Lists, inherently, aren’t perfect. You’re going to call someone who isn’t at the company anymore, or who isn’t the right contact. You’re going to call a company that’s not in your target market. Know that the quality of your list is part of the process. Work with your sales manager (and marketing team) to constantly improve list quality based on call results and conversion rates, but know when to quickly move on from a bad contact or number to the next one.

9. Set goals and mini-rewards throughout the day
You’re motivated by closed sales and commission checks, obviously. But also give yourself mini-rewards to work towards throughout the day as motivation to keep activity high. It could be a latte run after XX number of dials, or an afternoon treat once you hit a particular activity milestone. Find the tactical, tangible ways to motivate yourself throughout the day to keep going.

10. Use a disposition process and move on
Just because you make one call and leave a voicemail doesn’t mean you’re done with that prospect. Create and/or use a disposition process to effectively work through each prospect – with a short sequence of calls, voicemails and follow-up emails over the course of several business days. If you don’t have any response after this disposition sequence, mark the lead as “nurture” and move on. There’s a short point of diminishing returns with a prospect who hasn’t responded to your advances, and you’ll be much more likely to reach a qualified prospect live if you play the numbers this way.