Cold calling is an art and a science.

The art of cold calling is the emotional side of sales development. It’s the SDR’s ability to understand the buyers’ pains and frustrations, handle objections like a pro, and care more about the tone behind their words than the words themselves. The art of cold calling is why you hired a human for the job. A human can listen, show empathy, and exhibit a high EQ to authentically connect with your prospects.

The science of cold calling is the numbers game. It’s knowing how many cold calls make an appointment and what other sales activities get you closer to a deal. SDRs must learn how to control their numbers like daily dials, LinkedIn connects, and email sends, but the ultimate sales dev process must be prescribed by revenue leaders who have visibility into the bigger picture—and can back the math into company revenue targets and goals.

According to this recent article, prescriptive strategic managers seek to formulate a strategy that enhances the performance of their team. This means that a calculated, step-by-step sales process with crystal-clear KPIs to track towards empowers SDRs to focus on the art (not the science) behind their cold calls. And, trust me, this is the real secret to getting more meetings set.

6 KPIs to Track That Will Turn Your Cold Call Into a Meeting

Are you asking yourself, does cold calling work? Below are six tried-and-true KPIs to track that prove cold calling is effective and will unlock the human potential of your SDRs.

  1. Connect Rate

    Connect rate measures how often an SDR gets a response from a prospect—whether they answer the cold call or respond to a voicemail, email, or DM. If your SDR team isn’t realizing a 4 to 7% connect rate, think about ways to optimize this metric. At Ambition, we avoid making cold calls between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.—when most of our buyers are busy on Zoom calls or in other business meetings. We see most success connecting in the early mornings and late afternoons. Another test to try is leveraging Local Presence Dialing. According to a recent study, people are four times more likely to answer a call from a local number than a toll-free one.

    Industry Benchmark: 4-7% Connect Rate
    How to Calculate: Total Connects / Number of Calls
  2. Conversation-Convert Rate

    Conversation-convert rate answers if your SDR took the conversation to a meaningful next step and set a meeting. The key to an optimal conversation-convert rate is to have your reps ask open-ended, probing questions like these that involve in-depth responses from your prospect. A study by DigiDay shows that 78% of customers don’t feel understood by brands, so the more your SDRs can contextually relate and solve acute problems the better your audience will convert to a SAL (Sales Accepted Lead) or SQO (Sales Qualified Opp).

    Industry Benchmark: 10-15% Conversation-Convert Rate
    How to Calculate: # of Meetings / Total # of Conversations
  3. Average Talk Time

    Average talk time represents your prospects’ relationship with your org, or the level of interest they have in your product or service. To increase talk time, SDRs must continually hone the art of cold calling and be fearless, patient, and smart in objection handling. The more time an SDR gets with a prospect, the more information he or she gathers to build a hyper-relevant use case. If your SDRs’ average talk time dips below 1.5 minutes (an indication that they covered only one, maybe two, objections), that’s your cue as a sales manager to set aside time to coach and make cold calling fun (here are 9 ways to do so).

    Industry Benchmark: 2-3 minutes per call
    How to Calculate: Total Talk Time / # of Calls
  4. Hold Rate

    Remember that a meeting set doesn’t mean anything until the prospect shows up to the discovery call or demo. At this point in the sales motion, SDRs have skin in the game and it’s important that they do everything in their power to ensure the prospect attends. A few best practices that I ask my SDRs at Ambition to take to keep our hold rate high include:
    1. Create an awesome calendar invite: When creating the calendar invite for the discovery call or demo, make sure it includes all of the right call-in details, attendees, and a fun, compelling agenda
    2. Send memorable reminders: In the days leading up do the discovery call or demo, send a one-off email reminding them about the upcoming meeting—these messages can be informal—mention that you watched their favorite sports team play last night or saw a cool LinkedIn or Instagram post from their company.
    3. Forward the Zoom details 5 minutes ahead: Play concierge. Give your prospects the white-glove treatment by sending a warm greeting and the dial-in details for the upcoming Zoom, WebEx, or Teams call in 5 minutes.
    4. Run a seamless SDR-AE handoff: As Becc Holland says, the SDR-to-AE handoff is a delicate dance. There are a few critical things to consider for the handoff including: when to formally introduce the AE; should the SDR attend the disco call or demo; and how to give kudos in front of the prospect for the SDR’s time and hard work.

Industry Benchmark: 75-80% Hold Rate
How to Calculate: # of Meetings Held / # of Meetings Set

  1. Days to Scheduled Meeting

    The sooner you can schedule the discovery call or demo, the better the return. Part of the art of cold calling is also helping your prospect understand the more days, weeks, and months they go without your product or service, the longer it will hurt their business. If you’re wondering which days of the week or what time of the day is best for these types of calls, take a look at Gong’s recent data showing lowest and highest no-show rates.

    Industry Benchmark: Schedule Meeting < 1 Week
    How to Calculate: Strive to Schedule Within 5-7 Business Days of Meeting Set
  2. SQL Conversion Rate

SQL conversion rate measures how many prospects convert to a sales-qualified lead from a SAL, sales-accepted lead, or SQO, sales-qualified opportunity. Typically, one out of every 10 prospects will be qualified and ready for a discovery call or demo. By tracking the KPIs listed above, your ability to improve this metric (and directly impact your company’s bottom line) will grow quickly.

Industry Benchmark: 10% SQL Rate
How to Calculate: # of SQLs / # of SALs or SQOs

3 Steps To Hone the Art of Cold Calling: How To Do a Cold Call

SDRs are people. Buyers are people. The art of cold calling starts with the rep’s ability to be authentic and prepared for the conversation. With this in mind and by leveraging the steps below, your KPIs will improve month over month. 

Here’s how I train my SDRs to do a cold call. 

Step 1: Pattern Interrupt

Nailing the introduction is the most important moment of the cold call. A great pattern interrupt includes two things: 1.) An opening line that makes you memorable and 2.) A clear and concise explanation for why you’re calling. The key here is to know who you’re talking to and how you’re talking. Remember: your tone is your make-or-break. 

Step 2: Pitch

A perfect pitch is about asking pointed questions, actively listening, and responding with ways your product or service will benefit or enhance your buyers’ life. The pitch is not about the features, functions, and product lines, but instead your solutions.

Step 3: Close

The purpose of a cold call is to set a meeting, and the only way you’ll get more time with your prospect is to become their trusted partner or trusted advisor. In the close of the cold call, paraphrase their struggles, use the feel-felt-found method, and link ROI and proof points where you can. Remember: If you get a “no” on the first ask for a meeting, have the courage to ask again.

As a sales leader trying to run a tight, prescriptive sales dev process, you need the right Sales Tracking Tools to make it all happen automatically. Tracking KPIs like these requires you to have a scorecard (get free sales scorecard templates here) so you can set clear expectations and create an ecosystem of accountability and encouragement that empowers your SDRs to focus on the art, not the science, of their job.

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