• A new SDR’s first cold calls are never easy, but that doesn’t mean they have to be a disaster. With the right training and coaching, even the most inexperienced reps will be on their way up the learning curve in no time.
  • Richard Smith and Jonathan Drew from Allego and Tom Slocum from RevGenius are sales enablement and training experts. In a recent webinar, they shared their opinions and best practices on scripts, coaching, and call libraries.
  • Ultimately, call frameworks are useful — even essential. But no two calls should sound alike, either. It’s all about developing muscle memory and then building on individuality. Trusting reps to be creative is the best way to ensure cold calling success.

Every sales rep remembers their first cold calls — and probably not too fondly. 

Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. Your hands are shaking. You dial and hope for the best. You talk at the prospect, try some feature dumping, and ask random questions. 

Maybe you have beginner’s luck and book a meeting, but you have no idea why and certainly couldn’t repeat it on the next call. In short, there is often no method to the madness.

Surely there has to be a better way to train appointment setting teams for cold calling success, right? That’s what Ollie Whitfield sat down to discuss in a VanillaSoft webinar with Richard Smith and Jonathan Drew from sales training and enablement platform Allego and Tom Slocum from the RevGenius online sales community.

They share their best strategies for setting up new SDRs to hit the ground running in their early cold calls. The conversation covers topics like whether or not to use scripts and frameworks, the essential role of coaching in training new reps, and how to find the perfect balance between structure and tonality.

The first cold calls are never going to be easy or seamless, but these valuable tips will go a long way toward avoiding the most common pitfalls, even for the most inexperienced of reps. 

To script or not to script?

The debate over whether to use a script or framework is a hot topic. 

On the one hand, scripts provide structure and help SDRs understand both the anatomy of a call and the psychology of why saying certain things can help in certain situations. And all too many reps have learned the hard way how badly things can go without one. Yet others worry that having a script squeezes out individuality and freedom.

appointment setting training

The trick is to find a balance and, most importantly, to encourage sales reps to be themselves. SDR success isn’t about sounding like the top performer in the office or even the person sitting next to you. It’s about understanding the prospect and their challenges and actively listening.

Despite the polemic around scripts, all three experts agree that having some kind of framework or flowchart is essential, especially for inexperienced reps. Otherwise, Richard notes, “You’re not giving them the right pieces of the jigsaw for them to put together in their head, and that’s where you get inconsistency.”

But according to Jonathan, although the script might be helpful, never forget that you’re talking to a human being. “If you go into a call with a mindset of learning and trying to understand the prospect, the questions in the flowchart will come naturally and will help you get to the same outcome,” he says.

Richard looks at the script or framework as the basis for building individuality. In other words, you learn the script until it becomes muscle memory, then you add in your own style. Just because everyone is using the same structure doesn’t mean everyone’s calls will sound the same.

Everyone’s a coach

Even the best-laid plans can go awry. A new SDR may have memorized and role-played the framework to a tee but still struggle to understand why a particular call went well or badly. And that’s where coaching comes in.

Setting people up for success is a crucial part of the sales manager’s job, and it’s not enough to just provide a script and hope for the best. Having a library of call recordings that reps can listen to on-demand and analyze is immensely useful. “There’s no better way of learning how to run a good call,” Richard says.

A library also helps managers detect and implement best practices and then use them to continue refining the framework. “You can’t coach off guesswork or memory,” Richard points out. “You have to be listening to what’s actually going on to have the impact you need.”

Jonathan recommends playing out live calls, not just with managers or coaches, but with the entire team, asking: What would you have done differently? Who’s seen the same objection before? What would you do in this situation? Then encourage people to give honest feedback without fear of criticism, setting a tone of transparent collaboration and boosting morale and team spirit.

Master the science to unlock the art

Tom is also a big believer in frameworks. “There is a science to sales,” he says. “But once you can master the science, you’re able to unlock the art.” 

In practice, that’s what Tom calls the “framework creation process,” which starts early in SDR training and continues to evolve over the weeks and months that follow. 

It starts with the basic formula for any cold call: the opener, the mid, the end, and the objections. This will be the same for everyone, almost like a blank slate. Then it’s up to each individual sales rep to fill in the gaps, creating three to five one-liners for each section and essentially writing their own script.

These one-liners come from listening to calls from the library, noting what works and what doesn’t, and putting it into your own words with your own personality. The process isn’t about replicating what someone else said but about finding your own way in. 

In the end, it’s not one set script but a variety of versions that can be used in different situations.  Each SDR needs to tweak and refresh each version until, as Tom puts it, “you get the training wheels off.”

Lean into individual strengths for maximum creativity

Not every sales organization might accept the wisdom of giving SDRs the freedom to individualize and massage their own frameworks. Some managers want their reps to just stick to the script. But Tom thinks that’s a mistake.

Good coaches know how to play to the strengths of each of their team members. The most successful teams are those that work together to leverage their individual creativity and skill sets. 

So get to know your team, and trust them to be able to scale their outreach in inventive ways.

Closing words

Every new SDR will be nervous about their first cold calls, no matter what. But that doesn’t mean managers shouldn’t do everything possible to set them up for success. 

Providing a proven structure and a library of calls to listen to, giving and sharing feedback across entire teams, and encouraging personality and creativity will get SDRs quickly up the learning curve and feeling confident in no time.

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