Commercial efficiency
6 min reading

Cold call: 3 techniques to help you get through the switchboard

Paul Berloty
January 2022
cold call technique to get through the switchboards

If you are reading this, it is likely that your work has a commercial dimension.

More specifically, this article is aimed at those who are on the front line of securing appointments: Sales, BDR, SDR, salesperson, sales manager, AE, or IA.

Welcome to the magical world of prospecting!

"Mr Chalot only takes people he already knows, please email him."
"I'll pass it on to Mr Chalot, and he'll call you back if he's interested".
"Send your brochure to"

Do these lines sound familiar? Well, you're not alone.

We've all been there.

Yet, it's a shame. Because Mr Chalot is your ideal client:

  • It takes decisions
  • It has the budget
  • And above all... It needs your solution!

But his secretary refuses to put you in touch.

Damn it.

Spoiler: There is no magic solution to reach everyone instantly.
But there are simple, free, and effective methods that maximize your chances.

No, the cold call is not dead!

Today, cold calling has a bad reputation.

It seems old-fashioned, outdated, and as it doesn't scale, the Start-up Nation quickly tends to throw it away, preferring to apply the latest scalable inbound growth marketing technique.

And... rightly so!

Go figure, the call centres have managed to compile all the direct lines in France, all to offer you insurance for a car you don't have, or to change the electricity offer for the flat where you are the poor tenant.

In short, we are all regularly the target of these calls from operators who want to inform us of an "exceptional" offer, which is exceptional only in the accent of the caller. 

But don't worry, if the cold call is still practiced today, it's because the best jams are made in old jars.

And when applied properly, it remains a formidable weapon.

Forget about mass telemarketing. This is about precision and quality.

Your prospect is someone important. Let's call him Mr Chalot.

Mr Chalot has little time for himself. So, even less for you.

He receives 250 emails a day, and despite all your efforts, your opening rate is close to zero.

But you, you have something useful for Mr Chalot. 

Your solution is MADE for him.

Your role is to talk to her about it.

Why does the cold call always work?

Let's think about it.

How many ways can you get 3 qualified appointments in 1 hour, creating a relationship with your customers, while offering instant feedback?

The list is not long ...

Whether it is to call back a prospect, gather information, or more traditionally to obtain the famous "discovery meeting", a well conducted prospecting session is one of the most effective techniques.

So of course, it doesn't work every time. 

It's time consuming, it requires preparation. 

But by applying these tips, you will at least have put the odds in your favour.

And don't forget, one appointment can sometimes make your monthly figure. Just one!

Think about it 😉

In 1 VS 1, it is better to know your opponent

You're all set. It is 11.45 a.m.

Your prospect is human, and you know that a human being who needs to be fed. He'll get out of the office, and your chances of him answering your call are multiplied by 3.

With your customer base in front of you, Airpods firmly in your ears, you know your solution, and you are determined to present it to Mr Chalot.

Simply put, there is an obstacle between you and the person you are talking to.

You don't have his 06, and will have to go through the switchboard of his company. The secretary. The operator.

Today, it is our antagonist.

Imagine this old mystical door in the hollow of a mountain, where you have to know the magic formula that will open the way. Behind it is Ali Baba's cave.

A standard is a door. With several locks.

Remember that the person on the other end of the line is paid every day to screen calls like yours.

Like a computer, the world in which she evolves is rather binary.

She has two choices: to pass on your call, or not to pass it on. Pass, or don't pass.

An image containing text, interior, automatically generated personDescription

If that human firewall thinks you're a virus, you're done for. Call back later.

And when this happens to you, don't get upset, tell yourself that like you, she is just doing her job! If she doesn't put you in touch, it's probably because you didn't do yours properly...

And when this happens to you, don't get upset, tell yourself that like you, she is just doing her job! If she doesn't put you in touch, it's probably because you didn't do yours properly...

Let me remind you that both the secretary and the switchboard operator are normal people who want to do their job well. They both know that if they block the transmission of important information, they risk being caught by their superiors.

And if the message is important, so is the messenger.

Be that important messenger.

To do this, there are 3 postures to keep in mind:

I. When you have someone weighing in on the phone, you know it.

How? You know it, deep down. Unconsciously or consciously.

The confidence is automatically felt in everyone's voice.

You must impose yourself. Unconsciously and from the first few seconds, the brain of your interlocutor will try to identify you. To classify you in their social database.

This is human.

Give the impression that you are someone important, who should not be kept waiting.

Be that person who weighs in.

An image containing person, man, wall, interiorAutomatically generated description

You do this job because your service is good, useful. So be convinced. I mean it.

You have confidence in your product. It really WILL help your prospect, and your role as a messenger is to take that message to Mr Chalot at all costs.

As far as the tone of your voice is concerned, opt for a low, calm voice.

This is the best way to get started in a credible way.

As far as rhythm is concerned, make sure you eliminate involuntary sound pauses (like: EUHHHH...).

They have no place in your speech, and are easily identified if you listen to your exchanges again. Learn to replace them with voluntary silent pauses.

The former are annoying, the latter settle the discourse, make it more pleasant.

Finally, keep in mind that a "downward" intonation also helps to establish authority.

The opposite inspires uncertainty, eagerness.

Which brings us to the second point...

II. A leader is meant to lead.

Now you are someone who weighs.

You have your weekly targets in mind (you are late by the way).

Your customer base to call is as long as Luffy's arm.

In other words, you have no time to waste. And to be effective, nothing beats the imperative.

To do this, be directive.

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Let's be clear, being directive does not in any way dispense with respect and politeness.

It is simply a matter of leading the way. The position of switchboard operator is rarely that of an initiative taker.

Think back to the door in the mountain. Have you ever seen a door take initiative?

This person is by definition in reaction. He or she is waiting for your actions to act in return.

Well, you know why you're here, so tell her what to do:

"Hello, Cyprien Borios speaking, can you put Charles on the phone please?"

Important: Tell the person what to do, don't ask them.

As long as the assistant is leading the discussion, you will not get away with it.

Also, speak in the present tense.

Prospecting is action. We are in the moment.

Ban the conditional tense, the imperfect tense, the plus-que-perfect tense, and in general everything that your old bespectacled French teacher desperately tried to teach you.

Now you are talking to the PRE-SENT.

X: "Could I possibly speak to ... ; if he is available .."
V: "Can I speak to Mr Chalot?"

Finally, never forget that...

III. Less is more.

It's like in court, anything you say can be used against you.

All the secretary wants to know is whether or not to pass on your message.

Your solution does not solve any of her problems, so keep it short.

- Hello, I wish to speak to Mr Chalot.
- Yes, hello, what is it about?
- Sure his {x1 technical terms} in {one of his activities}.
- Um very well, and you are... ?
- Mr Borios.
- Ok I see, you've already exchanged together?
- Yes, we have.
- Okay, I see if he's available.

To do this, get to the point. Keep your answers brief, short and to the point. You have no time to lose, and neither does the secretary. 

Above all: Don't justify yourself!

Not without being asked, at least.

The more you justify yourself, the more you burn out.

  1. You lose clarity.
  2. You give arguments to the other.

Remember the court: Anything you say will be held against you.

Take the time to listen to your calls again, and identify any passages that can be eliminated.

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Thanks to the great cold caller Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Another point is that the switchboard is like a customer: it is right.

Even when he is wrong, he is right. Do not stoop to a sterile debate. 

E.g.: The secretary tells you that you should call her on her direct line. 

But don't act surprised! You knew it.

Just go with the flow of the secretary.

- Hello, I wish to speak to Mr Chalot.
- Hello, I wish to speak to Mr Chalot. Mr Chalot can only be reached on his direct line.
- That's why I called you! Could you give me his number?

In 50% of the cases, you get the direct line from Mr Chalot.

Why did you do that? Because you went along with the secretary.

Another technique: you can also try asking the person directly by their first name. Boldness helps more often than you think 😉


As in all disciplines, the important thing is to train.

Note that most of these tips will also be useful in everyday life!

  • Every extra second with a 'Euuuuh' in your ears makes you want to shake your indecisive buddy a little more.
  • Take breaks. Stop talking at 400 km/h. You stress everyone
  • Be synthetic. Less talk is often more talk.

Of course, these are still practical tips. Cold calling is a complex art, which never works every time.

But we are not discouraged.

What counts is to call regularly, to persevere.

And a touch of daring will often take you further than you think.

Finally, after a certain number of rejections, you will tend to lose this confidence.

This is NORMAL.

Take a break, have a coffee, chat with a colleague and then resume at the next strategic moment.

On the contrary, if you feel good, take advantage of this good mood to make as many appointments as possible.

And to keep motivated, there is nothing like practising as a team! At the end of the week, take time to listen to your successful calls again. Find out what they have in common.

Analyse the techniques that worked for YOU. Save them for the next week. And test new ones the following week.

Finally, if you still have no solution to record your calls and discern the elements that MAKE a difference, you can always call us on our switchboard 😉


Paul Berloty
CEO and Co-founder
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