The Anatomy of a Cold Call

Gabrielle Blackwell’s story of how she got into sales is a familiar one – in that she had no intention of ending up in sales at all. She explains on a recent episode of the Predictable Revenue Podcast that she found her first job in sales out of desperation. But, as with many of today’s successful sales leaders, the sales job ignited something inside of her and she quickly learned that cold calling would be her weapon; she was great at it, she could have fun with it, and she could make a lot of money by doing it. After many years as a sales rep, she is now a sales dev manager on the SMB/commercial team at Gong where she manages a team of 10 reps and imparts her cold calling wisdom. We asked her to come on the show to do the same for us and our audience.


Gabrielle maintains that the phone is the most powerful channel one can use when prospecting, and she has the proof to back it up. As she puts it, it is way too easy for people to say no digitally – it’s much harder for them to say no to you over the phone. You can be more engaging and differentiate yourself over the phone. You’re more agile during a live conversation than you could ever be going back and forth over email or social media. For that reason, it gives SDRs the opportunity to learn more, be curious, ask questions, and gain insights faster so they can book more meetings.

But cold calling isn’t just a great way to book meetings, it’s also an avenue for improving your sales skills overall as you have more conversations with your prospects.


Much of Gabrielle’s beliefs about cold calling, she attributes to a mentor she worked with early in her sales career. He once asked her what she was selling on a cold call. She answered with a typical answer – a particular service, package, feature, and he quickly corrected her, “No. We are selling value.” From then on, Gabrielle knew that she had to genuinely believe that whatever she was was valuable and understand what made it valuable to her prospects. That way, she could evangelize the products she was selling.

Another sales secret her mentor imparted to her was the idea that, on a cold call, until it’s a “no,” it’s a “yes.” In fact, it’s a “yes” until it’s a resounding “f*ck no!” And how does that look on a cold call? Gabrielle always interprets the first “no” as a smokescreen. It’s not a “no” to you, your company, or the product – because they don’t know about that yet. It’s just a no to this phone call, to having the conversation right now. So, Gabrielle pushes through until she gets that “f*ck no,” because she’d rather hear that than let the prospect off the phone without giving it her best shot.


Gabrielle remembers looking at her computer screen the day she applied for her first sales job, seeing the words “cold calling and cold emailing” staring coldly back at her and thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” She had never imagined herself in a position where she’d be calling people she didn’t know that weren’t expecting her call, but at this point in her life, she felt she had no other choice, so she sent in that application. 

She was selected for the role, and her first 3 days of onboarding were spent entirely roleplaying cold calls. This helped ingrain the idea in Gabrielle that the phone was going to be a necessary evil, but that she could use it to be great at the SDR role. For the subsequent 3 weeks of the job, every time she got off the phone with a prospect she felt nauseous, and when she booked her first meeting she felt, simultaneously, that she was going to cry and throw up. While some of that nervousness never went away and still remains for Gabrielle, to a degree, today, once she got comfortable with engaging with prospects, rebounding when she made a mistake, and accepting that she is human, she could enjoy the excitement of the experience in spite of the nerves.

In the age of hyper-personalization, Gabrielle knows this might be a controversial opinion, but she doesn’t prepare for her cold calls at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. What she doesn’t do is prepare for each individual cold call. Instead, she does deep research into the persona she’s reaching out to so she can understand their role, responsibilities, challenges, what kind of influence they generally have on budget or decision-making, and what the benefit of her solution is to them. 

Some people personalize 100% of their outreach. But in Gabrielle’s experience, if she over thinks something she can become paralyzed. In a way, pre-call research is like over-preparing, and it takes up all the space in your brain that you could instead focus on coming up with good questions. Additionally, Gabrielle has seen reps spend 20+ minutes personalizing time and time again, and never receive a reply from the prospect.

Gabrielle is much more comfortable with being a subject matter expert on a particular role and then learning what is relevant to the individual prospect by asking questions, rather than relying on some research she did herself. Pre-call research would set Gabrielle up to monologue, but she books meetings by having a dialogue.


Gabrielle’s process of launching a conversation on the phone consists of 4 steps: the introduction, the relevance, the value, and the launch.

Introduction: Your classic opener. 

Example: “Hey {first name}, my name is {sdr name}.” or “Hey {first name}, this is {sdr name} calling from {sdr company} on a recorded line, did I catch you with a quick moment to chat?” 

Relevance: Why you’re calling.

Example: “The reason for my reaching out is I was doing some research on {prospect company} and I saw that you’re involved in {job function}.”

Value: Why the prospect should care.

Example: “We have a solution at {sdr company} that is making {job function} a lot {better – faster, easier, quicker, etc.}.

Launch: Invite the prospect into a conversation.

Example: “I’m curious, how are you handling that today?”

Gabrielle can get through these 4 steps in about 20 seconds. Another valuable rule that she learned from her mentor is that if you can get the prospect talking in the first 30 seconds of a cold call, you’ve won. Inviting the prospect into the conversation to contribute builds empathy and rapport in a way that you can’t achieve over digital channels.


Once you’ve successfully completed the launch and the prospect has taken the bait on your invitation into the conversation, you need to dig in. Ask them questions like “How are you involved in improving {job function} in your organization?” If they say they aren’t, ask “Help me understand your role, what are you involved in?” Then ask follow-up questions like “How are you handling this today? How else might you approach this? Are you able to achieve the goals that you want to achieve?”

All of these questions are designed to give you a clear understanding of what is going on in that prospect’s company today and to see if there is a gap that you could fill and make a strong business case for. Only after you have uncovered said gap can you ask for the meeting.

“Based on what you’re doing today, specifically {process 1, 2, and 3}, and comparing that to our customers who are able to do {job function} {better}, it seems like there might be an opportunity to optimize some things – and that’s what I really wanted to connect about. Would it be worth having a conversation?”


It’s more important than ever to have a strong strategy that will help you convert cold calls into meetings. It starts with the mindset of never taking “no,” only “f*ck no” for an answer. Then, it takes diligent persona research so you can skip your pre-call research and dive right into the calls. Next, it requires a specific script for getting the dialogue with the prospect flowing and ends with a foolproof plan for converting to a meeting. Cold calling is picking up steam again as a powerful channel for outbound, so make sure that, like Gabrielle Blackwell, you’re ready to take advantage.


More blog posts on cold calling tactics:

How to Nail The First 30 Seconds of The Cold Call: In Conversation With Rex Biberston

Cold Calling is Back, Baby!

The 4 things to do after you choke on a cold call


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