Sales Training Lessons Learned from “Fight Club” — Test Your Cold Calling Skills in the SDR League

What’s your attitude when it’s time to knock out a few cold calls? Perhaps you get excited and say, “Let’s see how quickly I can bag this next sale!” Or do you cringe and wonder, “How can I get out of this?” There’s no denying that cold calling is an essential part of generating new business and building a healthy sales pipeline. And sure, some of us are more confident in our skills than others. But to keep getting better, we all need more practice, feedback, and results.

In our recent Disruptors & Innovators podcast, we learned about a unique take on how to test your cold calling skills. Guest Ryan Reisert spoke extensively about The SDR League and their sales cold calling competition called Cold Cage. And it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

With Cold Cage, salespeople come to a public online forum where they make live cold calls in front of their peers to determine who performs better. Everything is live, so nothing is scrubbed or pre-planned, and participants are scored on a variety of factors (whether they got the sale, got hung up on their sales pitch, etc.) with the winner taking home bragging rights and maybe earning a sale.

Parallels Between Fight Club and the SDR League

A few interesting images popped into my head when I heard about Cold Cage. The first was March Madness with the big brackets, and everyone jockeying for supremacy in a field of superstar cold callers. I also thought of neighborhood basketball courts where guys just show up and say, “I’ve got next!”

But the more I thought about it, I realized it was closer to that classic Brad Pitt movie, Fight Club, where fighters went to this dark garage at 11 p.m. in a seedy part of town to test their mettle. Luckily the environment is NOTHING like that, but I do see several parallels between the sales training and development of Cold Cage and Fight Club.

Cold Cage sales calls offer an interesting take on cold calling practice. But your sales manager isn’t likely to prescribe signing up for a Cold Cage match as mandated training. If you do this, you’re going to go on your own. Ask yourself, “Would I be open to trying something like this?” If the answer is yes … that’s great! If the answer is a hard and fast, “No Way,” then why not? What’s the barrier?

We’ll explore these two possibilities in the next sections.

YES: Ready to Compete in Cold Cage? What Does That Say About You?

You’ve got to have bravado to want to see how you stack up against your peers. Maybe you’ll be great at it immediately, or you could find out that you’re not as good as you thought you were.

The famous line of the movie was “The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club.” If you’re brave enough to sign up for a Cold Cage match, like Fight Club, you’d probably be less inclined to talk about it ahead of time because you want to test things out first until you’ve mastered it. Then, you might be more open to talking about the thrill, the challenge, the learnings.

Just a few benefits of Cold Cage include:

  • Getting the chance to see how good you really are at cold calling
  • Receiving honest and on-the-spot feedback and constructive criticism from your peers
  • Seeing where your deficiencies are (areas for improvement)
  • Observing your peers and learning from their successes and failures, drawing inspiration and motivation (tips, tricks, and hacks to try yourself)
  • Building confidence in your cold calling skills

And with a legitimate buyer on the other end of the line, you could also walk away with a lead.

NO: If You’re Not Ready to Subject Yourself to a Cold Calling Match, What’s the REAL Issue?

If the barrier is confidence, ability, knowledge, or mastery, then perhaps you have some work to do to get to that level. Each company has its own method of training. It could be recording your cold calls to discuss later with your boss, role playing, etc. Whatever the method, the idea is to get individual, constructive feedback so that you can improve.

How many times have you gotten on a call and heard “This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes”? I always wonder how often companies really take advantage of those opportunities to listen and critique their reps’ ability to make connections and advance relationships. The bad ones are truly obvious. The real benefit is in targeting those that are just close enough but unable to convert. Help those people improve and you can move the needle.

Practice and Develop Through Experiential Learning

Most professions require or encourage practice to build, maintain, and improve skill and knowledge. (Except sales, who all too often neglect practicing.) That takes place in a safe environment where there’s little risk involved and zero bad consequences.

We are big advocates of using consequence-free simulations for practice. There’s no consequence. No manager is judging you, nor high value clients or snarky peers. You’re free to explore your skill set and behaviors and work on trying things a different way until that feels natural. Simulations are a “perfect practice environment.” Unlike the same tired role plays, not practicing at all, or taking unnecessary risks in live selling situations, simulations offer consistency, quality feedback, coaching in the moment, identification of strengths and shortcomings, and sufficient time for practice and skill development. Once you’ve mastered the sims, you can test yourself in the next round of Cold Cage matches.


Author: Dario Priolo

Dario brings over 20 years of experience in the sales enablement and talent development industry. He has led marketing and strategy as CMO for leading companies like the Hay Group, Miller Heiman and Profiles International and has been part of 4 successful exits, including his own start-up.