Cold calling can be tough. You need to ingratiate yourself enough with a stranger that they want to take the time out of their busy schedule to listen to you. They don’t know you, they have no reason to trust you, and they’ve likely dealt with hundreds of callers like you in the past, all of whom have attempted to extract money from them and their company!
The sting of cold calling can be minimized with good preparation, a strong sales cadence, and appropriate call coaching. You’ll need to have a good understanding of your market and how the products you sell can genuinely help the customer. Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor your opening lines to the situation.
To help you build ideas for your own opening lines, we’ve outlined some great performing lines below. Again, we stress that a cookie-cutter opening line will only get you so far, but it’s possible to use these methods as a jumping-off for your perfect call script.
Popular cold call openers to avoid
Trends change and the best opening lines for a sales pitch aren’t what they used to be.
Avoid the tricky “did I catch you at a bad time?” opener. Sales gurus often tout it as a tremendous initial gambit as the listener is primed to say “no” from the get-go. The prospect replies “no”, to which the salesperson says “great!” and launches into their well-planned pitch.
But if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this type of opener, you know it sets a nasty tone. You’ve been subtly fooled, bamboozled even, by the salesperson’s little trick. It sets a terrible precedent for the start of what should be a long working relationship.
Next on the list of dud sales pitch openers is “Hi, can I have 30 seconds of your time?” It’s designed to remove the potential for the prospect to declare they’re too busy to take the call. But even if it works, you’ve set yourself up to sell the benefits of your product or service in a awfully short amount of time. You have no chance of understanding what the customer actually wants, and you’re throwing a generic pitch at them while setting yourself an arbitrary time constraint. Pass.
While we’re at it, avoid “I’m calling because we save money and time for companies just like yours”. The intention is sound, but it’s too vague, and we’ve all heard it before. Every service on the market says it’ll save time and money, so you need to be more specific and stop wasting your customers’ time.
What makes for a good cold call opener?
Every cold call opening line has three key elements.
- It gets to the point, fast. People know it’s a sales call, so don’t beat about the bush.
- It doesn’t ask for permission. As outlined above, asking for the customer’s time is actually wasting it.
- It’s upbeat and cheery. Being friendly, positive, and personable is vital to connecting with the human at the other end of the line.
Cold calling opening lines that actually work
Asking, “How have you been?”
Research performed on over 90,000 cold calls in 2018 found “how have you been?” to be the most successful cold call opening line by a substantial margin. It had a success rate of over six times the average opening cold call gambit.
It probably works because it’s somewhat unexpected (at least until every salesperson begins using it). People don’t usually expect strangers to ask how they are, and it’s a friendly, short way to start a more personable conversation. It demonstrates that you’re interested in listening to what the customer will have to say, and you’re not going to bombard them with a poor sales pitch.
Personalizing the connection
Find something you have in common with the prospect before you call them. Perhaps you were referred by someone, or you have a shared connection through LinkedIn. If you’re lucky, you may have grown up in the same area or be members of the same association.
Even if you don’t have such a direct connection with the prospect, you can use subtle personalization to show you know something about them and their company already. It shows you’ve done some research, and they’re not just another number on a list to you. It demonstrates you might actually understand their market well and have something that’s of use to them.
Asking for help or more information
Flip the script by asking for help from the prospect. Perhaps they’ve written an opinion piece online, for example, or they’ve been nominated for an award. You can use this to show interest in their work and ask additional questions regarding it.
Stroking the ego in such a way works well for many prospects as an opener, and you can use their answers to give you insights into how your business could offer them products or services of value.
Being blunt about the call’s purpose
Joking that you’re making a dreaded cold call can be an excellent way to lighten the mood from the start. The prospect will be able to feel your warmth and should appreciate your candor. Instead of the hundreds of sales calls where the salesperson tries to hide the true purpose for the call, here’s a salesperson who gives it straight. It’s a strong opening gambit and works well with straight-talkers.
Mentioning the holidays or weather
Early in your sales call, you can discuss the holidays that have just passed or are just coming up. Just about every time of the year, there’s some kind of holiday. It’s an accepted point of discussion we have with everyone we meet, so it’s a great, natural opener that gets a conversation going. It often puts people in a good mood, too, thinking about their upcoming vacations.
Similarly, you can simply mention the weather. It’s another popular conversation starter in real life, so it feels natural. You can use it to show you have something in common, like a shared city, or to show interest in how things are where your prospect lives. Now you’ve established rapport, you can move into the meat of your sales call.