The first few seconds of a cold call are really crucial.
It’s in those first 15-20 seconds that you have to establish interest for prospects to stay on the line and listen to you. And to do that right, you need to have a great opening line.
Yes, the way you open the cold call decides the success of the call.
We’re living in this world where its ‘hurry up and get to the point.’ Prospects don’t have time to listen to you. But besides being busy, they are probably receiving hundreds of cold calls every week, some even from your direct competition! So why would they want to listen to you, leave alone talk?
Before we answer that, let’s look at a cold call transcript which most Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) use today.
SDR: “Hi, may I speak with Susan?”
Prospect: “This is Susan. How can I help you?”
SDR: “Hi Susan, this is John from ABC company. We’re a Google-backed software company that helps companies like yours streamline their support. We have worked with many companies like XYZ in the past, and they have had a 51% reduction in their support queries. What I’d like to do is ask you some questions to see how your current process works and provide you with a solution that will help you save cost….”
Prospect: **Hangs up*
What went wrong here?
- The SDR had zero connection with the prospect.
- There was a lack of empathy that the prospect might be busy, or not interested.
- The SDR did not ask permission to take the call further.
Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes for a second. How would you feel if someone barges in on your day and starts making a pitch without asking your permission to speak further? You’re most likely to think what most prospects are thinking, “How do I get this salesperson off the phone!”
The key to effective cold calling is to establish a real connection with the prospect, empathize, and be given the floor to make the pitch. Flyn Penoyer, Inside Sales Trainer and Strategist at Penoyer Communications said, “Before you start your “sales call” it is critically important that you have the prospect in communication with you. He or she must be “interested in talking.”
So how can you get prospects to listen and talk to you?
In this article, we’ll talk about some of the best cold call opening lines you can use to get prospects to stay on the line and interact with you. The article also gives you different variations of opening lines and some that you should totally avoid.
#1. “I must have caught you in the middle of something, but the reason for my call is…”
Prospects are busy. They are trying to get work done. So when you cold call, you’re catching them completely off guard and actually disrupting their work. An opening line that acknowledges the fact that you’re interrupting their busy day shows that you are not only honest but also empathic.
Cold calling is 10% of what you say and 90% of how you say it. And if you are using this opening line, here’s how to use it in the conversation.
SDR: “Hi Susan, it’s John at ABC Company. I know I must have caught you in the middle of something.” *pause*
It’s important to pause, giving them time to ease down, assess their surroundings and respond to you.
Prospect: “Well, yeah.”
In most cases, the prospect will give a positive response because everyone is busy and got something to do. So your next sentence depends on their tonality and their willingness to talk to you.
SDR: “Got it. I’ll be really quick. The reason for my call is… “
“Can I call back sometime later during the day?
“Can I call you back on Wednesday at 3:30 pm?”
“Hi Susan, it’s John over at ABC Company. How are you?” *pause*
How are you? How have you been? How are you doing? Or any way to warm up to the cold prospect after introducing yourself. But if you’re using it for non-English-speaking scenarios, it may not translate best to reach the same level of impact.
“Listen, I know you’re busy, but the reason for my call is…”
What you shouldn’t use
“Sorry, I’m catching you out of the blue here. I’ll just take a minute.”
This line is a lot similar to the above ones but here’s what you shouldn’t do — never apologize at the opening of the cold call. It makes you sound weak and unimportant.
Instead, you can say, “I know I’m catching you out of the blue here. I’ll just take a minute.”
Cold calling tip
Use your first name: When you use your first name, your callers would probably think you are a customer or a friend or an acquaintance and would engage in further discussion. Introducing yourself with your last name would make the conversation formal and if it’s difficult to pronounce they may not want to take the conversation further simply because they don’t know you.
#2. “I didn’t catch you at a bad time, did I?”
People like to say ‘No.’ Their mind is super occupied with a lot of things that when a stranger, out of the blue, asks for their time, the answer is ‘No.’
This opening line goes along the lines of ‘Did I catch you at a bad time?’ but it gives a positive tone to it. When you use this as your opening line, you are leading the prospect to respond with a No which gives you the permission to talk and ask for a meeting.
So when you say, “Hi Susan, it’s John from ABC Company. I didn’t catch you at a bad time, did I?” the prospect is most likely to say No, allowing you to take the conversation further.
“Hi Susan, it’s John from ABC Company. Did I catch you at a bad time?”
Many sales books and SDRs swear by that line as the best cold call opener. But here’s what happens when you use ‘Did I catch you at a bad time?’
- If prospects respond with ‘yeah it’s a bad time,’ there are chances that the SDR may blank out because they expect prospects to play as per their script, which usually never happens.
- When you use this line for C-suite people, it gives them a one-way ticket to say along the lines, ‘oh I was just about to get into a meeting.’ It’s hard enough to get them on the phone, and using this line gives them an easy way out.
Instead, you can make it sound positive by saying, ‘Did I catch you at an OK time? Did I catch you at a good time? Or Is it a good time to talk?’
Here’s an example of how you need to use these lines,
SDR: “Hello may I speak with Anthony?”
Prospect: “This is Anthony.”
SDR: “Anthony, did I get you at a good time, sir?”
If you say this with confidence, 90% of the people will say yes or hint to the word yes. And that’s definitely a green light for you to continue.
But here’s why there are huge chances for this opening line to work — 90% of the people will say yes before you introducing yourself. You are getting them into a situation where they cannot bailout of the call, and even if they don’t want to talk to you, it allows you to finish your conversation with them.
What you shouldn’t use
“Hi Susan, it’s John from ABC Company. Do you have a minute?”
Like I mentioned earlier in the post, when you (a stranger) ask prospects for their time on a busy workday, they are not going to give it to you. And most likely, your conversation is not going to last a minute, right?
Cold calling tip
Tonality: It’s not what to say, it’s how you say it. Talk to your cold callers like you are talking to a friend and not like you’re reading from a script. And most importantly, don’t be intimidated when you talk to C-suite people. Be relaxed, sound confident and make a conversation, not a sales pitch.
#3. “I was wondering if you could help me out for a moment?”
If you ask people for their time, they aren’t going to give it to you. But if you ask for help, they most likely will be receptive. People like to help because they feel good, or they believe in karma, or they are genetically programmed to do so. So how about using this psychology in your opening line.
Jason McElhone, Director of Inside Sales and cold-calling expert at MarketSource shares this opening line technique in one of his webinars. Here’s how he suggests using this line.
“Hi Susan, it’s John from ABC company. I was wondering if you could help me out for a moment?”
They don’t know who you are, but since you’re just asking for help, they will most likely say, “yeah, sure.” At this point, they are also curious to know who is on the line and what do you want from them. They would probably think you are a customer, a friend or someone who is lost and needs help. So once you have the prospect in conversation with you, thank them and talk about that one pressing pain point for the prospect.
“Great, I really appreciate it. Thank you.” *pause*
“Listen, the reason I’m calling, Susan is that most businesses are finding it incredibly challenging to streamline their support process.”
The word ‘listen’ is a subtle command, asking them to pause their work and hear you out. It also helps in mentioning the prospect’s name in your sentences to make them want to listen to you.
The other variations can be “Can you help me out for a second?” or “Thanks for taking my call.” Morgan J Ingram, Director of Sales Execution and Evolution at JBarrows Sales Training, talks about how and why he uses the latter line to open cold calls.
Cold calling tip
Use international/toll-free numbers: Even before you get to the opening line, the prospects have to pick up your call. When you call them from an international or toll-free number, there are more chances that they will pick up the call. They will be curious to know who is calling them.
There are, of course, a lot more cold call opening lines that have worked for salespeople. Try out the ones mentioned in the blog, add your spin and let us know how it goes.
In the meantime, let’s have a conversation. Tag your friend or colleague and loop them in this discussion.