Opening Lines for Successful Prospecting Calls
Steadcross’ telemarketing expert, Christopher Hall, shares hints for successful calls as part of a marketing campaign: how to shape that first call and avoiding a few rookie errors that will keep their attention for longer.
When you’re getting ready to pick up the phone to call a prospect, what do you say?
I’ll assume that your goal for picking up the phone is to develop new business or make an appointment. I’m also going to assume that:
- Your call is either follow-up of a written communication, or as your first contact with the target business; or
- Your aim is to get an appointment/sale or create the next step with the prospect who can actually agree whatever it is you’re requesting.
You have three goals when it comes to developing an opening statement that works. You want to:
- Make it conversational;
- Deliver with confidence;
- Get a favourable interruption – one that will put your prospect in control as soon as possible.
Five Key Opening Statement Components
You’re picking up the phone to call your prospect. Let’s assume you get through!
Here are the five components your opening statement needs to contain:
- An Introduction. Often when a prospect (or anyone else) picks up a direct line, they say their name: “This is John Smith,” or “John Smith speaking.” Your first step will be to repeat this person’s name. Keep things formal for now – use Mr or Ms etc.
Prospect: This is John Smith.
You: Mr Smith?
This first step will earn you Mr Smith’s attention. Whatever he was doing prior to you saying his name, he’s now stopped doing. He’s paying attention to you, and that’s a good thing!
What most salespeople do now – despite evidence that they shouldn’t – is say something like:
“Hi, Mr Smith, this is Andy Jones, with ‘X’ Company.”
Unless your name is, say, James Bond, or Simon Cowell I can tell you exactly what’s going to happen next in the vast majority of such calls: the prospect will respond to this self-defeating “verbal handshake” by tuning out, asking you to send written information, pretending they are in a meeting, or otherwise disengage from the call.
In other words, you’ll have only been on the call for a few seconds and its over!
- The Pleasantry. What I’m about to suggest will contradict what you and I have been taught. Try it anyway.
When John Smith says “Yes,” you’re going to respond with something positive and enthusiastic, something that doesn’t directly identify you, your company or the product or service you eventually want to discuss.
It’s too early in the relationship for you to pass along that kind of information. Instead, use a pleasantry, such as:
- “Thanks for taking my call.”
- “Thanks for picking up the phone!”
- “Your time is important, let me cut to the chase.”
Each of these pleasantries will do a far better job for you than simply volunteering your name and company affiliation at the outset of the conversation.
- The Hook. Immediately after your pleasantry, you’re going to catch the person’s attention by using a hook that’s directly of interest to this prospect.
“We’ve helped leisure centres to increase revenues and provide community benefits”
Keep your hook focused and just one or two sentences long, and you can’t go wrong.
The Interruption. More often than not, here’s where you’ll get interrupted if your hook is doing its job. Your prospect might cut in and say something like:
- “This sounds interesting – tell me about it.”
- “I haven’t heard of this before but it sounds vaguely interesting.”
- “I have absolutely no interest.”
As I said, you’ll almost certainly get interrupted by this point. For the sake of completeness, though, you need to finish developing your opening statement, so you know what to say in those cases where you don’t get interrupted at this point.
- Naming Names. Once you’ve shared your hook, the other person knows the reason for your call – the cat’s out of the bag! This is the perfect time to identify yourself and, if you like, the company you work for. If you choose to identify the name of your business, give it a brief “commercial” in one sentence. It should sound like this:
“This is Andy Jones, with ‘X’ Company – one of the world’s most innovative leisure companies.”
- Your Ending Question. If you don’t get interrupted by this point, conclude your opening statement with an ending question that incorporates some element of time. Try one of these:
- “Mr Smith, does this touch on issues that are of concern to you?”
- “Are you wanting to accomplish something like this by the end of this (quarter/year)?”
- “Is this something you’d like to explore further?”
- “Who on your team would you like for me to continue this conversation with now”
Put this all together and with practice you can deliver stellar opening statements and increase your time engaging with your prospects.
Business Development Manager