How to Start a Sales Conversation on a Cold Call

Do you start your calls off anything like this: “I’m calling because I’m selling a [product] that can save you money.”

Nothing shuts down a prospect faster than feeling like you’re reading a script on your 1,000th call of the day. Somehow you need to create a connection, interest someone in your product, and kick off the sales process all before someone decides to just apologize and hang up the phone.

We’ll walk you through how to properly start a conversation on a cold call, so you can stop having to listen to dial tones.

Break Through The Stranger Danger

Research shows that the human response to a call from a stranger, even an unfamiliar business, is fear. One study revealed that 11-17% of business prospects were annoyed by cold calls because they were in a state of fear.

It’s natural to put up boundaries around people that we don’t know, even over the phone. The first task of a cold call conversation is to break through that initial distrust in order to proceed to a genuine conversation.

Judith E. Glazer, an expert in conversational intelligence, explains that you and your customer must “co-create a situation where she experiences the value of your product without the fear of distrust in you.”

Only after you build this sense of trust can you sell effectively.

Personalize Where You Can

Part of starting a cold call off on the right foot is simply making sure you don’t sound like a pre-recorded robot. Using the same generic script or a recorded message will quickly communicate that you don’t value customers individually, which then creates suspicion and disinterest.

You certainly don’t want to sound creepy, but there are a few tricks you can use to personalize your call so that even if you are using a script–which is highly recommended–you can still express that you value the individual prospect.

Use their name if you know it, be conscious of any previous contact with the company, and make sure to ask questions. The purpose of your initial call is to get to know the prospect to find out whether they are a good fit, not to provide a lengthy list of the services that you offer.

Don’t be afraid to add some color to the conversation. Ask where they’re located and then make a comment on a connection you have to place or something you know about it. Worst case you can always ask about the weather.

If you have the time, you can even cheat, look up where they are, and prep your small talk ahead of time. Your goal is simply to make them feel more at ease and less like they’re just being sold to.

Take Your Time

This advice is both literal and figurative. Under pressure, we tend to speak quickly. This is even more magnified when you become accustomed to rattling off your script. Ever get through a conversation and realize you don’t even recall that person’s name, or maybe even what prompted the conversation in the first place?

Steli Efti of Close.io advises: “You need to speak clearly and allow people to process your message. Don’t cover ten different points if your prospect still hasn’t caught up to the first point you’ve made.” Take your time, speak clearly, and go at a pace that is comfortable for both parties involved.

Hold Off on the Pitch

This is where the more figurative aspect of taking your time comes in. Contrary to popular belief, the pitch is not where the sales process begins. The buyer must be taken on a journey according to their specific needs and context. This often means you won’t be giving a full-blown pitch on the first call.

While you want to move the process along and explore how your product could benefit the prospect, it’s important to make a connection with the prospect before launching into your pitch. Barging in with a pitch kind of makes you like that sitcom neighbor who was never invited over in the first place, except worse, because the prospect doesn’t know you at all.

Don’t Be Afraid

The cold-calling process can be difficult for sales reps and customers alike, but if you start the conversation off on the right foot, you have nothing to fear!

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