When you think about sales prospecting calls, what comes to mind?
Sweaty palms as you reluctantly make the dial…getting hung up on…fielding snarky comments from annoyed prospects on the other end of the line?
If this sounds like your experience with sales prospecting calls, you’re not alone.
In fact, sales prospecting calls are the bane of most salespeople’s existence.
But they don’t have to be. It’s in your best interest to learn how to love sales prospecting calls.
After all, according to a study by HubSpot, it takes an average of 18 sales prospecting calls to actually connect with a buyer.
If you can follow the perfect 5-step sales prospecting call opening, you’ll engage your prospects right off the bat.
Pretty soon, sales prospecting calls might just be the highlight of your day.
I created this article and video specifically for salespeople who are struggling to make successful sales prospecting calls that don’t drive them crazy.
In this video, I’ll teach you the simple 5-step process that virtually guarantees a successful sales prospecting call, every time:
Sales Prospecting Calls Video Summary:
Why You Need a New Opening for Your Sales Prospecting Calls
When the vast majority of salespeople make sales prospecting calls, they totally wing their opening lines.
I know this because I’ve worked with thousands of salespeople over the years, and only a very small percentage have a clear strategy for effective sales prospecting phone call openings.
This is one of the biggest mistakes in sales.
Why? Because the data shows that it takes your prospects just 7 seconds to decide if they want to stay on the phone with you—or hang up on you right away—on prospecting calls.
After those 7 seconds pass, they’ll continue to ask themselves if they want to get off the call.
This doesn’t stop until they’re fully engaged.
Now, this means that you need an approach to starting a conversation that will both separate you from the hordes of other salespeople out there, and engage your prospects immediately.
So whether you’re making a cold call, responding to a lead, or following up on a referral, you need a step-by-step approach to the openings of all your sales prospecting calls. It needs to be completely scripted out so you never ramble or fumble around.
Here, I’m going to give you the simple 5-step opening for sales prospecting calls that will work every time.
Sales Prospecting Calls Tip #1: Use a distinct tone to start your prospecting calls.
“Be distinct” might sound like a vague suggestion, but it’s actually an incredibly powerful tactic when it comes to the tone of your sales prospecting calls.
In particular, you need to use a distinct tone to start your initial conversations with prospects.
Here’s what I mean: Nearly all salespeople start their sales prospecting calls in the exact same way, with an overly cheerful, intensely enthusiastic tone.
This is the last thing you ever want to do.
For this step, I’m not focusing on the words you say (more on that in the next section), but rather on how you say them.
Remember that most salespeople start off their sales prospecting calls with a fake-sounding enthusiasm. This is the kiss of death because it screams “salesperson” and makes them seem pushy.
Instead, I want you to start your calls off with a very low-key, mellow approach. It doesn’t have to be polished, just real-sounding and genuine.
This is going to dramatically set you apart from all of your competitors out there.
Whatever you do, don’t resort to opening your sales prospecting calls with a run-of-the-mill, salesy tone. This will only hurt you—never help you.
Sales Prospecting Calls Tip #2: Get quick permission.
Now, let’s get into the actual words that will make up your new sales prospecting call opening.
I’m going to tell you exactly what to say, because I know how many times a day you’re picking up the phone to make calls.
According to research by The Bridge Group, the average sales rep makes 52 calls every single day. And most of them are saying the exact same thing.
As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, the single most common opening for prospecting calls is this: “Hey, how are you today?!”
It’s time to flip the script completely.
Instead, try opening your sales prospecting calls with something like this: “Hi George. Marc Wayshak calling. Did I catch you in the middle of something there?”
Notice that I didn’t say, “Hey, is this a great time?” but instead I said, “Did I catch you in the middle of something?” The prospect isn’t going to expect this, and will be forced to think about what to say next.
This is a really important piece.
I call this “getting quick permission” because you’re quickly asking the prospect for permission to continue speaking.
Again, this is key, because it puts the prospect on the spot to answer a question they’ve likely never heard before from a salesperson on the phone—immediately catching their attention.
Sales Prospecting Calls Tip #3: Give a brief explanation.
After you’ve received permission to continue, it’s time to briefly introduce yourself, in just one short sentence.
It’s important that you only use one sentence here.
This is actually the point where most salespeople give a whole paragraph, just jabbering on in different directions, but you’re going to just give one very brief sentence about yourself.
My approach here might be, “My company is a sales strategy firm that helps mid-size organizations dramatically increase sales.”
Nothing magical; it’s short and sweet, but it gives enough context so they’re not confused and they at least know a little bit about me.
Take a few minutes to write out what your one sentence will be, and use it from now on in all your sales prospecting calls.
Sales Prospecting Calls Tip #4: Name common challenges you see.
Now it’s time to really suck your prospects in and show them that you know what’s going on in their world.
Remember, this isn’t about you. It’s about them.
This step creates a real sense of expertise in the eyes of your prospects. As a result, your prospects will want to stay on the phone to hear more.
My approach might sound something like this: “Right now, I’m seeing a lot of companies in your space that are struggling to attract top-tier prospects into their pipeline. They’re worried about changes in the selling environment. Finally, they’re just frustrated with a lack of sales results.”
Now, again, those are the challenges that I might use for my prospects. The challenges that you list should be, of course, specific to you and your industry.
Notice how I chose three specific challenges that my prospects will relate to?
It’s up to you to do the same.
Think about those three common challenges that most of your prospects will relate to. Now write them out and keep them in front of you, so you can reference them while you’re making sales prospecting calls.
Sales Prospecting Calls Tip #5: Engage, engage, engage.
Now that you’ve listed off the three challenges that you see consistently in your marketplace, it’s time to tie it all together and get your prospects talking.
This is where you might say something like, “Do any of these issues sound familiar to you?”
This one simple question, asked in a non-confrontational way, is going to engage the prospect.
If you do this right, you’ll really start to get your prospects talking—and once they’re talking, they’re no longer thinking about getting off the phone.
The call is now off to the races.
Without this final fifth step, your sales prospecting call won’t end up going anywhere. I can’t stress enough how important it is to truly engage with your prospect in a conversation that interests them on a personal level.
Conclusion: How You Can Crush Your Sales Prospecting Calls
So there you have it. Now you know the perfect 5-step sales prospecting call opening to crush your sales prospecting calls.
If you’re one of the many salespeople out there who hates sales prospecting calls with a passion, these 5 steps will be an absolute lifesaver for you.
As we’ve learned, making your tone distinct from the get-go will automatically set you apart from the competition.
Next, if you simply ask for quick permission from your prospect, you’ll catch their attention and get the conversation started in a unique way that sparks interest.
Once you’ve gotten that permission, it’s time to give your one-sentence explanation that will draw prospects in further, starting to truly engage them.
One of the biggest keys to this process is the next step, which is listing off three common challenges the prospect might be facing. This sets you up as the expert in your field, building your connection to the prospect and earning their trust as a trusted advisor.
And finally, you’ll finish up this stellar opening by asking the prospect, “Do any of these issues ring true to you?”
This question will engage the prospect on a personal level, getting the sales prospecting call off to an amazing start.
Sales Prospecting Calls Bonus Tip #1: Have a script.
Most salespeople balk when I suggest using a script for sales prospecting calls. But please hear me out: Having a script is one of the easiest, most effective changes you can make to your sales prospecting strategy today.
If you’re afraid that a script will make you sound fake and scripted, think again.
Scripts are a fantastic way to keep yourself on track, to avoid getting overwhelmed when a sales prospecting call is going poorly at the start, and to come across as polished, confident, and compelling on the phone.
So, put together a basic sales prospecting call script that you can keep on your desk and reference during the opening of all your sales prospecting calls.
You don’t have to follow it to the T, but rather you will use it to remind yourself of key talking-points and ways to engage the prospect from the get-go.
Sales Prospecting Calls Bonus Tip #2: It’s all about setting the appointment.
What’s the point of a sales prospecting call, anyway? No, it’s not to make a sale (this is what most salespeople think).
Instead, the sales prospecting call is all about setting the appointment. That’s it!
Don’t try to close the deal on your initial sales prospecting call. Just do your best to set an appointment with the prospect, and you’ll be golden.
Sales Prospecting Calls Bonus Tip #3: Always have a clear next step.
This should be obvious, but I can’t tell you how many salespeople get caught up in the moment of a good sales prospecting call and neglect to set a clear and scheduled next step.
This is another reason that having a script is a great resource for sales prospecting calls: It will remind you to set that next step before getting off the phone.
Always ask prospects to pull up their calendar while they’re still on the phone with you, and send out a calendar invite for that next step immediately. Then confirm that they received it before hanging up.
Sales Prospecting Calls Bonus Tip #4: Take risks.
Sales prospecting doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it’s a good strategy to set yourself apart from the competition by taking risks on the phone.
Try asking a question that most people won’t expect, or sharing surprising information about the industry that could spark a unique conversation. Take risks in the way you approach the conversation by using humor or letting your personality shine through in other ways.
Of course, maintain your professionalism at all times, but don’t be afraid to take risks and be unique. That’s what will ultimately make you distinct when it comes to sales prospecting, after all.
Sales Prospecting Calls Bonus Tip #5: Think of it as a game.
Do you dread picking up the phone to make calls? Does sales prospecting make you nervous and anxious that you’ll be rejected? Do you hate being yelled at by angry prospects who abruptly hang up the phone?
You’re far from alone if you answered “yes” to any of these questions. But it’s time to shake it off and start thinking of sales prospecting as a game.
Who cares if you annoy a prospect or you catch someone at a bad time? Life moves on. It doesn’t matter.
Think of sales prospecting as a game like golf, soccer, or basketball. You wouldn’t throw your golf club across the green and stomp away crying if you missed the hole in one, would you? (I hope not.)
Likewise, don’t take it so personally when you strike out on a sales prospecting call. Just chalk it up to the way the game is played, and move on to the next one.
Now, I want to hear from you. Which of these 5 steps (plus 5 bonus tips) to the perfect prospecting call opening do you find most useful? Be sure to share below in the comments section and join the conversation.
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About the Author Marc Wayshak
Marc is is the best-selling author of three books on sales and leadership, including the highly acclaimed titles Game Plan Selling, The High-Velocity Sales Organization and his forthcoming book, Sales Conversations, Mastered.
Marc is a contributor to Inc, HubSpot, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Huffington Post Business. He also hosts a popular YouTube channel on sales strategy with over 103,000 subscribers.
Marc helps thousands of people his data-driven, science-based approach to selling that utilizes all the best tools available to sales organizations today.