The easiest part of any sales call is the opening. It’s the part of the call where there’s no pressure on you to make things work at all. If somebody says, “no thanks” before you’ve even spoken to him for five minutes – he’ll have saved you a lot of time further down the line. Learning to open a sales call is important, though; you want to maximize the chances that the person on the other end of the line is going to want to hear more from you.
Opening a sales call is actually very easy; it is a simple process. Anyone can open a sales call and, in the author’s experience, it’s the bit of selling that most people enjoy. Why?—because there’s no real pressure at this point in the call.
You have nothing invested in the relationship at this point; no quotes have gone out; no expensive brochures have been mailed, and the risk to your business at the opening of a sales call is nil.
Learn The Basics of Opening a Sales Call
1. Greet the Person
You’d be amazed at how many telesales folks and even face-to-face salespeople forget this and just launch into gabbling out their pitch. Sales is really about creating relationships, and relationships are founded upon social niceties and pleasantries. Greeting someone isn’t an optional extra – it’s just plain good manners. Don’t forget as Will Rogers, the American actor said; “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Keep your greeting formal unless you know that the client has a particular way of working that rules that out. “Good Morning, Mrs. Singh” is much better than, “Hello, Mrs. Singh”, which is a cut above, “Hi, Mrs. Singh”, which in turn still beats out, “Yo! Singh! How’s it going?”
Keep your greeting respectful and professional.
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In face-to-face meetings, we often begin introducing ourselves with a handshake. That’s not an option over the phone—so you have to verbally introduce yourself.
2. Introduce Yourself and Your Business
The trick with this is to make yourself sound interesting while ensuring that you don’t give your client any room to close the door in your face.
Best practice: “My name is XXX; I’m the CEO of XYZ Company. We’re a local business that works to help businesses like yours make more money.”
Is there anybody out there who doesn’t want to make more money? (Or, if your service is based around helping the customer save money, substitute “save money” for “make more money”.)
If you say, “We’re a local business that specializes in developing training for businesses like yours.” They can say, “We already have a training provider, thanks.”—and end the conversation.
So find a vague hook and use that rather than specifying what you do. It’s much easier to continue a conversation where the benefit to a potential client is clear than to continue one where the client thinks, “Oh, we already do that.”—and switches off.
3. Thank Them for Taking the Time
This basically assumes that the person will give you some time. Instead of asking for a space in his or her day (and everyone is busy – if you ask for space, people will more than likely tell you they are too busy to listen to you), you assume that he/she will.
“Thank you for taking my call. It’s only going to involve a minute or so of your time, so you can get back to your busy schedule.”
You acknowledge they’re busy and that they’re going to be free again very soon.
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It can’t hurt to remember that time is money and time cannot be recycled—when it’s gone, it’s gone. When you take a businessperson’s time, you take the value of that time. So be nice and thank people for giving you their time just as you would if they gave you cash.
Summary of the Basics
That’s it. Opening a call is very simple. It’s all about being professional, creating a little interest and then assuming that they will talk to you.
Learn The Advanced Opening of a Sales Call
Unfortunately, it can often be hard to speak to the person to whom you want to speak. Companies are very good at installing gatekeepers to keep salespeople at a healthy distance from their managers and decision makers.
If you can’t reach the person, even after you’ve tried calling outside normal working hours and tried sneaking past the gatekeeper by trying to get connected via someone lower down on the totem pole, you can try a very brazen trick to get through.
For this to work, you need a great piece of information to give the person on the other end of the phone. Introducing yourself won’t be enough.
The technique works like this:
Gatekeeper: “Hello, you’ve reached ABC Enterprises”
You: “Hello, I’d like to speak to John MacGregor.”
Gatekeeper: “Can I ask what it’s about?”
You: “This is Clara Davenport, from XYZ Consulting; he’ll know what it’s about.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely true. You’ve never spoken to John. What you’re doing is forcing the issue. It won’t always work (in some cases, the gatekeeper will check and tell you to go away – don’t worry about that; it happens). However, in many cases the gatekeeper will put you through because you sound confident and relaxed and they assume that you’re being truthful.
Author/Copyright holder: Evan Bench. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY 2.0
Gatekeepers are people and usually decent hard-working people with a job to do. Try not to think of them as your enemy but do be prepared to work round them if they cannot help you achieve your objective.
Now, in some cases, they’ll put you straight through without speaking to the contact. In that instance, you can use your standard opening, but if they transfer your call and they’ve told “John” who you are and that “he’ll know what it’s about”, you need to be able to grab his/her attention.
So, you need that piece of information to achieve that.
This is a straight up “sales pitch” as an opening. It’s not the best way to open sales calls; the best calls are a little more gradual. However, if you have to shove past the gatekeeper, it’s the best way to proceed if you don’t want to accept that you can’t get past the gatekeeper.
The Take Away
By and large, a simple opening will work on the majority of your sales calls. It’s an honest, straightforward way of conducting business and enables you to focus on getting room to talk to your prospect.
However, if you can’t get past a gatekeeper—sometimes the best option is to barrel through the door; the worst that can happen is that the person on the other end still isn’t interested in your services. That’s the beauty of the telephone, and you won’t get into trouble for trespassing.
References & Where to Learn More
Hero Image: Author/Copyright holder: Rikke Friis Dam and the Interaction Design Foundation. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-ND.
Zig Ziglar, Secrets of Closing the Sale, 2004
Jeffrey Gitomer, Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness, 2004
Daniel H. Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, 2013
Frank Bettger, How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling, 1992
Art Sobczak, Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling, 2010
Brian Tracy, The Psychology of Selling, 2006
Jeffrey Gitomer, The Sales Bible: The Ultimate Sales Resource, 2014
Oren Klaff, Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal, 2011
Tom Hopkins, How to Master the Art of Selling, 2005
You can find some additional tips on opening a sales call here: Crafting an Opening Sales Statement
And here: Cold-Calling Trick: 16 Ways to Start a Conversation