Cold calling: How to nail – or blow – that first impression
  • sales
  • Blog post

Cold calling: How to nail – or blow – that first impression

Imagine you’ve been introduced to a stranger at a party – let’s call him Larry – who lets you know immediately that he comes from an old-money family, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard and works for a top Wall Street firm.

You might be interested and say, “Tell me more”. But more likely, you’d be thinking, “I have to get away from this guy — pronto.”

The trouble with Larry is that he’s sending signals of a personality disorder called grandiose narcissism. You wouldn’t call it that. But you’d be repelled by it.

What does this have to do with sales? Well, consider a cold caller we’ll call Joe. He phones a prospect out of the blue and says, “Hi, I’m Joe from XYZ Co. We’re a premium global player in the market. We’re known for our outstanding service and dedicated technical support. I’d like to meet with you and tell you about our products and services.”

Is Joe impressive? Or is he kind of like Larry?

‘We’re so great’

Unfortunately, the latter. Joe has taken that critical opening of his call and wasted it by going on about how great he and his company are. And that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do in the first 20 or 30 seconds of a cold call — talk about your products and your company.

So what should you do? The key is to talk about your prospect in the first 20 seconds of the call. More specifically, you make it clear that you’re interested in their well-being. You want to help them.

Because those first few seconds matter so much, you need a plan for every call. That doesn’t mean reading from a canned script. It does mean knowing exactly what your opening statement should be and how you will connect what the buyer cares about with what you sell.

What the prospect needs to know

Here are the three things the prospect must know before he or she will talk to you:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why are you calling?
  3. What’s in it for me?

Number one is easy: “Hi, I’m Jane Smith from FleetSoft.” Short and sweet.

Number two is a bit more complicated. You’re not calling because you sell software that monitors fleets of trucks. That’s narcissism – it’s all about you. Instead, how about some empathy? If you were a fleet manager, what would you care about? Not that someone is selling software. But maybe you’d care about what your competitors are up to. Or how you’ll make do with fewer trucks because your budget has been cut.

And finally, number three, you need to suggest that the prospect is going to get something out of this conversation. You don’t have to nail their problem – how could you if you’ve never spoken to them before? — but you must quickly signal that you understand their world and care about the things they care about.

Making it real

So your opener might sound something like this:

  1. Who you are: “Hi, I’m Jane Smith of FleetSoft.”
  2. Why you’re calling: “I’m calling because we’ve recently helped a number of transportation companies increase their average load capacity.”
  3. What’s in it for the prospect: “I know fleet managers like you are facing huge pressure on their budgets these days. I’d like to ask you a few questions to see if we might be able to help your company as well.”

Note that word “might,” by the way. It’s humble, not arrogant. The prospect thinks, “Hmm. This salesperson doesn’t seem to be a self-aggrandizing blowhard. That’s a welcome change. So I’ll give her a few minutes.”

And those few minutes are all you’ll need to learn whether you and this prospect have a reason to keep talking.

This blog entry is adapted from the Rapid Learning module “Cold Calling: How to Nail the First 20 Seconds and Engage the Prospect.” If you’re a Rapid Learning customer, you can watch the video here. If you’re not, but would like to see this video (or any of our other programs), request a demo and we’ll get you access.

The blog post and Rapid Learning video module are based in part on the following scholarly article: Miller, J. D., et al. (2011). Grandiose and vulnerable narcissism: A nomological network analysis. Journal of Personality, 79(5), 1013-1042.

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