Cold Call Openers

Mature female customer service representative

Assembly/Getty Images

The most important part of any cold call you make on the phone is the first fifteen seconds. If you can't get your prospect's focus and attention during that time period, then they will stop listening to you and the odds of your getting an appointment drop dramatically. That's why you need to come up with a "hook," an opener that will grab a prospect's attention and give you time to do the actual selling later in the call.

Strong Opening Statement

A good strong opening statement is critical to cold calling. It piques the listener's interest and gets him thinking about you as someone who can do something for him. Many prospects will automatically say “no thanks” and hang up as soon as they realize you're trying to sell them something. However, if you can break through that automatic response with an opening statement that engages the prospect's brain and gets him thinking instead of reacting, you can get the call moving in the right direction.

Surprising Benefit Approach

One approach that often works well is the “surprising benefit” approach. Here's an example from an actual real estate broker cold calling script:

Them: Hello?
You: Would you like to save an additional $10,000 this year?
Them: Who is this?
You: My name is [You], and I show people how to save an additional $10,000; would you like to learn how to do it?
Them: What's this about?
You: It's about saving an additional $10,000 this year; would you like to learn more about it?
Them: Is this some sort of scam?
You: No, I can show you how to save an additional $10,000 this year, it's what I specialize in. Would you like to learn more?
Them: Who are you with?
You: I'm with [your company], and I specialize in showing clients how to save an additional...

The idea here is to get the prospect to permit you to tell them more. The surprising benefit approach as used in the above example can be risky because it tends to be confrontational, and prospects can find it annoying if you refuse to answer their questions. But depending on your product and market, it can be a very effective opening approach. You can also try a milder version of the surprising benefit approach (meaning less resistant to answering the prospect) and see if it works better for you.

Utilize a Question

Most successful cold call openers include a question. If you ask the prospect something, it tends to jolt their mind into gear and get them thinking about the answer (or at least about the question!). Ideally, the opening question will provide a reason for the prospect to want to hear more. And if you know your prospect's name, work it into the opener. By saying their name, you've already customized the call a bit and told the prospect that you at least know who he is.

To use this style of an opener, include the prospect's name (if you know it), your company name, what you sell, and how your product can benefit the customer, followed by a request for permission to ask the prospect some qualifying questions.

An example might look like this:

“Mr. Customer, my name is [your name], and I am your local [what you sell] representative. I have helped a lot of local businesses here in [your city] bring more customers into their stores. May I ask you a few questions to see how we can do the same for you?”