Without a doubt the opening statement is the most critical part of a cold call.
If you don’t grab the prospect’s interest at this point, you really don’t have to worry about the rest of the call, do you? Here are 10 ways to make your opening statement better, more effective and more successful at getting your prospect to listen and to engage.
- Script your opening statement. Yes, SCRIPT it. Word for word. Not the whole call. Just the opener. Most people don’t like scripts because they sound ‘canned.’ Instead, they wing it. They think that an off-the-cuff approach is more natural. It may be more natural but it is less effective. You absolutely, positively need to have a well-scripted opener to ensure you maximize the few seconds you’ve got. Remember, if you don’t get them here, you won’t get them at all.
- Know the primary objective. The primary objective of your opener is NOT to establish rapport. It is NOT to be their best buddy. It is NOT to pitch the product. And it is NOT to set up the appointment. The primary objective is to get the client to LISTEN another twenty or thirty seconds. It’s to hook them. It’s to get them curious…skeptical, maybe … but curious enough to give you a little more rope. (See Point #7 to learn how).
- Do NOT ask “How are you today?” Survey after survey reveals that prospects think this is a trite and insincere question. And they are right. This question labels you as a ‘salesperson’ right off the bat and it puts your prospect on the defensive. Eliminate it.
- Never ask, “Did I catch you at a good time?” or words to that effect. When you do, you give your prospect a ready-made excuse to get rid of you. Instead, use this handy little trigger phrase, “Brian, if I have caught you at a good time, what I would like to do is ask you some questions…” The prospect senses that you’re asking if it’s a good time but what you are really saying is that you’d like to ask some questions. This is a VERY good technique.
- Don’t say “We are a leading supplier (provider) of …” Boring! Everyone says that. It’s a lame claim. Who cares? Who believes it? What the heck does it mean anyway? If you want a prospect to sit up and take notice, use adverbs that describe the problems that you solve. For example, an investment adviser might say “I work with single moms who are worried about financing their children’s education.” A recruiter might say, “I work with HR departments who are frustrated with the quality of candidates.”
- Tell the client precisely why you are calling. Remember: your prospect is not expecting your call. You are catching him off guard. Their focus is random. Therefore, your message has to be succinct and to the point. Tell them precisely what you want. In the above example, the reason is clear: “… what I would like to do is ask you some questions…”
- Provide a benefit. Please. Sadly, this is the most ignored component of an opening statement. This is how you get the prospect to LISTEN longer (see Point #2). When you script your opener put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask “Why should I care?” You must be able to answer that inevitable question, ‘what’s in it for me?’ The more specific, the better. What will working with you (or buying from you) do for that prospect?
- Bridge to a question and get the prospect involved. Once you’ve identified yourself, your company, the reason for the call and the benefit, ask a question. This will not only get the prospect involved and engaged but it will also stop you from pitching further. It creates a dialogue. It eliminates a monologue.
- Practice until you are blue in the face. Every word, every nuance, every syllable must be practiced until it is delivered with conviction. If you don’t practice, your opener will sound read. And that’ll be the end of the call. If you don’t practice, you’ll start to wing it and that will dilute the quality of the call. And that too, will be the end of the call. You’re on stage. Deliver your lines like a Hollywood star.
- Stay disciplined. Stick to the script you’ve developed for the first twenty-five live calls. Don’t change a word. You’ll be tempted to edit after every call. Note your thoughts but do NOT change it. It will take that long for you to feel comfortable with the words and it will take that long to evaluate the prospect’s response. Only then should you go back and edit your opener. But only change one component of the opener. In doing so, you are controlling the ‘variables.’ If you revamp the entire thing, you won’t know what was working and what was not. Change your benefits. Or change the reason for you call. But do so, one at time and make another twenty-five calls.
Give your opening statement a tune up by following these tips. They will help set you apart from all the other vendors, advisers, coaches, consultants, telephone selling reps etc. who call those same prospects.
By: Jim Domanski, Consultant to Lead Generators International
President, LGI Sales & Marketing Group Inc.