8 cold call opening lines that work
With the rising popularity of inbound marketing techniques, you would expect cold calling to be dead, right?
Well, 82% of buyers accept meetings with sales reps after getting into a dialogue that started with a cold call, proving that this old sales technique is very much alive in 2021.
However, for this technique to be effective, you have to follow the right script–which requires you to get through the first five seconds of a call before a prospect hangs up on you. That’s why the initial lines of a cold call are crucial. Below are 8 opening lines that will lead to a successful call, but before I mention the lines and why they’re effective, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- This goes without saying, but before the lines below, you should always start with the basic “Hi John. This is Sam Smith from X Company.” Prospects should at least have a name in their minds if you want them to listen to you.
- Cold calling is, by definition, about calling prospects who haven’t expressed an interest in your services yet: But this doesn’t mean that you should just make a call with no prior knowledge. A quick search on LinkedIn about the prospect you’re going to call will be helpful.
With that said, here are eight cold call opening lines that will keep your prospects listening.
1. I only have a minute, but…
You’ve probably heard of (or used) the line “I’ll only take a minute/30 seconds/10 seconds.” The problem with this line is that you’ve lost the grip over the conversation by telling the prospect “If I take longer, you’re right to hang up.” You’re also limited to the time you’ve promised, meaning that you’ll have to throw up data about your company and hope for the best.
But if you say that you, as the caller, are short on time, you won’t only be empathizing with your prospect by acknowledging how busy they are, you’ll also get them excited about what you’re going to say next.
If you’re so busy, your call must be about something important. Once you’ve got your prospects waiting for what’s so important, you can tell them why you’ve called them, which leads to your short sales pitch.
2. The reason I’ve called is…
“Get to the point.” This is what your prospects are thinking once you’ve told them your name and the name of your company. In many cases, people won’t even listen to what you have to say until you tell them why you’re calling. That’s why directly telling them the reason, just like ripping off a band-aid, is productive in most cases.
But be careful about how you phrase your reason. Don’t say something generic like, “Our company helps companies like yours.” Be specific and target pain points: “We help companies like yours reduce churn and increase customer retention.” Now you’re talking about an issue that your prospect cares about.
3. (Name) from (Company) recommended that I contact you since we’ve helped them …
This is the referral line: Even if you got a referral from a client, it’s still technically cold calling since you don’t know the prospect yet, and they haven’t expressed interest in your product directly.
This is one of the most effective lines as prospects are likely to trust the people who referred them to you–in fact, 84% of B2B decision-makers start their purchase with a referral.
Dropping the name of such a friend at the beginning of your call has the same effect as a referral strategy. If the prospect’s friend trusts your brand enough to give you their information, the prospect will trust you, and so listen to you, too. Just don’t forget to direct your focus to the prospect and what you’re offering them right after you mention the referrer.
Once you’ve filled in the names, this line sounds like: “Hi John. This is Sam Smith from X Company. Josh from Z Company recommended that I contact you since we’ve helped them optimize their demand generation strategies with our SEO tool.”
4. I’m calling since we’ve helped (Competitor) with (pain point) recently, and we can help you with this issue too.
Chances are that you won’t have a referral for every prospect. However, you’re likely to be working with your prospect’s competitor, and this is something you should take advantage of.
Competitor analysis is one of the most important aspects of marketing, especially in the ever-growing SaaS industry. Your prospects are aware of this, and they want to know what their competitors are doing so that they don’t fall behind.
If you tell your prospect that their number one competition has fixed a common problem of theirs with your tool, they will keep listening to make sure that they’re not missing out.
In a call, this line sounds like: “Hi John. This is Sam Smith from X Company. I’m calling because we’ve recently helped Competitor Company with their recurring revenue leakage, and I thought that you could use our help you with this issue too.”
5. I’m glad I’ve reached you, I’m going to ask for your help with something.
Asking for your prospect’s help sounds counterintuitive since you’re the one trying to help them with your products. However, this line works for three main reasons.
- It incites curiosity: the person on the other side of the line starts wondering what you could want from them.
- It makes them feel important. You’re asking them for help, not anyone else.
- It’s easy to hang up on someone who just wants to sell you something, but it’s harder to hang up on someone who was just asking for your help. Prospects are likely to say yes to make themselves feel better.
This line and those that should follow can look like: “Hi John. This is Sam Smith from X Company. I’m glad I’ve reached you, I wanted to ask for your help with something.” “Sure.” “Our company has found that the most common problem for businesses like yours is about driving leads down your sales funnel. I was wondering if you agreed, and if you could tell me about your experience.”
This start is especially strong since you made the call about the prospect and not about your brand.
6. Hi, we’ve never spoken/met before. I’m just calling to see if I can arrange a call with you next week.
This line is just stating the obvious, but it works because it’s honest and direct. It makes you sound more trustworthy as you’re laying your cards on the table: What you’re saying is that this is essentially a cold call, but you don’t want to interrupt the prospect’s busy schedule (the “if I can arrange a call with you” part implies this.)
After this initial line, come to a pause to spark curiosity. The prospect will probably ask you “About what?” and you’ll start explaining what it is that you’ll be talking about in your future meeting, which is your company’s products and services.
7. I wanted to congratulate you on your recent promotion...
This is just one of the many personalized lines you can use. Other variations can include something you have in common with your prospect: maybe you went to the same college, or maybe you’re from the same town. Or, you may talk to them about how long they’ve been working in their company and how they like it.
Whatever the personalized line is, it gets prospects to open up and to trust you enough to listen to what you have to say next. It’s also harder to hang up on someone with who you feel a personal connection, even if that connection is a weak one. As I’ve said previously, doing some research about your prospects is required for this one.
8. How have you been?
While a controversial one, this line performs the best statistically: calls opening with “How have you been” had a success rate of 10%, compared to the 1.5% baseline, according to Gong.
This is because this line baffles your prospect as it implies that you’ve met before. This may sound contradictory, especially after the honest “We’ve never spoken before” line. However, you’re still not lying to your prospect. If they’re in an incredibly good mood, they’ll answer your question. But more probably they’ll ask how you know them or why you’ve called, setting the ground for your pitch.
Cold-calling is about starting off strong and buying yourself time to speak. The lines above will be able to give you a head start, but keep in mind that cold calling is also about trial and error. While these lines are usually successful, you’ll have to tweak them according to your own calls’ success.
Keep a log of all the calls you make and repeatedly use the same opening line to see how it performs, make adjustments, and repeat the process. Also, note that you can use certain lines together if necessary. For example, a good call may start with: “Hi John. This is Sam Smith from X Company. I only have a minute, but I wanted to tell you that we’ve helped (Competitor) with (pain point) recently, and we want to help you with this issue too.” Using lines #8 and #5 together like this is only one of the possibilities.
It’s also important to know that, even though cold calling is a typical outbound marketing technique, this strategy can be integrated into your inbound marketing efforts. You can still make a prospect list consisting of customers that fit your ideal customer profile. An effectively produced list will increase your chances of making successful calls.
And lastly, don’t be discouraged if your opening lines don’t work at first. The most successful cold callers are the ones who’ve failed enough times to know what works!
"Cold calling is my favorite part of sales," said no one ever. Warm up to this vital sales tool with our free resource: B2B Cold Calling Course.