5 Ways Not To Start a Sales Call

The hardest part of any sales call isn’t the pitch itself. It’s not the persuasion, it’s not highlighting “benefits over features”, or any of that stuff.

The hardest part of any call is starting the call. Just like the hardest part of going to the gym is actually going to the gym. (Which for me is sad because it’s 10 feet across the street but that’s a story for another day.)

It’s like walking up to a random girl or guy at the bar and trying to get them interested in having a conversation. What you say first and how you say it will usually determine if the situation becomes awkward or not.

It’s the same thing with sales. Your job as a salesperson isn’t really about creating a miraculous pitch. It’s about creating enough desire or curiosity in your prospect to engage with your company a little bit longer.

So at the beginning of your sales call, your primary focus should be to get your prospects to listen to your next sentence. Then, the next sentence should be focused on getting them to listen to the sentence after that, and so on — until it’s time for them to take an action.

Most salespeople don’t actually put this into practice.

Most of them start sales calls with questions they don’t care about, go on and on with some boring “this is what our company does” statement, or something else that sets the wrong tone for the rest of the call.

Later in this post, I’ll talk about how you should start a sales call, but first let’s take a look at what you shouldn’t say at the start of the conversation.

Pleasantries

Starting off with pleasantries like “how are you” or “how’s your day going” might seem harmless, but it’s the quickest way to come off as a scripted robot. Their eyes glaze over and go instantly into auto-pilot mode while thinking, “Oh this is going to be like every other sales call I’ve ever had in my life. Great.”

Can we be honest for a moment? I know when you ask me how I’m doing that you don’t really care to know the answer. And now social norms dictate that I ask you the same question, to which you didn’t even fully listen to before you chirped, “Great, just great.”.

And you may say, “No, Josh that can’t be true!” Then I’ll prove it to you now.

What if next time your prospect told you how they were actually doing? Imagine if they told you they were missing their mortgage payments and having problems at home with family. Or that they actually are empty inside because they don’t enjoy their boss or work? What will you say then? You may not say it, but you’ll think, “That really sucks and wish things were better, we’ve only 30 minutes right now and that sounds like months of therapy, and I can only help you [insert your company value prop], so let’s just stick to that OK?”

With the limited time you have in a phone call, it’s best not to focus on things you don’t have a solution for.

“Thank you for your time”

This is such a bad habit that I see so many salespeople develop in an effort to be polite. So I’ll say this once. Stop saying, “Thanks for your time.” Just stop it. It seems like a harmless way to start (or end) a conversation, but think of exactly what you’re saying!

“Josh, thanks for meeting with me today. Even though we both only have 24 hours in the day, your time is definitely more valuable and more important than mine. So I just wanted to draw attention to that fact and acknowledge you’re superior to me in every way…even though I’m now meeting you for the first time.”

Yeah I know. All that happens subconsciously in a moment.

Stop putting your prospect on a pedestal and treat them like a peer. And if you’re an awesome salesperson and help solve their pain, they should be thanking you for your time by the end of the call.

“About Us” statements

Most companies have a boring or cliche “About Us” statement written on their site, saying something like,

“We are changing the world by disrupting the technology space with our innovative, streamlined, game-changing, integrated data platform. And we use out-of-the-box thinking and forward thinking to help our customers synergize their core competencies in order to move the needle… blah blah… revolutionary platform… which leverages the low-hanging fruit into scalable moving parts… creating more synergy… blah blah… to the company culture… ”

[Insert eye roll followed by gag reflex]

Although it seems like you should mention something like this to tell your prospects who your company is and how awesome your team is, it causes them to lose interest if you do this too early in the call. At worst, it forces their guard up because they know you’ve gone into “sales mode”, and at best, they zone out until you’re done (and start talking about them again).

NOTE: For a cold call, at worst — they may yell at you or hang up!

Talking “at” your prospect

Some salespeople jump into their pitch too soon without taking time to ask the right questions first. They usually have one standard pitch that they deliver to all their prospects, and they just ask questions up front to make it seem like the pitch is “tailored.”

If you ask questions without really listening, processing, and caring about answers, you’ll sound like you’re just running your prospects through a generic script.

Asking “What’s your biggest challenge?”

Salespeople have been told over and over again to ask prospects as many questions as possible before making a pitch, so it’s tempting to start off a call with a question about their challenges and goals.

But many prospects hate this question.

The truth is, while asking about their challenges seems like a nice way to get the conversation started, you’re putting the burden on them to tell you how you can help.

Imagine if someone emailed you saying something like “I’ll help you out with whatever you need, just let me know!”

Chances are, you would never actually take them up on the offer because you’d have to do all the mental heavy lifting to figure out what task you should assign them, how the relationship should be structured, etc.

Same thing applies to prospects you’re trying to sell to. You definitely want to find out more about their challenges, but it’s good to begin by telling them ideas you already have about how you can help based on the research you’ve already done.

Now that we covered what not to do in a sales call, let’s talk about how you should start you conversations.

Prospect Psychology During Sales Calls

One of the most important skills in sales isn’t pitching — it’s empathy.

Before you can deliver a persuasive pitch or structure your calls in the right way, you need to understand the mindset your prospects are in when you call them.

If you’re meeting with new potential customers or calling on inbound leads, then you’ll have to address these questions at some point during your call:

  • Who you are and what your company does
  • Why you’re calling them and why now
  • What’s in it for them
  • What you want from them

And if it’s actually a cold call, you’ll have to address these super fast!

Think about it. How would you feel if some random person barged in and interrupted your day by calling you on the phone? You’d be thrown off guard, and you’d be trying to figure out if it’s something important or if you can find some excuse to get off the call and go back to what you were doing.

(Heck — I mean, I screen calls for my friends and even my mother, so you better believe I screen yours too!)

When your prospect sees a number that’s not familiar to them, they’ll have a similar type of reaction. And even if they have a meeting scheduled with you, they are always still listening to everyone’s favorite radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

The best way to convince them that your call has value to them is by mentioning why you’re calling them specifically and why now. Is your prospect just another booked meeting in your calendar that goes to your quota? Just a stat in a spreadsheet that you’ll fill out under “Number of Calls Made” before you go home for the day? Or are they people who you’re calling for a specific reason?

That’s why the best salespeople start their meetings and sales calls off with a personalized comment. For example, if you’re connected with them on LinkedIn, you could congratulate them on a recent promotion. If their company was in the news recently, you could comment about that. If you’ve already had a conversation before with the prospect, you could reference something they said from the earlier call.

By referencing something specific and personalized about each person you connect with, you’ll be on your way to having more engaging sales calls.

May the sales be with you,

Joshua K Jordan