Freddie Marryat, Marketing Manager, EngageIQ

What you say in the first few seconds of a cold call arguably matters more than the rest of your sales pitch put together. That’s not to say that your pitch isn’t important. Of course it is. But if you’ve spent enough time crafting it, practising it, and you’ve got the product to back it up, then it’s just a case of being able to deliver it to the right people at the right time.

That’s why your opening line is so important. You have about five seconds to earn yourself five minutes of pitching time. If you can’t entice your prospect to hear your second sentence and then your third, you’ll never be able to deliver your pitch at all — no matter how good it is. 

Great SDRs don’t necessarily make more calls than average reps, but they definitely convert more calls into conversations. Here’s how they hook prospects on the line and reel them in.

What Makes a Great Cold Call Opening Line? 

Even though you only have a few seconds to deliver your opening line, there are a surprising amount of factors you need to consider when delivering it. Below we’ve laid out three tips that every cold call opening line has in common. 

Get to the Point

Just like a gingerbread man, the best cold call opening lines are short and sweet. It’s hard to dress up a sales call as anything other than what it is, and prospects are usually primed to say no. So the longer you take to get to the point, the more time they have to come up with a good excuse to get rid of you.

Don’t Ask for Permission

Don’t ask for permission to speak to your prospect. A lot of sales gurus will tell you that asking whether you’ve caught your prospect at a bad time works because people like to say no. When they do, you get permission without really asking for it. The trouble is, people also want to feel in control. The easiest way to do that is to tell you they’re busy. If they do, the call ends there.

Be Friendly and Personable

Who’s most likely to get a positive response: the upbeat SDR who is cheery and energetic or the bored, monotonous-sounding SDR who is obviously on his 30th straight call? The first, obviously. Yes, you might have been making calls all day. You might have been rejected every single time, too. But you need to keep making a good impression on every single call. The best way to do that is to be friendly, positive and personable. That means addressing the person by name and knowing a more about them than just who they are and what they do. Remember, it’s a real person at the end of the line. Treat them like one.

7 Cold Call Opening Lines that Actually Work

Ready to put the above principles to the test? Here are seven of our favourite cold call strategies.

Mention the Weather

How’s that for a quintessentially British icebreaker? EngageTech SDR James Davies believes this opening line works because it’s so familiar. This opener naturally leads to further conversation and jokes that can quickly build rapport. This opener won’t work all the time, but give it a try the next time it’s gorgeous out or absolutely chucking it down.

The Early Bird

If you’re calling prospects outside of traditional work hours, this opener is a great way to quickly find out whether prospects are free to chat without asking their permission. Acknowledge that you are calling early and say you hope they haven’t caught them in the middle of breakfast. This is much better than asking them something general like whether you’ve caught them at a bad time. The chances are also slim that you have actually caught them eating breakfast, so you don’t have to worry about getting rejected. 

The Holidays

Holidays provide year-round talking points for our SDRs. From December through to January you have Christmas. March and April give you Easter and the summer months are perfect for asking about upcoming holidays. Each provides specific jumping-off points that you can use to get a conversation going. Asking about their holiday plans is also a great way to put your prospect in a good mood, get them talking and prove that you aren’t just there to give your pitch and leave. 

Out Yourself Immediately

Greg Freeman, VP of sales at Minoro Data, likes to out himself as a cold caller as quickly as possible. He’ll make a joke about how he doesn’t like making them and the prospect doesn’t like giving them, but together they’ll get through it. In doing so, Greg catches prospects off guard and instantly lightens the mood. He has found that prospects are much more willing to hear him out when he’s friendly, funny and upfront about who he is and what he’s doing. Use this tactic and you’ll come across as a breath of fresh air in an industry where salespeople are notorious for using every trick in the book to get through to prospects and get them to listen. 

Stroke Their Ego

Everyone likes to feel powerful. We’re all a little bit narcissistic. Play on that by asking your prospect for help before asking anything else. Typically, cold callers are the ones trying to help their prospects by pitching new solutions. Flipping the script in this way puts all the power in the hands of your prospect. More often than not, they’ll be glad to help. 

So what do you ask them for help with? Well, if it’s a gatekeeper, you can ask for help getting through to your prospect. If it’s the prospect themselves, ask for advice on a topic or question them about an article they’ve recently written. 

The Hyper-Personalization

Finding something you have in common with your prospect is a great way to start a conversation and get the relationship off on the right foot. When you can personalise your interaction, you demonstrate that your prospect isn’t just a name and number to you. It also shows you’ve bothered to do your research and might not be running through a call list from top to bottom (even if you are).

Prospects like working with people they have some connection to, says Autoklose founder and CEO Shawn Finder. If you share a connection on Linkedin, went to the same university or grew up in the same area, brilliant. Even if you don’t share something this personal, you may still be able to mention an article your prospect has written online or a post they made on Linkedin. 

You don’t have to go overboard. Even subtle personalisation like making it clear you know who they are, where they work and what they do can be enough. You called them for a reason, demonstrate why. 

How Have You Been?

Want to know what statistically is the best cold call opening line of them all? According to Gong and their dataset of over 90,000 calls, it’s “how have you been?” 

Gong’s Chris Orlob explains that asking people “how they have been” has a 6.6 times higher success rate than the baseline and that calls that opened with this question had a 10% success rate compared to the 1.5% baseline. 

Orlob believes it works because it’s “a pattern interrupt”. Prospects don’t expect their cold caller to ask them how they are doing. It also ticks all the right boxes we mentioned at the start. It’s friendly, it’s short and it doesn’t ask for permission. Give it a go next time your on the phone and see if the data really does match reality.

Make it Easier by Talking to the Right Buyers

At the end of the day, even the best opening lines won’t work if the prospects your speaking to don’t want your product or service. That’s why forward-thinking inside sales teams use the EngageIQ purchase intent data platform to find the prospects most likely to buy. By doing so, SDRs don’t waste time, energy and morale chasing the wrong leads. Instead, they focus their efforts on the people most likely to convert, increasing their pipeline and closing more meetings as a result. 

Find out how you can start using our purchase intent data to supercharge your inside sales team today. 


Images by: Luis Villasmil, Austin Distel, bruce mars