Search
  • Brett Zalaski

How to Open a Cold Call Hot


Since the launch of the site, I've been asked a handful of times about the beginning of a phone call. The questions have ranged from:

  • Should I ask people how they're doing today?

  • I ask people if it's a good time or a bad time. Is that ok?

  • I get a lot of people hanging up on me when a call starts. How can I change that?

I'm not trying to start an argument here. It seems like every sales trainer, sales manager, and sales rep has a different point of view on how to start a phone call. Should you ask a question? How do you introduce yourself? How do I transition into asking questions? I've seen something that seems so simple like the introduction almost start Sales War III at a conference I was once at.


It's not as important as most people make it out to be. There's WAY more to do on a phone call than just tell someone else your name and why your calling. But that's just it sometimes...we avoid telling them why we are calling. Here are my top 5 tips to having an awesome start to a phone call...and not overthink it.


  1. SMILE: This is going to sound reductive and basic...but I can't begin to tell you how important and forgotten this is. You sound COMPLETELY different when you smile. Your voice has more bounce and energy, and it pulls people toward you in conversation. This past summer I called 100 pro sports teams. The first thing on my checklist was, 'Are they smiling?' It was an inbound call and, still, only 35% of the reps were smiling. This isn't a math test. You are engaging with your fans. Your voice needs to lead the conversation.

  2. Care about your question: I genuinely don't care if you ask a question at the beginning of the conversation. 'How are you doing today?' or 'Is this a good time or a bad time?' are both completely fine questions. It's how we talk in real life. But if you ask it, you need to care about the answer. Rep after rep just asks it and keeps rolling in the conversation. It's disingenuous, reinforces to the client that you don't truly care about them, and sets off the 'this person just wants something from me' bell. If it's a bad day? Ask for a better time. If it's a bad time? Ask what time would be better. If it's a good day? Ask them why it's been one. Authenticity is incredibly meaningful in interactions these days...especially when the client isn't expecting one.

  3. '...and I'm calling from the front office of the _______': I've heard a lot of openings. Just the team name. From the ticket office of the team name. The one I put in bold just sounds better and more important. Don't overthink it. You work in the front office of a pro sports team. That's pretty awesome. You say that with a big smile...people will talk to you.

  4. 'The reason for my call is...': Even the most energetic, engaging open can be destroyed by awkwardness transitioning into questioning. This line is a cool breeze on a hot day. It's awesome and it puts the buyer at ease. It says, 'I'm going to be honest and open with you...'. That goes a long, long way in today's buying environment.

  5. Transparency: Speaking of being honest...people today get tons and tons of messages from companies trying to trick them into clicking and buying something. We almost feel like we're on edge every time we get an email, an alert, and, now, a text message. You add that pressure to the conversation when you're not up front with why you're calling. Literally say, 'I'm calling to try to save you some money and get you out to more games.' It takes a ton of pressure off the buyer, allows them to react to the idea of buying more topics, and keeps the conversation immediately on subject.

The quote on the right is old. And it's corny. And it's 100% true. Just because the start of every call feels like it should be less significant than the meat of the conversation, the reality is that it's not. Your potential clients are making a decision on you right away. They either may, possibly, potentially buy from you some day...or your just another salesperson and they are shutting your a$$ down. Give energy to the conversation. Give empathy to the conversation. Give pride to the conversation. Give transparency to the conversation. You can do all of that in an incredibly short period of time...if you pay attention to it. Most wounds in sales are self-inflicted. Draw them in, don't push them away.