The Best Way To Begin A Cold Call

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

green phone icon Whether closing a direct sale or just setting appointments over the telephone, cold calling can be tough. In a cold call, you have but a precious few seconds to establish enough trust and rapport to get the prospect to allow the call to continue.

In the first three seconds, the prospect forms a mental imagine of you, your surroundings and appearance. Six seconds into the call, the prospect has an impression of your trustworthiness, your professionalism and your product or service, and often, they are all negative.

In a cold call, with so little time, and so much to overcome, the very first words out of your mouth are critical.

What follows is an explanation of exactly what you should utter as soon as the prospect answers the telephone in a cold call.

What’s In A Word?
Ironically, the first word you speak in a cold call should not actually be a word at all. Let me explain.

In that first few critical seconds, the prospect forms an impression of you. However, consider what information the prospect uses to base this impression. The prospect has never spoken with you before and does not know anything about you. Therefore, the prospect’s instant image of you comes first from his or her experiences with other sales people, be they good or bad.

So the first thing you have to deal with is the negative preconceived images the prospect may already have in their mind from their past.

I Am Different!
Therefore, in order to create a good impression in the first few seconds, you must first somehow distinguish yourself from every other cold call, and do it without using any words to the effect.

In the first few seconds of the cold call, you can easily fall into the general memory of “bad sales people,” and trigger negative emotions of such calls. You need to avoid triggering the prospect’s negative feelings.

The Triggers
The trigger most sales people unknowingly use in a cold call is the UNNATURAL sound of the call. Sales people practice and rehearse their sales presentation until it is flawless; and that is the problem. A normal and natural telephone conversation is never flawless. There are always stutters, hesitations and other broken chains of thought in a normal telephone call. However, in an effort to sound more professional, sales people inadvertently remove the natural, normal tendencies of speech. This unnatural tone acts like a warning beacon to the prospect and generates the negative feelings and past images.

What is Normal?
If you listen carefully, you will note that most normal telephone calls start with a brief hesitation of some sort. When calling a friend or relative for example, you may THINK you said,

“Hello, Sharon. This is Steve. Is Ken there?”

However, what you ACTUALLY said was more like,

“Ah, Sharon? Yeah—Steve. Ken there?”

When cold calling, you remove these small, natural, nearly imperceptible hesitations and flaws. Realise that there is a distinct difference between the WRITTEN WORD and the SPOKEN WORD, and most sales people SPEAK in a cold call…like it is WRITTEN in a script.

The First Word
To dispel the prospect’s preconceived negative images, slow down and PUT BACK that normal bridge. It is just a brief, stutter or hesitation as if you are gathering your thoughts just for a second. The first word in a cold call should not be a word at all. It should be a mistake, a hesitation, a fumble.

“Ah…yes…” Or, “Uhm…is Steve there?” That’s all, just a brief, normal and natural hesitation.

If this appears unprofessional, that is because it IS! To be successful cold calling, you cannot sound like a professional cold caller!

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Digital Art at

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 21 June, 2012

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