Make Your First Impression Your Best Impression: Crafting a winning opening statement

my line of work, I tend to hear a lot of opening statements.

I listen to during training or coaching sessions with clients. Others come from unsuspecting
sales people who call me at work or at home to sell me something.

the vast majority of opening statements I hear seemed designed to create more resistance than
they do relationships. In sales, your opening statement is absolutely critical
to your success. So why do so many otherwise good sales people get it so wrong?

critical part of your success

great line will open doors and land you more business. A bad one will cause those doors
to shut faster than you can say, "Hi, I’m Tim, and have I got a deal for

think the reason so many sales people use such disastrous opening statements is that
we often spend very little time planning and preparing what we’re going to say.
Most sales experts say that we have between 4 to 30 seconds to create interest from the
time the customer picks up the phone, yet many of my clients confess that they don’t
even begin to think about their opening line until they’re actually dialing the

often than not, it’s the little things that make all the difference between success
and failure. A few awkward or stumbling words, a mispronounced name, an inappropriate
question or just plain being under-prepared or too long-winded can create a bad first
impression, and lose the sale. As I discussed in past articles, something as simple as
removing "How are you?" from the beginning of your opener can yield as much
as a 25% increase in your cold calling success.

how can you go about crafting a winning opening statement? The best way to improve is
to first recognize what’s wrong with your existing opener, and then take the appropriate
steps to correct it.

rid of the clunkers: pruning your sales vocabulary

start with the following example. Say you finally get a decision maker on the phone (I
know that’s tough these days!) and you lead off with:

this is _______ from _______. We’re in the business of _______. Are you the person
who handles that?"


think we can agree that this isn’t exactly a killer opening. What makes it so bad?

consider a little Psychology 101. People would rather not talk to sales people they don’t
know. I bet even you, a professional sales person, avoid talking to sales people you
don’t know. This fact is as natural as it is unavoidable.

opening statement like the one above announces your intention to try to sell something
to the decision maker, triggering a defensive posture and moving them into a negative
frame of mind – you know, the one that says, "Darn, it’s a sales person,
how do I get them off the phone?"

you should find out who’s the right person to talk to before you pick
up the phone. Start by reviewing the corporate website, getting a referral or calling
other departments (Sales, HR or the Help Desk) within the organization to determine who
the decision maker is.

all, if you call the wrong person, they’ll let you know soon enough without you
having to ask. And if you are talking to the right person, avoiding the awkward clunker
above means you won’t jeopardize the relationship you’re attempting to build.
Remember, your job on your first call is to peak interest and get a dialogue going – NOT
to sell something.


so what should you do? When the decision maker answers, go directly into something

Chris, this is _____­­__ from _______. Our manufacturing clients tell us that
we help them _______ by _______. How are you currently _______?"


Chris, this is _______ with _______. We work with (CEOs, IT Directors, etc) to
help them _______. I understand that you maybe _______ and there’s a possibility
we may be able to help you _______. Does it make sense for me to ask you a few questions
now to see if we should talk further?"

course, these statements are very generic. I suggest that you tailor or customize your
opening with information you collect before the call through conversations with other
people in the company or by reviewing their website or quarterly 10Q SEC reports (if
their firm is publicly traded on a US stock exchange).

on results they’ll have interest in. I’d also recommend scouring the local
and national newspapers for stories that might include or affect your prospects, so you
can use that news in your opening. By showing that you know just a little bit about them
when you call, your prospects will be much more likely to engage in a meaningful conversation.

potential customers will always be much more impressed with how much you know about them
than with how much you know about your product. Here are a few more specific examples
of successful opening lines:

Chris, this is Colleen from ABC Staffing. We work with VP’s of HR to help them
find the right talent for their organizations quickly while guaranteeing the right skill
match. I understand you’re expanding your Toronto organization and there may be
a possibility that we can help you with your recruiting. Does it make sense for me to
ask you a few questions now to see if we should talk in more detail later?"

Chris. This is Colleen with ABC fencing. Our manufacturing clients tell us that we save
them money each year in lost and damaged goods by implementing secure perimeter fencing
at their factory sites. How are you planning to secure the new plant you’re building
in Baltimore?"

last note: if you’re a new rep taking over a patch of existing clients in a territory,
don’t call and say, "Hi this is _______. I’m the new rep. Can we

study the file, create two to three specific questions about the customer that shows
you’re genuinely interested in them, and then start your call with:

this is _______ from _______. I was reviewing your file, and I had a couple questions
about _______. Is now a good time to go over these with you, or should we schedule another
time in the future to talk?"

customers that you’re new puts your interests first. The statement above
puts their interests first, which are always going to be more important (and
more interesting) to them then yours.

the customer a chance to ask who you are. If they care, they will ask, giving you a chance
to satisfy their curiosity with an answer they requested.

it’s a subtle change. And it will make a huge difference in how many positive relationships
you build – and how successful you become.