Sales consultant after making a sale on a call

The Ultimate Guide to Science-Backed Sales Openers Glass April 11, 2023

First impressions are everything. That’s true for life in general, and it’s certainly true in sales. On average, you only have around seven seconds to make a good impression when cold calling a prospect. It can be difficult (if not impossible) to change that impression once it’s formed.

In sales, this means that you only have a tiny window of time to convince someone to listen to your opening line, especially when making a cold call. What you say in those few seconds needs to be so worthy of their attention that they continue to listen, despite their busy schedule. It needs to make them consider the possibility of buying what you’re selling.

Planning and executing your great opener requires forethought on the part of any good sales rep. You should know what you’re going to say before you say it, since you only get one shot at the first impression your cold call will make.

In this article, you’ll find some of the best cold call opening lines in the business. Don’t just repeat them, though. You need to learn why such an opening line is effective. If you understand why these opening lines work, you’ll be able to readily identify the unique circumstances of each cold call, and tailor your approach accordingly.

The dos and don’ts of a great cold calling opening line

There is a big disconnect between how sales people believe they treat their prospects on cold calls, and how the calls are actually received.

The sales disconnect

Graph: Sales Disconnect

A specific cold calling strategy might work beautifully on one client, yet fail spectacularly to capture another prospect's attention. This is because each client has a different pain point, and cold callers aren't always able to figure out what it is.

For a successful cold call, you need to know whom you’re talking to, and have a variety of strategies primed and ready to deploy. The best opening lines are the ones that get a conversation flowing

Cold call opening lines are designed to start a conversation that the prospect actively wants to participate in (or at least listen to). The best cold call opening line might consist of a greeting, a question, and something that shows that you know whom you’re speaking to. Without the right combination, your cold call line is likely to just be an irritation.

There are some basic things to include or avoid when crafting your opener. These are just rules of thumb, but you should always have them in mind when you initiate the cold calling process.

The 4 big “dos” of a sales call

As you look over the opening lines in this article, keep in mind the basic reasons why they work—there are specific things that such opening lines should do, whether you're making a cold call or using a video prospecting tool like

Don’t worry if you don’t hit every single one of these things, but your opener should utilize at least one of them, and capture the general ideas. The perfect opening line will use the correct points for the individual prospective customer.

1. Greet kindly and warmly

You want your customer to feel important. They are important since you’ve reached out to them. You want to sound confident and create a professional relationship. For the best cold call intro, say, "good morning," or, "good afternoon."

2. Mention names 

You should introduce yourself and the company you’re representing, and greet your customer by name with a formal greeting. It's important to demonstrate that you already know who they are as a prospective customer. Most prospects assume they are just another number to you. You need to make them feel valued. The prospect's welfare should appear to be at the forefront of your mind.

3. Set expectations and stay focused 

Make it clear why you’re reaching out, or why the two of you are speaking. Let your client know upfront what you’re going to be discussing, and a quick overview of what you have to offer. Be respectful of your prospect's time.

4. Recognize a pain point 

There’s only so much you can do in an opener, but if you know that your client or prospect has (or could have) a particular concern or problem, use that knowledge. It adds empathy to your approach, and makes your potential buyer feel as if they (or their business) can personally benefit from what you’re selling.

The 3 big “don’ts” of cold call opening lines

The things mentioned in this section could be deal breakers before you’ve even started to make the deal, and unfortunately, many salespeople make these mistakes.

As previously stated, you only have a few precious seconds to make a good impression on your prospect when making cold calls, and these “don’ts'' do the opposite. Avoid them, if at all possible, and don’t stumble over any mistakes you do make. You want to get right back to the other tips listed throughout the article.

Without further ado, here are the basic things to avoid with SaaS sales (and cold calling in general).

1. Don’t ask whom you’re speaking to 

There’s a fine line when it comes to names. Rather err on the side of using the client's name in a familiar way. For example, say, “Good morning, Bill. This is Frank from ABC Company.” Do not begin your conversation by asking, “Hello, is this Bill?” Worse yet, never say, “Whom am I speaking to?” You should already know, because the prospect (Bill) is important. The best cold call opening will never come across as spam, or sound as if the potential customer is simply another cog you’re speaking to.

2. Don’t pack in jargon 

Depending on the nature of the call, it might be tempting to use industry or marketing language to make your point. This can be dangerous, unless you’re certain that the prospective buyer will understand all the words you’re using, and be receptive to hearing them. Rather speak to them like they’re people (because they are). You can get into the specifics of what you’re selling and speaking about once you have their attention.

3. Don’t ask if they have time 

Be respectful of their busy schedule, but be careful. Asking a prospect if they have a moment to hear your value proposition is just inviting them to say no. Likewise, don’t imply that you might be interrupting something, or taking up time they don’t have. It is possible to be respectful of the prospect's time, and find common interest, without giving them easy ways to refuse to pay attention. All sales pros face rejection at some point, but you don't need to invite it!

With the basics of cold calling out of the way, it’s time to get into some specific cold call opening lines that really do work. Most of these hit on the ideas above, and now you can understand why those things matter.

7 types of cold calling opening lines

Many people believe that cold calling is dead, and that there are far better ways to land customers these days. However, there is plenty of evidence that calls are still the best way to bring in prospects. You just need the best opening line for each unique situation.

Sales prospecting activities that got the most first appointments

Graph: Sales prospecting activities that got the most first appointments

1. The straightforward opener 

Whether you're using a script or just cold calling, this straightforward opener gets right to the point. You can put your own spin on it, but the basic formula sounds something like this:

“Good morning, Susan. This is (your name) calling from ABC Company. This is a sales call, but I’ve done my research and think we’ll be a great fit. Let’s have a short chat, and I’ll explain why.”

In straightforward sales opening lines like this one, you recognize who your customer is, immediately introduce yourself and your company, and let them know why you’re calling. There’s no mystery about your intentions—it’s a sales call, but not necessarily a random sales call.

The research hook is included, implying that you know there’s something for them to gain by hearing you out. It won’t take long, either, so they don’t have anything to lose.

The straightforward opener cuts through the fat of a lengthy sales pitch or call, and gets the prospect's attention. With lines like this, sales professionals state exactly what they’re doing, so the prospect has no unpleasant surprises.

You’re telling them that you're going to try to get them to buy something, but you’re showing your confidence that it’s something they either need, or will benefit from having.

Remember those pain points! This is particularly important with SaaS calls, as the prospect might already have a similar product that you’re trying to get them to replace or upgrade. They should know there's a reason to consider it, or they won't hear you out.

2. The cold call referral opener

This is a particularly powerful cold calling opening line if you can pull it off. You’re letting prospective buyers know that a mutual contact they’re familiar with sent you their way. That gives you an automatic “in,” and a certain level of familiarity to work with.

Not only is the prospect not a random person to you, but you’ve already interacted with someone within their circle.

In all likelihood, that person or small business purchased, or plans to purchase, your product, too, so there’s a solid chance it’ll be a great fit for the person you’re calling. The opener itself sounds something like the following:

“Good afternoon, Joel. This is (your name) calling from ABC Company. I got your contact information from (person) at (company). They said you might be interested in my product.”

If you have already made a sale to-, or started the buying process with their acquaintance, you can include that information, as well. You can mention any positive response to your product from the person or business who sent you their way.

At that point, the prospect will know that you aren’t simply hopping from person to person, and that someone they know has a solid, positive experience with your product. 

This is one of the strongest sales openers in cold calling, just as referrals are great for sales teams and marketing tactics in general. Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible. When you make a successful sale, ask your new client if they know of anyone else who might benefit from the program, service, or product you’re offering.

With a bit of luck, you’ll be able to chain together a lot of these referral openers. They’re a great “in” with new people, and aren’t as easily dismissed as a call to someone who has no connection with you at all. Referrals eliminate the sense that someone’s name has been plucked from the ether, so to speak.

3. The empathetic opener

This sales opener really plays on that initial kind, warm greeting. You’re going to emphasize the idea that you’re a real person who is speaking to another real person, and that it goes beyond just trying to make a sale.

Think of this type of opener as reaching out to an actual acquaintance. It might sound something like the following: 

“Good morning, Vicky. How is your day going so far? I’m happy you took my call. I’m (your name) from ABC Company, and I think you’ll be interested in what I called to chat about today.”

This approach is friendly, instead of pushy. It gives the prospect room to reply, which can be beneficial to you if they’re particularly chatty.

You should be reaching out to people who can benefit from your product, and they might express frustrations during the empathetic opener that your product can solve.

Even if they give you a stock answer of, “okay,” or, “fine,” you’re still speaking to them like a real person, and not like another faceless possible sale.

Plenty of people appreciate this approach enough to let you keep talking and get to the meat of your pitch.

4. The problem-solving opener

Trevor Noah - Problem Solved

You’re calling because your possible buyer has something to gain by purchasing your product, service, or program. That means it does something they need. The problem-solving opener focuses on why they might need it, and emphasizes the idea that you can help the prospect solve some sort of burden they’re experiencing.

“Hi Rick, this is (name) from ABC Company. Thanks for taking my call. I have clients in (buyer’s industry) who are experiencing (problem), and (product) has really helped them out. If you’re having the same issue, I think it could help you, too.”

This one leaves a lot of room for personalization, so try to put yourself in the prospect's shoes. If you can combine this with the referral opener above, it can be an incredibly powerful sales opener that works for a few different reasons.

To start, you’re demonstrating that you’ve done your research. You know a bit about the prospect or their company, and the general state of what’s going on in their industry or area.

Not only that, but you’re stepping up to help them through a daunting task. Before your call, they may not have even considered the pain points you’re referring to, but the conversation will prompt them to think more closely about it.

If your initial outreach doesn’t land, because they aren’t experiencing the problem you lay out, ask them what concerns they do have. Learn their pain points. If they’re willing to chat, think on your feet, and find a way to bring their needs back around to what you’re selling.

Just because they don't have the issue you suggested doesn’t mean you can’t do something for them. Let them know you’re willing to help. It could give you extra material going forward with other calls, too.

5. The complementary opener

This opener isn’t for every client, but when it works, it works well, and can get the conversation flowing.

Whether you’re selling to a business or an individual, do your homework before going in, and see what you can find out about them. If they’ve recently celebrated a success or milestone, use that as your opener.

“Hello Sharon, this is (name) calling you from ABC Company. I saw that your company recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Congratulations! That’s a big deal. I might have a way of making your next ten years go even more smoothly.”

The compliment can be a few different things. If their company has made recent changes or notable advancements, use them in your opener.

If you’re speaking to an individual, mention a personal accomplishment you found out about. Maybe they recently accepted a new job, got a promotion, or whatever else put them on your radar. If you plan to use this opener, you’ll need to do a little digging, but it can be quite effective.

This type of opener works for the same reason that empathetic and problem-solving openers are effective. You’re making sure they know you see them as a person, and that you’re coming at them from their level, with something that’s going to matter to them.

Besides, on a basic human level, who doesn’t love a compliment? Sometimes, just being nice gets you a long way, if only because plenty of salespeople don’t take the extra few seconds to do so. You’ll stand out, while, at the same time, conveying that your buyer stands out, too.

6. The competitive opener

When selling to a business or company, one of the quickest ways to get their attention is to mention one of their competitors. It’s particularly effective if you’re able to say that you’ve been working with their competition.

This type of opener ties in well with the problem-solving opening line listed above, too. You can use a combined approach, like the one below.

“Good afternoon, Megan. My name is (your name) and I work for ABC Company. We’ve been working with (competitor) to improve/solve (a particular metric or problem). My product offers (list of benefits). I thought that would appeal to you, too.”

This type of opener creates a sense of urgency in your buyer, as they know their competition might have a leg up on them in a particular area. If they’re using a service that improves something that they, too, offer, they might have to play catch up, or risk falling behind.

Perhaps it wasn’t even a pain point they thought they were having, but knowing that a competitor is in the process of fixing it could change that. It's human nature to want to get ahead of the competition.

This approach won’t work with everyone, of course, as you need to have a basis for this type of opener. You can’t simply make up a competitor. You can keep things vague, however, and simply say that you’re working with similar companies, rather than getting specific.

It works the same way, regardless. You’re showing that you understand what the buyer does, that you grasp some potential issues they might have, and are offering them help to fix that and keep up with the competition. That makes your product or service seem like a golden opportunity they should stick around to hear about.

7. The helpful opener

This type of opener involves asking your prospective buyer for a favor. It's in the same vein as the earlier warm and friendly greeting. You can structure it in different ways, but the main idea is to reach out to someone and ask them to help you, tapping into their sense of empathy, and their urge to help.

“Hi, Dan. I’m (name) calling from ABC Company, and I’m hoping you can help me out today. Could I get your opinion on something?

From that point, you can move into asking for their thoughts on certain features of your program, whether they’d find them helpful, and so on.

With this type of opener, you’re not telling your buyer what they should think of your product. They’re exploring it with you, and doing you a favor in the process. It’s a natural way of discussing things, and sets you up for a smoother sales pitch.

This is also a great strategy when cold-calling small businesses, as it makes the prospect feel helpful, and gets them thinking about how your service or product could actually help them.

 Sales openers are short, but by the end of this one, your client should feel like they’re engaged in a conversation, and not simply being talked at.

Video: The BEST Cold Call Opening Lines 2023

How to find the right opener

Now that you have several examples of great openers, how do you pick the right one? No two buyers are the same, and it’s important that you tailor your approach to the person you’re speaking to. You might not be talking to a decision maker or an account executive, but your potential client may be the right person with the pain points you have the solution to.

1. Research

The simplest way to determine the best opening line is to research. Take a few minutes to find out what you can about your prospective client, whether you’re selling to a small business or an individual. There’s no guarantee that you’ll pick the right one, but it’s less of a shot in the dark if you familiarize yourself with them ahead of time. 

2. Combine strategies

Plenty of these approaches can be combined in cold call opening lines that suit the individual prospect. For example, you can help your client with problem-solving, by relating an issue to something their competition is also experiencing. Or, you can be empathetic and friendly, while asking for your buyer’s help.

Some of these openers flow well into each other, to maximize the overall effect and hold someone’s attention. The best cold call opening line doesn't even feel like a cold call to the potential customer.

3. Use what you’re good at

As a sales rep, you might find that you deliver some openers more easily than others. Experiment with them. If you find a lot of success with your straightforward opener, for instance, then reach for that one opening line more often than others.

Final thoughts on cold call opening lines

Sales openers are the first words your potential customers hear from you. If they’re handled poorly, they’re also the last thing they hear from you. The importance of a good opener can’t be overstated, as it’s your only opportunity to keep people listening.

There is no “perfect” opener. Although the strategies laid out above are effective, it’s highly dependent on what works for an individual salesperson and their client base. The best way to find the right opener is to get out there, do your research, and get your feet wet. Start with the tips in this article, and go with what gets a positive response.


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