5 Ways NOT To Start a Sales Call (And How You Should)

Written by
Josh Jordan

Imagine walking up to a random girl or guy at the bar to get them interested in having a conversation.

What you say first and how you say it makes a BIG difference in whether the situation becomes awkward or not.

Sales calls are so similar.

Highlighting benefits over features, overcoming objections and all the rest is so much easier when you get a good start.

So your job as a salesperson isn’t about creating a miraculous pitch.

Your job is to kindle enough desire in your prospect to engage with your company a little bit longer.

That’s why your primary focus when you open your mouth should be to hook your prospect enough to listen to your next sentence.

Then, the next sentence should get them to listen to the sentence after that, and so on — until it’s time for them to take an action.

Most salespeople will nod and say “Yup, of course,” yet they don’t actually practice this.

Instead, they start sales calls with questions people don’t care about.

Then they blabber on and on with some boring “This is what our company does” pitch, which makes people wonder if they should just hang up.

Even if the prospect is still listening, they’re resistant to anything more said. Terrible tone to set.

Later in this post, I’ll talk about how you should start a sales call.

First though, let’s take a look at what you shouldn’t say at the start of the conversation.

1. Pleasantries


Starting off with pleasantries like “How are you?” or “How’s your day going?” might seem harmless, but it’s the quickest way to sound like a scripted robot.

People’s eyes glaze over ready for another pathetic pitch. “Oh this is going to be like every other sales call I’ve ever had in my life. Great.”

People also don’t believe you really care how they’re doing. Their own friends hardly care when they ask “How are you?,” so why would you?

Worse, social norms dictate I ask you the same question back. And without even thinking, you chirp, “Great, just great.”

Cynical, you say? Well…

What if next time your prospect told you how they were actually doing?

Imagine if they told you they were missing their mortgage payments and having problems at home with family.

Or that they actually are empty inside because they don’t enjoy their boss or work?

What will you say then?

You may not say it, but you’ll think, “That really sucks and wish things were better, we’ve only 30 minutes right now and that sounds like months of therapy, and I can only help you [insert your company value prop], so let’s just stick to that OK?”

With the limited time you have in a phone call, it’s best not to focus on things you don’t have a solution for.

2. “Thank you for your time”

This is such a bad habit so many salespeople develop in an effort to be polite.

Please stop saying, “Thanks for your time.” Just stop it.

It seems like a harmless way to start (or end) a conversation, but think of exactly what you’re saying…

“Josh, thanks for meeting with me today. Even though we both only have 24 hours in the day, your time is definitely more valuable and more important than mine. So I just wanted to draw attention to that fact and acknowledge you’re superior to me in every way…even though I’m now meeting you for the first time.”

Yeah, I know. All that happens subconsciously in a moment.

Stop putting your prospect on a pedestal and start treating them like a peer.

If you’re an awesome salesperson, you’ll help solve their pain, so they should be thanking you for your time by the end of the call.

3. “About Us” statements

Most companies have a boring or cliche “About Us” statement written on their website, saying something like,

“We are changing the world by disrupting the technology space with our innovative, streamlined, game-changing, integrated data platform. And we use out-of-the-box thinking and forward thinking to help our customers synergize their core competencies in order to move the needle… blah blah… revolutionary platform… which leverages the low-hanging fruit into scalable moving parts… creating more synergy… blah blah… to the company culture… ”

[Insert eye roll and gag reflex.]

Although it seems like you should tell your prospects who your company is and how awesome your team is, they lose interest when you start the call this way.

Guard up because you’ve gone into “sales mode”, they usually just zone out until you’re done (and start talking about them again).

Worst case, they yell at you, hang up and post terrible things about you online.

4. Talking “at” your prospect

The “About Us” statement is one example of taking at your prospect. They feel attacked instead of included in a real conversation.

So please DON’T launch into your one standard pitch. Ask questions upfront to make the pitch afterward feel “tailored.”

Be careful, though…

If you ask questions without really listening, processing, and caring about answers, you’ll still sound like you’re just running your prospects through a generic script.

Pro tip: You need to need to really care.

5. Asking “What’s your biggest challenge?”

Even when you’re set on asking questions before pitching, prospects hate this question.

While asking about their challenges makes sense in theory, you’re putting the burden on them to tell you how you can help.

Imagine if someone emailed you saying something like, “I’ll help you out with whatever you need, just let me know!”

Chances are, you would never actually take them up on the offer because:

  1. You’d have to do all the mental heavy lifting to figure out what you need help with.
  2. Then, you’d need to break down your needs into tasks you might assign to them and figure out how the relationship should be structured.
  3. You’d have to trust someone who didn’t know much about your problems and doesn’t sound at all like a specialist.

Yikes. Who’s going to go through all of that?

That said, you definitely want to find out more about their challenges. Yet you’re better off to begin with ideas about how you can help based on your research.

Now that we covered what not to do in a sales call, let’s talk about how you should start your conversations…

Prospect Psychology During Sales Calls

One of the most important skills in sales isn’t pitching. It’s empathy.

Before you can deliver a persuasive pitch or structure your calls in the right way, you need to understand the mindset your prospects are in when you call them.

If you’re meeting with new potential customers or calling on inbound leads, then you’ll have to address these questions at some point during your call:

  • Who are you and what your company do?
  • Why are you calling them and why now?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • What you want from them?

You’re calling cool, you have to address these questions super fast!

Think about it. How would you feel if some random person barged in and interrupted your day by calling you on the phone?

You’d be thrown off guard, and you’d be trying to figure out if it’s something important. By default, you’re probably fishing for some excuse to get off the call and go back to what you were doing.

(Heck, I screen calls from my friends and even my mother, so you better believe I screen yours, too!)

When your prospect sees a number that’s not familiar to them, they’ll have a similar type of reaction.

And even if they have a meeting scheduled with you, they are always still listening to everyone’s favorite radio station, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

The best way to convince them your call has value is by mentioning why you’re calling them specifically and why now.

Is your prospect just another booked meeting in your calendar that goes to your quota?

Just a stat in a spreadsheet you’ll fill out under “Number of Calls Made” before you go home for the day?

Or are they people who you’re calling for a specific reason?

That’s why the best salespeople start their meetings and sales calls off with a personalized comment.

For example, if you’re connected with them on LinkedIn, you could congratulate them on a recent promotion.

If their company was in the news recently, you could comment about that.

If you’ve already had a conversation before with the prospect, you could reference something they said from the earlier call.

By referencing something specific and personalized about each person you connect with, you’ll be on your way to having more engaging sales calls.

May the sales be with you,

Josh Jordan

P.S. Curious how to launch a 6-figure software sales career in 6 weeks — even without any sales or tech experience? Discover how here.

Josh Jordan

As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.

How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...

...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...

...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.

Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.

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