Sales cold calls are often misunderstood and underutilized as an effective sales and lead generation tactic. Lots of business owners, entrepreneurs, and even some sales team managers and sales executives have misconceptions about what those first prospecting calls are for. As a result, too many sales people are wasting too much time with ineffective calling scripts and off-target sales prospecting strategies. Don’t try to do too much with your prospecting cold calls – you don’t have to close the deal with that first call, you just need to get the sales process started.

Here is a simple outline of what should be your top 3 goals for every sales prospecting cold call:

1. Introduce Yourself: It sounds simple, but too many business people fail to do this – your first prospecting cold call is not about asking the customer “how are you doing,” it’s about quickly and concisely explaining who you are, why you are calling, and why it matters to them. Don’t feel bad that you’re making a sales call, don’t be apologetic, don’t hesitate – you’re on the phone because you have an idea to help their business. State your name, your company’s name, and explain a bit about what your company does. Make sure they hear you and understand what you say.

A good sample script for the first part of the call could be: “Hello, my name is Al, calling from Strategic Sales and Marketing. We do B2B lead generation for companies like yours, and I wanted to introduce myself and start a conversation with you about how we could potentially help your business.”

2. Generate Interest: If you handle the introduction well, the next part will be easy: generating interest. Remember: the purpose of this first cold call is not to close the deal, it’s not to tell the customer your life story – it’s to start a conversation. Everyone on your prospecting list is busy, but if you can just plant a seed of curiosity in their minds, and get them interested to hear more, then they will be more likely to keep talking with you – and that process of starting and continuing conversations and building relationships is what ultimately leads to sales.

A good way to generate interest on that first call is to say something like: “I was doing some research on our industry and I saw that your company is the ideal size and industry vertical for the solution/service that we offer. Would you be interested to hear more about how our product/service could potentially help your company increase your productivity or cut costs?”

By doing this, you are demonstrating to the client that you know their industry, and you give them a particular value proposition – without getting into too many specific details yet – about how you can help their business boost productivity or save money. Hopefully the client will be intrigued and will be willing to hear more. This is also a good opportunity to take notes on what the prospect is saying – if they are offering resistance and objections, or if they are open to hearing more.

3. Ask for a Specific Commitment for the Next Step: Finally, before you end the call, you need to ask the prospect to agree to a specific “next step” in the sales conversation. This depends on how your company operates, because different companies and industries have different steps in the sales process. However, in general, you might ask the customer: “Would you be willing to have one of our sales people contact you for an appointment to talk further by phone?” Or “we have a great product demo that we can do for you online – can I have you sign up for a time when we can call you at a future date next week?” Get the prospect to say “Yes” to a specific next step. Then you can continue the sales conversation and go into more detail about the prospect’s needs, and how your solution can help.

That’s it! Just those three things. Ideally, your prospecting cold calls – even if the customer stays on the phone and keeps talking with you till the end – should only take a few minutes. You’re there to introduce yourself, pique the customer’s interest, and start a larger conversation by asking for commitment to a “next step” in the sales process. Don’t try to do too much with your cold calls – just focus on these three things, and you will start to see better results.

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