Nothing is more important to prospecting (other than actually doing it) than the quality of your opening statement.
In person or over the phone, windows of attention are typically slammed shut in less than 5 seconds. This means you have to maximize the impact of every word, syllable, and pause in your lead-off statements. They need to be works of art … compelling. To minimize the importance of preparing a solid opening statement is to potentially short-circuit your entire sales effort.
Fortunately, opening statements can be prepared and practiced before a sales opportunity is ever pursued. Below are some guidelines and thoughts for creating your opening statement(s), as well as some samples for you to rework into your particular sales world.
Print them out and review them often (get a printable version here). Know them. Put them to use.
How to build an opening statement
The objective: Create immediate interest for further discussion. Engage the prospect.
The method: Work through the following questions and tips using pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
What do I sell?
Answer this using as few words as possible. Avoid using words or phrases that mean nothing to outsiders (e.g., industry acronyms, fluffy corporate communication language).
How do my customers benefit when they buy my product/ service?
If you sell to consumers, include the potential added emotional benefits of being liked, respected, more attractive, etc. (if these benefits exist).
If you sell to businesses, be sure to include the emotional benefits to the purchasing customer (the decision maker) in addition to the more specific benefits realized by the company (a good buy or product implementation can be the road to promotion or status within an organization). You’re looking for several true benefits, not just features.
Build several opening statements for the different scenarios you might face (e.g., catching a decision maker without a screener or gatekeeper, catching a decision maker “on the way out the door,” delivering the opening statement to a screener or gatekeeper who insists on knowing “what it is in reference to?”, leaving a voicemail).
Address each of the following in whatever order seems most appropriate for your particular sales world (just make sure the benefit to your prospect is mentioned within the first 10 seconds and it’s real … not fluff).
Keep in mind…
Words to consider using…
Phrases to avoid…
These phrases may be used at other times during the sales process, but they have no place in the opening statement. They don’t capture immediate attention or encourage the prospect to engage with you and, therefore, can take away from the initial attention allotted to you by the prospect.
The last two questions in the list can show that you respect the time of the person you’re talking to (live or over the phone). But over the phone, because so few people answer without being able to see who’s calling (caller ID), you might assume it’s a good time or they wouldn’t have answered.
And one more thing…
No One Really Cares (NORC).
Prepare with that in mind and you’re more likely to create something wonderful … wonderful opening statements, of course, but also better responses to the standard objections you hear, better follow-up voicemail and email messages, and better reasons to give for why someone should buy from you.
It’s not that your prospects and customers shouldn’t care (or never care). It’s that if you approach your contact preparation in a less egocentric way and are tough on yourself (just as your prospects and customers can and will be), you’ll be stronger for it. Ultimately, you’ll help your prospects and customers see the value of your offer much faster (or qualify them much faster so you can invest your sales time in better places).
They’re busy, just as you are. If they’re doing their work, you’re a distraction until you have something of interest to them. Getting and keeping their attention isn’t an entitlement. It’s an opportunity and a privilege.
No one really cares. NORC.
It’ll make you stronger.
Sample opening statements
Hi, [first name]. We provide [product/ service] in order to help people [take advantage of, minimize, maximize, prevent, etc.] [something of importance]. I’m calling to see if this might be helpful to [you/ your clients].
Hi, [first name]. This is [sales name] with [company name]. We provide [product/ service] in order to help companies minimize their [whatever] expenses and maximize monthly sales revenue. I’m calling to see if this might be valuable to you and your team.
Hi, [first name]. [sales name] with [company name]. We help companies fully profit from their existing resources through our [product/ service] that [does/ has/ have whatever differentiating point or feature]. I’m calling to see if you’d be interested in discussing how it might help your [whatever] efforts/ initiatives.
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