Do you usually feel good about your first call?

Often, a salesperson’s first call with a prospect does not go as well as they hope. Here are three steps for making a great first impression with your prospect and advancing a sale to the next stage.

Although you have the names and titles of people to call and did your research, are able to confidently state why you are calling?

Do you struggle to get people interested in what you are calling about? Do you know how navigate to the proper person if your initial contact isn’t the right person?

The following steps can help you become better at engaging prospects and increasing your success in initial calls.

Step 1:  Prepare for call success

So you think you can get a key prospect on the phone and just “wing it?” You’re only fooling yourself.

The instant that prospect senses that you’re calling them “on-the-fly,” they’ll automatically assume you’re a salesperson and you’re dead in the water. Therefore, you must prepare beforehand.

Ask yourself:

  1. Why should your prospect change how he does things?
  2. Why change now?
  3. Why choose you?

Know How You Can Help

Learn how your organization helps clients and translate what you’ve learned into value-added benefits. What results do clients get after they choose you? It’s vital you explain your value.

For each product or service, create a chart that has:

  1. A column that describes your product features
  2. Another column that addresses at least 5 problems that your product solves

If you sell to multiple buyers, create a table for each buyer type. Review it once daily.

Write it out in long hand, more than once. Continue to absorb it until it feels natural.

If I came to your house at 3AM, woke you up from a dead sleep, and asked you what your product does for me, your response, although somewhat sleep deprived, should be thought-provoking.

Anticipate Objections

Let’s be honest, you’re going to hear objections, perhaps even a multitude of them.

But if you prepare common objections with logical rebuttals, you’ve already built a toolbox full of ways to overcome them.

Build a chart with three columns:

  1. Create scripts of common objections
  2. List how you resolve them with benefits
  3. Present your rebuttal

Then, commit these scripts to memory.

Role Play and Record

Next, come together and leverage the power of your team:

  • Build buyer’s language scripts filled with common objections, dialog and questions.
  • Cover the types of first calls you expect to have:
    • Find-the-right-person
    • Gatekeeper
    • Got-the-right-guy – determine fit, begin discovery
    • Reception / front-desk
  • Role-play calls.
  • Switch roles – you as you, then you as the prospect.

Record role-play calls and review with the team. Discuss and critique. Cover the good as well as the not-so-good.

When you’re ready to send the troops back into the fight, record live calls as well. Play both good and rough calls to the team.

This helps reps spot their own strengths and weaknesses. Always keep recorded calls for training purposes to shorten the onboarding process for new reps.

Step 2:  Prospect

Once it’s time to pick up the phone and dial, use the scripts you’ve prepared in the above exercises and remember the following.

Treat the call as a warm call, not a cold call

Since you’ve done your research & perhaps sent relevant material to the prospect already, you are connecting with someone who you know may benefit from your conversation.

Also, keep a light, casual tone, similar to how you would speak with a personal friend. Smile. People can actually hear you smile, and it improves your comfort level.

Don’t forget that the first call is often used to confirm they are the right person to talk to, or to ask for a referral if they are not the right person. There’s nothing to be tense about.

Gatekeepers are our friends

Many “gurus” will teach you to be stern with the gatekeeper, command authority, and scare them out of their wits.

This may work once with the gatekeeper, but after they catch an ear load from their boss, it will never happen again.

Besides, gatekeepers are real people. Treat them as such.

Win gatekeepers’ trust by being authentic & genuine. Ask their advice on how they think you should proceed.

Make them feel valued. They will work with you, not against you, if you treat them with respect.

Less specificity, more puzzle piecing

Imagine you’re a savvy detective working on a hot case.

Ask questions to piece together the puzzle of mapping the organization and uncover who you should be talking to. Be curious.

Lastly, have your clear benefit pitch (why change, why now, why you) ready and waiting in the hopper, just in case you’re connected to the decision maker on that first call.

It does happen at times, so always be ready.

Step 3:  Post

No matter if your calls are good or bad, if you’ve learned something new on your call, record it in the CRM.

Additionally, I like to have clients record meaningful conversations and disposition calls with specific codes that help us better understand the nuances of the pipeline.

Having impeccable, up-to-date prospect information in your CRM is the key to building a predictable and consistent pipeline.

Eventually, what you learn in your conversations (buyer language, objections, likes, dislikes) can be used as repurposed material for your e-mail messages, nurture content, and even phone scripts to build tighter bonds and faster rapport between you and future prospects.

Your Results Will Blow You Away

More often than not, using the process outlined above, the people you talk to will

  • point you in the right direction,
  • confirm they are the right person, or
  • engage in some level of discovery

In other words, what they heard sounded interesting, was relevant, or they understood enough to route the call appropriately.

About the author

Marylou Tyler

Marylou Tyler is the Founder of Strategic Pipeline, a Fortune 1000 sales process improvement…

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