“What’s a good opening line when prospecting?”
Next to: “How do you get past voice mail?” this question is most often asked by sales reps who attend my training sessions. Anyone in sales knows how difficult it is to capture a prospect’s fickle and fleeting attention especially if you sell “like” or “identical” products or services. And if you can’t grab their attention you are not going to sell them.
Here is an opening statement that has had some remarkable success and is something you might be able to adapt to your situation.
The McCarthy Opener
It’s called the McCarthy Opener because I stole it from Ryan McCarthy, a sales rep for Softchoice Corporation, a company that sells computer hardware and software. You can’t get a more “like” product than hardware and software. I have taken a few liberties in the example below, but the key components of Ryan’s approach are evident:
“Jim? This is Ryan McCarthy calling from Softchoice Corporation. We are a reseller of hardware and software technologies.
And Jim, believe me, I know you can get this kind of stuff at a lot of different places. But we really do things differently here at Softchoice to add value for our customers by helping them, among other things, develop strategies to mitigate legal risks associated with software purchasing.
If I have caught you at good time, I would like to ask you some questions and, if it makes senses to do so, provide you with a presentation that explains how Softchoice approaches the market.
How does that sound?”
When I first heard Ryan deliver this opening statement, my jaw hit the desk. It seemed so flippant, so off the cuff that I had difficulty imaging that anyone would give him the time of day. Well, I was dead wrong. Ryan went three for three on getting clients to listen. He also used it as a voice mail message and got a response. He explained that he had tested numerous opening statements and this one had the best hit rate.
After giving it some thought, it occurred to me that this opening statement works because it has the right mix of words that conjure up positive thoughts in the client’s mind. When you look at the opening statement you will see there are four distinct parts.
Part #1: Identification
Pretty standard here: Ryan introduces himself and his company. He also includes a very brief description of what Softchoice does. This is helpful for a prospect that may not be familiar with the company.
Part #2: The Hook
This is where the opening statement really excels.
Ryan’s hook begins when he says “…believe me, I know you can get this kind of stuff at a lot of different places.” The statement is absolutely refreshing and candid. No one expects a sales rep to be so forthright; so blatantly honest. Consequently, it catches the prospect off guard and because it does, the prospect is drawn further into the opening statement. He listens because he is intrigued. You can almost hear the prospect say, “Wow, that’s a line I haven’t heard before.”
Because the prospect is truly listening it makes the second part of the hook more effective. The second part of the hook is the benefit statement. Ryan refers to how Softchoice can help mitigate legal risk associated with the use of software licensing. To an IT director at a business firm, this is a pertinent topic. (Ryan has other benefits that he can insert here as well).
Part #3: Reason for the Call
The third part of the opening statement is the reason for the call. Ryan’s reason for the call is to set up presentation call. It is NOT to sell, it is not to send a proposal, it is not to provide a quote and it not even to set up a face to face presentation. For the prospect, the reason for the call is relatively harmless. In other words, there is no concern that he will be ‘pitched’ a product or a service. This helps drop the reserve that many prospect have with unknown vendors.
Ryan positions it effectively too. He uses the phrase “…if it makes sense.” This is an excellent choice of words. Again, the prospect does not feel he is being “pitched.” He understands that he is not being cornered. The implication is that if it doesn’t make sense then the call will go no further. The prospect is put at ease and is more receptive.
Part #4: The Bridge to a Dialog
The last part of the opener is very ‘techniquey’ but very effective. Using the phrase, “if I caught you at a good time…” Ryan shows respect for the prospect’s time but he inserts that thought with a request to ask a few questions. He sums it up by asking: “How does that sound?” What this statement really does is it stops Ryan from talking further and gets the prospect engaged in the dialog.
If the prospect says yes, the first ‘sale’ has been made. Ryan has sold the prospect on asking questions. At this stage, Ryan goes on to qualify the account and determines if a follow up presentation makes sense.
Speaking of presentations, Softchoice did their homework. They developed a compelling USP – unique selling proposition- and bundled it into an effective presentation. Obviously, for this opening statement you need to understand and develop your own unique selling proposition. You need to be able to articulate what makes you “different.” You don’t necessary have to have a Power Point presentation but you should certainly have a clear and concise message.
The McCarthy Openers works well in almost any industry or market. I have “borrowed” the template and tested it with several other clients. It doesn’t work 100% of the time but it does get more people to listen further. It works well because it is different and unique. Prospects have become jaded with slick and cheesy openers. This opening statement cuts through the clutter because it is bold and brassy. It tells it like it is and prospects seem to respect it. Give it a try.