Top 10 Sales Openers for Outbound Prospecting
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Outbound prospecting is one of the hardest jobs and it all starts with sales openers.
Hundreds of tactics for opening a sales conversation have come (and gone) over the years to help reps generate results with their cold outreach.
Over time, some approaches become obsolete, others gain relevance, and new tactics often emerge on the scene to compete with existing strategies.
To stay relevant as buyers evolve, reps should be aware of the different cold intro tactics being used today and adapt to what best resonates with prospects.
Here are 10 effective sales openers that reps can leverage in cold prospecting to start more sales conversations via email, phone, social, and other outbound channels.
Sales Opener #1 – Be Direct with a Reason
Prospects don’t give reps much time to generate interest. The more time that goes by without relevance or purpose to the outreach, the more skeptical buyers get.
Direct approaches in a sales opener are a proactive way to capture attention. A clear reason behind the call or email can help dispel fear, show intent, and build trust with prospects.
Example 1: “I’m reaching out to you because…”
Example 2: “The reason for my call is…”
Example 3: “I’m connecting to learn more about…”
By getting to the point quickly and transparently, salespeople can better qualify, test value propositions, and gauge interest within the opening line of a conversation.
Sales Opener #2 – Make a Behavioral Observation
Company plans, team operations, initiatives, and deal stakeholders change. The real-time behavior of a target account or prospect can be used to start a relevant sales conversation.
Behavioral observations show a salesperson has done the research, tried to connect the dots, and has identified a potentially relevant topic that prospects might find meaningful.
For example, a company might be preparing to launch a product/service in a new market. A prospect might be in the middle of hiring new team members. Individual contributors might be complaining about their experiences with a specific vendor or pain point.
To make sales openers stand out, reps can use recent buyer behaviors to be more relevant, build rapport, and generate curiosity towards a productive conversation.
Sales Opener #3 – Open with a Relevant Inquiry
Can targeted questions be effective in sales openers?
People love to answer questions. Not only do they get permission to talk about themselves, but they also get the chance to express their opinions about a topic to someone else.
With the right kind of question, reps can make a sales conversation more engaging by focusing on what the prospect thinks rather than what the salesperson wants.
Example 1: “Do you think Account Executives should always do prospecting themselves?”
Example 2: “I’m curious if you’re a fan of letting SDRs spend their time on social media?”
Example 3: “How has the experience working remotely been for you?”
While questions can create curiosity, it’s important to be careful about which ones to ask and understand how they can be perceived. Prospects can easily feel challenged by questions that are too direct, presumptive, or inauthentic.
By asking a well-framed question in the sales opener, reps can increase the chances a prospect reciprocates with a positive response and engages in a conversation.
Sales Opener #4 – Follow-Up From Other Channels
Ultimately, salespeople are in charge of guiding buyers through the journey of becoming a customer. This includes being professionally persistent and staying on a prospect’s radar.
Prospects are busy people with a workload, team, and career to manage. It’s usually rare to connect with a prospect on the first touch, which is why following up is so important.
Rather than using the same sales channel for a follow-up, reps can reach out on different channels and mention their previous outreach as the context in the opener.
With good sales follow-up across multiple channels, salespeople can stay firmly on a prospect’s radar and maximize the chances that they connect at the right time.
Sales Opener #5 – Use Tactical Empathy
Salespeople have gained a bad reputation among buyers over the years. Many prospects are so numbed by cold outreach that they automatically see salespeople as ingenuine or annoying.
Using tactical empathy is a powerful way for salespeople to disrupt the normal patterns of cold outreach, humanize the experience, and show that they understand a prospect’s world.
Salespeople are more relatable when they focus on the prospect, emphasize the prospect’s needs, and show genuine interest in their situation.
Example 1: “How’s it going?”
Example 2: “Thanks for taking my call.”
Example 3: “How have you been?”
While it may be simple, recent data from Gong showed that using tactical empathy in a cold call performed 6x better compared to baseline sales opening strategies.
Sales Opener #6 – Highlight News or Events
Information exchange is the core of human-to-human communication. The right new insights, recent news, and relevant market events can be incredibly relevant to prospects.
Intelligence on competitors, emerging best practices, upcoming regulations, or personalized research about an account can be catalysts for a productive sales conversation.
When salespeople exchange valuable information in a cold intro, it immediately shows they are prepared, well-researched, and can understand important elements of the buyer’s world.
With value provided at the very beginning, reps can increase the chances prospects reciprocate the communication through a positive response or curiosity.
Sales Opener #7 – The ConnectAndSell Opener
Opening a sales conversation is an uphill battle and can often make a prospect feel ambushed.
While salespeople are usually the ones in fear during cold prospecting, it’s buyers who are often afraid of a random stranger with unknown intent disrupting their day.
Like hostage negotiators, reps must learn how to dispel fear quickly so that they can gain enough trust to transition into a productive conversation.
To remove fear from cold outreach, a salesperson must show they understand the prospect’s world by owning up to the disruption they caused and showing empathy towards the situation.
ConnectAndSell uses a methodical sales opening strategy to transition from fear to curiosity.
Example 1: “I know I’m an interruption… Can I have 27 seconds to tell you why I called?”
Example 2: “You’re not expecting this because I’m reaching out for the first time…”
Example 3: “I understand this is abrupt. Do you mind if I take a minute to tell you why I called?”
By dispelling fear in the sales opener, it’s easier to connect with reluctant prospects and build more curiosity towards a positive sales conversation.
Sales Opener #8 – Open with an Offer
Incentives are a powerful way to engage with prospects and build momentum towards the right next steps while keeping conversations focused on buyers.
Rather than opening a cold conversation, present an attractive offer in exchange for a chat.
An upfront offer gives prospects immediate value to consider and helps create a more engaging, meaningful pre-sales experience versus competitors.
Offers like an audit, trial, interview invite, or solution comparison are great examples of incentives that can capture attention and show prospects the benefits of a conversation.
Sales Opener #9 – Mention Past Experiences
Relationships between people are at the core of any sale. Any past connections, interactions, or experiences with a prospect can be useful in starting a future conversation.
Unfortunately, salespeople often don’t get many opportunities to create relationships with buyers or build the right rapport before they start reaching out.
However, this doesn’t mean relationships can’t be nurtured beforehand!
Interactions as simple as engaging on social, attending similar events, or having mutual connections can be effective ways to break the ice with sales openers.
Example 1: “I noticed we both attended the same event last week and wanted to reach out.”
Example 2: “I had a great chat with you on LinkedIn yesterday, so I wanted to intro myself.”
Example 3: “I loved your interview with my good friend __ and wanted to connect with you.”
As insignificant as the experience might be, referencing shared moments in sales openers can help capture attention, remove fear from the situation, and quickly build rapport.
Sales Opener #10 – Use Professional Humor
Sales outreach often overwhelms buyers, which is made worse by cold prospecting techniques being too similar and systematic. Distractions, noise, and repetition are everywhere in sales!
Unfortunately, buyers are constantly bombarded by sellers. Many prospects avoid, disregard, or be skeptical of any cold conversation with a random professional.
To dismantle these defenses, reps can use humor in a sales opener. Professional humor brings more authenticity, relatability, and positive emotion to the start of a conversation.
While there are nuances to effectively integrating jokes and playful humor in prospecting, sales leaders like Jon Selig are helping many teams improve results by using professional comedy.
The ability to start new sales conversations is a powerful skill.
Today’s buyers are evolving their behavior towards salespeople faster than ever before, which makes it easy for cold prospecting strategies to quickly become overused or irrelevant.
While many cold intro tactics are used successfully for salespeople today, it’s critical to stay aware of performance over time and be flexible to new changes in the market.
By keeping these 10 different sales openers in mind, reps can be adaptable with how they start outbound conversations and provide more personalized experiences for prospects.