When you are cold calling a prospect, the contact will have their guard up at a medium level when they answer the phone. Everything that you say will either increase or decrease their guardedness. If you can simply improve your ability to not trigger their guard so that it either stays level or decreases, you will greatly improve your ability to establish conversations when sales prospecting.


Why does this happen?

Let’s first make clear that we are talking about cold calling here, not calling prospects that you know or calling warm leads. As a result, these prospects do not know who you are.

The other factor involved here is that the prospects that you are cold calling are probably likely to get a lot of sales calls. And these calls are often a distraction and usually big time-wasters for prospects.

When you add all that up, if the prospect does not recognize you when they answer the phone, their guard will immediately go to a medium level as they begin to wonder if you are one of the many salespeople that they end up on the phone with and if you are going to try to take and waste their time.


You are a business person. Not a salesperson.

You may read that last section and think, “Well, I am a salesperson so what can I do to not look like one?” One thing to keep in mind is that we all work for a company. And our companies all purchase from other companies. Business is exchanged between companies and there are people that help facilitate these transactions and relationships.

With that being said, start to think of yourself as a business person, not a salesperson. A salesperson is one of the pesky callers that calls the prospect with an annoying, time-wasting pitch and a product that they usually do not need.

A business person works for a company that can help the prospect, doesn’t have an annoying, time-wasting pitch, and has a product that the prospect needs and that can help them.


How to sound like a business person.

Here are some quick tips that take you from sounding like a salesperson to sounding like a business person.

Confirm availability
When you go talk to a coworker, do you walk into their office, sit down, and start talking to them while they are sitting there working? Probably not, or at least you shouldn’t.

Another way to go is to stick your head in the door and ask if they have a moment or if you have caught them in the middle of anything. Once they confirm that they have a moment, you can proceed and enter the office and you have just bought yourself a few minutes.

You can do the same thing when you cold call by confirming that the prospect is available early in the call.

A salesperson doesn’t do this. A business person does. Small change, big impact.

Don’t mention products and services
A salesperson pushes products and services. And when they end up getting a prospect on the phone, they will typically talk most of the time about their company, the products they want to sell, the features they have to offer, etc.

It is important to be aware that this is what a salesperson sounds like. If you know this, you will be able to figure out how to not sound if you are trying to not sound like a salesperson.

One thing that you can do is simply minimize how much you talk about your company, products, features, and services.

Focus on the value offered
Instead of talking about your products, you can talk about the value that your products offer. This is OK because the value you offer is the improvements that you can make on the prospect’s side.

For example, talking about helping a VP of sales to decrease sales staff turnover at the very beginning of a cold call is different than talking about a sales script software that plugs into Salesforce.com.

This will not only trigger less guardedness, but it will also be more interesting and attention-grabbing for the prospect.

Focus more on the prospect
A salesperson typically talks mostly about their own stuff. They often will spend 80% of the conversation on them in an effort to try to build interest and sell. They may spend the remaining 20% on the prospect asking a few questions as they try to close.

A business person talks more about the prospect. To be more like this by spending 80% of an initial conversation on the prospect and 20% on you. This balance can change to become more focused on your later in the sales cycle.

Ask good questions
The easiest way to keep the conversation more on the prospect than on you is to ask good questions. These will not only make it less about you, but they will also create an opportunity for you to gather valuable information.

You may be thinking about what would be good questions to ask. You should ask to determine if it makes sense for you to spend your valuable time with this prospect. Pre-qualifying questions are designed to determine the potential fit between what you have to offer and what the prospect needs.

Don’t sell the product
Of course, an obvious way to not sound like a salesperson is to not try to sell the product. And in reality, a cold call is not the right time to try to sell your product anyways as there is not enough time and attention in order for you to effectively build interest.

Another way to go, and one that will make you sound more like a business person, is to focus on trying to simply sell the conversation. This could be an appointment, meeting, cup of coffee, continuing for a longer amount of time on the cold call, etc.


If the prospect does indeed answer your call with their guard at a medium level, there is nothing you can do about that. This is a result of all of the pesky sales calls that they have answered in the past.

But what you do have control over is what you do, and don’t do, after that call is answered. Try some of these cold calling tips and see if that helps you to sound less like a salesperson and establish more quality conversations.