Creating a Better Script for Cold Calling to Get Appointments and Qualify Prospects

July 17, 2015

If you’re a sales professional that’s not happy with the number of appointments you get from cold calling, you aren’t alone. It’s one of the most difficult parts of the sales business. Yet it’s absolutely essential.

If you’re going to be successful at cold calling and phone sales, in general, you have to have a perfect script. Your script is the cornerstone the rest of your sales call is built on. Just any script won’t do though, you need a customized script that’s been tested and refined to deliver the results you need. Here are five questions to ask yourself that will help you create a great script that will work for you.

What’s Your Opening?

Your opening is probably the most important part of your cold call script. You’ve got to accomplish a lot, and you don’t have very long to do it. Your whole opening needs to be focused and hit all the right points — in only three to four short sentences. What should you focus on?

Pique Their Curiosity. Who are you? What do you want? Why do I care? What’s in it for me?

Frame Your Offer. It’s time for your super-short elevator pitch. This is a one-floor elevator ride, so make it short, compelling, and make every word count!

Ask Your First Question. The sooner you get to a question, the better. The best questions can’t be answered with a yes or a no — your prospect should have to do a bit more talking to explain their answer.

Hi Bill, this is Tony with XYZ Brokerage.

I work with [mid-career professionals / new parents / workers approaching retirement / etc.] to ensure their future financial plans are in step with their family’s needs.

The reason I’m calling today is to ask whether your current life insurance policy provides enough income protection for your [family / spouse / children / etc.]?

Option B: Some marketers would say even this short example script takes too long to get to a question. Every prospect audience is different, so it’s worth considering whether this approach would be too long for you. How do you know? If you have trouble keeping your prospects interested with your own script, try a different approach.

Hi Bill, this is Tony with XYZ Brokerage.

I’m calling today to ask whether your current life insurance policy will provide enough income protection for your [family / spouse / children / etc.]?

It’s a similar opening, but tightened up, immediately giving the prospect an opportunity to talk. You might write several script variations early on and test them. See which one gives you better results, and go with that version of your script.

How Should You Respond to Their Answers?

Once you get your prospect talking, you can’t depend entirely on your script anymore. It’s more important to listen and respond naturally to what your prospect is saying. This will take practice.

However, you can prepare a short list of follow-up questions you might want ask.

Do you have a term life or whole life policy?

Who is your current insurance provider?

Who is involved in the decision-making process?

When was the last time [your provider] reviewed your coverage needs with you?

What feature of your coverage is most important to you?

What is your biggest concern about life insurance?

Use your questions to qualify your prospect and to lead into your primary ask.

What Are You Asking For?

When you’re working on your script, make sure it’s crystal clear what the purpose of your call is. There are basically three reasons to cold call a prospect:

  1. You want to sell them something.
  2. You want to make an appointment.
  3. You want to send them information.

Most telemarketers have given up on option number one altogether. It isn’t effective. The primary reason? In a single 2- or 3-minute phone call, you haven’t had time to develop a relationship or build a rapport with your prospect. You end up trying to close too soon.

Say you instead want to make an appointment. This is the equivalent of asking for a second date. You want to gauge the interest of your prospect because you think you’re a good match.

Going for an appointment can be a good test to confirm your hunch about a hot prospect. This approach is a good option when the prospect has offered information, answered questions, maybe asked you a question, as well.

Bill, I’d like to schedule a time to learn more about your coverage needs and tell you about some products that could [save you money / give you better protection / etc.]. I have Thursday and Friday afternoons available next week, which is best for you?

Asking for an appointment will either confirm a strong interest or betray resistance. Even if your prospect isn’t ready for an appointment, the sale isn’t lost yet. Use the opportunity to send them information as a fall-back ask.

Bill, I’m glad you’re happy with your current coverage. Thanks for your time today. If I were to run across a policy that could [offer better coverage / save you money on premiums], could I send along that information?

Great, which would be better? Email or your home address?

Some people just prefer to read things over on their own. You may well be able to qualify this lead after sending them more information.

To get the most out of this information ask, practice transitioning easily from a prospect’s rejection of setting an appointment to offering to send the information. Work to eliminate any vocal giveaways that you seem to be scrambling to save the call or keep the prospect on the line.

If the prospect isn’t interested in an appointment or more information, thank them for their time and move on.

Well Bill, I appreciate you taking the time to talk today. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Are You Taking Enough Notes?

You should be taking a lot of notes when you’re testing out a script with actual prospects. Not only do you need notes on your prospects to help you qualify and close, you need to take notes about how your script is performing.

Later, after you’re off the phones, take your script notes and crunch the data.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you able to make it through your opening with enough prospects?
  • Are prospects answering your questions?
  • Are you learning necessary information: Why they’ll buy? Why they won’t buy? Etc.
  • How do prospects respond to your appointment request?
  • Are you getting enough appointments with prospects?
  • Do enough prospects agree to receive information?

If you’re able to answer most of these questions with some call percentages or hard numbers, you are well on your way to creating a better script. Can’t get to questions? Fix you opening. Getting turned down for appointment requests after a good Q&A session? Change how or when you ask for appointments.

Are You Testing and Refining Enough?

The most important aspect of our script isn’t what you come up with to start. It’s that you end up with something that’s effective.

Don’t be satisfied with something that isn’t working. If you call enough prospects, you won’t even need to look at your notes — you’ll know that part’s not working. Fix it.

Try two or even three alternatives. Yes, this will take time. You’ll have to learn these alternate versions well enough that you aren’t stumbling over your words, but you may end up scraping parts of it.

Testing will also take some time. Give each script version time to work. Use each version for several days, a week, or longer, to give yourself a clear picture of whether this is better than what you had before.

Put time into it, and you’ll end up with a cold calling script that works for you, that gets you more appointments, and lets you qualify more prospects.

About Troy Wilson