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opening lines
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Starting a conversation

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Sometimes, I really do wonder whether some telesales people have had any training at all, or even had a real conversation with a real person. This morning, on answering the phone, the opening line was:

Can I speak to the person in charge of utilities?

Aside from the rather abrupt delivery, would anyone seriously consider this to be a great lead in to a sales call? It’s a closed question, giving me an easy opt-out; it fails to ignite any spark of interest; and it even fails to really explain what the call is about. Cold-calling is a tough job, no doubt about it, but it’s only ever going to be made tougher if this sort of approach is employed.

Whether or not you work in telesales, sales in general, or in any other environment that requires you to speak to others, the way you open a conversation is extremely powerful - powerfully successful, or powerfully not. Our “tagline” at trainingreality is helping people work better with people, and getting this right from the word go is critically important. But be honest with yourself: how often do you really consider your opening line(s)?

What do you want to achieve?

At a specific level, what you want to achieve will obviously vary depending on the purpose of the conversation or presentation, and the “content” you intend to deliver. However, there are some general principles that are worth bearing in mind:

The essential purpose of any of these approaches is to ensure that your audience is keen to find out more. They are not about giving an answer or explaining anything; they are about doing the exact opposite - getting other people’s minds in gear. One of the worst results at the start of a presentation or conversation is if your audience’s mind is still switched off (or on, but on to something else).

What should you say?

There is a wealth of advice and inspiration out there, just a few clicks away. Turning first to the worlds of literature and film, some of the very best include:

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” (Goodfellas)

"Only ever met one man I wouldn’t wanna fight."(Million Dollar Baby)

"What came first, the music or the misery?"(High Fidelity)

"The voice you hear is not my speaking voice, but my mind's voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old.” (The Piano)

“It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs Shears' house. Its eyes were closed.” (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime)

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect." (The Metamorphosis and Other Stories)

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun." (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.” (The Great Gatsby)

"'What’s it going to be then, eh?'" (A Clockwork Orange)

All of these apply one or more of the general principles outlined above. By applying the QIC (Questioning, Intrigue, Challenge) approach to designing the opening line(s) of your presentations or conversations, you’ll quickly grab the attention of your audience, which is surely your primary purpose.

Please press (at least!) one of these.
It costs you nothing, and (possibly) helps us spread the word!