The one thing you should NEVER say on a cold call

3 things never to say on a cold call

Cold calling is one of the most dreaded aspects of sales. I have already written posts about getting past gatekeepers and defrosting the cold call, but there are still numerous ways we can improve and polish our initial approaches. Today I’m going to share with you one of the most common phrases I have heard used for “introductory calls” (my preferred name for “cold calls”), why you should NEVER say it, and an alternative to increase your prospect’s receptivity.

The Chilling Cold Call Phrase

“I know you’re busy, but I’ll just take a minute of your time…” On initial inspection, the phrase seems fairly innocent – you’re acknowledging that the person is busy, and that you’re respecting their time… Right? WRONG! Here are three problems with this opening sentence:

Cold Call Mistake #1: “I know you’re busy”

Okay, so if you knew I was busy, then why did you call me? You’re assuming that they’re busy with something that trumps the importance of your call. It immediately puts you and your agenda on the low ground, and you have lost all of your posture.

By the way, since when did their time become more important than yours? Don’t they have the same 24 hours in a day? We are often tempted to use these words because we mistakenly picture in our minds that they have back-to-back meetings, while we have the whole day to make our sales calls.

Cold Call Mistake #2: “But I’ll just take…”

Hold on, we don’t even know each other, and you already want to take something from me? Once again, these words communicate desperation and self-interest (which is not always bad, by the way!).

Cold Call Mistake #3: “a minute of your time”

Just one minute? I guess what you’re calling about isn’t important then! These words stink of over-promising and under-delivering. No meaningful amount of conversation can be made in under one minute, and invariably these calls exceed the promised limit.

The Alternative

There is another way to be courteous and respectful of people’s time without burying your dignity in the sand. Here’s my alternate suggestion: “Have I caught you at a good time?” It doesn’t lower your posture. It doesn’t stink of self-interest. You are being polite. Anecdotally, there are three ways prospects will respond to this phrase:

“Yes, I can talk”

“No, can you call me back later?”

“It depends on what the call is about!”

If they say “No,” this gives you an opportunity to reschedule a call when you know they will be receptive. If they say “It depends…” they are giving you permission to state your reason for the call. You have absolutely nothing to lose by using this phrase!


When making introductory calls, we must be careful not to undervalue our proposition, sound desperate, and over-promise from the get-go. The alternative is to ask a simple and polite question “Have I caught you at a good time?” You’ll preserve your self-esteem, posture, and launch the discussion on the right foot!

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