4 Reasons Your Cold Call Fails in the First 5 Seconds

4 Reasons Your Cold Call Fails in the First 5 Seconds

When you place that first cold call to a prospect, you only have a limited window of time to make a truly positive impression.

How do you build interest fast?

How do you get in touch with the right person?

And what can you do in the first 5 seconds – that’s right 5 seconds – to greatly affect the course of the cold call?

Here are 4 reasons your cold call fails in the first 5 seconds:

1) You Can’t Pass the Gatekeeper

This will happen. Modern day secretaries or “Administrative Assistants” are trained to not let you pass a red tape setup by senior management to effectively filter out sales calls.

But how can a company grow if they are not listening to potential opportunities to find tools or services to grow their business?

Although this baffles me, I do understand how frustrating it may be to get work done when you are constantly being pitched.

Typically, if you know the name of the business owner or financial decision-maker, passing the gatekeeper will be a cinch.

See with the internet, we can Google or go on LinkedIn and easily find a decision-makers name.

It may seem shady, but when you call to get past the gatekeeper; ask for the decision-maker by name as if you have known them your whole life – don’t use Mr. or Ms. or a last name.

Gatekeepers speak to people all day. They usually don’t remember every voice or person who calls and calls back.

So when you get the gatekeeper who picks up with the phone and says:

“Hello this is Robert at Progressive Sales Strategies, how can I help you?”

Your response should definitely include his name:

“Hey Robert, I was calling for Jill, is she available…?”

2) Miscommunication

You can damage credibility extremely fast by encountering miscommunication.

It has definitely happened to me, and it will definitely happen to you.

Don’t interrupt the gatekeeper!

The second it happens you know the call is over because the prospect or gatekeeper will know you weren’t listening, will stop engaging, and quickly exit the call.

It is not fake to make a gatekeeper feel special, because if you get his or her support you will have them working as an advocate for you forever.

A gatekeeper has more influence on the decision-maker than you might believe or realize.

3) You Don’t Ask a Question

So you get the prospect on the line and it’s silent.

Why aren’t you asking a question?

As the sales rep. your call should primarily consist of questions not statements.

Questions will help you gather information and prolong the call.

Statements are declarations – and declarations are typically your opinion when selling – so you need to show facts.

The only statements you should make are ones where you are expressing your confidence in the product, reinforcing it with stats or telling the client why they need the product.

Gather as much information as you can by asking questions until you find a gap in their needs and fill that with your valuable shiny product.

4) You Pitch Right Off the Bat

If you are already asking for the cheque before you have generated any form of interest, you are going to lose the customer before you even have a chance.

Many people will call and subtly hint at the fact that they are selling something.

You don’t want to seem as though you are selling a product immediately but rather the perception should be that you are looking for a solution to a problem by inquiring about the company.

The longer you become involved in the information gathering process, the higher the likelihood that the client will realize you care about their company and invest their dollars in you.

Build trust to the point where the customer is closing themselves because they cannot resist not having your product or service.

So now that you know the 4 reasons why your cold call fails in the first 5 seconds, what should you do to succeed?

Introduce yourself, ask for the prospect by first name, and then ask a fact finding question.

Even ‘how are you?’ can come across as insincere at times and may seem like phony rapport building – it usually is filler talk anyway.

“Hi Jill, my name is Riaz and I work with company x, what type of model are you currently using to photocopy your documents?”

This way you highlight the product you are selling in your initial question – with care and concern.

They will realize you are inquiring about their photocopier and if you ask the right questions they will begin to wonder whether what they are using currently is really their best option.

This is when you can begin to compare and contrast what they have with the photocopier you have to offer.

It is those first few seconds which really have the biggest impact on a new business relationship.

What do you think works well within the first five seconds of a cold call? Or do you even think that the first impression is really the lasting impression?

How do you defeat a gatekeeper? Do you beat them or join them?


  1. Sarah Killoran , on Aug 17, 2012 at 20:10 Reply

    Hi Riaz,

    I completely agree that those are some of the top reasons cold calls die quickly. I just have two points I thought of while reading – depending on the size of the business you are contacting and the type of gatekeeper (admin or switchboard operator), you may want to change the name rule ie; in enterprise businesses the gatekeeper will not generally have as much familiarity with the person you are trying to contact and it’s best to give a first and last name to get transferred directly to their extension. However, if you’re speaking to their EA you’re absolutely right! Also, speaking to your point about introductions, you’re right, “how are you?” is almost never well-perceived. You probably don’t really care and they know that. However, when I introduce the company I’m working for I always tag a description of what we do after the name before asking any questions, to gain trust and garner credibility. Wowza… that was more than I intended to write! Cheers!

    • Riaz Sidi , on Aug 20, 2012 at 14:40 Reply

      Hi Sarah,

      You are right, I didn’t touch on the size of the company which definitely helps determine how to approach the initial cold call pitch. With a big company it can be less of a personal experience, and confusing as to who the right person to pitch would be.

      A brief description of what the company does as you introduce yourself is also another great tip. Unless your company has crazy brand equity, or the product or service description exists within the company name, a brief explanation is definitely warranted to minimize confusion.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Scott Jazey , on Aug 20, 2012 at 14:34 Reply

    This is an interesting topic. There are 3 topics it would seem. 1)1st impression: This starts with the first note you present…yes note or tone. To get a positive response we have to be positive and that is reflected in the first note you project. A higher tone denotes enthusiasm. Too often do we see sales reps show enthusiasm only when the client does. 2) How to build interest fast: Once we have somewhat of a rapport and asked the right questions benifit statements can help. Example: If I could show you how to increase your sales by 20% with a reasonable investment would that be of interest to you? 3) the right person: Again this is dangerous in that we often think the gatekeeper is the wrong person. Often we have to go through filters before we get the meeting from the decision maker. Should we be less enthusiastic with them?? Maybe the simple answer is ask the question : Who makes those decisions?

    • Riaz Sidi , on Aug 20, 2012 at 14:46 Reply

      I think your most important point would be on positioning benefit statements since they can be extremely effective and sincere – and possibly the most helpful tool in closing a sale.

      Highlighting the right benefits to the right client will definitely show them what you and your product/service are capable of achieving.

      Featuring dumping is one of the most common sales pitfalls. And as the cliche says, features don’t sell, benefits do.

      I always appreciate your wisdom Scott.

  3. Ben , on Aug 27, 2012 at 21:36 Reply

    Excellent article Riaz. I consider myself a master of the cold call and I agree with everything you say. Relax and be natural and the rest will take care of itself.

    • Riaz Sidi , on Aug 29, 2012 at 17:35 Reply

      Thanks Ben – do you realize that my first sales job was working for you at All-Stars when I was 16?!

      Thanks to you and Rick for starting off my career in style some 12 years ago!

      I appreciate you reading, leaving the comments and I hope you are doing really well!

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