I’m sure you know how busy your prospects are, especially if you sell to anyone higher than a mid-level manager. The typical executive has at least 40 hours of unfinished work on his desk at any time, receives more than 150 emails each day and runs from meeting to meeting from early morning to late afternoon.

I have had countless conversations with salespeople about this topic and it still surprises me how many feel that “Hi, how are you?” is an effective way to open a sales call. People argue that this is a natural way to start a conversation with a friend so why not with a prospect? First of all, prospects are not your friends — at least not on the first call. And second, this is not a personal chat, it’s a professional dialogue.

“Yeah, but it’s a good icebreaker” you might say. Wrong again. You don’t need an icebreaker on a business call. You don’t need to warm up your prospect or engage in small talk. It is much more effective to introduce yourself and say “I know you’re busy so let me get right to the reason for my call” or to simply launch into your value proposition.

What about rapport? Business executives have little or no interest in any type of rapport-building conversation until you have established some level of relationship with them. And you will achieve this if you can show respect for their time. Opening a cold call with “Hi, how are you?” does not achieve that goal. However, getting to the point of your call does.

Consider this quote from one of my clients: “I don’t want a relationship with the salespeople who call my company. I just want to know if it makes sense to spend time speaking to them.”

Are there exceptions to the rule? Absolutely! It makes sense to use this approach when calling a prospect you already know. However, if you are making a cold call, you can increase your credibility — and efficiency — by avoiding the impulse to say, “Hi, how are you?” when you connect with someone for the very first time.

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