How to Sell and Be Yourself Without Cold Call Scripts

Businessman checks notes while on the phone
••• Reza Estakhrian/ Stone/ Getty Images

If you’ve been selling for a while, chances are you’ve been asked to use sales scripts to make cold calls. Even if you feel scripts are unnatural and impersonal, you’ve probably used them anyway because they were the only way you knew to start a conversation with prospects. Maybe you’ve even made some sales using scripts.

But here are some questions you need to ask yourself.

  • How do you really feel when you use a script?
  • How do your prospects feel when they know you’re using a script? (And they do know.)
  • Most important, how many sales are you losing because you’re using a script?

When learning how to cold call the natural way, one of the first things to do is to role-play with using a script and record it so you can hear what you sound like.

When most people start reading their script, some changes happen. Their voices go up in volume so they sound enthusiastic, they talk faster, and their voices take on a canned, robotic quality. All these things trigger negative stereotypes about salespeople.

To eliminate that problem, consider five ways to throw out your linear selling script and be yourself again.

Admit that scripts make you sound scripted

When you begin your sales script, prospects detect the very subtle change from your natural voice to your unnatural scripted voice within seconds. “Fine,” you might say, “I’ll just work on making myself sound natural.” But that in itself creates a conflict.

The first step is to realize and admit that you can’t work at being natural. However, you can let go of your script as a crutch. The idea may sound scary at first because you’ve been programmed to believe you have to have a script to make a successful cold call. It is possible to learn another way to make calls without a linear step-by-step script.

Start your cold call as a conversation, not a one-way pitch

If you’re used to scripts, you’re probably shaking your head and wondering, “How the heck will I know what to say without a script?” If you're asking that question, it means you’re basing your call on what you have to offer and not on what’s important to the prospect, because you haven’t discovered that yet.

Pitching your solution as soon as you begin a call is one of the biggest problems with linear sales scripts because you trigger sales pressure and cause prospects to react with defensiveness or even abrupt, immediate rejection.

Instead, write down two or three core issues or real problems your product or service solves. Then, take that problem statement and put it into words your prospect can understand. In fact, the phrasing should include words they use every day in their business so when you start discussing the issue, they’ll feel a sense of comfort knowing that your mental focus is on helping them solve problems, not on making a sale.

Create openings rather than forcing a yes

Selling scripts are designed to be linear and step by step so you can move calls in the direction you want them to go. From the traditional selling point of view, that direction is toward a yes, because if you don’t get a yes at the beginning of the cold call, you’re not selling. But that’s the biggest problem with scripts. They give you only one path to follow.

If you can start a conversation that prompts prospects to ask you to elaborate, you’ll find you can explain yourself in a natural way that creates a two-way dialogue, which in turn lets you learn what you need to find out by flowing with the conversation. Developing your problem statement makes this much easier.

Record yourself reading your script

Have you ever heard yourself calling a prospect and reading your script? Probably not. That’s why most people who use scripts think they sound natural. They’ve never heard themselves. But if you do this simple exercise, you’ll hear distinct differences.

In day-to-day personal relationships, people simply want to get to know and communicate with others. Reading from scripts, however, makes it obvious you have an agenda and the people you talk with sense this immediately and put up their guard.

Between your hidden agenda and their reaction, there’s no chance to build trust through communication. Also, because you've been taught for so long that you have to control the process, you never stop to think that scripts make it impossible to be flexible in how you communicate and build trust.

Focus on opening the conversation rather than trying to control it

Does surrendering your use of a script seem scary? Try this alternative and see how it feels. Begin a conversation with “Hi, maybe you can help me out for a moment…” Most people will respond with something like, “Sure, how can I help?” You can say, “I’m just calling to see if (problem statement)…,” which makes it easy for the prospect to reply, “What do you mean?” or “Tell me more.” After that, the possibilities of your conversation are endless.

If you target their issues, create a conversation around the problems or issues you know they’re facing, and explain how your solution solves those problems—in a conversation that is completely void of sales pressure—prospects will share their truth with you. They’ll tell you whether solving the issue is a priority, whether they have the resources to commit to it, and everything else you need to know.

When you let go of a linear script, you’ll find that you’ll no longer fumble for words if prospects get off track by taking the conversation away from your sales process and into their buying process. In fact, that’s exactly what you hope they’ll do because that means they’re telling you the truth.

Now that you understand why linear step-by-step scripts create negative salesperson stereotypes by making it impossible for you to be your natural self, you can begin learning how to engage total strangers on the phone in ways that feel as comfortable as calling a friend.