Attention, Salespeople: How You Introduce Yourself Matters

The first moments of any sales interaction are crucial. Here's how to make the most of them.

Time to read: 2 minutes

John Barrows
Owner, j.barrows LLC

In today’s world, we have literally seconds to get people’s attention, which is why the first few words that come out of our mouths on a call, or the subject and first lines in an "introducing yourself" email, can make all the difference for whether or not people engage with us.

Think about it — when you look at emails on your mobile phone, you look at the name of the person. And if you don’t recognize the name, you look at the subject line. And if the subject line doesn’t capture your attention, you delete the message or move on. If you get a call from an autodialer and realize you’ll have to say hello twice because of the slight pause before the rep starts talking, I guarantee you’ll hang up after your first hello.

I like to use the old “attention, interest, desire, action” (AIDA) model referenced in the film Glengarry Glen Ross as a guideline to help me structure my messaging. In 1898, a guy by the name of Elias St. Elmo Lewis came up with the AIDA model. Before someone buys something, it first needs to get their attention. Then they need to be interested in it, then they have to have a desire for it. Finally, they act.

Why prospecting is about the next step

The decision to give or deny attention is made in the first few seconds, which then earns us a few minutes where we can gain their interest. We can then work to create desire and move them to take action. Prospecting isn’t really about selling your products or services. It’s about selling the next step. It’s about selling time. When you’re prospecting, you’re selling attention and interest. In terms of attention, there’s one universal truth in sales and human behavior that I’ve found to be accurate no matter where I go: The number one thing on the planet that everyone loves talking about is themselves. This is also the number one problem in sales: We all love talking about ourselves. This is why the “I’d like to introduce myself to you” email never works. No one cares. This is also why I try to avoid boring the client with the first three slides in every company slide deck (1-Background/history, 2-Awards, 3-Client List) and try to focus more on what I know about the client. If you want to get someone’s attention, focus on them, not you.

Stronger options for introduction emails and calls

For some tactical takeaways, here are a few weak introductions followed by stronger options to consider when making calls and trying to get people’s attention:
  • Weak: Hi, How are you today? (You don’t care and they know you don’t.)
  • Stronger: Thanks for taking my call. (Still nice, but now you can get to the point.)
  • Weak: Is this a good time? (Is it ever a good time?)
  • Stronger: Do you have a few moments? (Quantify what you’re asking for.)
  • Weak: I’m sorry to bother you. (Causes your prospect to think “Okay great, you’re going to tell me this is going to be an annoying conversation before we even start? Fantastic.”)
  • Stronger: Can you help me? (Plays on people’s fundamental desire to help.)
  • Weak: I’m just touching base, checking in, etc. (My least favorite. It implies there is no reason for your call so therefore there is no reason for the prospect to talk with you.)
  • Stronger: The reason for my call is … (My absolute favorite intro. It gets right to the point without being rude.)

My personal cadence every time someone picks up the phone is: “Thanks for taking my call, do you have a few moments? Thanks. The reason for my call is …” Then I get into the reason for my call and ideally it’s based on something I know about them. Having a reason for your call makes all the difference in the world when it comes to your confidence in making the call, along with the other person’s willingness to accept and engage with you.

Find out how you can help your sales team convert more leads into opportunities.

The number one thing on the planet that everyone loves talking about is themselves. This is also the number one problem in sales: We all love talking about ourselves.”

John Barrows | Owner, j.barrows LLC

About the Author

John Barrows
Owner, j.barrows LLC
John Barrows provides sales training and consulting services to leading companies like Salesforce, LinkedIn, Zenefits, Box. His previous experiences span all aspects of sales at every level, from making 400 cold calls a week doing inside sales to running sales as a VP for his first start up and selling it to Staples. He’s an active sales professional who has learned much about what works and doesn’t work in sales, and loves sharing the tips and techniques he has found to have had an impact. His main goal is to improve the overall education and quality of sales.

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