There seems to be a lot of debate lately, on the proper way and improper way to open a sales call. Gong and some other online platforms have recently published articles taking issue and taking aim at the concept of qualifying time as an opener. 

Firstly, let me clarify definitions on this subject.

– By “qualifying time”, I mean asking some version of “Is this a bad time?” or “Do you have a quick minute”. Specific language can always be debated, but the concept is what I’ll be addressing.

– By “sales call”, I mean an interaction where we are reaching out (cold or warm) to someone else who we are NOT currently doing business with. Be that a first interaction, or a follow up on an intro.

My perspective for this is simple: ALWAYS qualify for time, each time, every time Here’s the thing. This isn’t a religious opinion for me. I’m not motivated by blind faith in this thinking. My position comes from experience. If/When someone shows me a better alternative, I’ll be happy to adapt my approach, but the only alternative being pushed by critics of the time qualifier is some version of “How are you?” or “How’s it going?”. I take serious issue with this approach for the following reasons.

1 – It’s disingenuous or even dishonest. You don’t care how they are, and they know you don’t care. So you’re kicking off on a lie, which isn’t exactly conducive to building trust.

2 – It generates a robotic response. “How are you?” isn’t a real question. It is a verbal tic, and most people who ask it don’t expect it to be answered. Hence most people who are asked don’t take it as a real question. How often has someone given you a real answer beyond “fine” or “OK”? Can you imagine someone responding with, “My lower back has been kind of hurting me lately and my daughter isn’t doing well at school”? You wouldn’t even know what to do with that. 

3 – It doesn’t seek any kind of real information. A time qualifier tells me something in the response. I get a sense if the client is in a position to listen. I have prepared responses for either option they choose to respond with. I gather data on their state of mind and focus. “How are you?” gets me nothing in terms of data. It’s just filler, noise.

4 – It reeks of bad intentions. At BEST case scenario, “How are you?” comes across as an overture of friendship. The subtext is, “I care about you and want to know that you are well.” Problem is that this is sales, not Tinder. I’m not trying to befriend my prospects, because I assume they have enough friends. I’m trying to determine if they have a problem I can fix, or an obstacle I can eliminate. To do that, I need some of their time. So instead of pretending to want to be friends, I’d rather verify they have a little time by:

– Making sure it isn’t a bad time or that they are in the middle of something critical.

– Asking honestly and accurately for a specific amount of time to see if a further conversation makes sense.

Until someone shows me a better way than the robotic, meaningless and disingenuous “how are you?” opener, I am going to keep qualifying for time. I’ve seen hundreds of case studies showing drastic improvement in conversions (assuming it is done correctly) and if anyone has evidence showing the contrary, I’d like to see it. It’s simple science to me. Show me the data.

Don’t get caught up in today’s craze or trend. Sell scientifically using a proper analysis of human behavior. Winging it on the advice of someone’s opinion is never a good idea.