How to call prospects who open your email

by Steli Efti
A lot of sales teams use the cold calling 2.0 model that Aaron Ross pioneered and popularized in his book Predictable Revenue:
  1. Send out cold emails to a list of targeted leads.
  2. Use an open tracker or sales CRM (e.g., Close.io) to see which recipients actually open the email.
  3. Call those leads who opened the emails.

This is generally a good approach because these prospects have self-selected themselves. The fact that they have opened the email is an indicator that they are a better fit than those who didn’t open the email.

But there’s a mistake sales reps and sales development representatives (SDRs) often make: They assume the prospect knows who they are or what they are calling about just because the prospect opened their email.

While the strategy of calling leads who have opened your email is good, assuming they’ll receive your call with open arms is wrong. Yet, that’s exactly what sales reps and founders often do.

In this article, we'll look at the most effective ways of engaging—instead of frustrating—your prospects with your cold calls.

How to irritate your prospects within the first minute of your cold call

Let’s look at the typical scenario of how sales reps handle prospects who have no idea why they are receiving their call.

Sales rep: “Dear Mr. Smith, I just emailed you some information and saw that you’ve opened my email. I wanted to see if you had time to look at that information and if you have any questions that I can answer.”

Prospect: “Who are you? What email? I didn’t open any email from you. How did you get my phone number?”

Sales rep: “Oh yes, you did. I can see it in my tracking software here. In fact, I can even tell you that you opened our email yesterday at 17:47 Pacific time!”

I am sure you can agree that it’s not a good way to start a conversation.

What it means when an email gets opened

Just because someone opened your email doesn’t mean that they care about what you sent them, that they’re interested, or that they even read the email. Many people open an email only to delete it.

Even if someone did read your email, they might forgot it the next day. (If no one ever remembers your emails, your emails are probably too generic, and you need to become better at writing effective cold emails.)

Yet, many salespeople refuse to let go of the assumption that just because an email has been opened, it means that the prospect actually read it and cared about what you said. And when the prospect doesn’t react the way they expect, they struggle with this resistance, which creates a lot of needless friction early on in the sales conversation.

To turn your unproductive conversation around, you need to change how you approach your prospect. Let’s look at the two typical responses you might get from your prospects and ways you can engage them instead of frustrating them.

Response #1: “I didn’t get any email from you.”

Here’s a common scenario, in which the prospect has no recollection of opening your email.

Sales rep: “Dear Mr. Smith, I sent you an email yesterday and wanted to follow up with a call to see if you had a chance to look at it and if there are any questions I can answer for you.”

Prospect: “I didn’t get any email from you.”

Sales rep: “Of course, I’m sure you’re getting tons of emails, which is exactly why I chose to go the extra mile and pick up the phone to call you. I don’t want to send you another dozen emails to clutter your inbox. Instead, let’s take three minutes right now to create clarity on both ends and figure out if this is the right fit or not. I have three questions for you, and we’ll immediately know if it makes sense to invest any more time in this. Does that sound fair?”

Rather than trying to fight against the prospect’s statement that they didn’t get your email, you embrace it.

Response #2: “I saw your email, but I’m not interested.”

Here’s a scenario in which a prospect remembered your email but didn’t like it.

Sales rep: “Dear Mr. Smith, I sent you an email yesterday and wanted to follow up with a call to see if you had a chance to look at it and if there are any questions I can answer for you.”

Prospect: “Oh yeah, I read your email, but I’m not interested.”

Sales rep: “Of course you’re not, nothing in that email could have made you interested. I apologize for even sending it. Let me in one sentence tell you what we do and then take three minutes to discover if this makes sense or not. I’ll tell you why I am calling you in the first place: we’ve serviced 10 companies in your area and increased their revenues by 15% on average in just three months. That’s why I’m proactively reaching out to those companies for whom we believe we can create similar results.”

Bottom line: call with the right expectations—none

When you call a prospect who opened your email, don’t have a lot of expectations. Don’t act based on your best-case assumptions.

Your sales script shouldn’t rely on your prospects expecting your call or knowing what you sent them. Instead, you should expect them to not care or know about you and your offer at all. Embrace that reality, and your results will dramatically improve.

B2B cold calling for startups and SMBs


Further reading:

Why you need to call every signup user within 5 minutes!
If you have a SaaS product and offer a trial, call as many users as you can within five minutes of them signing up. Here's why you should do this, and how to do it right.

Should you use a sales script?
There’s this almost religious debate among sales professionals: should you work with or without a script? The answer is not either/or, but instead do both!

Six simple steps to getting started with cold sales emails
If you're not writing cold emails yet, read this first. It's a simple primer to quickly get started writing effective cold emails.