How to find common ground with your prospect

Published in May 13, 2020

After we found a way to get right through to our potential customer in the How to hack cold-calling article, we will now show you some tricks on how to find common ground with your prospect and make cold-calling easier and less stressful for you.

Having a common ground and trust is the key to a good relationship. We tend to like people more, who are like us and trustworthy, where trustworthiness can be gained by gathering social capital (like doing others favors). According to James S. Coleman, an American sociologist, theorist, and empirical researcher, who discusses his theory of social capital, in his book Foundations of Social Theory it is very hard and time intensive to gain this social capital. But how can we gain trustworthiness and sympathy with a short telephone call? It’s easy: we need to find common interests, friends, ideas… We need some way to show the potential customer, that we already belong to his world and are not intruders coming from the outside, but just a friend s/he doesn’t know yet. Additionally, we need to create curiosity with a hopefully engaging sales story.

Most likely, on the way to calling a company and trying to reach a person of interest, you will talk with a lot of people. Please write down everything someone from the company has mentioned.

Documentation is key

Document the names, the extensions, the department, other colleagues’ names, maybe even projects they work on, and how they work together. When you already got the information, that the company is hard to sell to try to talk with more people by getting to department extensions, rather than individual extensions. Speak with people, who are not directly relevant for your sale but might hold valuable information. If you have got a software solution, also call i.e. marketing and press and ask them, how they currently work. Maybe they mention some pain points that you can later use. Of course, you need a good CRM tool (Excel and Spreadsheets are no CRM-tools) for this task. CRM systems also have the benefit that when you use their VoIP-bridge, they track the time and duration of a call, if the call was answered, declined, lost or successful and will, therefore, recommend the best time to call a company. The combination of your soft facts and the hard facts (data) will give you valuable insights for reaching out without wasting additional time.

Building a relationship

Use of information

When finally getting to your desired person, it is now time to use all the information you gathered prior to this contact. I usually start by addressing the person by their first name saying “Ah, NAME, glad I finally reached you” then continue with briefly introducing myself and the company without telling directly about the taking but by referring to the colleagues I have talked about with who couldn’t help me. Mostly, you will catch the contact person by surprise, but they will carry on with the conversation. Then I did a trick, but introducing my solution without mentioning it, but by asking if s/he is the right person to talk about the field I am operating in: “Your colleagues said, that you are the right person to talk about OF BENEFIT OF MY SOLUTION. I hope that I have finally reached the right person. I need your expertise.” You need to create curiosity. Either, you have done your research right and the person is the right person to continue your call with, or the person is confused, that s/he was recommended. If so, make use of the names and departments you have talked with, to describe your odyssey through the company and directly ask for help and how you could reach out to the right person. Create trust! These steps only work, with the right tone of voice and not sounding like a salesperson. The next step is a simple one-sentence pitch of your solution.

The tone of voice

One additional element is the tone of voice. When you, as a founder get a call from a salesperson, trying to sell office furniture to you, you directly, mostly after the first sentence, will know that the person is a salesperson, even if no product was mentioned. You hear a routine, a script, and some kind of rush in the voice. You immediately will try to reject the person and end the call. When doing a lot of calls per day, it is normal to get into some kind of monotonous chant to save your voice. But what can you do about it? It is rather simple: do a monologue before calling somehow to get in the mood for a talk, calm down, talk slow, and listen more than talk. 

Talk less, ask more

You can train to ask more questions and let the other person talk with a simple game, which we call the “Yes, indeed!” game. In this game, you have to collect as many “Yes, indeed!” from the person you are talking with during a phone call. You do this, by repeating and rephrasing the statement of the person who has just talked and adding “did I understand this correctly?”. The person will then most likely say “yes, indeed” and will continue talking. The difficult part here is, not to add things. Don’t give feedback and don’t add your personal opinion. Just let the other person talk and collect more content and therefore information about the person and their personal opinion. You will see, the conversation will continue fluently and the other person will think that you are a nice person and listener.


In most cases, you don’t close a deal on the telephone. But you need to define what the next steps are. You want to define a project and talk with everyone involved in a potential sale. Following-up is the key here. You need to nurture the person with helpful information (ask what is necessary for the next step and who needs to be involved), to take the next steps on their desired channel (just ask, how they want to stay in contact with you and when it is best to follow-up). Always define the next step and even ask, if they will respond. When following-up after waiting i.e. too long for a response, do it with a clear goal in mind. Don’t follow-up to see how they are doing, but ask what obstacles there might be and when you can continue. Be specific and clear and your expectation and be informed about their company (check their news / Social Media, set up Google Alerts…). On average, it takes 8 follow-ups for a deal.

If you want to get more insights and feedback on your sales, book a mentoring session with Dennis Birkhölzer during the DMS Accelerator program.