The first 20 seconds of a cold call is about raising enough curiosity to encourage the other person to stay on the line and hear you out, says Mary Jane Copps, owner of The Phone Lady in Halifax.

You’re given only a short time frame to introduce yourself, so a slip of the tongue can easily derail your good intentions. Whether you are calling prospects when they are at work or at home, here are three common cold-calling mistakes to avoid:

1. “I’m just calling …”
Never start a conversation, Copps says, by saying, “Hello, it’s Mary Jane and I’m just calling…”

We tend to say “just,” Copps says, because we’re visualizing interrupting someone. But it also suggests that you already know the call has no value. What your prospect hears is that you’re calling because you don’t have anything better to do. After he or she hears the word “just,” they stop listening.

2. “How are you?”
If you’re calling somebody that you have never spoken with before, don’t start the conversation by asking, “How are you today?”

Telemarketers often ask this question, and it makes a poor impression. As soon as you ask, “How are you?” the person on the other end gets defensive, Copps says.

“You associate that [question] with somebody who just wants your credit card number,” Copps adds. “It takes away from your professionalism.”

3. “Is this a good time?”
People have traditionally asked, “Is this a good time?” when calling others because it was considered polite, Copps says. And it often was a technique taught in sales training. Today, most of us already make the decision to pick up the phone depending on whether we’re available to take the call.

This question can annoy your prospect because he or she probably wouldn’t have answered the phone if they were busy. Besides, this question lets your prospect easily end the call by simply saying that it’s not a good time. It becomes a missed opportunity because you already had them on the phone.

“Everybody is overwhelmed,” Copps says. “So, they look at their desk or email and they say, ‘Well, no, I really don’t have time,’ and it gives them the ability to push you away.”

This is the second part in a two part series on cold calling.

Click here for part one.