"Hi, this is <Rep> calling from <Company>. Is now a bad time?"

I personally hate this question and don't understand why it is still so commonly used. More often than not, the response is an irritated "obviously it is a bad time, I'm running a business..." 

Instead of opening up the conversation and getting permission to proceed, it sets an awkward tone. As a result the rep falls off tempo and speeds through a quick value prop and the conversation goes nowhere.

A few years ago when this technique first came out, it was a different story. Prospects weren't used to hearing this question so it was pretty successful. But like anything else in sales, once the masses adopt it you enter the realm of diminishing returns. 

Instead of asking if now is a bad time, try doing a little research and making the call opening less generic. This will engage the prospect because they don't just feel like dial #27 on your list of 100 for the day. Get right into the conversation with a relevant, targeted question.

Here are a couple examples to get your wheels turning:

"Hey this is Mick over at Outboundify. I was on your website this morning and I noticed you guys are advertising on Software Advice. Just curious, how are those leads performing for you?"

"Hey this is Sarah over at Startup CRM. I downloaded an ebook from your website earlier this week and I noticed you don't have any automated follow up in place. Are you converting leads at the rate you want?"

"Hey this is Aaron at Web Chat Startup. I was on your website this morning and I noticed you don't have a place for your site users to ask quick questions via chat. Why is that?"

These intros show respect for the prospect's time by getting to the point super fast (rather than asking "is now a bad time?"). They also get the prospect's attention, because you start with a non-generic observation about their current setup, and you ask if they've ever wished it was easier/better/cheaper/etc.

Try it and share your experience!