It’s 2018 – Stop Selling Like It’s 1989!

Miserable winter weather recently had me juggling my schedule, allowing me to spend the day in my office. It turned into one of those awesome days of zipping through email, checking items off a to-do list, and generally feeling fabulously efficient. So when my phone rang, I didn’t hesitate to answer and share my good mood with the incoming caller. But, right from their first question, the caller created a conversation that matched the chilly outdoors.

What did the caller ask, and what lesson does it provide for all of us?

The call came from a young (I’m pretty sure) salesperson at and his first question, after asking after my health, of course, was … “Mary Jane, I’m just calling about The Phone Lady – is that business still going for you?”

Yup, selling like it’s 1989, when the only way to research a company was through print directories at the library, or by diligently reading and highlighting newspapers, magazines and journals. In those days we often picked up the phone with very little knowledge. To do so today is irresponsible and insulting.

A sales call like this tells us a lot about the company and its management:

  1. They have chosen to stay uninformed about how to sell and how to teach others this skill in today’s market;
  2. They are focused only on making money, not on building relationships;
  3. They are not investing in or building relationships with their sales staff. Without strong communication and research skills their salespeople would have limited success and there would be high turnover; and
  4. They are wasting their own, and everyone’s, time and money.

With all this information provided in the first 30 seconds of the call, there is no chance I would ever become a customer. And the same would be true for thousands of other prospects.

While it’s easy to be annoyed with the salesperson, it really isn’t his fault. It was obvious that he was following a type of script. I actually stayed on this call for 4 minutes (and no, it didn’t get any better) listening to how he dealt with my responses. He had been trained to ignore me and keep pushing the product, keep asking for the sale. In the end, he didn’t even say goodbye, clearly displaying discouragement and frustration.

Companies that are proud of their service or product make sure their salespeople have the necessary skills to create great conversations with prospects and customers. If you receive a call from an unprepared and uninterested salesperson, know that the odds are the company they represent is also unprepared and uninterested.

P.S. Here’s another analysis of a previous sales call from this company. They are certainly providing me with interesting blog posts!






6 thoughts on “It’s 2018 – Stop Selling Like It’s 1989!”

  1. Hi Mary Jane, this was probably the same day I answered my phone and got an inquiry from a website developer offering his services. He was local but unfortunately the call was a taped message.

    Who in the world thinks that I would call them back if they do not even take the time to be on the call themselves?

    After hanging up, I thought I should have written down his number just to call him back and give him feedback on this bad marketing strategy. Plus your contact information to learn phone skills from the best.

    • Thanks for this story, Jacqueline. I’m surprised that someone local is using robo-calls for marketing and I’d love to know more. If he calls back or you have any more information on his business, do send it along.

  2. Thanks Mary Jane for sharing this experience. Agreed! It’s really too bad when someone calls and completely misses the opportunity to build a rapport. I often feel sad for the person calling because it’s obvious that they are following a script, and checking boxes. The other thing that makes be shudder is the obvious lack of conversational and critical thinking skills the callers’ have who are placing these calls. It’s really too bad, because it doesn’t have to be that way. Everyone loses in those experiences.

    • Yes, Nicole, everyone does lose in these experiences and it ripples out to other honest, interested salespeople that are starting out in their careers. Because of the defensiveness these types of calls create, there is less room, less time, for good people to build their skills. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. In my Yellow Pages days we were even told about these calls. Back then the company was actually a fraudulent one as we were given a document to pass on to our clients regarding This old school, sleazy selling is perplexing in today’s world for sure. They must live under a rock. I also agree, that any company who encourages these types of cold calls is not one to work for nor buy from. Buyer beware.
    A lesson for all of us to realize – if you are a real business and want to truly help the person you are cold calling but unsure how , I recommend a professional like Mary Jane.

    • Thanks so much, Nicole. It is great that you’ve shared very specific experience with It does come across as fraudulent and that is a terrible experience for the salespeople that are likely hired and given some optimism. And thanks for the vote of confidence. Very kind of you and much appreciated.


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