Case Study: Lessons from a Cold Call to The Phone Lady

One thing I tell everyone: “If you want to get better on the phone, use the phone more often and learn from each conversation.” How did that cold call make you feel? What were your reactions during that customer service experience? There’s something to be learned from every interaction, including a cold call I received last week from

What lessons did this cold call contain? How could it have been a better experience?

Shortly after noon on Wednesday July 12 I answered my office phone. A representative from was contacting me about purchasing a listing. After a very short conversation about our health (which alerted me to the fact that he was going to try to sell me something), he introduced himself, but it was such a mumble that, even though I’ve now listened to the call several times, I still don’t know his name. (Without this proper introduction, it was going to be difficult for him to build the relationship).

His first question to me was, “Do you have availability to take on new clients right now?” This is a pretty good question, but it’s close-ended. If I had said, “No,” that would be the end of our call. And even if I said,”Yes,” it still hasn’t inspired conversation. A better phrasing could be. “What’s your current ability to take on new clients?”

My answer was “somewhat” because, at the moment, I’m almost working at capacity. He wasn’t expecting that answer. It created an awkward pause, and he did not follow through. (He could have said, “Oh, tell me more about that,” expressing his interest in what I do.) Instead of creating conversation, he stayed on script (I’m assuming), and asked, “How far can you service clients?”

So right here I know he has no idea what I do. He has not looked at my website or done any research whatsoever. It would have been very easy to end the call right there. (There is no excuse today to ever call a prospect without at least a basic understanding of their business. Doing this is an insult and indicates your only interest is the money.)

When I told him that I service clients throughout North America, he did not know how to process that information. He recovered by asking, “Specifically talking Canada?” It was awkward. I mean, Canada is in North America.

His next statement was, “What if I told you I had clients in Canada looking for your service right now?” Well, this statement isn’t at all believable since he’s already proven he has no idea what I do. I declined. He didn’t give up; he went to price. “Would you be interested if it was reasonably priced?” I declined again, but stayed polite by saying I appreciated the call.

He kept going (he must have really needed a sale that day). He started listing specific geographic areas – “Can you service clients in Moncton by any chance?” He then asked the same question about Sydney, Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga … proving he hadn’t been listening to me or that he doesn’t understand what North America means. As a prospect, I’m now annoyed.

He decided to top this off with, “Have you heard of Google?” What kind of a question is that to ask someone? Oh, right, he didn’t do a Google search for me before he called, so he doesn’t know the question is insulting. He simply used it as a way to tell me is a Premiere Google Partner, which is an interesting piece of information that could have been included at the front end of his call.

But it got worse. He decided to tell me that in Halifax, “We had 7,684 searches for internet marketing for the company The Phone Lady.” Yikes!

Of course, my response was, “But I don’t do internet marketing.” At this point, the call has taken almost 3 minutes.

Lastly, and perhaps most astonishing to me, as I once again politely tried to end the call by suggesting he may want to follow up in 6 to 8 months (the Google partnership thing did catch my attention), his response was, “Unfortunately I don’t have time for that, and I’m pretty sure you won’t have time either.” I was shocked. I challenged him on this statement, but he couldn’t engage. I ended the call quickly.

How could this call have been improved? Here’s my suggestion:

“Hi Mary Jane, this is Raymond calling from The reason for my call today is that we work with companies throughout Canada, helping them expand their client base through our online directory. We are a Premier Google Partner and, before calling you, I did a bit of research. We have had  7,684 searches for phone communication training in the last 12 months from locations across the country. I’m wondering, in what specific area of Canada would you like to increase your client base?”

It’s possible he would have made a sale. He definitely would have received my full attention.

First and foremost, a cold call needs to be about the prospect. Anything less and you are a telemarketer focused only on revenue; your call doesn’t deserve your prospect’s very valuable time.


10 thoughts on “Case Study: Lessons from a Cold Call to The Phone Lady”

    • This call did offer a lot of opportunity for learning, Steve. And it reminded me how important it is to accept calls during the day. Glad that you enjoyed the case study. I hope my phone rings with a few more. Thanks for the comment.

  1. I had the same call myself, and unfortunately it ended with the agent hanging up on me because I declined. Love your spin on the opening, it proves even when selling a great product it’s really all in the way you say it.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Raelene. I’m sorry to hear the agent hung up on you. This must speak to the pressure they are under to produce results and yet they are not supported in creating great conversations with people. Could be so much better.

  2. Hi MaryJane,

    I was reading this thinking need some PhoneLady training, have you called them back?

    Enjoying your emails,

    • Hi Calvin, Thanks for this comment. I haven’t called them because I’m thinking they are not my idea client. Raelene (see comment below) shared that her contact actually hung up on her. Sheesh! This attitude on the phone doesn’t come from the salesperson, it comes from management. The sense I have is that the sales culture is all about the money, not the client, which indicates I would not have an impact. However, if they contact me, that would at least indicate a desire to be more client focused. Based on your comment though, I will give this more thought.

  3. This is hilarious, MaryJane, thanks for sharing!

    I guess you have more patience to cold calls because it’s your field and because in most cases you are initiating them. My example from yesterday:
    – Hello Oleg, it’s Jahib calling you from Koodo, how are you doing today?
    Koodo has horrible customer service, so if they call, I know they want to sell me something.
    – I’m good, Jahib, what are you selling today?
    He was a bit confused but recovered fairly quickly, saying he’d like to explore some of their monthly plans with me. I know that my plan is the cheapest they have, so I told him I am not interested and wished him well. Looking at the timer it took me 42 seconds and I thought to myself that I have to be more efficient next time, but at least I made the guy feel good by spending the last 10 second on nicely ending the call.

    Anyway, will share your article with my wife, thanks again.

    • I love this story, Oleg. Thanks so much for sharing. And I can tell you that you were likely a bright spot in Jahib’s day. What I love most about your comment is that, since you know they have horrible customer service, then you also know they are only calling to sell you something. Very succinct and I think it is worth a future blog post so … thanks for that!


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