Here’s Why Your Sales Calls Aren’t Working

Attending Dreamforce 2016 in early October continues to provide me with unexpected – and incredibly valuable – business lessons, including new knowledge about today’s sales calls and why so many people think the “cold call is dead”.

Whether you are in sales or customer service, creating results-oriented follow-up calls is a vital skill. Here are my post-conference insights into what an appropriate, enthusiastic and actionable follow-up call should – and should not – include.

You will need to visualize the Salesforce Cloud Expo – it included the booths of over 400 partners exhibiting and sharing their expertise to the 170,000 attendees. I received tremendous value from the exhibitors I visited at this Expo and I know that each of them paid handsomely for their space in addition to their staff, marvellous displays and giveaways.

This is why I never hesitated when someone asked if they could scan my conference pass. After all, this was a Salesforce conference so it made sense to me that everyone would be tracking their metrics, i.e. number of visitors to their booth, number of demos completed, etc. It didn’t occur to me until the very last day of the conference that my information would be regarded as a “sales lead” by every company I visited.

The conference ended on Friday, October 7. I did take a 4-day detour on my way home to visit vocal talent and friend, Natasha Marchewka, in Los Angeles, and then, like everyone else who attended Dreamforce, I arrived home to a bit of chaos – work to complete, emails to answer, phone calls to make – and numerous follow-up messages from Cloud Expo companies wanting to sell me something. Oh my!

Here’s the content of a voicemail message I received on October 11 (I’ve taken out the representative’s and the company name), as well as my brief analysis of this call. It provides a great blueprint for all of us when it comes to improving our post-conference/trade show communication.

Hi Mary Jane, this is **** from ****. Just reaching out. I see you had filled out an appointment card at our booth at Dreamforce. Again this is **** that had the **** shirts and **** boots (and something I couldn’t understand even though I replayed it numerous times). Just following up with you on that. Looked like you’d requested for the 14th sometime in the morning. I didn’t have an email address to send an invite or anything. I did just uh get that from your answering machine here Mary Jane at I’ll shoot you an email there as well. Just wanted to confirm this with you and go ahead and get this set up and we’re excited to show you what our tools look like and see if there’s a potential fit between us or not. Again, we appreciate it Mary Jane. We look forward to speaking with you in the future.

What’s great about this call:

  1. The fact that the salesperson included the company name twice and added details about the booth and what the staff were wearing is very smart. Given that there were 400+ booths, this information is vital in terms of my recall of my conversation with this company.

What I’d change about this call:

  1. The word “just” is used 4 times in this brief message. Just is what I call an “iffy” word. Not only is it completely unnecessary, it demeans the purpose of the call. If you are calling “just” to reach out, then you’ve completed that task and there’s no need for us to communicate any further.
  2. The form at the booth – I do remember being handed a small form as soon as I arrived. I don’t recall that it was about setting up an appointment, and I know I didn’t give them all the information that was requested. I definitely did not ask for an appointment the morning of October 14 and the representative knows that, so he makes it sound like he couldn’t read my writing: “Looks like you’d requested for the 14th sometime in the morning.” It’s never a good idea to make stuff up if your intent is to build a relationship with a prospect.
  3. The entire purpose of the call is about them; they are excited to show me what they have. There is no mention at all about what I do and what the benefits are for me. There’s nothing here that inspires me to return this call or set up an appointment.
  4. If my business was important to this company, if they were confident that they had something of value for me, the call would not end with, “We look forward to speaking with you in the future.” If it wasn’t clear already, this statement tells me they are rapidly calling everyone they met at Dreamforce hoping to reach someone who’s a valid prospect – and they are only going to call once. Again, not about me and there’s no commitment to building a relationship.

My advice:

  1. When collecting leads at a conference or trade show, create a system that indicates to salespeople which ones are warm, hot … and who’s not.
  2. Drop the “iffy” language. I know this company and they have something of tremendous value to offer potential clients, but that isn’t evident in this message.
  3. The purpose of a voicemail message is to either inspire a callback and/or create curiosity and interest in the prospect so that, when you do connect, they are open to listening. You accomplish this by keeping your message short and focused on the prospect, not on you and your agenda.
  4. Even if I wanted to, I can’t call this person back.  He didn’t leave a phone number.
  5. If this person had called and simply said: “Hi Mary Jane, this is **** from ****. You dropped by our booth at Dreamforce and I have one quick question for you. You can reach me at (leave phone number twice) and I’m available today until 3 pm your time. If we don’t connect by 3 pm, that’s fine. I’ll follow up with you on Wednesday,”  he would have piqued my curiosity, indicated his desire to speak with me, and made it sound like it was specifically about me. Even if I didn’t call him back, I would have been open to receiving his next call.

Sales calls and cold calling aren’t dead … they simply aren’t being done very well. More lessons next week.

Enjoy your phone work, everyone!

Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

0 thoughts on “Here’s Why Your Sales Calls Aren’t Working”

    • Thanks, Natasha. Always good to receive feedback on these posts. I really enjoy the analysis so great to hear readers do as well.


Leave a comment

What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.