Ignorance Shatters Sales Skills

woman talking on the phone

In case you’d like to listen to this blog post, you can enjoy my audio version (I start at the 14 second mark.). – listen here.

This past week I answered a call from an unfamiliar number in Ontario. There was a cheerful woman at the other end and the call started very well. Her manner and tone of voice implied that our conversation was going to be interesting and that it was, possibly, of value to The Phone Lady.

I gave her my full attention, setting aside my lunch and moving to a space with few distractions.

That’s when the shift happened. The call moved away from a conversation and into a monologue. Her voice picked up speed and she deluged me with details. I realized the call was not about The Phone Lady at all and decided to investigate.

How did I investigate? And what did I discover?

Interrupting her (which I dislike doing but she wasn’t even taking a breath!), I asked my first question: “Why are you calling me?”

She slowed down but didn’t hesitate to answer while getting back to her “pitch”, saying something like, “Well, this is a marvellous opportunity for businesses etc. etc.”

Then I asked: “And what do you know about my work? About my company?”

Here she stumbled but only for a few seconds. In other words, she’s a polished salesperson. Unfortunately for her, and the company, her answer was: “I’m calling from a list.”

Needless to say, the call ended very shortly after her honest reply.

The word “ignorance” comes to us from 12th-century Old French, meaning lack of wisdom or knowledge, unaware, unacquainted. It is the polar opposite of a sales skill and its presence diminishes all other skills.

I cannot think of one circumstance or reason that any company would ask a sales team to make outbound calls from a list without additional information. It’s archaic, demeaning and foolish. (I’m interested in your thoughts so do share them in the chat section below.)

Even “back in the day”, when I was building a national research firm in the late ’80s, our very first hire was a researcher. Their job was to read and listen to everything – newspapers, magazines, radio. They highlighted or wrote down names and companies for me to call, along with valuable details.

In today’s business-to-business environment, it takes only a few moments to shed one’s ignorance about the companies on a list.

Those in sales management and business development can include this work as part of a salesperson’s responsibility. Or they can hire a researcher. If they want their company to thrive, create trust and loyalty, build momentum and gain a reputation for excellence, they must never ask someone to call from a list.

Some advice to consider:

  • As a salesperson looking for a new position, take the time to verify what the company knows about its target market and how the leads you will be given are generated. If the word “list” minus additional information comes up in the conversation, look elsewhere. (The woman I spoke to was definitely polished and professional. Many companies would benefit from hiring her.)
  • As a business owner or sales manager, it’s fine to purchase a list – but always back it up with research. Make sure your team members know something about the companies they are calling. (While the topic of my recent call was interesting, I don’t vaguely qualify as a possible lead.)
  • As a business owner or sales manager, stop judging your team on the number of calls made. Yes, phone calls are valid and an important part of a successful business-to-business sales process but it is quality that builds revenue, not the number of dials.
  • Already part of a sales team that’s being asked to make ignorant phone calls? Speak up. Share this post. Do some research anyway and prove the difference in the quality of your results.


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.

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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
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  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

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