Ignorant Sales Calls Alienate Potential Customers


One of the first salary cheques I ever signed (back in 1988) was for an employee whose job seems a bit ridiculous today. She read magazines and newspapers, listened to specific radio and television programs, and provided me with detailed information on individuals I could cold call. Every morning I’d find articles, hand-written notes and advertisements neatly arranged on my desk … and I’d start dialing.

Identifying the value of our service for a specific prospect prior to calling them was key to our success. While we weren’t always right in our assumptions, we did build a database of 13,000 leads that continually contributed to our revenue.

Today, in seconds, research can reveal the opening premise for any cold call. There is absolutely no excuse for calling a prospect without knowing what they do and how you can provide value. Yet companies continue to encourage salespeople to make these ignorant sales calls, wasting everyone’s time and energy, alienating potential customers and partners, and supporting the notion that “the cold call is dead”.

I recently received one of these “I have no idea what you do but I’m hoping you’ll buy something from me” cold calls. The salesperson’s company had a booth I visited at the Salesforce Cloud Expo in early October, part of Dreamforce 2016. Here’s an excerpt:

Me: Mary Jane speaking. How can I help you?

Salesperson: Hi Mary Jane this is ***** calling from *****. How are you doing this afternoon?

Me: I’m great. How are you?

Salesperson: I’m doing alright. I wanted to follow up with you from the Dreamforce event. I know you had visited our booth. I don’t know if you remember it or not there was a lot of people that wanted to see us there this year. I wanted to see if you can remember us if any of what we were showing and previewing as our solution at ***** piqued your interest in terms of what you guys do over there at The Phone Lady.

As the prospect, this is what I heard:

  1. He is only following up. That is the sole reason for his call. He’s not interested in building relationship or learning anything more about me.
  2. He isn’t confident that the company, or its booth at Cloud Expo, or its presentations, were memorable.
  3. He knows that the booth was very crowded by people who wanted to see them. In other words … he doesn’t – the company doesn’t  – remember The Phone Lady.
  4. He wants me to sell myself – to tell him what interests me about what they have to offer.
  5. And he has no idea what “you guys do over there at The Phone Lady”.


When we follow up with potential customers, or when we cold call them, we need to answer two questions very quickly: 1.What’s this about? 2.What’s it got to do with me? Then we want to engage their ego – make sure they hear the call is about them, not about our revenue. And then we want to ask an open-ended question to inspire conversation and begin building a relationship.

Here’s how I would craft the call:

Hi Mary Jane, this is ***** calling from *****. The reason for my call, you dropped by our booth at Dreamforce last week. Thanks so much. I know it was crowded and I want to make sure you received all the information you were seeking. I see from your website that you specialize in phone sales and have a large client base. What types of metrics are most important to you when tracking the outcomes of sales calls?

Totally different call … and a totally different outcome – the beginning of a conversation and perhaps a relationship.

What really happened? I had a seven-minute conversation with a salesperson during which I learned about his ideal clients (tech startups), he learned nothing about me, and no working relationship was created. As I said last week, sales calls and cold calls aren’t dead, they just aren’t being done very well.

In next week’s post, I work with a Canadian freelance book designer who’s volunteered to share with you my critique and revision of her cold calling approach.

Enjoy your phone work everyone!

0 thoughts on “Ignorant Sales Calls Alienate Potential Customers”

    • Thanks, Steve. I’m fairly confident you would never make an ignorant sales call. I’m pleased that the script is of value as well. Always good to receive feedback. I know you’ve made a lot of calls this year. If you ever have the time, it would be great to feature some of your experiences here.


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