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How Not to Make Sales Calls

Despite a do-not-call registry every business has to deal with sales calls. I’d say MWI averages about three per day. Sadly, almost all of these sales people do things that immediately alert me to the fact they’re a sales person, and none of them get the hook in that they’re trying to. Here’s a list of things not to do when making a sales call to MWI. If you do, it’s the instant hang-up.

1. “How are you?” I can identify a sales call immediately when someone calls and asks “Mr. Steimle?”

“Yes.”

“How are you?”
You see, nobody who knows me ever starts a phone call this way, which means if you do, I know that you don’t know me. I also don’t have any clients or potential clients who call me this way, so I know you’re not trying to give me any money. And if I don’t know you and you’re not offering me money then chances are I don’t have time to talk to you.

2. “This is not a sales call.” There are only two kinds of people who say this at the beginning of a phone call; sales people and credit card companies. Enough said?

3. “So and so worked with you in the past but they no longer work here and I wanted to follow up…” This might work on me if anybody who ever used this line worked for a company that has actually transacted business with me before! Typically the reality of the situation is that I’ve been pestered by a sales person from that company before. I suppose the sales person could rightfully say “We’ve worked on you before…” but trade “on” for “with” and you’re lying to me, and I try not to do business with liars.

4. “I’d like to talk with you about your [telecom, Internet, phone, etc.] needs…” Sorry, don’t have any such needs. Do you really think I’m going to go through the trouble of getting an estimate, filling out paperwork, getting out of an existing contract, switching hardware, and then perhaps getting service that is no better and perhaps worse than what I currently have just to save $10 per month? You could tell me you were going to cut my expenses on telecom by 50% and I still wouldn’t switch. Partly because I don’t believe you, partly because my costs simply aren’t that high to begin with. And even if I were in the market to buy such services, I wouldn’t trust you as a sales person. I’d ask around and find out what other people I know and trust are using.

5. “Let me cut to the chase, how’s your investment portfolio doing these days?” Let me cut to the chase–I don’t have an investment portfolio. A guy called me one day trying to sell me on his executive investment portfolio management program, or scheme, or whatever it was, and he made the mistake of not asking this question up front. I let him talk for 45 minutes while I answered emails until he asked me how my current investments were doing. I told him I didn’t have any. He asked if I was planning on investing. I told him I wasn’t. He hung up. I think he was probably mad about that one, but you know what? I don’t feel all that bad about it.

6. “This is so and so, please call me back at…” I get this type of voicemail once or twice per week. They don’t leave any information except their name and number. They don’t tell me what company they’re with, nor what they want to talk about. Who are these people? Do they really think I’m going to call them back so they can give me a sales pitch?

How to Make a Sales Call

Ironically, nobody ever uses the one approach that would work on me, or at least would get me to listen, and it’s so simple.

“Hi, I’m so and so. This is a sales call and I’m sure you hate sales calls, but if you give me 30 seconds to explain what I’m selling and you’re still not interested, I promise to take you off my call list and never call you again.”

How could I refuse that? I know I’m dealing with someone who gets how I feel. I know he’s only going to use up 30 seconds of my time. And he dangles a carrot in front of my nose, promising to never take up my time again if I listen for just 30 seconds. He invites the best out of me. I’d be a jerk to not give him 30 seconds when he asks this way. And so he’s gotten me to let my guard down and actually feel compassion for him. After all, he’s some poor sales guy who has to call people like me all day and he’s so desperate that he’s even trying to hide who he is anymore.

But who am I to tell a salesman how to do his job? Am I a sales expert? No. Am I a management consultant? No. And maybe I’m the weirdo out there. Maybe other people who receive sales calls respond perfectly well to all the things that turn me off. But frankly, I’d find that hard to believe. But if you’ve got experience that says otherwise please chime in.

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Written by

Hi! I'm Josh Steimle, and I started MWI from my apartment while a college student in 1999. I'm based in Shenzhen, China and responsible for MWI's overall strategy and marketing. I've written over 200 articles for publications like Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, and Time, and I'm the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work. I love speaking to corporations and at marketing industry events. I was recently recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as one of 50 Online Marketing Influencers To Watch in 2016. Read more of what I'm writing on my blog.


  • Tyler

    ha ha i like it. doubt it will work tho. i’m in sales.

  • Dave Cebrowski

    Love it!
    I was in telecom sales long ago, and that is almost verbatim how my opening introduction went. In fact, I still use something similar when I need to call upon someone I don’t have a prior relationship with.

    It works great and my success rate was very high.
    The second most annoying phrase I would hear sales people say is: “what is it about saving money you don’t like”. I bet that one drives you up a wall too.

    • Joshua Steimle

      Actually, I haven’t gotten that one…at least not that I can remember. But yes, it would drive me up the wall, especially since they’d probably be trying to sell me something I currently pay $0 for and don’t need.

      My needs are simple–if someone can offer me a deal on Internet (unless you’re Qwest), phones, cell phones, web hosting, or Ben & Jerry’s, then I’m interested. Other than that, I don’t buy much of anything.