Work at Home Marketing

How to screw up a cold call and lose customers

We all need to market and sell our stuff, right? That’s the whole point of being in business. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to sell.

Sell something the right way and the person is happy they dealt with you and everyone is pleased by the whole transaction. Sell the wrong way – or try to – and it ends up a bun fight.

How Not to Cold Call

A few weeks ago I had the dubious pleasure of receiving a business cold call. By the time the call finished I was so angry I rang my husband at work to vent – the venting took longer than the call. (Hubby ended up being late for a meeting, and told his boss “She was way angrier than you, and I have to live with her” LOL)

Normally cold calls don’t bother me. We’re on the Do-Not-Call register so if we DO receive any cold calls it’s generally for my business. Usually it’s enough to tell the person very clearly “Nope, not interested, thanks for your time” and that’s the end of it. Not this call. Here’s how NOT to cold call someone:

The one thing they did right

They rang during the day. Ring me in the evening and you’ve got me offside from the second I pick up the phone. Business hours people, that’s what they’re for.

I love you forever, what’s your name?

The salesperson introduced herself and told me the name of the person she was calling for – I slightly know this business owner from a couple of forums that we’re both on. Her script, after the intro, went something like:

Our business helps other small businesses just like yours to grow and make more money. Tell me about your business, what do you do?

Huh? You rang me, you help businesses just like mine, but you don’t actually know what my business does?

Imagine you’re in a bar and a complete stranger comes up to you, takes you in his (or her) arms, looks into your eyes and says in complete seriousness “I love you and want to marry you, have kids with you and be together until we die. Oh, and what’s your name?”

You’d be like “Get away from me you freakin weirdo!”

That’s what this call was like. First you tell me your business is to help small businesses just like mine to grow – and then you ask me what my business is? If you don’t know what I do then how do you know that your business can help me?

Do some research. Look at my website – it’ll tell you. That’s what it’s there for (ok, one of the things). Or at least reword your script so it’s not so contradictory and doesn’t make me think you’re ignorant.

Pushy Pushy

I told the salesperson a very brief and general description of what I do. She suggested that I needed to narrow down my niche. I said it was a lot more focussed but my description would do for now. That didn’t please her at all. Did she really expect me to discuss my business in detail with a stranger who called me?

And then she started on her spiel. She was selling a course on creating info-products. I’d seen some details from the business owner on a forum, so I knew what she was talking about.

“No thanks, I’m not interested at the moment”

You know how in sales books they tell you that a ‘No’ is only an objection? Well, this person had been reading those books.

She began on the marketing questions that are designed so you either have to sound like a complete idiot to turn it down or you open the door for more selling. Her question was something along the lines of:

“Do you want to learn how to sell more effective and higher priced information products to your customers?”

Well, what am I supposed to say? “No, I like being broke and not selling anything” how stupid would that answer be? But if I say “Of course I do” then she’s got an open door to keep pushing the sale.

So I didn’t answer. I pointed out that it’s a typical marketing question designed to either open the door or make me look stupid, and I don’t appreciate being manipulated.  And said again “No, I’m not interested in this product”

The pushy got worse

I’m sure she took my ‘No’ as a personal challenge because she continued to try and sell to me. I ended up saying ‘No’ at least three times, very clearly. I told her “I’m not interested and I’m not your ideal client” and she kept on pushing to sell!

At this point I was interrupting her and talking over the top of her. Rude, yes, but it was the only way to let her know I wasn’t interested short of outright hanging up on her.

It ended when I told her (again) I wasn’t interested and was going to hang up. At that point she agreed I wasn’t their client and we said a rather terse goodbye.

Do unto others….

How many of us enjoy having someone disrespect us and ignore us when we tell them no? Who wants to get off a call feeling they’ve just been manipulated and sold something they didn’t really want? Why are these sales techniques still being taught?

A few years ago I read “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by John Cialdini. In it he discusses the brain conditioning and instinctive responses that we’re all wired with. Marketers hook into this brain wiring and structure their questions so we’ll give them the answer they want rather than look a fool.

Marketing or a Used Car Salesman?

Cold calling works – I won’t deny that. But at what ethical cost? Do you really want to sell to someone knowing that they bought because you twisted their responses? That’s why Naomi and Sonia created ‘Marketing for Nice People’ last year, because everyone is so fed up with the manipulative, sleazy sales techniques that are being used. (Marketing for Nice People is no longer available unfortunately, but if you’re looking for a marketing course try the Start Online Marketing 101 – great course!)

The point of marketing is to make the customer be panting to buy the product, to be standing there with their wallet in hand throwing money at you. Not because it’s the only way to get rid of you, but because they can see how that product is going to change their life forever and THEY MUST HAVE IT NOW!!!

Pt 1, the end

After the call, when I’d calmed down reasonably, I sent a message to the business owner to let her know that the call went badly and that I hadn’t appreciated being pushed and manipulated by a hard-selling salesperson. Tomorrow I’ll show you her response, and we’ll have a chat about receiving feedback. Let me just say, her reply was even more entertaining than the cold call!

Melinda Jameson

Melinda is the founder of and started this site to share her best work from home ideas to help other Work At Home Mums become more financially independent and able to spend time with their families.

7 thoughts on “How to screw up a cold call and lose customers

  • I hear your aching ear here, Melinda…Wow…that must have been a very infuriating situation.

    There is a place for persistence. They say that if you put your product in front of enough people they will eventually buy. But I think it’s only true if the product is worthy or if you pick an undiscerning target market. If they are discerning, they will run a mile from this kind of manipulation.

    A message to telemarketers: If a person says no it’s because they mean no. Cut your losses…move on.
    .-= Hayley Solich´s last blog ..Transforming Passion into Achieving Your Purpose =-.

  • @ Marc, sorry to disappoint you but no. I’m not going to name the company concerned. My point in writing the post is to remind people of how they come across and how not to shoot yourself in the foot. Besides, why would I give any publicity and/or links to them?

  • Mel, I hope in part 2 you are going to drop some names. Why are you affording them the safety of anonymity? Name ’em and shame them as they say.

    You have a blog, a Facebook account, and a Twitter account. You are also on the same forum as this business owner right?

    In short, you have a network of people that respect and trust you. Let’s see how stubbornly defensive this business owner is when you make things very public.
    .-= Marc´s last blog ..How to Add the Amazon Showcase Plugin to Your Blog =-.

  • @ Catherine, Part 2 is a doozy….

    @ LaVonne, my brother did telesales for about a year and he was disgusted at some of the techniques they were supposed to use. Was one of his most stressful jobs ever. There’s definately a better way to sell!

    @ Esther, I don’t think she heard what I was saying, it was all about push push push, and when I didn’t give the ‘right’ answers the only solution was more pushy sales.

    I’ve done cold calling too and there’s no way I could treat someone like this.

  • Wow, that is pretty crazy! I know I myself have done some cold calling, but I am pretty sure I’ve never messed it up that bad! It is definitely important to HEAR what the person is saying to you rather than simply trying to push what you have to offer on them. Looking forward to reading the next post!
    .-= Esther´s last blog ..Wellness Wednesday: Sleep! =-.

  • Yes, I can hardly wait for Part 2! Reminds me of the few times I was on the other side of that call, reading a script and sweating, because I knew how disgusting my job was. I didn’t last long. Until I found @copyblogger and Sonia, I thought that was the only way to sell — and I had no intention of ever trying it again.
    .-= LaVonne Ellis´s last blog ..Holy crap, it’s amazing what you can do when you just do it! =-.

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