cold calling, phone prospects

Why Prospects Don’t Answer Their Phone—and How to Change Things


Answering your phone can be a dicey experience these days. Having some off-beat, unhelpful caller waste your time—or worse, insult you—can spoil a good day.

If you have a sinking feeling some of your salespeople may be making such critical mistakes (or heaven forbid, you yourself have tried these call openers), pass on this warning: These call openings can be hazardous to your sales health. Don’t try them yourself at home—or especially at work.

4 Phone Call Openings That Turn Off Prospects and Customers


Forget fake opening lines like these that feign interest:

––“Hi, how’s your day going so far?”

––“Hello. This is Suzanne, calling from Tilco, on a rainy day in Seattle. What’s the weather like there in Miami?”

Prospects know you’re not calling for a weather report, nor wondering whether you’ve had a tough or top-notch day. Such a trite opening substitutes for something more imaginative to say. Hearing that opener simply sets the expectation for a boring interaction and more often than not triggers an instantaneous hang-up.


The Denial

Callers use the denial opener as a preventative measure: “My name is Gary, from Frazier Consulting. Would you be willing to answer a couple of survey questions about your preferences for X?” Starting with a denial signals the prospect that the caller anticipates a hang-up when the prospect realizes they’ve been “caught” answering.

Sometimes the denial opener even pleadingly starts with, “Please don’t hang up. This is not a sales call. I’m with XYZ agency and we’re making a courtesy call about your credit card. There’s nothing wrong with your account. But you may not be aware that there are several features available to you that you’re currently not taking advantage of.”

Once their denial opening has kept a prospect on the line for 15-20 seconds, a caller hopes the prospect has invested enough time to stay on the line and hear the entire message.

The Know-It-All

This caller sounds like God: “Evan Goff here. We’re in the area setting up appointments with businesses like yours to tell them how we can save them between 25-40 percent on their utility bills with a few small tweaks to their operations. Could we put you down for a complimentary consultation the week of the 6th?”

Such arrogant claims with no knowledge of the prospect’s business insults rather than gives insight.


The Goofy Gimmick

Here are two of the slickest tricks:

Caller: “Is Caroline there?”

Prospect: “You have the wrong number. There’s no Caroline here.”

Caller: “Oh, well, maybe you can help me then. I’m trying to reach Mark Hunter and was given this number.”  (The caller is hoping the person will put the call through to Mark Hunter or provide his direct number.)

Variation on the last line:

Caller: “Hmmm. Oh, well, maybe you can help me. I’m trying to find out if a decision has been made yet about….”  (The caller is hoping this person will provide the requested information.)


Another Variation on the Gimmick:

Caller: “Hi, this is Joe. Calling for Mark… Huh, got his last name in my pocket. Hold on just a second.”

Prospect: “Okay.”

Caller: Nope, not that pocket. Sorry. He wrote it on a scratch piece of paper. Mark . . . . Mark, uh…. I’ll find it here in a sec….”

Prospect:  “Mark Hunter?”

Caller:  “Yep. That’s it. Can you put me through please or give me his direct number and I’ll leave him a voicemail if he’s busy.”  (Prospect provides the number or transfers the caller.)

The second time a prospect hears that same stunt, frustration runs high.

So if you’re the caller with a legitimate message, what to do instead of these lame openers?

How to Warm Up Cold Calls

––Be professional, concise, straightforward. Identify yourself, your organization, and the purpose of your call in 20 seconds or less. End with a question that engages the person in dialogue.

––Call only when you have something of value to offer:  Data from a new study. An industry report that the prospect would have interest in. An idea that might have value to their organization. Survey results that would be meaningful to them. An invitation to be your guest at a conference or luncheon.

––Ask questions rather than make declarative statements. Asking questions elicits opinions, uncovers needs, starts a collaboration. Declarative statements typically shut down conversation.

––Expand your network. Get involved in volunteer work to meet your prospects so they know you personally, become familiar with what you do for a living, and welcome your calls when they have a need.

Break these warm-up rules and you’ll get more and more dial tones and fewer and fewer voices.

Learn more ways to improve your customer service communication in Communicate with Confidence: How to Say it Right the First Time and Every Time. Find it at your preferred book seller.


Communicate with Confidence

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