How to Handle the Dreaded Cold Call Brush-Off

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Art Sobczak
Art Sobczak



At a company's sales kickoff training seminar I was asked what to do when you call a prospect and they immediately brush you off.

The person wasn't asking about the prospect who is simply uncooperative. The one who might be a bit wishy-washy, but remains breathing on the other end of the line -- at least we still have a shot with those people. No, he was referring to those prospects who reply with, "Not interested," or "We're all set," and then hangs up even before you can get your entire opening statement out of your mouth.

My first answer of course was to not cold call, but to SMART Call. I digress ... 

In this type of situation, regardless of how well you've prepared and positioned yourself, and how much you learned from the prospect's LinkedIn profile and other resources, the door still slams in your face.

What should you do?

The rep said that he heard you should you just call back right away and act like you were disconnected.

Oh boy, he read that book. Well, you could do this, but really, is that going to cause the prospect to admire how clever you think are? I doubt it.

First, change your mindset. Let's not make this about you. Instead, consider what might be going on in the prospect's world.

Maybe, just maybe, the prospect is right in the middle of something that is not only important, but urgent. She is under a deadline for a report her boss needs within the hour. She is frantically trying to collect the numbers, and is waiting for a call from shipping. Yours comes in, she dives for the handset, and her balloon is burst when she realizes you are not the shipping guy. Flush, you're outta there.

Perhaps he's in a meeting with his team. One of the members is making an important point, and then, riiiiiiing, riiiiiing ... here comes a call. "Sorry, I thought I forwarded my calls," he sheepishly says. He could ignore it, but instead winks at his audience with a "Watch this" look, and demonstrates how forcefully he can swat away pesky salespeople. You don't know what hit you.

Consider that it could be one of those days for your prospect. We've all had them. The kids were being bratty, traffic made her a bit late, two employees she was counting on for input on a project called in with the flu, and she's dreading a meeting that she has no idea why she is included in. Her email inbox is overflowing, she was just handed the disappointing numbers from the previous day that she will have to explain, and she realized she left the iron on. Your call comes in. The trap door opens beneath you before you know it. 

Or, possibly he is just immersed in one of the ten thousand distractions all of us are faced with every day. Any of which are perceived as more important than the call coming in at that very moment. Your call.

Here's why I get the big bucks to share wisdom. No one is waiting for your call when you are prospecting, and they just might be too preoccupied -- mentally, emotionally, or physically -- to speak with you. Brilliant huh?

But true.

When we accept this fact, and if the prospect is truly one you want to pursue and firmly believe you can offer value to, consider some real-world alternatives.

Instead of calling, try an email, message, or a handwritten note mailed with a real stamp, stating:

"I have the feeling I called you at a bad time the other day. I apologize. The purpose for my call was to run an idea by you that could potentially help you to (fill in the blank with some result they would be interested in). I'd like to ask you a few questions to determine if we have the basis for a conversation. I will call you again on Friday, or you can reach me at 800-555-5555, and my email is .... "

Naturally, if you have any other intelligence, personal connections, knowledge, trigger events, or any other value points, include those as well. The purpose is not to pitch, but to raise a question that the prospect just might want the answer to.

Is this likely to get a high response rate?

No. You probably won't get any response. If you do, yay, big bonus. But, when you do call back, you now can refer to the message you sent, providing another point of reference. And perhaps you will reach them at a better time.

I know everyone won't do this, and perhaps you deem that some prospects won't be worth the time. Okay. Another alternative would be to simply place them back in your calling rotation for a few weeks down the road. They won't remember who you are.

Woody Allen's famous quote is, "Eighty percent of success is just showing up." Big plus if you show up at the right time.

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Smart Calling Online and is republished here with permission.

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