How Do You Deal with Rude People When You Cold Call?

What makes a call “cold” is that the person you are calling is not expecting your call. Because they are not expecting your call, you interrupt their day, even if they aren’t doing anything important when you call them. You can never know who you are calling, and even looking at Linkedin before dialing the phone doesn’t provide any information about their general disposition or their current mood.

Occasionally, you are going to run across what we might describe as “grouchy” people. The very nature of “grouchy” people is to be “grouchy.” What follows here are some ideas about how to deal with people who are rude to you when you call them to try to help them improve their results.

It’s Not About You

The first thing you need to know about grouchy people is that your phone call did not cause them to be irritable, angry, or upset. They were in a bad mood before you called them because that is the state they choose each day. Your call was no different than the car in front of them that wasn’t going fast enough, the long line they had wait in for coffee, or the fact that they had to park in the overflow parking lot because the main lot was full.

Don’t believe that your cold call to a rude or difficult person has anything to do with their response, no matter how rude or angry they are, and even if they hang up on you. Salespeople are responsible for helping people get better results, something that isn’t always easy to do. You will struggle with people even when they engage you to help them with the better outcomes they need.

Some Choices as to What to Do

The very first B2B cold call I made ended with my prospective client hanging up on me. He told me to call him back when I no longer needed a cold call script. When I asked for advice as to what to do, I was told to call him back and tell him I didn’t need the script and ask for an appointment. It’s hard to call someone back when they just hung up on you, but I made the call and got the appointment. I also learned not to sound scripted.

This was my very early initiation into the idea that as a salesperson, you are not inferior to your clients. You are not something less than they are, regardless of their title, age, experience, or any other factor. There is no need to be servile or excessively deferential. Nor is there any reason to be conflict-averse when you can exercise diplomacy instead.

When They Hang Up in Your Face

One choice you might make when someone hangs up on you is to move on, dialing the next number without giving it a second thought. Maybe you caught the person at a bad time. You have more prospective clients you need to call, and you can always try this excessively grouchy person another time, and if you’re lucky after they’ve had their coffee (even though that isn’t their problem).

You might also choose to call them back, exercising diplomacy, apologizing, and asking for the meeting you called for anyway. If the idea of calling again frightens you, you need to know two things. First, no one will drive to your office and hurt you for calling them back, so there is no real danger in calling again. Second, you don’t have your prospect’s business now, so there is nothing they can take away from you.

You can always call back, and say, “I am sorry I caught you at a bad time, and I want to apologize, I know you weren’t expecting my call. I hope your day goes better, and I’ll try you again some other time. I’ll send you an email so you can reach out to me should you need anything.” By making this call, you prove you are not afraid of your grouchy prospective client. You also provide the idea that you are going to call again later and that you truly want a meeting.

Could making this call upset your contact? Of course, it could. But so could the fact that they ran out of staples.

When They Hang Up II

When your contact hangs up on you before you can even tell them why you are on their phone, you may want to modify your diplomatic call, adding the reason for your call.

You might say, “I am sorry I caught you at a bad time, and I apologize. But I would like to tell you that the only reason for my call is that I believe I can help you get better results in this area, and if that might be helpful, I’d love to meet with you to share more.”

The likelihood of the person still being grouchy is still relatively high. They’re already grouchy. There is also the possibility that your contact hangs up in your face a second time. No matter the outcome, you have distinguished yourself as someone who might be worth working with because you aren’t afraid of them.

The Worst Client I Ever Had

You would be hard-pressed to find a client meaner than one of my first very large clients. She would yell at me, curse at me, call me names, question my intelligence, and criticize my team. I was doing good work for her, but nothing was enough to make her happy. She was perpetually difficult.

One day, I was visiting her in her office when she threw herself into her chair, exhausted and emotional. Then she shared with me that she was working twelve hours a day or more, and then going to stay at the hospital with her husband who had cancer and had undergone a number of surgeries. None of her anger was really directed at me, and I recognized that most of what puts people in a bad mood has little to do with me and everything to do with things that are invisible to me.

If you want to help people and make a difference, it is going to sometimes require you to deal with difficult people. They may prove to be difficult from the very first call.

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