How to Avoid Spamming Someone on a Cold Call

The Gist:

  • No one likes getting a straight pitch on LinkedIn. That approach is treated as “spam.”
  • You can make the same mistakes when making a cold call by using the same flawed techniques.
  • Creating opportunities is too important to emphasize quantity over quality.

As a professional courtesy, I accept cold calls. I even take the spam calls that reach my iPhone, working very hard to persuade the person trying to steal from me to quit their job and find a more honorable profession. Much of the time, I try to create enough shame to get them to walk out on their job: “Your poor mother! She must be so disappointed.” My attempts always fail, but I do enjoy causing them the pain of recognizing their own thievery.

My friend Mike Weinberg is unhappy about the amount of spam he receives on LinkedIn, the only real social platform for business professionals, and one worth protecting. Weinberg’s point, as I take it, is that is difficult to spam people on the telephone, which is not to say that a salesperson with a poor strategy isn’t capable of doing so. Let’s tease this apart, since the problem is not the medium but the message.

Step One

Step One

Do not target the companies that already buy what you sell or are highly likely to start doing so. Instead, believe that anyone with a phone and a heartbeat is a prospect. The primary ingredient in phone spam is the fact that what you sell has no relevance for the person receiving the call.

Once a salesperson asked me why I made calls out of the business section of a phone book, and I explained that the phone book was the only place you could find phone numbers. However, I skipped any company that I was certain would never use what I sold. There was no reason to call retail stores, day care centers, churches, and a long list of other kinds of companies that would not benefit from what I sold.

Step Two

Step Two

Ensure that your opening line identifies you as a time-waster. To ensure your victim, er, I mean customer recognizes your message as spam, start the conversation with some sort of unprofessional nicety or attempt to build rapport. Your goal is to project that your call is a total waste of time.

If you’re stuck, try any of these openings: “Is now a good time?” “Is now a bad time?” “How are you this morning?” or “Can I have 17 seconds of your time?” If you do it right, you’ll hear a groan on the other end, a sure sign that you’ve already wasted at least 17 seconds.

You are always better off identifying yourself, sharing the reason for your call, explaining the value you are offering in trade for your prospect’s time, and then asking them for a meeting. How is someone supposed to know if it’s a good or bad time to speak with you without understanding what your agenda is for the conversation? They don’t really care who this stranger is, and they don’t really want to tell you how they are.

Step Three

Pitch them right away, even if your product, service, or solution requires a complex sale. Make sure you tell them exactly what you sell and how you 100% guarantee that they need this product. After all, this call is all about you: your company, your product, your service, and your solutions.

The more your talk track sounds like the nonsense in your spam folder (or your LinkedIn inbox, increasingly), the more you can be certain it is spam. As a professional salesperson, your primary role is helping your clients improve their results. There are a good number of conversations you need to have before anything about your company is a concern. Begin at the beginning.

Step Four

If you want to make extra certain that your call is spam, start the discovery process on the cold call. Launch into all the questions you would normally ask a contact during a discovery meeting, so they recognize that they have no reason to ever agree to meet with you. The more questions you ask, the more prospective clients will know that you are a waste of time. This is a wonderful way to help your prospect disqualify you as a potential partner.

There is never a reason to treat time—yours and your prospective client’s—as anything but the only finite, non-renewable asset. Instead of calling every number (or messaging every connection), start by carefully targeting companies and individuals that are certain to benefit from what you sell. Offer a meeting that is guaranteed to create value for them, avoid pitching anything but that meeting, and save your discovery for a nice, comfy conference room.

Do Good Work:

  • Ask yourself if you would appreciate the approach you use to ask for a meeting.
  • Target likely potential clients before you begin making cold calls.
  • Treat every interaction as the start of a relationship, even if you don’t end up getting a meeting.

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