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The Worst Telephone Sales Call I’ve Ever Received

I love getting sales calls. The good ones I learn from. The bad ones, well, they become good material for my seminars, articles, and other training. And I record most of them. From time to time, I will post recordings of calls here.

Today I’m starting with the worst call I’ve ever received. I’ve played this hundreds of times in seminars and usually people howl with laughter

Here’s the scenario: I was alone in my office and noticed the calls were not forwarded and a line was ringing. I picked it up and answered, “Business By Phone, this is Art.”

The shaky voice responded with, “Yeah, I’m looking for a decision maker.”

“A decision maker for what?”, I said.

“For getting more business,” he replied.

I said, “Just a minute.” I put him on hold and went to my office where my recorder is. I knew this one would be good. Here it is.

You gotta admit, at least the guy was persistent and had the “alternate choice close” down.

Aside from the pure entertainment value of this, here’s a scary, but important point: that call might have come in right before yours. THEN what kind of frame of mind would your buyer be in. That emphasizes the importance of being prepared with a value-filled opening, and then knowing where you will go with solid questions.

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  1. 36 Comment(s)

  2. By Ross on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply


    Greg Reply:

    Seriously, that had to be a prank call.

  3. By Les Green on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    I loved it! I wish our sales force had such a tunnel vision approach to prospecting. If and when this fella ever wants or needs a new position, please send him to me.

    Oh, and by the way, Thursday would be better.

  4. By Rich Hamilton on Sep 3, 2008 | Reply

    Oh my gawd.

    We get calls all the time from people like that, usually selling some bogus yellow pages advertising.

    The importance of preparation and power questions is always important.

  5. By Louise Barnes-Johnston on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    This is so funny!! I’m not surprised you thought it was a set up. I don’t think ‘Tom’ will have a very long sales career - unless he buys some of your products that is! Thanks for sharing the audio.

  6. By steve woolf on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    Hell,that guy was he for real,i worked for an debt managment company,u would have sacked for less.

  7. By Matthew on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    Wow that was fantastic. Scary, but fantastic.

  8. By Leah Rust on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    Art, I follow your blog regularly and when I came across this post I just had to forward it to our sales team. Thanks for the comic relief.

  9. By Aaron Shay on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    This recording reminds me of a book that I was first exposed to when I first started cold calling. The main gist of the book is to tell as little as possible about what you are doing to your prospect and to always end the phone conversation by setting an appointment.

    Art Reply:

    I’ve seen lots of those books. Makes one wonder of the authors have ever experienced the reality of the phone.

  10. By Michael Melin on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    Sounds a lot like the type of company I work part-time for. We do business to business and political. Don’t really give you room for going off script or doing research. It sounded like he was fairly new. Had to ask for a appointment 3 or 4 times before he was allowed to disposition the clients leads. I did not hear any good screens for Art’s questions or objections I ‘m guessing we listened to a novice winging it with minimal training, tools and luck. Very amusing!
    I’ve done business calls half a day then bang without warning your next call is political you never done before and the call is saying hello before the script, screens or system is up.
    I’m no novice, actually level 1 and usually top performer some months. I had a guy once on a political call. Liked what I was saying, liked how I came across. Promised me max donation from him and a separate one in his wife’s name if I gave him my web site so he could see me. I told him I had to check with management
    I had a evening an day supervisor talk to him and a office manager.
    To verify he was a legitimate donor, 80 minute conversation jumped through all his hoops.
    Point is when you do this for others you don’t have the options to close the call when it’s going bad. And salvage the lead for another time. Sometimes it’s hard to bring the call back on track.
    Some clients don’t understand timing and you can’t say the right thing to the wrong person and vice versa.

  11. By Liz on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    HILARIOUS!!! Poor bugger. I hope he has rich parents!

  12. By Kathleen on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    This person is for real??
    Closing for one thing…”can I call you back?…for what?”.
    Your comments you were trying help the helpless. Kudo’s, but he didn’t have a clue.

  13. By Michael Pedone on Sep 4, 2008 | Reply

    You almost can’t fault the caller…what kind of company would give such obvious poor sales training in the first place and then allow that sales person (we can’t even call him a sales person) to pick up the phone in the first place?

    Art Reply:

    Probably a company that subscribes to the “It’s just a numbers game” philosophy, without regards to quality.

  14. By Sylvain on Sep 5, 2008 | Reply

    U N B E L I E V A B L E!!!
    Wish I could save this file and listen to it on bad sales days. So hilarious!
    Thx for sharing it with us.

  15. By Donna on Sep 5, 2008 | Reply

    I agree this guy had to be a novice or he likely wouldn’t still be employeed there. He may have had a case of first call jitters, the one where all of your training goes out the window when the prospect answers the phone. I have had a few new hires that has happened to over the years. Most of the time they recouperate on the next call but none the less embarrassed about the first one.
    I plan to use it as training for my staff, as a reminder of how you need to be prepared to present your product in a manner that will bebefit the prospect if you want their attention

  16. By Cesar on Sep 5, 2008 | Reply

    So that’s what i’ve been doing wrong!

  17. By Shawna on Sep 5, 2008 | Reply

    Poor Tom I wonder what his thoughts were when he found out who he called.

  18. By Brid on Sep 8, 2008 | Reply

    Whatever else you can say about this guy, you have to give him credit for his dogged persistence and high humiliation tolerance - I would have given up ages ago and yet he kept at it and at it. I hope he checks out your site and buys from you Art because with proper training, its feasible this guy could be good. Thanks for sharing.

  19. By Taher Khan on Sep 9, 2008 | Reply

    I remember when I first starting cold calling many many years back in London, UK, selling double glazed windows!

    This reminded me a lot of myself and the other telesales people. We never had any training and often or we did not prepare. All we knew was, we had to make appointments and preparation was unheard of!

    Thanks for the laugh and also for the stark reminder for us all - ‘Fail to prepare then prepare to fail!’


  20. By Sonny on Sep 9, 2008 | Reply

    Art thank you for posting this. It arrived to me virally and now I have been researching your product sounds great you make a lot of impact. Tell Tom to hit me up if you ever talk to him again I really interested in buisness and havign soemone strategically set up my buisness lol……

  21. By Jim on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    It’s no wonder people don’t want to speak to sales people. The scary thing is that although not this bad, there are a lot of sales people that haven’t done their homework before calling and want you to get together to “Kum Ba Ya.” Thanks for posting this.

  22. By Bryan on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    This is really good! I would have asked to see you Friday!

  23. By Joyce Grinczel on Sep 10, 2008 | Reply

    While poor Tom was very entertaining in his lack of skills and not deviating from his mission of getting an appointment, you were just as hilarious Art in trying to help this misguided caller out. You were more than gracious and gave Tom ample opportunity to do a proper introduction and he missed the boat each and every time.

    Classic case of not listening - which so many salespeople are guilty of. Amazing, isn’t it?

    Art Reply:

    At least he had the “altnernate-choice” close down. ;-)

  24. By Swati on Sep 12, 2008 | Reply

    Art,used your advice through your website for the past 6 years and still read it all the time.Sorry a single mom and with expenses,always meant to purchase tapes…but you still helped me with some amazing situations and i forwarded your web to my boss at the time..thanks always good to get mail from you….

    Art Reply:

    Thanks for the comment, and keep working smart and hard!

  25. By Scot on Sep 16, 2008 | Reply

    I think you got jerked. Google “Jerky Boys.” Sounds just like them.

    Art Reply:

    Don’t think so. After I played this at a seminar, an attendee reluctantly admitted he worked for the same company a few years ago as a telemarketer, reading the same script. It’s a consulting firm that has telemarketers try to set appointments.

  26. By Anthony Brown-Hovelt on Sep 19, 2008 | Reply

    This should be compulsory listening for all sales staff, tele or otherwise, as an example of why listening is so important. When I started in sales by boss told me the old adage one mouth two ears, so listen twice as much and engage brain before opening mouth!

    Art Reply:

    When I started in sales in corporate life a long time ago, I remember a full page quote in our AT&T training manual:
    “10,000 Philistines were killed with the jawbone of an ass. That many sales are killed every day with the same weapon.”

  27. By Anthony Brown-Hovelt on Sep 19, 2008 | Reply

    PS love the new web site and your emails and advice. I regularly pass both on to friends and colleagues.

    I say new because I haven’t been on the site for ages and the “you must hear this” added to humour got me to respond by having a look round!

  28. By Kim Roemer on Sep 23, 2008 | Reply

    I think if SNL ever wants to bring back the “Land Shark” skit, this guy would be a shoe-in. His drive to stick to “it”, whatever his “it” was… was impressive! I’m in agreement with another blogger from above. It’s a better path to success to team with someone with persistence,a good attitude, and solid intellect, give ‘em the support and training, and watch them take off, then to have someone on our team who has the sales skills foundation but who needs to learn how to put on their big-girl-pants and keep at it! (feel free to substitute ‘big-boy’ pants as well…certainly both sexes are equally guilty of sheer inability to persist!)

    Art Reply:

    Yes, it’s true that if you persist on calls, you will continue to exist in a sales job. Quit on calls, and you’ll probably have no choice but to quit in sales.

  29. By Derrick on Sep 25, 2008 | Reply

    This is funny! LOL!

  30. By Jennifer on Oct 16, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Art,

    I am new to your website but I am already loving it. This recording, specifically, lifted my mood, I have never laughed so hard! Thanks for sharing …


  31. By Sabrina Forbes on Feb 11, 2009 | Reply

    There really are no words……listening to that was downright painful!
    I will absolutely share this one
    with my sales team


  32. By tammie on May 3, 2009 | Reply

    if this was a joke it was a great one. I could not stop laughing.

  33. By Ronald Biederman on May 28, 2009 | Reply

    Art- you have been had by the Jerky Boys-

  34. By Cameron Mitchell on Aug 14, 2009 | Reply

    What a desperate classic! Art I hope that guy purchased some material from you?

  35. By Leon Millard on Sep 9, 2010 | Reply

    Hey…We’ve got a sales guy just like this!

  36. By Ralph Bastarache on Jan 19, 2011 | Reply

    Every time I listen to this call I laugh harder. There are a lot sales people that prospect by numbers like “Tom”…a little research can go a long way!

  37. By Zach Whitt on May 1, 2012 | Reply

    Hilarious, but a little scary. I’m a new sales guy (6 weeks in) and I’m going take a look at a few recent emails and listen to my recorded calls to make sure I’m not guilty of too much beating around the bush.

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