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Review of a Recorded Call: One Mistake Can Kill It

For years in my printed publications and online newsletter one of the most popular features has been when I take calls I receive and point out the errors made. I guess it’s the same reason the early-season episodes of American Idol are so popular…people enjoy seeing others go through torture.

I like getting sales calls. In fact, I record most of them. The good callers, who, sadly are in the tiny minority, I learn from, congratulate, and even buy from. The bad ones, well, they give me good material. And good sales lessons for you.

“Why are you so hard on those people?”, I’m sometimes asked.

I’m only really hard on the ones who are not just clueless, but feel that they are justified in their ignorance. Or they are just plain deceptive. You’ll hear some of those as I add them. (Be sure you are subscribed in order to get the notifications).

With others, perhaps they just were not trained well, or at all, and probably don’t know any better. With some, just one mistake can doom the call to failure, even though it sounds like the sales rep had the potential, and maybe even does a passable job.

That’s the story with today’s call. I pulled this out of my archives of recordings that I have not shared with anyone yet, and received it about a year ago. Listen in and see if you can pick out the one huge, avoidable mistake he made before he even picked up the phone.

This guy was working from a list of the American Teleservices Association, of which I formerly was a member. Obviously he made the fatal assumption that I was a call center.

Very quickly it was apparent he did no research on me or my company, and therefore caused me to shut down instantly. Perhaps you have had this abrupt prospect at the other end of the phone. Maybe even you caused it. No fun, right?

By performing a small task, taking a tiny amount of effort and time, he could have avoided calling me and wasting his time. He could have gone to my website, and also asked the person answering the phone here what we do.

Maybe if he did that and was adventurous, and still thought there might be some hidden potential he could have simply changed his opening to, “I understand you are a training company specializing in business-to-business calling. If you do consulting with any consumer companies, our service might be of some value to you and them…let me explain what we offer…”

And oh, one other mistake, in the opening he asked for a 15-minute appointment, BEFORE asking any questions! What if had agreed? Then he would have had to take the time, next time, to find out I was not a prospect. Sales Point: Do NOT ask for an appointment or sale in the opening.

To his credit, he did have some positive characteristics, and did some things well on the call.

-If he had the right audience on the phone–a company that actually used the Do Not Call list file—his opening contained a pretty good interest-creating results statement.

-his voice sounded natural and conversational, even when I was short with my answers, and obviously through some unexpected hatchets at him.

-in response to my cryptic one-word answers, he continued questioning, as opposed to diving off the phone.

-as a last resort, when he realized he was going nowhere with me, he resorted to what I call a Secondary Objective. He said he was looking for affiliates to help market his service. As I mentioned, I do not personally get involved with companies that do consumer calling, so I was not a fit there.

This shows that in sales, even if you do some things right, the one wrong thing can keep you floundering way below your potential. And beat down your morale in the process.

I have to wonder how many sales reps out there pound out call after call, making the same mistakes over and over, not even realizing what they are doing that causes their no’s. Probably the same reps that don’t take any time to invest in themselves, their knowledge, their future, and their income. Someone help me with this: if your income and success relies all, or in part, on making sales or prospecting calls, why wouldn’t you do whatever it takes to be realllly good at it.

If you have the desire to minimize mistakes, go to the next level, and be the sales rep that others will refer to as “smooth,” I can’t think of any reason why you would not at least test drive my Telesales Success Inner Circle, which is an online archive of my best audio, video, and printed sales material you get instant access to when you become a member, and then begin receiving hard copy newsletters, DVD’s CD’s and other goodies, all designed to help you make more money.

Be my guest. Try it out on me for two months. Complete access. You’ll pay $4-$10 to cover our postage, but otherwise, your two months to try it is free. Go to .

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  1. 7 Comment(s)

  2. By Don Sykes on Sep 23, 2008 | Reply

    I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the work you put into putting up your blog - listening to an actual sales call is priceless for me. I learn a lot and it actually instills some confidence for my own calls. Keep up the great work!

    Art Reply:

    Don, and thank YOU for the note!

  3. By Lisa on Sep 24, 2008 | Reply


    I agree that the sales guy made an assumption. I do not sell to a specific industry. I always go to a website prior to call- but honestly I am not always sure exactly what they do or service they provide. In this case if the sales rep would have asked more questions initially or said “I’ve been to your website does your business also operate a call center”. I give the guy credit for his delivery …maybe he should have paused after you said “nope” ? Did you like his opening statement?

    Art Reply:

    Yes, for the right audience, it would have been a good opening…as I mentioned in my evaluation above there are several things that were good.

  4. By Scott Ashby on Sep 24, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Art, as always, good stuff. As a 1-person shop myself, I’ve marveled over the years at the calls I get from vendors such as that. They don’t have a clue. Keep up the good work. Scott

    Art Reply:

    Good to hear from you Scott! For those of you reading this and might not know, Scott is one of the few people who has been the business longer than me…but we’re not getting older, right! ;-)

  5. By Derrick on Sep 25, 2008 | Reply

    Please present more of these type of calls because they show what being done incorrectly by reps daily.

  6. By Dave on Sep 25, 2008 | Reply

    I always try to review a website prior to a call and then put some notes in my CRM for future reference (updating it as I uncover more details on subsequent calls). I agree with Lisa above that in some cases it is still hard to zero in on what an organization does.
    FYI: I’m pretty sure your policy is to not identify names and/or companies on the recorded calls you make available on your site. However, I think you missed a company name mention in the middle of this call.

    Art Reply:

    If we can’t get the info before the call, unless it’s a one-person operation, we can get it from someone other than the decision maker by asking questions.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the company name. Fixed it now.

  7. By Nader Al Adawi on Sep 29, 2008 | Reply

    I always emphasize the importance of precall planning before any sales transaction. In adition to the fact that the sales man didn’t do enough research to know what business by phone is doing, I need to highlight a couple of mistakes.

    First: The questioning techniques are very poor, he asked only onre open probe then followed by 5 closed probes for which he got almost 3 no reponses indicating that the customer (you) was irritated because cof such interrogative approach. He should keep his strategy towards open questions.

    Second: This closed probe strategy was a mere reaction as he was surprised by your rejection, another mistake most salespeople do. They don’t prepare their responses for no answers. They always assume they wil get a yes answer to their requests. When asking any question to a customer we have to prepare for possible answers both with agreement or more importantly rejection.

    Third (This is a bonus one): The sales man proposal after your rejection to go into partnership was very immature and reflect poor customer understanding. It is a typical example for Fire, aim, target strategy.

    Nader Al Adawi
    Training Manager,
    Janssen - Cilag Pharma, Egypt, saudi and Gulf countries

    Art Reply:

    Nader, good points. Especially #2. I always say the best salespeople prepare for the answers they’d rather not hear, and their subsequent responses.

  8. By Dan Houghton on Sep 30, 2008 | Reply

    Art - I have always enjoyed speaking with you, especially back in the days when I was college serving you coffee and the old Sunmart. I really enjoy the blog and share it with my sales team quite often. Listening to bad and good sales calls are a great way to improve. Thanks for sharing!

    Dan Houghton
    Co-Founder & EVP of Sales
    BuilderTREND Solutions, Inc.

    Art Reply:

    Dan, great to hear from you and thanks for the comments. To explain for everyone, Dan worked at the deli of a grocery store where I would get my coffee at least 10 years ago when he was in high school. Now he runs a software company. Glad I’m not getting any older! Congrats Dan, keep up the great work.

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