A Case Study of a Dumb Cold Call

in Prospecting

Hard to believe a salesperson could make so many mistakes in a short period of time, using so few words.

But it happened. I’ll explain in detail.

I overheard Steve, my marketing guy, who also answers the phone in my office, talking to the caller:

"Well, that would be Art. I’ll transfer you."

He put the call on hold and said to me, "Some guy wants to talk to someone about Internet marketing. He’s being pretty evasive though. Might want to turn your recorder on for this one."

Sounded like it might be good material for this newsletter.

"Hi, this is Art."

"Doug? Did you say Doug?"

What a great first impression this guy was making. (I almost laughed out loud, being reminded of the movie "Multiplicity," where Michael Keaton WAS Doug, but the mutant clone kept calling him "Steve.")

"No, this is Art."

"Oh, uh, yeah, hi Art. I’m _____ with (I didn’t write down or remember the company name.) I just wanted to touch base to see how your Internet marketing was going."

"It is going just fantastic."

"Oh, good. Tell me what you’re doing there."

"Look, I’m busy (isn’t everyone?) and not interested."

End of call.

Wow. Let’s examine how this guy never had a chance.

Mistake 1: Not Getting a Name
He didn’t even get my name, therefore the comical "Doug" scenario, which blew him out of the water three seconds into the call.

He could have simply started out by initially identifying himself and his company to Steve, and then asking, "I hope you can help me… what is the name of the person there who is responsible for yourInternet marketing."

Mistake 2: Being Evasive.
Do some salespeople not realize that the person who answers the phone for decision makers actually TALKS to the decision maker before transferring the call?

Based only on what Steve told me before I picked up the phone, I for the most part knew that this caller had zero chance of success–except for the basis for an article like this one.

Callers must be prepared to work with the personnel who are closest to our buyers, gain their trust, and discuss value where appropriate.

What do assistants, screeners, office managers and others say about you?

Mistake 3: Not Getting Smart Call Intelligence or Doing Homework
Again, because of Mistakes 2 and 3, he didn’t ask any questions of Steve. Hmm, let’s see, call me crazy, but it seems that if you’re selling some type of Internet marketing, it would make sense that if you visited someone’s website, and found out what type of Internet marketing they do now, then you would be much better prepared to put together a nice opening, and ask intelligent questions.

So, after asking for the decision maker’s name, it’s quite simple to say, "Great, so I can be sure that what I’m calling about has value for the boss, I’d like to ask a couple of questions. Please tell me …"

Mistake 4: Horrible Opening Statement
To review,

"Oh, uh, yeah, hi Art. I’m _____ with ______. I just wanted to touch base to see how your Internet marketing was going."

Come on now, read this again, and think about how absurd that question is. What in the world does he expect people to say?

"Oh, my Internet marketing isn’t going well at all. I’m glad you called. I bet you can help me."


There are two purposes for the opening:

– put them in a positive, receptive, frame of mind, by mentioning an item of interest … a possible result or benefit you might be able to deliver, and,

– move to the questioning phase of the call. BUT, the first objective must be established.

Mistake 5: Asking Questions When They Don’t See A Reason to Answer
Again, as part of Mistake 4, if we don’t put them in a positive frame of mind, but then jump into questions, they don’t have a good reason to answer, therefore the call goes down in flames.

So short of a call, but yet so many opportunities to screw up. And this guy hit most of them. Sadly, I see this all of the time.

Worse, he probably believes that prospecting for him is "just a numbers game." Make so many calls, and you’re that much closer to getting a yes. Actually, he’s that much closer to getting another no, and he’s getting really good at making bad calls.

If you place prospecting calls, analyze each of these mistakesto be sure they’re not part of your calls, and practice the right methods, the Smart Calling way instead.

And by the way, these are just some of the call-killing mistakes made on dumb cold calls that I cover in my new book, "Smart Calling-Elminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling." Of course, we cover, in-depth, what TO DO instead.

We’re still offering over $450 worth of free bonuses to purchasers. See complete information, including a video of more opening mistakes at http://www.smart-calling.com/launch.html

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

trish bertuzzi July 29, 2010 at 11:51 am

Art, just got a cold call from a huge vendor of online web meetings.

She said “Hi, I am calling to follow up in your recent interest in our product. Do you have any questions?” I said “I expressed no interest in your product. I know that because I used to be a customer of yours and now use a competitor. BTW, I am an inside sales consultant. Could you transfer me to your Manager? I would like to talk to that person about how we could help your organization develop interesting opening statements” CLICK… so I guess it is okay for them to try to sell me but not vice versa. Oh well…

PS – Reading your book Art and enjoying it immensely!


Art Sobczak July 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Trish, thanks for sharing. People ask me all the time if I turn these bad calls into sales opportunities…I don’t work very hard at it anymore…my experiences were similar to yours. I’m guessing that if they were interested in training and getting better, they might have heard of us in the first place, and/or their calls wouldn’t be so bad.

Glad you’re liking the book. Sales and feedback are even beyond optimistic expectations.


Kathy Pabst Robshaw July 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm

I have had several similar calls lately and they do mumble their name/company – not surprised and then they say they are ‘following up’ ….implying I have asked for a call. I simply ask “following up what” and the are baffled and keep on mumbling while they try to regain their credibility.

It is amazing, and I know Art supports, this how important gathering information along the way, good listening and sounding confident will be when you make calls! Thanks for your recent horror story, Art!


Art Sobczak July 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Kathy, I wonder if people who use that “Following-up” tactic think that prospects are idiots?


Noreen Vincent July 29, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I am reading this article wondering where are the inside sales coaches and managers for this person? Does anyone lisen to him make these calls and help him improve (likely not). I focus on generation demand through various programs that have driven inquiries into various B2B companies. My job is infinitely more pleasant and rewarding when the inside sales team is consistently offered coaching and training. It keeps the idividuals/team on their game and helps drive more meaningful conversations when people actually pick up the phone (which is a huge barrier to begin with). An unfortunate example of what I believe is a persistant problem. We expect results but are not willing to invest in the people to help coach them/train them to produce these results.


Marjorie Hauser July 30, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Hi Art, Thanks for responding to my feaux pas story re the floppies. Yes there are many ways to handle that one!
Is this where you wanted it posted? Does it pass censorship?


Debbi Bressler July 30, 2010 at 3:10 pm

The funniest sales call I’ve ever been involved with took place over ten years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it!

I oversaw a group of inside sales professionals and had recently started working with a delightful, very religious, straightlaced gentleman named Jon.

Jon had spoken to a prospect named Janelle earlier in the day and had set up a follow up call for us later that day, so I could answer some technical questions for her. Unfortunately, she didn’t answer the phone and instead we got this voice mail message:

(With sultry music playing in the background) “Hi, you’ve reached Mistress Divine. I’m tied up with a client right now, but I’m really eager to take care of you when I return. If you just can’t wait, call Mistress Beatrice at xxx-xxxx and she can also service you. And, don’t worry, she’s just as wild as I am!”


At which point Jon says, “er, Janelle, Miss Divine, this is Jon XXXXX, calling you back like I promised. I hope you didn’t forget that we had an appointment for a three way with my supervisor, Debbi.”


“oh, oh, no, Janelle. I didn’t mean a three way like a three way. I meant the three of us were going to get on a call and get your questions answered. Oh my. Please, please just…oh gosh, please just don’t even call me back. Oh, my. And please erase this message.”

At this point, I am literally on the floor with tears streaming down my face, with the phone on mute so my gales of laughter do not pick up on this woman’s voice mail. Poor guy couldn’t face me for over a week!



Colette Acheson August 6, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Very funny! I still tell the story about the time I was selling small ad spots in our local shopper going door to door. Of course I walk to every door with a big grin on my face no matter what happened on the previous call. At one business, I see three big burly men inside who turn and look at me, with my big grin, opening their door and reading their little sign on the door that said “SMILE! if you’re not wearing any underwear…”


Mitch Eichner August 4, 2010 at 12:50 pm


About five years ago, my boss and I were working on signing a deal with a rather large prospect. The prospect called my boss to ask her a question, she thought it was her Realtor. He wanted to be clear as to exactly what she was going to do for him. She said, I think you have it all wrong, it’s what are you going to do for me. He was a little shocked, but once she explained the mix up, he laughed it off.

When we got off the call, I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt.

We did manage to get them as a client despite the mix up.


Feras Alhlou May 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Hi Art,

Long time reader, first time posting a comment. Thank you for the wealth of information you share. I am not as active in a sales role as I used to, but still enjoy reading your articles.

Mistake #3 (not doing their homework) cracks me up. I sometimes get calls from vendors pitching services we offer and they try to educate us on the value of these services. When I tell them that this is what we do for a living, the answer typically is “oh, I didn’t know”! (In my mind, I am saying, did you bother to check out website before you call??) :).

Anyhow, thanks again.


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