How to Handle an Immediate Cold Call Brush Off

in Prospecting

Cold call rejection

At a company’s sales kickoff training seminar I was asked what to do when cold calling a prospect and they immediately brush you off. He wasn’t asking about the prospect who is simply uncooperative. That one stays on the phone, maybe is wishy-washy,but still breathing on the other end of the line– at least we still have a shot with those people. No, he was referring to those prospects who reply with, “Not interested,” or “We’re all set,” and then hangs up even before you can get your entire opening statement out of your mouth.

My first answer of course was to not cold call, but to SMART Call, and that might help avoid some of the early resistance. (In fact, I don’t even like to use the term, cold call, except in a derogatory context, or as an example of what NOT to do.)

I digress… However, in this type of situation, regardless of how well you’ve prepared and positioned yourself, and how much you learned from their LinkedIn profile, the door still slams in your face.

What should you do?

The rep said that he heard you should you just call back right away and act like you were disconnected.

Oh please…. he read THAT book. Well, you could, but really, is that going to cause them to admire how clever you think are? I doubt it.

First, change your mindset. Let’s not make this about you. Instead, consider what MIGHT be going on in the prospect’s world:

-Maybe, just maybe, the prospect is right in the middle of something that is not only important, but urgent. She is under a deadline for a report her boss needs within the hour. She is frantically trying to collect the numbers, and is waiting for a call from shipping. Yours comes in, she dives for the handset, and her balloon is burst when she realizes you are not Troy, the shipping guy. Flush, you’re outta there.

-Perhaps he’s in a meeting in his office with his team, one of the members is making an important point, and then, riiiiiiing, riiiiiing… here comes a call. “Sorry, I thought I forwarded my calls,” he sheepishly says. He could ignore it, but instead winks at his audience with a “Watch this” look, and demonstrates how forcefully he can swat away pesky salespeople. You don’t know what hit you.

-Consider that it could be one of THOSE days for your prospect that we’ve all had. The kids were being bratty, traffic–in the Starbucks drive thru– made her a bit late, two employees she was counting on for input on a project called in with the flu, and she is dreading having to attend a meeting that she has no idea why she is included in. Her email inbox is overflowing, she was just handed the disappointed numbers from the previous day that she will have to explain, and she realizes she left the iron on. Your call comes in. The trap door opens beneath you before you know it. You’re still muttering “Whaaaa…” as you realize no one is at the other end.

Or, possibly he is just immersed in one of the ten thousand distractions all of us are faced with every day. Any of which are perceived as more important than the call coming in at that very moment. Your call.

Here’s why I get the big bucks to share wisdom: 

No one is waiting for your call when you are prospecting, and they just might be too preoccupied–mentally, emotionally, and physically– to speak with you. Brilliant huh? 

But true.

When we understand that, and if this truly is a prospect that you want to pursue, and firmly believe you can offer some value to, consider some real-world alternatives.

Instead of calling, try an email, fax, or a handwritten note mailed with a real stamp, stating,

“I have the feeling I called you at a bad time the other day. I apologize. The purpose for my call was to run an idea by you that could potentially help you to (fill in the blank with some result they would be interested in). I’d like to ask you a few questions to determine if we have the basis for a conversation. I will call you again on Friday, or you can reach me at at 800-555-2922, and my email is….”

Naturally, if you have any other Smart Call intelligence, personal connections, knowledge or trigger events, or any other value points you’d include those as well. The purpose is not to pitch, but to raise a question that they just might want the answer to.

Is this likely to get a high response rate? 

No. You probably won’t get any response. If you do, yay, big bonus. But, when you do call back, you now can refer to the message you sent, providing another point of reference. And perhaps you will reach them at a better time.

I know everyone won’t do this, and perhaps you deem that some prospects wouldn’t be worth the time. OK. Another alternative would be to simply place them back in your calling rotation for a few weeks down the road. They won’t remember who you are.

Woody Allen’s famous quote is 

“Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” 

Big plus if you show up at the right time.

What do you do when you get the quick brush off? Please share your suggestions below.


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Here’s the course that will help you to minimize the immediate brush off, and avoid “cold” calling

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Dean January 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I do send the email saying how sorry I am for the interuption and add the point on how I can help and a date and a time that I will be calling them back, if I get the second brush off the email gets a little more informative on why I was calling in the first place. I have found on the 3rd call they do in fact take the call.


Bob Reiss January 9, 2013 at 7:06 pm

As soon as my target answers the call, I say my name and ask, “Am I interrupting anything important?” then SHUT UP !!!! The responce almost 100% of the time will be an invite to continue. At least I have a moment to do my intro.


Jules Richmond January 11, 2013 at 1:21 am

Try calling other company executives, especially those on the lower rung than your original target. While you might still get rejected, some actually act as the gatekeepers. Get on their good side, like explaining your purpose as well as asking when is it convenient to call them, can help you reach your intended decision-maker later. Just make sure that you keep your word and show up at the appointed time.


Nick Collins February 13, 2013 at 12:50 am

Hey fellas,
That technique actually does work a lot especially if you’re making business calls. I make business calls all day everyday and that’s actually a really good technique… when calling prospects though, like the ones that aren’t business owners really, those are the easy to coax kinda people when you’re actually speaking with them….. I introduce myself, I promise them something in return after their done with the call before I continue with them and I also ask permission to continue… usually most of the time they’re gonna say no, but they say exactly what it is they’re doing at the current moment or they give an excuse as to why they can’t take the call, when these excuses or objections are made, you must welcome it in the beginning of the call rather than at the end of the call, because being that you open yourself to the different objections at asking permission, you can build more rapport so at the end of the sale, you’ve actually got more than a sale, you got trust, and you’ve been given the opportunity to close the deal a whole lot easier. why? because the prospect realized you were worried about him/her before you worried about making the sale….. at the end of the day, it’s hard for a friend to tell you no. (unless he/she is unqualified…….)


Linus January 3, 2014 at 8:44 am

See Art I have been working on how to sell the appointment
which Frank Bettger called ‘THROWING THE HAWSER’
and here sales (a core Arts subject )
becomes as mathematicoid as chess
there is precisely that n number of beaten paths
I like the way you think with a maths hat in sales
Art –
Linus Reg D’Souza


George Bullock June 15, 2017 at 5:07 pm

WHY do you people cold call in the first place? I understand that you need to sell a product, but the best prospects are those who want or need your services. Isn’t there a way to know beforehand what the prospects are? Even a hint? If somebody is cold calling to sell solar, why don’t you guys know whether or not you are calling a renter in an apartment complex or the owner of the complex? Why are you calling people instead of researching them more extensively online before contacting them?

I am one of those people on the other end of the phone when you people cold call. Universally, these calls are considered an annoyance. The TIMING especially. Right at 8:30am or 9:00am when people are first arriving at work? NO. Lunch time? NO. At 5:00pm? NO.

I think my comment here us going to be useless to you people. No cold call is smart.


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