How NOT to make a prospecting sales call

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My phone at home rang, and the spiel began. I felt disengaged and disinterested. What are they thinking?!

I was working from home when the phone rang. No sooner had I finished getting the greeting out of my mouth than the distant monologue began.

I somehow worked out that the woman on the other end of the line was calling from a charity. At the 30-second mark I interrupted her and asked her what the purpose of her call was, but she did not respond and just kept going. Sound familiar?

At the one-minute mark I again interrupted, and asked her what the purpose of the call was. Guess what she said? “I’m getting to it love!” She wasn’t rude and her attitude was generally bright.

The reason for her failure to engage me from the outset was her management team. They set this woman and others like her up to fail in the first place. What were they thinking?

Why does this problem occur?

I’ve been selling for more than 20 years and have learnt many things by trial and error, common sense and staying aware of market conditions and how customers like to buy. There is no shortage of information out there about prospecting, sales, etc.

However, I am still amazed at how people don’t know how to prospect successfully, given the plethora of calls we receive at home in the evenings, with very much similar outcomes to my experience. So why do many businesses still get this part so wrong?

Many companies still adopt a “tell and sell” approach! Which is all about “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” or the “Talking brochure syndrome”, with their call scripts structured around information that is all about their company and not centred on gaining an understanding of the customer.

Sales people are relegated to reading from a “one size fits all” script that leaves the customer feeling disengaged and disinterested. Surprise surprise!

  • Sadly most salespeople have never been taught how to make effective customer-focused, out-bound prospecting sales calls that take into account the situation and needs of the customer.
  • Many telesales consultants and direct sales people usually launch into telling the customer about their product/service without investigating whether or not the customer might have a genuine need for their product/service. This approach is outdated and doesn’t work anyway.
  • Their sales training is really only training in the product or service’s features and benefits, not in how to position themselves to investigate and understand customers’ needs from the customers’ perspective, and then being able to take that information and provide a relevant solution
  • Over 90% of telesales consultants and sales people have no formal solution sales process to follow (how can anyone learn to follow something that doesn’t exist?).

Here are some sales prospecting tips:

  • Establish what a viable prospect or contact looks like.
  • Determine who you are going to target.
  • Establish the purpose(s) of your call. These will vary depending on who you are calling, which can include; an existing customer, a lapsed customer, a referral lead, a cold call (contact off a list), a referral source, or other.

Make the call and state your name and your company.

Ask: “Do you have a moment to speak?” (Even if they say no, you can arrange another time to call back or the prospect can say no with the correct perspective, as they don’t have a need yet).

State the purpose of your call, which is positioned from the client’s perspective in language they understand (you’ve got 10 seconds to say it).

Let prospective customers make an informed decision about how to proceed with you.

Develop a script outline to guide you with targeted, tailored questions.

Set aside a block of time each day to make sales calls. Always follow up. JUST DO IT.


Sue Barrett, is founder and managing director of BARRETT Pty Ltd, an Australian based sales fitness firm. Author of ‘Sell Like a Woman’. winner of 1997 Telstra and Victorian Government Small Business Award.


For more Sell Like a Woman blogs, click here.



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