How to Take a Cold Call

I used to let myself fee annoyed when receiving a cold call from a sales person. It could be about a number of things: credit card, life insurance, investment opportunity, collateral-free loan, you name it. I developed a deep dislike of cold calls so much that when my staff buzzed me to get a call through, I would ask them to tell the caller that I wasn’t taking any call.

One thing that I felt strongly about was those sales people who did not seem to understand when to accept a no. Whenever I tried to weasel out of a sales pitch, they would press even harder to close the sale. It seemed  impossible to make them understand that I didn’t not need whatever they were selling, and I was not buying.

I don’t know what they were taught when they signed up for the job. Perhaps their superiors told them things like this:

  • “Close every call!”
  • “When the prospects say no, they actually say yes.”
  • “Prospects are clueless. They don’t know that they need our products. They need us to make them realize that.”
  • “Don’t stop talking or you’ll lose the call.”
  • “When the prospects try to tell you no nicely, they’re sitting duck. Press them and they will say yes.”

Add to that the pressure to make the quota to or lose the job, and you get yourself some hardheaded salespeople who will get on your nerves and make you lose your temper. There is a very thin and fine line between determined and stubborn, and sometimes, being under pressure, some people mistake one for the other.

After an emotionally draining call from a salesperson, I complained to my wife about how infuriating they are. My wife gently said, “Well, it’s their job. They are going to do it whether we like it or not.”

Being a trainer for sales program myself, I came to understand that that’s how salespeople work. Some can do it well, some cannot. And since many sales people took the job out of necessity instead out of love for the work, you have better chance to get a cold call from those who don’t do it well.

It’s like complaining that the sun is hot, when that’s just how the sun is supposed to be. Rather than ranting about it, you had better get yourself under a shade, and let the sun do its job.

So I decided to control my reaction. I stopped asking my staff to screen calls. I now take the call, and I tell the salesperson in a friendly tone that I appreciate their offer, but at the time being I am not interested to take it. So the conversation now generally goes like this:

Salesperson: “Can I speak to Mr. Stephen Siregar?”

Me: “Speaking.”

Salesperson: “Mr. Siregar, I have the pleasure to inform you that you have been exclusively selected by our company to receive our best offer. [And proceeds to describe the product that he/she is selling]”

Me: “Oh so it is an insurance, isn’t it?”

Salesperson: “Well, yes, but this is not just any insurance. As soon as you are hospitalized for any reason, we will pay you a daily allowance to cover your hospital costs.”

Me: [In a friendly and smiley tone] “I see. I already have insurance.”

Salesperson: “This policy is especially created as addition to your existing policy, so you can have better coverage.”

Me: [Still in a friendly and smiley tone] “I know. But I don’t think I’m interested right now.”

Salesperson: “Are you sure? If you have objections on the premium, we have other policies at lower price [and begins to name other products and their lower prices.]”

Me: “Well, that is nice. But no, thank you. Maybe another time.”

At this point, if the salesperson happens to be the stubborn one, and keeps pushing for a close that is never there, I would end the conversation like this:

Me: [Still in a nice voice] “No, thank you for the offer. Good day.” [hangs up]

That may sounds rough, but if I let it to go further than that, there is a good chance that I will lose my patience and I would ruin my and the salesperson’s day. Besides, I have made it clear that I am not interested. So it is out of sheer kindness that I cut the call short.

On the other hand, if the salesperson happens to be well trained to handle rejections and knows that there is no good coming from pushing for a close, he/she usually says:

Salesperson: “I understand. May I call you at a more convenient time?”

Me: “Sure, no problem.”

Salesperson: “Thank you Mr. Siregar. Have a pleasant day.”

Me: “You’re welcome.” [hangs up]

Lately I discovered that cold calls become less and less a nuisance for me. It is very rare that I have to cut a cold call short. Maybe only one in every fifty calls.  I don’t know whether it’s because they get better training, or it’s really because I take the calls in a nice way. The good news is I don’t dread taking cold calls anymore. On the plus side, my staff are also happier that they don’t have to screen calls for me.

So being nice AND assertive can be beneficial both for other people, and for yourself. Almost like shopping when there is a buy-one-get-one-free offer.

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