The Fastest Way to F-Up a Warm Sales Call

Generally, "cold callers" have 10 seconds of my time to make their case. For "warm" calls, with some form of connection, this stretches it to 20 seconds. There are four reasons I always grant this opportunity:

• It takes balls to call someone and try to sell them something.

• I am interested in how much effort they have put into their pitch.

• Sales is about talking to people, not email blasting them.

• They might have something to offer that could genuinely help me.

The following call came from a gentleman after exchanging business cards with his colleague at a major professional sales conference:

"Hey, Bryan! We met at the conference, how are you?" Aside from being sure we hadn't met, there was something untrustworthy about the tone of his voice. Regardless, I decided to hear him out. He continued, "Can you tell me again about your interest in our business?" I explained to him the purpose of my visit, and invited him to share more detail.

He took little time in proclaiming to have just made a client £500,000 in 2 weeks by brokering 2 meetings on his behalf, and said he had a testimonial to prove it.

Now, I have been in sales a long time and knew the likelihood of a telesales rep prospecting, meeting, signing, executing, and collecting £500,000 of business in 2 weeks was extremely slim, let alone attaining an official testimonial to share with prospects. Having just poured a cup of tea, though, I couldn't resist delving deeper to see how large a hole he might dig. Congratulating his success, I asked for an overview of how he closed and executed these deals in such a short timeframe.

He seemed uncomfortable with my request, responding by saying "Sure, but the purpose of my call is to find out what you do and if our business is relevant to you." I met his line of questioning with silence. At this moment, he chose to level with me.

"To be honest with you, Bryan, the client who made this money is a family friend. I could easily have him call you. When can this happen?"

"No, that won't be necessary," I told him, "but, can you at least explain the process of how you prospected £500k of business for a client who, after only 2 meetings, managed to close business, execute the services, collect the money, and gain an official testimonial within a fortnight? It sounds very lucrative and I need to learn this skill".

Realising I had identified the discrepancies in his story, he changed the subject with an emotional plea that bordered on outright begging:

"I have to be honest with you, Bryan. I don't make much money doing this. I'm just an independent agent for the company and get paid £100 for each client I bring to the table", he said.

"That doesn't seem very fair based on the huge revenues you're generating on behalf of your clients, but I wish you well. Thank you for calling me."

I hung up and used the rest of my tea break to ponder what had just happened.


Let's consider a more professional approach.

1. In response to the initial question, the fastest way to f-up a warm sales call, or any sales interaction, is to lie, exaggerate or make outrageous claims. You may be tempted to try and impress this way, but it never works. Use facts and case studies that you can back-up.

2. On warm sales calls, you only have seconds to deliver a concise, valuable message that solves a problem and makes the recipient's life better. Here is an article and a book that will help.

3. Do your research before making a call. Know whom you're talking to, the challenges they face, and how you solve them.

4. Don't be over familiar. Be friendly but professional. Don't take a positive response as a sign to lower your standards.

5. Don't ever compromise your professional integrity by trying to cut a personal deal while representing your company.

6. Be yourself. Just sincerely say the purpose of your call and the value you offer.

I thought the days of these antics were over, but sometimes, we get a stark reminder that not everyone takes integrity and training as seriously as they should.

This chap lied about having met me before. He made fake or at least over-exaggerated claims, and assumed I cared about his personal commission plan. Sadly for him, this is not professional selling.

Dare I ask, what else did he do wrong? Feel free to rant on Twitter or join the debate on LinkedIn.