Cold Calling Category

Communicate: Are You Sending the Right Message?

Ah, communication! We want to communicate clearly and effectively…but we can inadvertently send the wrong message. Here are common words and phrases that can trip us up. I’ll start with “just” and “actually” because using them purposely does not cause problems — using them as a verbal habit does.


We use the word “just” to communicate emphasis, as in “I just don’t know about this deal!” We also use it to soften, as in “I’m sorry, we just don’t have any openings right now.” In both of these situations, we use the word purposely to send a specific message.

However, many of us toss “just” in often and without realizing it. If we’ve got this verbal habit and use telemarketing, that tiny word easily undermines success because it communicates a very different message on the phone. In cold calling land, prospects hear the word “just” as meaning “only.” To understand why this creates problems, take a look at this example:

“I’m just calling to thank you for your business.” (more…)

Metrics and the Fading Funnel (excerpt from book)

Back when I was a sales pup, we reps and our managers used an equation to set expectations for performance (now known as “metrics”). The equation started at the top of the proverbial funnel with calling, flowed through several points—response, appointments, qualifying and closing—down to the small end of the funnel and new business. We used the same equation in reverse to set dials goals based on desired units of new business.

That equation is what gave us the expression sales is “a numbers game.” As I taught years ago, the underlying point was not that all we need do is make a bunch of calls and something good would come of it. The key point was we could use numbers (the equation) to guide prospecting efforts.

Alas, data needed to fully feed the equation has not been gathered for many years now. (more…)

Shout Out for Dudley and Goodson

Shannon L. Goodson and George W. Dudley are the authors of The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales. This shout-out and appreciation is for Dudley in particular, who coined the phrase “call reluctance” maybe as far back as 1943. That is a truly beautiful phrase!

Some years ago, I was asked to observe their training program (delivered by someone else, not Dudley or Goodson) and was given a copy of their book. The goal was to bring me up to speed because I’d deliver my “rather have a root canal than do cold calling” program the next day. As I sat quietly in the back of the room, I naturally critiqued the training and looked through the book.

I have some education in psychology (completed a BA) and love to rip apart research and its results. I thought the research portions of the book were very well-done and relevant to some concerns people sometimes have about making calls. I do not recommend or support the depth of effect the authors describe, much less the methods presented in training to address the issues.

Not sure what current editions show; but at that time there were several places in the book where the authors emphasized their ownership of “call reluctance,” including stern warnings about using it. I poo-pooed the warnings because it was so commonly used. My attitude changed a bit as time passed and some of my copyrighted material was ripped off: I wasn’t going to go as far as to sprinkle warnings in my own books, but I understood why they did.

Since then, I’ve periodically made efforts to avoid the phrase “call reluctance,” including removing it from articles, training materials and my own books. This has proved tough to do for one reason: It’s really a perfect phrase. In fact, I just found yet another use of it in this blog, which prompted this post.

Well Done, Dudley

So here’s a shout-out to George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson. “Call reluctance” is concise, evocative, and clear without demeaning. Others may use it with no thought to the artistry that created it, but I think of that every time. The phrase is as elegant as e = mc squared, as beautiful as any of Da Vinci’s sculptures.

(And I will continue to work on using other phrases.)

How (Not) to Raise Funds

Waterbed storeOnce upon a time, our homes were constantly invaded by telemarketers. They were pushy, rude, assumptive and would not take “no” for an answer unless we pronounced it at least three times. This grew from an inconvenience to an invasion so significant laws were passed to quell these calls…almost.

What remains are largely calls from political groups and charities. Most use the same annoying approach that generated Do Not Call laws. If you lead one of these organizations or a fundraising firm, take heed: adapt before you go the way of the waterbed store. And if you are raising funds yourself, don’t copy those calls — apply the tips below. (more…)

The Joys of Bad Grammar

grammar hound“Your grammar is not very good.”

Every now and then, someone writes to say I should work on the grammar in an article. The most recent person wrote the above, which in of itself is poor grammar. (Okay, I confess, that last sentence is a teeny bit snarky.)

The thing is: bad grammar can have very good effect.

In Scripting

Scripts written using proper grammar often sound overly-scripted. Using these scripts also tends to feel awkward. This means “proper” writing backfires on both ends of the phone line.

Learning to write effective, natural-sounding scripts takes practice. To help people get into the swing of it, many articles in the cold calling section are written the way people talk. This includes purposeful bad grammar and short sentences.

In Manuals and Materials that Teach

Training materials and reference manuals written using proper grammar too often utilize longer sentences which in turn require a good deal more concentration.

The above sentence is written properly, but here is a sentence people will easily absorb: Proper grammar can make training materials and reference manuals harder to understand.

Since my blog articles are intended to teach, good grammar is tossed out the window yet again.

When it’s on the Internet

People tend to scan stuff on the internet. The same is true of stuff viewed on monitors. If sentences are too long–properly constructed or not–it’s easy to lose track of the point. This is yet another reason to apply somewhat lax grammar.

You, too, May Want to Drop Proper Grammar

Next time you’re writing a script or something instructional, try using shorter sentences and grammar that mirrors how people talk. You’ll find the scripts sound (and feel) better, people learn more quickly, and references are easier to use.

You’ll also find there are fewer reasons to argue over correct use of semi-colons; but don’t worry, there will be other minutiae on which to spend meeting time. (See? Proper grammar again.)


Hooray for Headsets


Let’s keep it simple: The people at are absolutely wonderful. They’ll help you find the right headset. They also provide outstanding service. (No, they don’t pay me a referral fee.)

Mind Control: Why Some Calls to Action Work and Some Don’t

Mind control“Register”
“Buy Now”
“If you’re interested, call me back.”

Those are examples of a call to action — a marketing term and practice that’s been around for over 100 years. The first two work, the third doesn’t. The question answered in this article is, “How come?” (more…)

Phone Phobia: Not Just for Old People Anymore

phone phobiaReports of younger people being afraid to pick up the phone to call prospects have become numerous. Is this fresh scourge of phone phobia different from what ails older people? The answer is no… and yes. The no part: The end result is the same–not making calls and/or being unsuccessful in that. However, the reasons behind fear of phone are different for younger people. Resolving those fears takes a slightly different approach, too.

Definitions: “Younger” and “Older”

For the sake of simplicity let’s say everyone born on or after 1985 is “younger.” Everyone else, moi included, is “older.” (sigh) (more…)

Why “Just Do It” Just Won’t Work

People who are nervous or uncomfortable when cold calling are often told to “just do it.” Call 30 or 40 times and you’ll get over it — that’s the idea. Though there is a kernel of truth in that, it’s a teeny, tiny kernel. So before you decide to grit your teeth and just do it…

30 or 40 Calls Won’t Reach 30 or 40 People

People aren’t always at their desk or home. You’ll get lots of voicemail, which means you mostly get used to leaving voicemail. This also means nervousness about talking with humans in a cold call acquires a layer of “Whew, got their voicemail.”  So how many calls will you need to get over feeling nervous? That’s not how it works, so read on. (more…)

How to Leverage Voicemail

There are two schools of thought about voicemail and both are valid.

One school of thought says not to leave voicemails — just keep calling until you reach a person. There are positives about this approach but one common negative: frustration. If you begin to think of reaching a prospect’s voicemail as a “bad” call that frustration will snowball. So pay attention to how you’re feeling and change tactics to before it’s too late: apply the other school of thought, which says heck yes leave voicemails! Here are some tips.

RadioVoicemail: Part Radio Ad, Part Verbal Postcard

Your voicemail messages have a lot in common with two other marketing tools: Radio ads and postcards.

Voicemail messages are part radio ad because they help increase name recognition. Voicemail also makes it easy to add some style, personality and ad-worthy information.

Voicemail is part verbal postcard because of message brevity and because the response rate for voicemail is about the same as the response rate for traditional mail.


How to Turn Gatekeepers Into Allies

GatekeeperLet’s start this article by defining “gatekeeper.” It’s anyone who picks up the phone who is not your direct prospect. That includes the prospects’ co-workers, staff, operators, receptionists, administrative assistants, and secretaries. And I’m now going to tell you absolutely everything you need to turn these gatekeepers into people who help you. That’s right: everything. You ready? Here we go…

Treat them nicely. Treat them with respect. Treat them the same way you treat your direct prospects. Read on for examples of how to do this, and a brief lecture on why schmoozing, manipulation and lying are not just wrong — they’re not worth it. (more…)

Things That Improve Calling Success #1: Dump the Baggage

Ideas about what we can or “should” be able to do with cold calling impact success and how we feel about calling. It’s important to know what is truold proe and what is not true.

There’s lots of mythology floating around, including: You should customize each and every call to each and every prospect, it takes seven messages before they call you back, you need compelling solution statements, you’ll sound better if you stand up (which is sometimes true).

The most harmful myth of all: Only rookies and losers make cold calls.

In fact, successful and experienced people often pick up the phone to call total strangers. The myth lives on mostly due to semantics. These old pros tend not to describe their calls as “cold” because they don’t resemble the kind of “cold” calls they were taught to make. So what kind of calls are they making?

Here’s the scoop:

Things That Improve Cold Calling Success #2: Talk The Way You Normally Talk

female typing 2People making calls of any temperature do not want to sound “canned.” They want to sound professional, confident and relaxed. If possible, they also want to feel professional, confident and relaxed. Here’s how you do all of that:

Do not try to “sound” professional or “make” prospects feel something

You are professional — talk the way you normally talk. Use the kinds of words you normally use.  As for using words that supposedly make prospects pay attention or become interested… forget about it. We really cannot make people do stuff or feel a certain way. If you have the idea that you can or “should” be able to do that, you’re setting unrealistic expectations and frustration will mount when you’re not able to meet those expectations. (more…)

Q: The cold calling program description says B2B and B2C are covered. Aren’t they too different to lump together?

Your question actually raises two issues: Are B2B calls different from B2C calls? And when there is a mixed group, how does the program handle each person’s need to focus on their particular target market? Let me tackle those one by one.

Are B2B and B2C Calls Different?


Oh, wait… I bet you also want an explanation of that answer. When people think these calls are different, they usually mean calls to businesses should be more sophisticated. Prospects are business owners, C-suite executives, decision-makers — they are highly intelligent and very busy. We have to respect that or they’ll shut down our call in a hot second.

Okay, all of that is true. Now picture those intelligent, busy people as they leave work. Do they dumb-down, become less busy and drop their demand for respect on the way home? No, they do not. (more…)

Why Making Calls in Class Doesn’t Work

Someone recently asked me why Savage and Greene cold calling training does not include torturing students by forcing them to make cold calls in front of all of their peers. Well…I slightly edited their question but you get the idea.

The short answer: Making calls does not have the desired effect (not even close) and wastes a ton of time better-spent on things that will help students succeed. The longer answer is shown below, including a bit of fascinating history. (more…)

How to Shop for Lists

Where Lists Come From

The types of data available is absolutely mind-boggling. We’re talking anything from what kinds of soup people in Oregon buy, to web-traffic habits of male executives who buy soup, to all soup can manufacturers in Ohio with between 501 and 723 employees.

There is tons of data, but there are only a handful of organizations that gather and compile data. (Dun and Bradstreet is one compiler you might have heard of.) Compilers organize the data in lists; anything from generic lists, to lists based on very specific requests.

Some Lists Are Like Beer

You need to know that in many cases you don’t buy lists, you rent access to the data on them. Keep your ears and eyes open for the phrases “single use” and “multiple use.”  Single-use means you get to use it once. Multiple-use means you can use it as often as you want over a period of time (e.g., a year).

Marketing pros will tell you that you usually need to market more than once for best results. So single-use is cheaper but also a big gamble. Now, I can hear the wheels turning…how will they know if you use it more than once? Well, the list-compilers salt the lists so they know when you use the data more than once. Remember that the data-compilers own the data. They have the right to bill you for multiple-use and they will. (more…)

Recording Calls in Training

“Instead of having participants make calls, we’re interested in having two or three calls made and recording them so they can be analyzed and discussed in training.”

That seems like a reasonable compromise but the bottom line is an even stronger “no” because recording involves the issue of consent.


Why Am I Getting Cold Calls On My Cell Phone!?

Many people are extra-annoyed when they get a cold call on their cell phone. How did they get that oh-so-special-private-number!? What kind of evil conspiracy is afoot and how do you report these dastardly callers? Before you dash off an angry email to, um…somebody… you should know a bit about the history of telephone directories.

Long, long ago, before internet tubes and email, only super heroes had phones in their cars and there was one phone company. Yes, you read that correctly: One. Telephone. Company.

When people needed to find a phone number for a person or a business, they would dial – actually dial – a zero and a human operator would look up the phone number for you. “May I have the phone number for the Woolworth’s on First Street?” “Do you have a listing for a Shawn Greene in Livermore?”

Later, the number for directory assistance was changed to 411. However, whether we dialed one digit or three, the ability to find phone numbers was an important service most people very much appreciated and often relied upon. (more…)

Prospects’ reaction, and motivation

Tania asked:

I get motivated when I feel I am making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. I think this could hurt me because of how I perceive negative reactions on the phone. Any suggestions for people like me to remain motivated when cold calling? (more…)

Call Reluctance for Old Pros?

Dear Shawn:

Ever heard of anyone who has been in sales forever suddenly catching call reluctance? I used to make hundreds of cold calls each week, but that was years ago. Now I’m struggling to pick up the phone.

Shawn says:

Yes, I have heard of successful, experienced sales reps suddenly experiencing a hefty dose of call reluctance. In fact, there are two ways that experienced reps can have even more trouble than rookies. (more…)

Not Enough Appointments

Dear Shawn:

After reading your book (great book, by the way), I have been cold calling every day and tracking results. I’m not getting the appointments I need. I’m calling homes during the day. My best day, I called 87 people and connected with 16 and got 2 appointments. But on the other days I made almost 150 calls and only connected with maybe 35 people, and got only one appointment. I don’t want to call during the evening. Am I doing something wrong?

Shawn says: (more…)