Claude’s Critical Cold Call Mistakes


First, I should mention that I am not an expert when it comes to sales or cold calling. I did work as a telemarketer for 2 weeks in high school and hated every minute of it. My experience for this particular post and the advice I will share comes from being the recipient of a particularly annoying cold call. I know how it impacted me, and I am sure I’m not alone.

About a week ago, we got a call on the “business line” at the house. Linda answered and I heard her say, “may I tell him who’s calling?”.  Apparently the caller said something like, “he’s expecting my call”, without identifying himself. Linda handed the phone to me and it turned out to be someone I never heard of, telling me that a mutual friend referred him to me, and that she was supposed to tell me he would be calling. He (we’ll call him “Claude”) says he likes to help small businesses and wanted to get together for coffee.

Here’s where it all went wrong:

1. He kept saying he wanted to talk about “your business”. When I asked which business he meant, he couldn’t seem to remember, or he didn’t know. Strike (and critical mistake) #1.

When I told Linda about the call she was suspicious. She has a good nose for these sorts of things, so it got me thinking. Which lead to strike 2…

2. I decided to ask our mutual friend if in fact she knew this guy and if she referred him to me. She knew him, but never mentioned my name. Her guess was that he went fishing through her LinkedIn contacts to see what he could find. Not cool in my mind, and Strike 2.

This isn’t baseball, so I didn’t feel a chance at a third strike was warranted. I sent him a very direct note stating that we would not be getting together because he misrepresented himself and lied.

What I really took away from this experience was that the call etiquette is really the same whether it’s for sales, an interview, or any other reason you would be calling where ultimately, the relationship is going to matter.

1. Know who you are calling. It sounds simple, but it’s powerful. If you are calling William at ACME but ask for or refer to Doug at XYZ, your credibility is shot. You may be calling a ba-zillion companies or applicants, but to them they are the only one.

2. Be honest. It’s WAY too easy these days to check on whether John knows Jay or Ben knows Jim, so don’t represent yourself as something that you aren’t. As in my situation, the truth came out and “Claude” didn’t get what he was looking for.

Here’s the other side of that coin. A gentleman named O. Lee Mincey sent me a note (through LinkedIn, ironically) a few years ago stating that he had seen my profile, it seemed we had a lot in common and it would be good for us to be “connected”.  I agreed and to this day he is someone I respect and want to see succeed.

“Claude”, on the other hand, will only be the main character in a story about what not to do when cold calling.

How do you want to be remembered?

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