Cold calling nightmares!

The Brief
Awkward conversation with a stranger. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Throw in a sales pitch and, well, let’s just say there’s a reason we waited until Halloween to bring you our list of the scariest cold calling experiences from our staff here at RelSci. But hey, it just gives you even more motivation to get that warm introduction!

Happy Halloween! 

Jonathan Lowenberg, the chameleon 

It happened at one of my first sales jobs. I had just graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. I used to make my calls early in the morning before any assistant would be in at the office. It was 7:00am when I first reached a man named James Ashton (name changed). Mr. Ashton was a corporate CEO, and I knew my real estate services could make his life better. 

“Hello, this is James Ashton,” he said in a surprisingly thick southern drawl. 

“Hello James, this is Jonathan with XYZ Company,” I responded in my New York accent. 

“Are you from New York?” he asked.   

“I am, sir. I–,” 

“No, thank you. I don’t talk to New Yorkers.” Click. 

Rather stunned, but not to be swayed by this, I called back at the same time the next morning. 

“Hello, this is James Ashton.”

I was more careful when I spoke this time. “Hi, Mr. Ashton. This is Jonathan with XYZ Company.” My voice dripped with my Emory-perfected southern twang. 

“Aren’t you the same fella who called me yesterday?”

“Why yes, sir. I am.”

“What happened to your accent?”

“I changed it for you, sir. I’d really like to speak to you.”

At this, he cracked up. He laughed for a full minute before finally saying, “Okay, Jonathan. You got me. What can I do you for?”

It wasn’t my largest sale, but maybe my most memorable. 

Andrew Jaffe, the hunter

At a previous job, I was sending cold outreach emails. One guy didn’t respond until the third email when he wrote back with just three words, “STOP HUNTING ME.” You can be sure I never thought about my cold calls the same way.

Another time, I was cold calling leads when I reached a guy who must have had a bad day. He got on the phone, and before I could get out my company’s name, launched into a full-on tirade against all cold-callers ever.

Over the next ten minutes, he blasted me, starting every invective with a condescending “Do you understand…?”  

“Do you understand that I’m working right now?”

“Do you understand that YOU are interrupting ME?”

“Do you understand that I do not have extra time in my day?”

And on and on and on. I got off that call feeling like a punching bag. 

Kristine Hankins, the runner

My first job out of college was in cold calling. Most days it wasn’t too bad. You got the usual people who would screen their calls only to respond to your email the next minute, and the people who just wanted to talk but would never let you get a word in edgewise. One time, though, I got a very different response. I made my call, did my well-rehearsed introduction, and the man on the other end responded,

“You sound sexy.”

Ugh. I hung up before I could hear his full pickup line. 

Alina Kors, the hacker

This story is a cold calling nightmare for the recipient, but a win for me! Most of the major corporations I used to call at my old job use the same directory system, called Audix. I learned that if you get just one person’s direct number, you can hack into the directory to get the direct line for every person in the company. All of a sudden everyone was exposed, and they were all taking our calls! 

Monika Bergander, the socialite 

Normally, it’s the cold caller who feels creepy or out of line. On one call, though, the person I was calling decided to turn the tables. While on the call, he actually sent me a LinkedIn request to connect. I can understand wanting to view my profile, but to actually connect during our first introduction? It was a bit…intense. 

Mark Bechhofer, the mentor

At an old job, I had a young trainee starting her first week of calls. We’d gone through our script, our goals and our tactics to keep the conversation on track—she was ready. Sitting next to me, she made the first call.

The person answered the phone. He said hello and asked for her name. She said Grace.

Well, upon learning of her name, he intuited that she must be a divine sort of person and should join with him in his faith. As she tried to bring the conversation back to the sale, he continued to work off his script, providing a litany of reasons to convert. She finally got him off the call, but for the next few weeks, she’d get an email every day from him, complete with conversion videos. Quite the first week! 


Any others to add? Share with us @relsci

RelSci is a technology solutions company that helps create competitive advantage for organizations through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. Our clients (and sales team) never make cold calls. Want to learn more?

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