RevOps Therapy Podcast: The Most Brutal Cold Call

On this episode of the RevOps Therapy Podcast Erika Davis chats with four sales reps about their best (or worst) cold calling horror stories.

Show notes

You never know when it’s coming: that cold call that goes wrong. Just completely wrong. And when it happens, your rep’s first instinct is to turn to their neighbor or poke their head in your door and exclaim, “You’ll never believe what just happened!”

Are you missing that camaraderie of the sales floor now that so much cold calling is happening at home? Are you feeling a little out-of-the-loop now that you’re not in the trenches with your team, sharing stories, being able to coach right there, in the moment?

In an effort to restore some of that missing camaraderie, RevOps therapist, Erika Davis, chats with four sales reps who share their best (or worst) cold calling horror stories.

From stories we all share, like drawing a blank when someone actually picks up and handling a rude prospect, to stories so bizarre that they’re hard to believe, we’ll have you laughing and cringing right along and ready to coach your reps, should they find themselves in similar situations.

Transcript

Hunter Collins

… there’s days where I dread it, and everyone does it, you just stare at the phone, stare at the start calling button, and 30 minutes have passed and you haven’t started calling, so I’m guilty [inaudible].

Erika Davis

If you can relate to that, this episode is for you. Welcome to RevOps Therapy, and in this episode, I interviewed four people who cold-call. Most of them are BDRs, SDRs, but some of them have been AEs and SDR managers too. And we were thinking as we were planning this episode, that because so many people are cold-calling remotely now, we’re really missing out on being able to turn to someone next to you when a cold-call goes a little rough and say, “Oh man, listen to what just happened to me.” And so we hope this episode can bring a little bit of that back. Enjoy.

Speaker 2

Say you want some clarity in sales, and marketing, and SEP, well, we have just the remedy, our podcast, RevOps Therapy.

Erika Davis

This is the first BDR that I talked to.

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

My name is Sri, and I’m right now working as a BDR at Outplay. So I’ve been cold-calling for more than two years now, doing the BDR role.

Erika Davis

And Sri told a really funny story about a time when one of his teammates got nervous on a cold-call.

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yeah, yeah. So this friend of mine was just cold-calling, and it was his first time cold-calling. And he was very scared, sweaty palms, and you can’t stop shaking, you can’t get your legs to stop, you’re always shaking. And he calls up this C-suite, or VP of customer support or something, and he screws up. Everything goes blank, he never expected him to pick up, and he straight up told this VP of customer support, “Hey, I’m so sorry for cold-calling you, this is the first time I’m cold-calling. I’m so sorry, I screwed up. I’m going to take leave.” And the guy on the opposite end just laughed his heart out, “Hey dude, I’m so sorry this is your job, take some time and call me back.” Two, three months out, he actually booked a meeting with the same guy, and that became a qualified opportunity as well. So that was a good story.

Erika Davis

Wow. I think we’ve all been there-

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yeah.

Erika Davis

Where we’ve gotten on our 90th call of the day, and you don’t expect anyone to answer-

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yep.

Erika Davis

And then someone answers-

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yep, yep.

Erika Davis

Like, “I forgot what to do in this case.”

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yep. My manager always tell me, “Hey, they’re not the only ones who are surprised that you cold-called them, you’re also surprised because they picked up.” Both of you are surprised, and that’s why you have to diffuse that awkward moment in the first five seconds with a unique cold-call opener. I actually got coached one of these cold-calls, just this chief customer officer, I was selling customer support software in my previous company, and he just told me, “Hey, you know what, dude? Your script sucks. This is how you should cold-call me.” And he tells me how to cold-call him. And I was a shameless BDR who actually, just like a parrot, I repeated whatever he said, and still asked for the meeting, and he laughed, and, “Hey, good try, but no, I’m not going to…” But I mean, still, it was a good memory, for sure.

Erika Davis

Did you end up using that script on future cold-calls?

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

I did, but it never really took off. Guy knows a lot about customer support, but I guess it’s not about cold-calls.

Erika Davis

Yeah. I would’ve called him back and said, “Hey, I tried that script, and actually, it wasn’t working for me. Do you have any other ideas?”

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

It was almost like a mission that I made out of that particular prospect and the account to do whatever it takes to book that meeting, because that just goes on the top of the number of the embarrassing moments that I’ve had, for someone to actually take a minute, “Hey, I’m going to coach you on cold-calling.” And he was not even in sales.

Erika Davis

Wow.

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yeah.

Erika Davis

How long was that call? Do you remember how many minutes that call was?

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yeah, that was close to eight to nine minutes.

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Wow.

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yeah.

Erika Davis

Wow.

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

That was 6:00 AM in the morning.

Erika Davis

Oh, wow. Yeah, I’ve heard other BDRs say the first objection someone will say is, “I don’t have time for this right now.”

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

Yeah.

Erika Davis

And then the call will go on nine or 10 minutes, and they’re just explaining to you why they don’t have time.

Srivaradha Vanamamalai

“Hey, what just happened?”

“No, let’s just book a call.”

Erika Davis

Next we’ll hear from Hunter, who’s also going to share a story about something that happened to a teammate.

Hunter Collins

My name is Hunter Collins. I am a sales development representative at Encompass Technologies, which is a software company based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. I have been in sales for as long as I remember, but I’d say my first real sales job was at about 19 years old, so 13 years in sales.

Erika Davis

Wow, what was the first thing that you sold?

Hunter Collins

Solar, door-to-door.

Erika Davis

Ah, door-to-door. The original cold-call.

Hunter Collins

Exactly, exactly. So I’ve been doing cold-calling for years in one former or another. I’ve also been an SDR manager before, and if this was how all of my SDRs would handle a really brutal cold-call, I would consider myself a successful manager. So this was back when I was an SDR for a commercial dumpster company, so you’re dealing with a lot of people who don’t have a lot of business acumen, they don’t have a lot of business sense on how to behave in a business setting, and that’s unfortunate. And so on the unfortunate side of that, the really most unfortunate thing is, you get a lot of angry people who are just flying off the rails when you’re talking to them and they’re angry.

And I remember one of my fellow SDRs at this company, Bobby, was speaking with this woman on the phone, and I don’t remember exactly what happened on that cold-call, but she just started letting loose on him, and throwing every bad word in the book at him, and Bobby just kind of leaned back in his chair and he’s like, “Wow, ma’am, that was just rude, and I don’t know what I did to set you off, and I’m very sorry that I did, but I know I couldn’t have done anything bad enough to really deserve what just happened, and so I’m going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe you’re having a bad day, maybe something else is wrong, and you’re taking it out on me. So I apologize, if you’d like to revisit this at a later date, let’s go ahead and schedule something, because this is not a situation that I want to continue any further with right now.”

And I mean, talk about a great way to handle a situation like that, because in my younger days especially, I would not have handled it that well. So to see someone handle a situation like that, where it is so easy to lash back, and stay cool, calm and collected, was amazing to see. So it was very funny to witness, especially with the tonality in his voice, he was like, “Wow, that was really rude.” I mean, it was entertaining, but at the same time, it was definitely a learning moment for a lot of us, because we saw that and said, “Wow, that’s how we should really aim to be when a cold-call goes bad.” Don’t lash back out, don’t do anything negative, kill them with kindness. And that’s a lesson that I’ve held with me for a long time is, when you’ve got someone that is just upset and flying off the rails, kill them with kindness, because it’s really hard to be mean to someone who is not engaging in returning that negative energy.

Erika Davis

Yeah, wow, that’s such a good story, and I really like that example, because I think it’s a good model for an SDR to handle any situation that gets out of line, right?

Hunter Collins

Right.

Erika Davis

So thank you for sharing that. I’ve talked to a lot of SDRs, a theme that’s come up a lot in my conversations is catching people in really personal situations, and we’ve been talking about the boundary between work and personal life, and how sometimes you call someone, and you find out something really tragic just happens, and they’ll tell you about it, right?

Hunter Collins

Right.

Erika Davis

And so I think this idea of, you are interrupting someone’s day, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, and I think my favorite part about what you shared was, “I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and just assume you’re having a bad day, and you’re taking it out on me.” And I think not only is that a good thing to say to prospects, but it’s also a good thing for an SDR to say to themselves, to say-

Hunter Collins

Right.

Erika Davis

“Okay, it’s not me, it’s not this job. I mean, this job might be really hard, but I don’t need to quit. They had a bad day, and I caught them in a really bad time.”

Hunter Collins

Yeah. And well, I mean, beyond that, it’s really important to keep in mind as an SDR that every no that you’re getting, you shouldn’t take it personally, because yes, they are saying no to you, but they’re not really saying no to you.

Erika Davis

Next, I talked to Ryan.

Ryan Horn

Thank you. My name’s Ryan, I’m an SDR with Seamless AI. I’ve been cold-calling since graduating with a marketing degree. I’ve been in a lot of different cold-calling roles, business-to-consumer, SaaS, B2B, and now I help SDRs as well with lead generation contact data. So a lot of the problems I had cold-calling and as an SDR, my company now solves a lot of it, a little promo there, but I enjoyed it, and I feel like I’m pretty good, so excited to share with you guys today.

Erika Davis

I believe Ryan when he says he’s good, because like all good SDRs, Ryan came to this call prepared.

Ryan Horn

I made a list, and it grows every day, and I’ll take the top ones that even if it’s been years, still haunts me to this day. One in particular, I don’t wish this on my worst enemy, I was calling some intent data leads, and my prospect picked up, and it was really cringey and awkward. I was trying to open it, but something was just weird on the other end, and then somebody else answered, I guess you could say, and it was a very upset mom, as to why a grown man was calling her 11 year old daughter.

Intent data, I don’t know what it was, maybe it was just an ad, or clicked on a web website, I had no idea, it was just, “Hey, here’s a name, an email.” It was a personal email, “And a phone number.” And everything was right, the only thing that I didn’t know is that it was a minor, and I was like, “I’m so sorry. You’re probably mad, upset, confused. I can hang up now, it was just a mistake, but let me tell you what happened here, so maybe I don’t do this again, and your daughter doesn’t appear on more selling lists, I guess.”

Erika Davis

Oh my gosh.

Ryan Horn

It was brutal. That haunts me to this day, and it actually happened to me twice. So it’s…

Erika Davis

Wow. How [crosstalk] was that received by the mom when you said, “Hey, I can give you some advice to not let this happen again.” Did that call end well, or did she not listen?

Ryan Horn

No, she was genuinely worried, but understanding. I was like, “Hey, there’s no malicious intent here, I’m a sales guy, I’m an SDR, I make cold-calls, and the people that I’m reached out to today visited our website, and the little accept cookies got the phone number that I’m calling today. And I thought that was based off intent data that you were interested in my products and services, and that’s what I was calling. Clearly a mistake, clearly your 11 year old daughter does not need the technology, or what I’m selling, so I’ll make sure that we get that number out of our list.”

Erika Davis

Wow.

Ryan Horn

Understanding, but very cringey. I had to hop off the dialer for a bit after at that.

Erika Davis

I was going to ask you, after you hung up that call, what’d you do? You stopped calling for a little bit, but how did you process that?

Ryan Horn

I was laughing so hard. I was working from home, so I was immediately just texting, or Slacking all of my colleagues like, “You will not I believe what just happened to me.” And then I messaged my manager, I was like, “Hey, this happened off of this lead list, is there anything that I could have done differently to make sure that I vet this a little bit more?” Because I try to do that pre-call research, but it’s also a number’s game, but just one of those that slipped through the cracks, and I don’t wish that on anybody, so be careful on intent data.

Erika Davis

Lastly, I talked to JoBeth.

JoBeth Hanak

My name is JoBeth Hanak, I’ve been in sales for about six years now. I got my start working in a 24-hour fitness, selling gym memberships, moved into personal training, absolutely loved the hustle and the grind, and ended up in tech sales not too many years later. And I started off in a lot of like full-cycle roles, and whenever the pandemic hit, I actually ended up stepping into an enterprise BDR role. So I’ve been a BDR for about the last year and a half, which was quite a change from being an AE.

Erika Davis

And when I asked JoBeth about her experience with the most brutal cold-call, it was clear that she had a lot to share.

JoBeth Hanak

Yeah, let’s see, where to start? I think early on in my tech career, I was calling SMBs, mostly people who were listed somewhere on Yelp. Ironically, I was really scared of calling the home improvement people. I found pet groomer were kind of the worst honestly. But I mean, the ones that really stand out to me from that time, and just some context, I went from selling into just general SMB businesses, to moving into another full-cycle AE role, where I was selling into construction companies. And I would talk to people and be like, “Oh yeah, construction companies.” And they’d be like, “Oh, aren’t they mean to you, because you’re femme presenting?” And I was like, “Actually, the people on the SMB, Yelp page people were the worst.”

I couldn’t have my full name on Facebook at that time, because some of them would like my charming person, and add me, and send me inappropriate messages. Probably the worst one was whenever I was talking to a guy who was a business owner, and he asked for my name and my company, and found me on LinkedIn, and started making sexual comments about me. I had so many of those experiences at that company, and being a young and hungry salesperson, I think… And my manager supported me all the way, but I was young and hungry, and willing to let a lot of things slide in order to make the sale. And looking back on it, I wish I could have maybe just respected myself more, and had more firm boundaries, and done more than just being like, “Hey, that’s not cool. Let’s get back to the call.” And been like, “This is inappropriate, I’m going to hang up, and I don’t want to do business with you.”

Erika Davis

Yeah. Yeah, I’m sorry that you had to go through that.

JoBeth Hanak

Yeah. Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve had a call like that. Some of the more recent calls, at my last company, I was calling into VP of sales, was one of personas that we called into, and sometimes those were the best people, because they were like, “Ah, totally get it. My reps call, you’re actually doing a really great job.” I even had one guy follow-up with an email, and be like, “Hey, here’s all the things that I really like about your call.” And then, “Hey, this is the one thing I would say you could improve on.” Which was really cool. I still keep in touch with that guy.

But definitely there were the people who would just be like… To the same script that I would use with that guy, and it’d be like, “Scripts are getting worse and worse every single day.” Just saying mean things like, “Get a real job.” There were definitely people who, really early on especially, would definitely try to make me feel bad, I guess, for the role that I held. Thankfully I was at a company with a really strong culture, so I was able to kind of let that roll off a little bit more, but sometimes it would sting.

Erika Davis

Thank you so much to all four of our podcast guests today for meeting with me and sharing some of your stories. I’d like to do more of these podcasts, hearing the experiences of salespeople, and so if you do have a story that you’d like to share, or you’d like to get in touch with us, you can email Revteam@GreaserConsulting.com.

Speaker 2

Hot dog, that was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting, or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the follow button, and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks, and see you really soon.

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The Greaser team is made up of sales engagement natives; many of our consultants, including our founder, were early employees at the companies who created sales engagement. We are passionate about supporting revenue generators, empowering them to grow their companies and serve more customers.