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4 Mistakes That Can Poison a Prospect Phone Call

by Bill Cates
4 Common Mistakes That Can Ruin a Prospect Phone Call

(Updated: September 2018)  I’ll go out on a limb and guess that everyone reading this has had a prospect phone call like the one I encountered recently ….


A few weeks ago, I arranged a call with a professional who offers a service that I needed, who had been referred to me by a colleague.


After some pleasantries, she said, “What I usually like to do is tell you how I work – about our processes. Then I’ll learn more about what you need. How does that sound?”


Now I was thinking, “That’s bass-akwards.” (As my father used to say.)  “Shouldn’t she want to know about me first, so she can tailor her comments accordingly?” 


I knew going in that I was not her average prospective client. I had quite a bit of experience in her area of expertise. She would have been well served to know that.


The point to all this?  Irrelevance is poison to a prospect phone call! By not getting to know more about me before the call, she missed an opportunity to create a much more relevant and compelling impression.


4 Mistakes that can reduce the impact of Referral Prospect phone call


  1. Not Getting the Scoop Before the Call – This woman was introduced to me by a mutual colleague. She could have easily spoken to him before our call – to learn what he knew about me. And how much more targeted and meaningful would her initial impression have been had she made it known that she visited my website and/or LinkedIn profile?
  2. Not Using a Pre-Call Survey – I was doing a training session two weeks ago with a Canadian-based company.  One of their top-performing reps told the group that when she gets her prospect to complete a simple 5-question survey (designed to expose potential gaps), she converts 90% of those prospects into clients. Irrelevance is a deadly poison to be avoided at all costs!
  3. Not Starting the Call Confirming What You Learned – Rather than launch into your pre-planned pitch on what you do and how you do it, let your prospect know that you prepared for this time with them. Confirm what you learned. Ask a few clarifying questions to learn even more.
  4. Not Assuming that They are Busy – When calling a prospect for the first time, don’t open the call with, “Are you busy?”  Of course they’re busy!  They could be busy taking a nap, but they were doing something. If they say, “Yes,” then you start to feel unnecessary pressure to rush through whatever you had planned to say. Instead, here are two alternatives that will acknowledge that they are busy and that you will be respectful of their time…

    • From Phone Teacher, Gail Goodman: “I know you’re busy, so I’ll be brief.”
    • From Conversations Expert David Rich:  “I know you’re busy, the reason I’m calling is…”


Sometimes your prospect might “force” you into a bit of presentation before you’ve planned. Go ahead and give them a little, but after a minute or two you can say, “There’s so much I can tell you, but I think we both want this call to be as efficient as possible. And I want to ensure we discuss what’s most relevant to you and your situation. Would you mind if I asked a few questions before I talk too much about me?


A prospect phone call should always be mutually qualifying – so therefore there’s a delicate balance between your learning about them and them learning about you.


When you talk about what you do to prospects,
you want to make it as relevant to them as possible.


The more engagement you can create before your first prospect phone call and the more you can learn about your prospect, the more relevant, compelling, and effective you’ll be.


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