A Bad Cold Sales Call


After plopping down in my only unpacked chair, exhausted from a long day of packing and stacking boxes, the phone rings …


“Hi Mike?” A girl squeaks with a very friendly, yet meek and apologetic voice. “I … I’m so sorry to be bothering you on … on Friday night, I know it’s late and I … I really apologize, but I had to call. I … I hope that’s OK?”

Have you ever spoken with someone so friendly they start to piss you off? “Sir, please, thank you, sir, so kind of you, I really appreciate your time, sir, thank you, sir, my pleasure, absolutely, perfect, fantastic, sir.

This girl was that girl.

Is this a Sales Call?

What follows is that call. My purpose for writing this is to point out an ineffective, bad, poor, lame, time-consuming, ridiculous, borderline offensive sales pitch.

The reason this was so bad is it was veiled — A sales pitch in disguise.

If you think about it, this pitch might seem intelligent. I actually think she is an advanced salesperson who purposefully planned this pitch by thinking about bloggers like myself, and identifying what bloggers want most. Then she planned out this pitch thinking she was using it perfectly to get attention.

She got attention, but she pissed me off.

So to answer the question: what do bloggers want most? For someone to read and appreciate their work.

I have people send me emails all the time asking me about my articles, telling me they like a specific point I made, and asking my advice. I love it!

Every now and again someone summons the courage to call me. Typically, they are shocked when I answer the phone.

So when I answered the phone, I was trying to identify the purpose of the phone call as fast as possible. I’m more than willing to talk marketing with anyone anytime, but I was tired, wanted to relax for a minute and I don’t like being suckered into a 15 minute conversation by a pretender. Just tell me what you want!

Below is a summary of the conversation and my thoughts in real time. I paraphrased it, but it’s pretty close even though I took out all the stuttering, stammering and apologies that exposed her lack of self-confidence, or her poor use of the Columbo technique.

The Sales Conversation

SARA: Hi Mike this is Sara from a niche magazine,” how are you today?

MIKE: I’m good Sara. How are you? [MIKE THOUGHTS: this is a sales call.]

SARA: Good! I’m so sorry to bother you on a Friday night but I was searching on the web for experts and bloggers, and people talking about this certain niche and I found your article.


SARA: I really like what you have to say. You have an interesting take on marketing to that niche.

MIKE: Thanks.

SARA: Yeah it was just very interesting to read and I think you would be perfect for our magazine. You have a unique point of view. How would you explain your type of marketing?

MIKE: Thanks. It’s direct response, or lead generation marketing that uses emotional hot-buttons to get attention. [MIKE THOUGHTS: maybe it’s not a sales call.]

SARA: Are you currently working with companies in that niche?

MIKE: No. I just saw the advertising is wrong and wanted to point it out. [MIKE THOUGHTS: Why is she calling me?]

SARA: Well, if we referred you to some businesses, or they saw how really great your ideas are, would you be willing to work with companies in that niche? Because you have some really brilliant ideas and I think our readers would really like to, and need to, hear your point of view.

MIKE: OK. [MIKE THOUGHTS: Is she asking me to write for her magazine?]

SARA: Our niche magazine has a special issue coming out about marketing for businesses in our niche and I think you would be a perfect fit because of your ideas and your expertise. We would feature you along with 12 others and give you a full page for an article. But, we would need that article to be unique. How does that sound?

[MIKE THOUGHTS: What is she saying? Is this a sales call after all? Was that a close attempt?]

MIKE: Are you asking me to write or to advertise?

SARA: Both.

[MIKE THOUGHTS: This IS a sales call!]

MIKE: How much is it? [MIKE THOUGHTS: Why did I ask this question? I don’t care what her answer is. Well, other than to hear what she says … could this experience be a blog post? Hmmm…]

SARA: Well, you get X, Y and Z with a reach of 48,000 in the print magazine and 48,000 digital for just $1,050.

MIKE: That’s not in my budget. I won’t be able to take you up on that.

SARA: Well, is there a number that is in your budget that I could TRY to work to?

MIKE: No, not really. I’ll take a look, but I really don’t think it’s going to happen. Send me an email and if I’m interested, I’ll let you know. [MIKE THOUGHTS: I wonder how she will overcome the “send information” stall … I wonder what she will say if I ask her to let me write for her magazine.]


[MIKE THOUGHTS: Wow! She didn’t even try to overcome the send more information stall]

MIKE: Before I let you go Sara, who can I submit articles for inclusion to?

SARA: Well, we have a lot of people who want to get articles in and we have a gigantic backlog of them. We really just can’t accept anymore.

MIKE: Ever?

SARA: No, we really don’t have any openings.

MIKE: Unless I pay?

SARA: If you advertise — yes, and that gets you a full page to write about anything you want – within our niche of course.

MIKE: Of course …

SARA: Well, if you are not interested right now, can I reach back out to you in the future? Maybe you will be prepared or in a better position then.

MIKE: Sure [MIKE THOUGHTS: I wonder what she will say then …]

NOTE: I never received an email from her. I guess that’s why she didn’t try to overcome the stall.

The Cheese and Whiskers Opening

Sara’s pitch is what is called a cheese and whiskers opening. It was invented by Dean Jackson which I think he reworked from a Sandler Sales technique called the pink slip. Dean says that prospects are like mice. They respond to cheese, but flee from the whiskers of a cat. So, the idea is you want to bait your prospect into thinking one thing while something else is really going on.

The standard cheese and whiskers opening goes something like this:

Send the prospect an email that asks if they could handle more business. When they reply yes, ask them to give you an estimate for a lot of business this week. Never explain why you are asking and make the request so ridiculous you have to get an owner or manager involved. Then, discuss your opportunity with the owner or manager and show them how your product/service can help them achieve the increase in business you promised in the email.

This is a basic example of the cheese and whiskers opening, but you get the idea. Oh, and also …

… It pisses me off!

It pisses everyone off!

There ARE some versions of this that are more useful.

If you are curious, the Sandler Sales Pink Slip technique is less obnoxious, or less noticeable. It goes like this:

Mike: Hey, is John there, I got a note to call him. John, It’s Mike Miller, I had a note to call you.

John: What’s this about Mike?

Mike: I don’t know. I was just told to call you, but I don’t know where this came from. Why would I need to call you?

John: I don’t know, what do you do?

Mike: [Then you go into your commercial and finish with] Why would something like this be important to you?

Even though I respect Dean Jackson and Sandler Sales, this cheese and whiskers/pink slip opening has actually been called “the bait and switch” for centuries. We all know it when we experience it. The version Sara used was rather off-putting to say it mildly. She wasted my time.

I did a bait and switch once accidentally and unintentionally and understand why the prospect got upset. It does happen unintentionally sometimes, but I think Sara was pulling out all the stops to butter me up so she could pull the trigger.

Everyone has Been Used, but Salespeople that Do It Are #@(%$

Almost everyone has had the experience of a member of the opposite sex using their attractiveness to sucker punch you. Girls use “buy me a drink so I can go dance with that guy,” or “You’re cute, want to help me move?” I don’t know what guys use on girls, but I know guys can be selfish and rude too.

This cheese and whiskers opening is not only selfish and rude — it’s dishonest.

She almost sold me on thinking she either wanted my help, or wanted to ask me to write for her magazine. Just when I thought I understood why she was calling, she swerved on me. The entire conversation was her attempt at a pitch and it was just horrible.

  • It took a long time
  • It confused me
  • She invested a lot of time and effort into a ruse
  • She didn’t make a sale
  • She earned my ire

On the plus side, I got a blog post out of it and maybe she learned something.

Sales Training 101

You may wonder, “what if it was a salesperson? Would you have talked to them or hung up on them?” Honestly, I would have talked to them. Why? I want to hear everyone’s pitch! I sometimes buy, if it’s a good product and a good salesperson. But I test salespeople. I always give them buying signals then turn cold just to see how they will respond. I like to get pitched! I pride myself on dissecting their pitches and testing them. Why? Because I want to know what works! I learn from them and the companies that train them.

Just Cold Call Me!

A sales call should be a sales call. There are many other better ways to stand out on a cold call than to resort to trickery and deceit.

I’d rather you say: “Hey Mike, this is a cold call. Got 30 seconds?”

If someone respects me, and respects my time, they don’t genuflect to me or beat around the bush. Get to it! Find out if I am a prospect! Don’t take no for an answer, and don’t pretend to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Sell me!

But, you will only sell me when you understand what I want …

… and the only way to know what I want is to ask me.

You won’t trick me into telling you. That will piss me off and you will NEVER earn my trust!

P.S. But maybe I’m watching the pitch too closely. I know that Sandler Sales techniques are hard to spot when done correctly. They get good results from them. Maybe there’s a line you never cross if you do it correctly, which leaves the prospect unaware. The trouble is, if they notice, you are dead.

About Michael Miller

Mike Miller is the co-owner of Mindwhirl.com, a Digital Marketing Agency in Atlanta, Georgia that focuses on aligning sales and marketing for exponentially greater results.

Michael’s mission is helping small business owners understand, and organize their marketing so they can make money and grow.

Mindwhirl helps business owners plan and implement effective, profitable marketing campaigns and sales programs.

If you need more sales, we know how to get leads and grow businesses. Call us today at (770) 295-8660, or email Mike at mmiller@mindwhirl.com.

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