How to Scare Away Prospects on Your First Call

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Have you ever gotten on a call with a potential client and blurted out something that you regretted later? Or what about not being able to answer a question without stumbling around for the right answer? We’ve all been there at some point, and unfortunately, not every prospect call is a successful one.

While there isn’t an all-in-one prospect call formula, there are some things that definitely don’t help you end up with a favorable result. If we can remind ourselves what we should avoid doing, we’re more likely to have great prospect call experiences. Here are a few of the actions I consider no-no’s when on calls with prospective clients.

You May Scare Away a Prospect If You…

Gossip about the competition: Your motive may be innocent — to explain how your services are the best option for the client, for example. But if it ends in bad-mouthing the competition you may lose the client. There are ways to demonstrate your value without cutting down the next guy.

Talk about client relationships that went bad: Just as bad-mouthing the competition is a no-win tactic, so is bad-mouthing past clients. If the prospect asks about a specific relationship, provide high-level, non-specific details and move on. Consider if you’d be comfortable repeating what you said directly to your old client. If not, don’t say it.

Call late: As someone who is known to be annoyingly prompt, I expect my calls to start on time. Of course, there is an accepted 10-minute (or so) grace period, but if you make the client wait much longer than that, you may make them feel that you don’t value their time and aren’t really interested in the opportunity. Be on time and if you know you’ll be late, an email heads up can go a long way.

Talk excessively about your personal life: In my perspective, a touch of personal in a business setting is necessary for forming real and sustainable relationships. But there’s a fine line between sharing a little bit about your personal life and introducing the client to your cat, Fluffy, during the call.

Pressure them to make a decision on the spot: Many clients prefer to take some time to let the conversation percolate before making a decision. And, many times, this can work in your favor because you’ll have the assurance that they’re coming to the relationship fully committed. Certainly set a check-in point and outline the “get started process” to the prospect, but give them the time they need to think it through.

Your Turn

My general rule of thumb is to relax and be myself on prospect calls. Of course I want to impress the client and win the business, but at the end of the day, if we don’t have personalities that mesh and get a good vibe from each other, we’re better of not working together anyway. So the genuine “me” is always my approach.

What do you consider the worst things you can do on a prospect call? And, more importantly, what do you do to make every call a success?

Image credit: atroszko

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  • AK

    Believe it or not, it’s not a good idea to say “Show me the money!” to break the ice when talking about pricing.

    It’s a shame, because I really saw that as a good ice breaker.
    Wonder if there’s a better ice breaker.

  • LB

    Don’t witter on for ages. Open up with a warm rapport-building open-ended question, let them chat on about it for a few minutes, then when they run out of steam or 10 minutes has elapsed ask them if you can introduce them to the things you want to talk about with them today. Give them some quick bullet points and find out what their time commitments are. Reassure them that they tally with yours. Question effectively. Lead the conversation but don’t repeatedly interrupt. Summarize the points discussed and ask if there is anything else to discuss later. Put a date in the diary for later and finish by picking up on the opening personable chatter where you left off earlier. Shake their hand when you actually leave not before, it gets awkward if you shake their hand too much :-) Follow it up with a quick email detailing just your actions – they’re grown up enough to know what theirs are.