relay racing baton

This morning as I was logging in, my phone rang revealing a caller with an 866 prefix. So I knew someone was calling in to try to sell me something.

But instead of letting it go to voicemail, I answered it.

Occasionally I will bypass the automatic voicemail routing to hear what other sales people are trying.

The guy on the other end of the phone, Bob, started off with my name, which was ok. It got my attention and it got me to say, “Yes”.

However, the call went downhill from there.

He said his marketing team passed my contact information to him because I had downloaded a white paper on video conferencing or something (yeah he used the words ‘or something’) and he was just calling to see how he could help.

He asked about my plans, if I had any upcoming projects involving video conferencing or phone deployment, and I told him that I had downloaded the white paper out of curiosity, nothing more. No fancy projects coming up, nothing exotic. I simply downloaded his white paper because I wanted to see what was out there.

He replied, “Ok. I’ll make a note of it and hopefully no one else will call you about it” and then he hung up.

Here are a couple of things I picked up out of this conversation that, if changed, would enhance this inside sales reps effectiveness as well as provide a more pleasant experience for future prospects:

Own The Sales Call

Bob said he was calling me because he got a message from marketing indicating that I had downloaded a white paper. I didn’t need to know that his internal sales and marketing process was built like a relay race and it was his turn to carry the baton. I certainly didn’t need to feel unimportant simply because I happened to hit a trigger in his sales and marketing process. Telling me all of the details on how he got my name and number indicated to me that he was just another cog in their sales and marketing machine and I was nothing more than a commodity.

As sales people, we need to own the process. As far as the prospect is concerned, it’s just you and him. His call should have gone more like this: “Larry, I see you downloaded a white paper on videoconferencing from our site. Did you know that particular white paper has been very popular lately among our visiting CIOs?”

Remove all intermediary pieces that do nothing but lengthen out your sales process and take ownership of the call.

Be Interested in Your Prospect

When Bob started speaking, it sounded like he was speaking ‘at’ me. I didn’t keep count, but he mentioned my name and my company in his conversation multiple times and it sounded like a web page that had been over-optimized for certain keywords.

In ordinary conversations, like the ones you have with your friends and colleagues, you will eventually break away from using proper names and start using the pronouns ‘you’ and ‘your’. Using proper names once or twice is necessary. It shows that you care, it shows respect, and it establishes a verbal reference point when you open your sales call. However, use them too often and your conversation will sound like you are filling the blanks in a poorly written script.

Instead, have a straightforward conversation with your prospect on the phone.  They know you are conducting a sales call. They know you aren’t about wasting their time.  What they don’t want is to be treated like a generic commodity on a sales assembly line. So when you call, introduce enough unique and relevant material that lets them know you have a special interest in seeing them succeed.


Don’t turn your sales and marketing process into a baton pass. Own the call. Be interested in seeing your prospect succeed, not just hitting your call numbers, and your potential clients will help you reach your finish line.