How to Avoid (or Reverse) a Hostile Prospect Call

When your sales team experiences a hostile prospect call, it’s time to review your processes to determine what caused the hostility.

If your salespeople are contributing to the hostility, then a review of best practices is in order. If it’s just a matter of the prospect having a bad day, your team can still reverse the hostile call to continue selling.

Overall, though, you should be able to minimize or completely avoid hostile calls with prospects by following these recommended ProSales Connection techniques.

Three Key Techniques to Avoiding a Hostile Cold Call

First, you should not experience a hostile phone call if you approach the prospect in these three ways:

  • Have a friendly tone of voice
  • Have an attitude of being helpful
  • Be honest with the reason for your call

Conversely, hostility is usually the result of a salesperson approaching the prospect in this way:

  • Wrong tone of voice
  • Arrogance or aggressive tactics
  • Acting deceitful to the prospect or gatekeeper

When you dial the phone to reach a prospect, you oftentimes encounter a gatekeeper who will direct your call to the person you need to speak with. Salespeople should approach the gatekeeper with the attitude of this person being just as vital to selling your solution as the actual prospect.

Remember to be polite and friendly when speaking with gatekeepers. Aggressive or arrogant tactics will not be successful in the long run. These approaches convey the opposite attitude of being helpful and will create a negative impression about your company or solution, hurting your chances of converting the prospect.

What if the Prospect Is Having a Bad Day?

So, you approached the prospect with the right tone of voice, you conveyed that you are looking to help the prospect, and you were honest with the reason for your call. But, the cold call still turned hostile.

Our visceral reaction in that moment is to fight back. But, an experienced, trained, professional salesperson will have a much different reaction.

The right approach is to remove emotion from the situation because the prospect is not upset with you; the salesperson is merely the object of the prospect’s frustration in that moment.

On a personal level, the prospect could be:

  • Having a bad day
  • A generally negative person
  • Unavailable to talk and you caught them at the wrong time

Or, their hostility could be the result of past experience:

  • Had a poor experience with your company in the past
  • Been over-prospected to where they are worn out from previous sales calls
  • Dealt with aggressive salespeople in the past and expecting the same from you

The prospect is coming to you loaded with their own issues that day, in their own life, or from previous experiences. Salespeople must remember that the prospect is reacting to their own previous experiences, not you. Therefore, you should not be defensive in that moment. So, what should you do?

How to Reverse a Hostile Prospect Call

The first step you should take when the prospect is hostile with you is to listen. Do not respond negatively, retaliate, or react emotionally.

ProSales Connection uses this important two-part inquiry when encountering a hostile prospect: “I’m sorry, it sounds like I may have caught you at a bad time. Would there be a better time to follow up with you?”

The key to this inquiry is first being apologetic with the right tone of voice to convey sincerity. Then, the second part is to ask an important question to shine a mirror back on the prospect.

This allows the person time to replay in their head what they just said or how they said it, then process that you remained calm, politely, and friendly. Once the prospect calms down, they’ll realize they jumped all over and that the hostility was not provoked, then adjust their end of the conversation.

Sometimes this does not lead to an instant reversal. Remember that in the prospecting game, it’s not the end of the world if someone does not want to talk. It’s best just to apologize for interrupting their day, remain empathetic, thank them for their time, and get off the phone. You’re simply not going to win the person over in that moment. But, you have the opportunity to leave a positive impression about your company that may pay off down the road.

Other times, the prospect will calm down and answer your question of whether there is a better time to talk. They might suggest later in the day, the next day, or next week. Before getting off the phone, make sure you pin down the next best time to talk. Sometimes you’re just not going to make progress with them today, but you can still salvage the call by establishing next steps.

By the time you have the next conversation with the prospect, they will have had time to reflect on the way they spoke to you and weigh that against your professionalism.

Because you responded professionally to their hostility, you will often get another opportunity to discuss your solution. The prospect will go from not wanting to talk to being open about what you are offering simply by taking a positive approach to the initial phone conversation.

To learn more about how ProSales Connection can help your company set sales appointments with prospects, especially if you are dealing with hostile prospects, consider our No-Risk Appointment Setting Program. You can also contact me directly to have a conversation about your company’s needs!

Mike Faherty

Mike Faherty is the Founder & CEO of ProSales Connection, a sales and marketing firm based in Houston, Texas. ProSales Connection specializes in helping B2B and technology companies grow through sales appointment setting and outsourced inside sales programs.

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