11 Reasons Your Telephone Sales Calls Suck And How To Fix It

I have written extensively about closing sales on the telephone in the past.

Today, with the help of my good friend David Aston, we focus on what is preventing you from succeeding at telephone sales! David is an accomplished salesperson (real estate) writer and blogger who has previously written at IncomeDiary.

If you suck at telephone sales or find yourself reluctant to make sales calls, this is for you!

11 Reasons You Suck At Telephone Sales And What You Can Do About It!

How to Make Better Sales Calls and Sell On The Phone

Outbound telephone sales calls (a.k.a cold calling), is the least-liked lead generation activity according to most salespeople.

We can’t blame them.

After all…

It’s difficult to deliver a sales pitch to someone who’s never heard of you or what you’re offering.

It is tough.

The most experienced telephone sales professionals can have days where it takes 30 calls to get one proper sales conversation.

What other sales activity requires you to put in so much work with so little to show for it? 

Even ‘warm” outbound calls – i.e. following up a prospect inquiry, can require multiple attempts before you speak with the prospect.

It seems like people don’t answer their phones anymore!

We have solutions for this issue, which we will come to later in this article.

11 Reasons You Suck At Telephone Sales

– And What You Can Do About It

How To Succeed At Telephone Selling

By David Aston

Obviously, you want your next outbound sales campaign to succeed.

To do that, you need to understand why most telephone sales campaigns fail.

Below I’ve listed the top 11 reasons why your telephone sales suck and what you can do about it:

1. You Have the Wrong Attitude About Telephone Sales

You Have the Wrong Attitude About Telephone Sales

According to cold-calling expert, Keith Rosen, in his interview with CBS News, most salespeople and sales managers view cold-calling as a goal-oriented activity.

This usually goes something like, “make X number of calls to earn as many conversions as possible.”

Meeting this goal means you win and failing to meet it means you lose.

The problem with this win-or-lose attitude is the toll it takes.

Salespeople, agents, and the like, especially those newer to the industry, often view a lead’s lack of interest to be a reflection of the sales rep’s lack of skill. Often this is not the case!

That is not to say that having a goal of a certain number of sales calls is a bad idea. It is not!

After all, the more calls you make the more sales you will make. What we are saying is that we must not allow not reaching our goal to get us down and skip outbound calling altogether.

To avoid this, you need to embrace rejection and focus on learning more about the prospect to see if there’s an actual fit. If the call is going bad, try and learn as much from it as possible.

Take notes, and follow up again another day.

Remember, every NO is one closer to a YES and a hefty commission!

Here’s How To Close More Sales Over The Phone – 17 Tips.

Recommended Read: Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations – How to filling your sales pipeline by leveraging: Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling.

Related Post:28 of the best sales strategy ideas you should be implementing now

2. You’re Focusing on the Wrong Metrics

The right attitude and the correct metrics should go hand-in-hand when cold calling. Most telephone sales leaders focus more on conversion rates when looking at their metrics.

“How many conversions did we make out of how many calls?”

…is what they usually ask.

But they’re focusing on the wrong metrics.

Rather than a number of calls, telephone sales leaders should focus on CONTACT RATE. How many people you spoke to!

In real estate, I strive for a 15% + contact rate if I want to keep afloat. (Remember, most times I am cold-calling, and speaking to 15 people or more per 100 calls is the reality).

But imagine, if no one told you that?

Additionally, of the people I do manage to reach, I follow up with them at least 30 times per year.(Your industry will be different)

The higher your reach rate, the more conversions you’ll have.

Also, rarely will you close a big sale on the first call.

You need to make consistent touches:

  • Daily contact – People who will buy or sell within a week.
  • Weekly contact – People who will buy or sell within 6 months
  • Monthly contact – People who will buy or sell within 2 years

It depends on what you’re selling and how hot your lead is.

Recommended Read: Smart Selling on the Phone and Online: Inside Sales That Gets Results

3. Your Telephone Sales Calls Have a Weak Value Proposition

Another reason why your telephone sales efforts aren’t producing results is that your value proposition isn’t compelling enough.

If your script consists of introducing yourself then talking about how great your company is, it shouldn’t be surprising that most prospects pass on your offer.

It should go without saying, but people are usually interested in how something benefits them.

“What’s in it for me?”

“How does this improve my life or my business?”

If your script doesn’t focus on answering those questions then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

It doesn’t matter what I’m selling, there’s a simple question I ask to gain immediate trust, build rapport and eventually close the sale:

“Hi Mr. Prospect, I’m David with United Home Group, I just wanted to ask how I can help you today?”

It doesn’t even need to be real estate related. I just sincerely offer to help in any way I can.

More often than not, this results in a conversion. And that authentic conversation usually results in a contract and referrals down the line.

Plant seeds as you go.

Recommended Read: Power Phone Scripts: 500 Word-for-Word Questions, Phrases, and Conversations to Open and Close More Sales

4. You Ask for Something Too Big, Too Early In Your Sales Calls

Telephone Sales Suck

If you ask for an appointment without specifying exactly how much time you’ll need, you’re going to spook your prospect.

They’re going to imagine you talking on and on for hours only to get them to commit to something exorbitant.

This is going to be enough for them to say “no” to an appointment and ultimately your offer.

Instead, try asking for a shorter appointment, say 15 to 30 minutes tops.

This eases any anxiety your prospect may feel by giving them the notion of bailing if they’re unsatisfied with your offer.

Recommended Read: The Jeb Blount Box SetThe most comprehensive resource on sales development, leadership, and customer experience available, from bestselling author Jeb Blount – sought after keynote speaker and the CEO of Sales Gravy.

5. Your Telephone Sales Calls Follow A Script Like a Robot

People can tell when you’re just going through the motions and reading a script like a machine.

If you’ve ever watched a Disney Pixar animated movie, you’ll have experienced the emotions evoked by the voice actors’ performance.

Just like salespeople, voice actors follow a script.

But do they sound like emotionless machines reading from the text?

No, they don’t.

Get someone to practice your script with and ask them to critique your performance.

If they say you’re too monotonic, take a cue from voice actors and practice your lines.

My team and I practice scripts and dialogue every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning for 30 minutes. I encourage you to do the same.

Plan The Script … But Don’t Recite It

6. Your Sales Calls Don’t Use Technology

Back in the day, telephone sales reps had to slog through all the tedious parts of a cold call:

  • Dialing Manually
  • Waiting On Hold
  • Talking To Gatekeepers
  • Navigating Phone Trees
  • Scheduling Follow-Ups, etc.
  • And they had to manually track it all…

This was all perfectly normal and part of the job back then.


If you’re still doing this today, you’re wasting a lot of time and time is money.

Do yourself a favor and consider tools like:

These tools can significantly reduce your workload and make telephone sales, tracking and conversions much easier to manage.

7. You Leave Ineffective Voicemails

Most telephone sales calls go to voicemail

Most telephone sales calls go to voicemail. That’s just the way it is.

But, this doesn’t mean you should give up. On the contrary, it means you should learn to leave more effective voicemails.

Plan what you want your prospect to know after hearing your message.

Formulate your script then leave your message.

Remember to keep it short, friendly, and insert some urgency if you can.

Also, don’t forget to use your prospect’s name and leave your contact information.

A cool feature regarding tools like CallFire is that you can pre-record voicemails and it will automatically leave them on your prospects’ phone.

Here are my 3 most common voicemails:

  1. Vague -> “Hey John, it’s David, give me a call back.” (I purposely don’t leave my number or say where I am from) [Barry doesn’t like this approach, apparently people use this on him – and he never responds!]
  2. Friendly -> “Hey John, it’s David with United-Home-Group. Just reaching out to see if there’s anything in the world I can do for you. It doesn’t even need to be real estate related as we all need to lean on each other during these difficult times. Give me a call back or I can try you again later. 555-123-4567”
  3. Professional -> “Hey John, David with United-Home-Group, I noticed your listing expired yesterday, I am reaching out to see how in the world I can help you get that thing sold. I’ll try you again later. Or you can shoot me a text or drop me a line at 555-123-4567”

That’s it, these are literally the 3 voicemails I rotate, including the VAGUE approach which may not work with Barry Dunlop – but which I have success with. (Side note: yes, some people may be annoyed that they called you back to discover you are selling something. That is only an issue if you don’t handle it correctly.)

One more thing.

Increasingly people are not answering their phones and we are being greeted with an answering service. In these instances you can also reach out with a message App such as WhatsApp for cell or mobile. And of course plain regular Email!

I know salespeople who follow-up prospects on Linkedin or Facebook if their prospect doesn’t answer the phone.

8. You Call At The Wrong Time & Don’t Follow Through

How many times have you heard a prospect say, “this is not a good time” or “I’m busy right now?” (sure, sometimes that is an excuse or a polite way of telling you to get lost)

But what if they are telling the truth?

If you make your calls any time between 9 a.m to 5 p.m, you probably get responses like that all the time.

The thing is…

People are less likely to listen when they’re busy at work themselves.

Do your research on prospects and find out what days and what time they usually answer calls.

Make your calls only during these times and use the rest to formulate and polish your script.

Here is what my out-bound calling schedule for my real-estate business looks like:

  • Wednesday -> Calling from 9:30-12:30
  • Thursday-> Calling from 9:30-12:30
  • Friday-> Calling from 9:30-12:30

I do this for a couple of reasons…

Many people dread Mondays and are typically predisposed to be more agitated and hopeless.

Because of this, Tuesdays are typically the first and often most productive, and exhausting day of the work week.

Wednesdays are a great time for me to begin calling my prospects.

They are burnt out from Tuesday, and already thinking about the weekend. A call to distract them is often welcomed.

The closer we get to the weekend, the friendlier my prospects tend to be.

Of course if you are in B2B sales or selling home improvements you will be calling 5 days a week. Every industry is different and in fairness, many in real estate will cold call 7 days a week!

I just tend to plan my week to focus on my outbound marketing and cold calling on those three days.

What to do with a hot lead that is not answering their phone or engaging in a conversation?

As I mentioned earlier, even warm leads from people who respond to advertising can prove challenging to get on the phone. With those leads in particular, you must also attempt other methods of contact as mentioned above.

For me, I still find that email works remarkably well, especially if you combine it with an intriguing subject line.

When Emailing Difficult To Contact Prospects

  • Use intriguing attention-getting subject lines.
  • Make your message clear.

People don’t have all day to read your email.

In many cases they will only have a minute or less to scan your email and decide if they will save it or delete it.

Be brief, direct, and to-the-point.

Your message should provide at least one of the following:

=> Provide valuable information
=> Invite your customers to take a specific action (call you, ask a question)
=> Tell them what they will get by responding [benefit]

Don’t overwhelm the prospect. It is best to stick to just one Call To Action – CTA.

Generally I recommend avoiding phrases like “How are you doing?” and “I hope this email finds you well.” Your lead doesn’t care. They want to know why you’re emailing them and how they can benefit.

Here are some Subject Line suggestions…

  • Hey [prospects first name] can we talk
  • Hey [prospects first name], a quick question about [product they inquired about]
  • A quick question for [prospects first name]
  • Just tried to call you / next steps [after leaving a voicemail – you can also add First-name]

Example email to send to someone who has visited your website or a location.

But is not responding to your follow up… (Edit to suit your needs)

Hi [Prospect Name],

Thank you for visiting [name of website or location]

My name is David and I’m [your position and company name]. Part of my job is to help people like you find the best solution for [name of product]

Do you have a particular [name of product] or [service] in mind?

Our most popular [product name] is xxx – but we have over xxx options in total.

I would be delighted to answer your questions and help in any way I can. Please reply to this email or if you prefer, I can make arrangements to call you. 

Is [insert their number] the best number you call you on? 

Best wishes,

Your Name& Position

PS: Please feel free to call me if you prefer. My number is xxx xxx xxx

9. You Dismiss the Gatekeeper

telephone sales tips dont dismiss the Gatekeeper

Most times, you have to get through a receptionist, assistant or a spouse before you can speak to your actual prospect.

If you’re rude to these gatekeepers, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Forgetting their name, treating them like they’re in the way, or being too demanding will lower your chances of getting through to your prospect.

First impressions last. So, if it’s your first time talking to a particular gatekeeper, try and make the right impression.

Here are 3 Telephone Sales Techniques That Get The Attention Of Decision Makers.

10) You Ask Closed Ended Questions & Don’t Dig Deeper

In reasons 10 and 11 of why you may suck at selling on the telephone I will include real-estate examples and terminology.[You will note the USA focus – I am based in California]

But first let’s focus on two important issues:

#1 The Truth About Telephone Cold Calling

Not everyone will agree on this, but the reality is that you are unlikely to make the money you hoped for by telemarketing cold leads alone.

That is why I advocate mixing cold out-bound calling with other forms of lead generation. For example following up on leads generated by press or social media advertising.

Treat cold calling as an educational experience, Just about every great salesperson (including Barry Dunlop) and many successful entrepreneurs have started their careers cold calling.

Learn from every objection you encounter and harden yourself up. Sales is a mental game!

When you feel you’re overcoming objections effectively, leverage your experience and knowledge to take your career to new, higher levels.

Explore sales of home improvements, cars, real estate, mortgages, etc — whatever it is.

Try to anticipate your prospects needs and sell products that alleviate those pains. It will require you to develop your listening skills.

And finally – pick your voice up an octave and smile when you talk.

You’ve got this!

#2 If you can’t handle objections your career is sales will be short

I appreciate most readers will not be involved in real-estate but I do believe that the “sales technology” used (asking questions) can be applied to all industries. If you are not trained in handling objections and effective questioning, your career in sales will be short. You need to understand this.

This video is an excellent introduction to handling objections… (You may want to watch it several times)

7 Tips for Overcoming Common Sales Objections

The best way to make a telephone sale is to have a friendly conversation.

You can’t do that when you ask closed ended questions. These are questions that can be answered with a Yes or No and without further explanation.

Instead, ask “Dig Deeper” questions.

Again, I will give you some examples from my own real estate business.

Modify the following real estate examples for your own business:

Location -> Where Do They Want To Live?

Agent: That’s fantastic, real quick as I look up that information, tell me, are you looking specifically for homes in the ___________ area?

If YES: Great! What do you like most about that area?

If NO: Great! What areas are you looking to …. BUY A HOME…. in?


What’s important about ___ bedrooms?
What would having a home office mean for you?
We’ve discussed in great detail what you’re looking for, is there anything we missed?

Price -> How Much Can They Afford?

Agent: The home you called on is listed at $____.

Is that the price range you are looking to buy in?

If YES: Okay, great! How did you come up with that price range?

If NO: So, what price range are you more comfortable buying in? Just out of curiosity, how did you come up with that price range?


Everyone wants a “good deal” when they buy a home. What does that mean to you?

If we find a home in that price point that fits your wants and needs, would you be ready to put in an offer?

Motivation -> When Can They Move In?

Agent: Just out of curiosity, do you currently rent or own your own home?

OWN: Will you need to sell your home before you buy a new one?
Wonderful! Ideally, when would you like to be in your new home?

RENT: So, are you in a long-term lease, or are you month-to-month? Great! If you found the perfect home today, would you be able to get out of your lease early?


What is your time-frame looking like to realistically … BUY A HOME….?
What happens in ____ months/years?
What is stopping you from making your dream a reality?

Agent -> Have They Signed A Buyer Agreement?

Agent: That’s fantastic, real quick as I look up that information, tell me, are you looking specifically for homes in the ___________ area?

By the way, how long have you been looking for a new home?
Good. How many homes have you toured?
Excellent! Just out of curiosity, how have you been touring homes? Are you going to open houses, knocking on doors, or having an agent show you?

IF USING AGENT: Okay, great! Are you calling signs and having the listing agent show you the homes or do you have an exclusive agreement with an agent?

NOT USING AGENT: Okay, so you’re not working with one agent exclusively yet?


What is important to you about the next agent you hire?
How many agents have you interviewed for the job of helping you…. BUY A HOME…. ?
Wow! You’ve been looking for ___ long?! Who is helping you navigate the Real Estate Market?

Mortgage -> Have They Been Pre-Approved?

Agent: When you buy your home will you be paying cash or will you need a mortgage?

IF MORTGAGE: Great! Have you spoken to a lender about getting pre-qualified for a loan?

IF YES: Wonderful! Who are you pre-approved with? Have you received your pre-approval letter? IF NO: Great, well that is going to be your first step! Most sellers wont even consider an offer that doesn’t have a pre-approval letter attached. Would it be okay if one of our preferred lenders gave you a call?


Do you know the difference between a pre-approval letter and a pre-qualification letter?
How did you find your lender?
Did you shop around?

Closing -> Closing For The Appointment

Agent: Based on the information you’ve given me, here’s what I recommend we do: Let’s meet soon as possible to go over the home buying process, do a complete market overview of the areas you’re looking to buy in and get you inside the home on ___… and we’ll also look at some other homes that meet your criteria.

Does tomorrow at __ or __ work better?

Are Mornings, Afternoons, or Evenings better for you? Great!!!

I am available ___ at ___ : or ___ at ___. Perfect!!

I’m going to send you a Google Calendar invite. What’s the best email to reach you at?


Finally, let’s discuss some real-estate objections and how you handle them…

11) Your Telephone Sales Objection Skills Are Weak

telephone sales objection handling

Nearly everybody is apprehensive when it comes to sales, telephone sales or otherwise.

Salespeople have earned a bad wrap over the years, not to mention people are being pressured to buy something anytime they turn on their TV, computer, cell phone or even when driving down the street.

That said, it’s a good idea to know exactly what their objections are going to be before you even cold call them.

Modify the following real estate examples for your own business…

Here’s how to change No’s into Yes’s:

Objection 1 -> I’ll Pay A Commission If You Bring Me A Buyer

Handler 1

Thank you! May I ask, do you know how buyer agents work?

The job of a buyer’s agent is to negotiate the BEST deal for the buyer, NOT the seller. In fact they sign a contract stating they are required to represent their buyers first.

What’s the advantage to you, to pay a buyer’s agent to actually negotiate against you?

It would be like paying an attorney to represent the other party. Doesn’t really make sense, now does it?

Handler 2

Thank you for that. I’m guessing you’ve said that to several realtors, am I right? Has anyone brought you a prequalified buyer with an offer in hand yet? Or have they just tried to get you to list your home?

You see, I believe integrity and honesty are the most important cornerstones of any business relationship. So I’m going to tell you, I am not an average realtor.

I have an entire team behind me to you SELL YOUR HOME. We put more than 900 homes under contract last year alone. When can I pop by to introduce myself and show you how we are different? Are evenings or afternoons better?

Objection 2 -> I Can Do It On My Own & Save Money

Handler 1

You’re right, you can do it yourself. And I would ask you at what cost?

You see, FSBO’s (for sale by owners) are targeted by investors and realtors because they often sell far below market value. In fact, the average home in the US sells for about $250k, the average FSBO home in the US sells for only $190k.

Have you ever bought something from a store where a salesperson helped you? Did you expect to pay a fair price? You expected to pay a fair price because a sales expert was involved.

Now let’s say you bought that item. It’s never been used. You still have the receipt; it is still in its original packaging. If you put it up for sale online or at a garage sale would you expect to get the same price as at the store? No? Why not?

Because no salesperson was involved. Anytime people buy directly from an owner, they expect to pay less! We just cannot change that. Let’s say you put that same item in an auction and get a couple of bidders. What do you think would happen? Would the price go up or down? Up, right? Do you think it could even go for more than the store’s asking price? It could, couldn’t it?

Handler 2

How many buyers have viewed the home? Great. And how many offers have you received? Wow. And why should you not have accepted one yet? May I tell you about the four types of buyers?

  1. Serious and in a hurry.” They may be moving to the area and have three days to find a home. Or maybe they just sold their house and need to get into another or they will lose their contract.
  2. “Serious and not in a hurry.” They can qualify; they may be a first-time home buyer proceeding cautiously, or they may be looking for the special home. Most first-time home buyers who are proceeding cautiously want someone to hold their hand, right?
  3. Investors.” They want to buy everything 10 cents on the dollar. I bet some have called you already; did they ask you how much you would come down? I have had to help many for-sale-by-owners with that.
  4. Looky-Loo’s.” I really shouldn’t call them buyers. They cannot qualify. Agents won’t put them in their car, so they go out and prey on open houses and for-sale-by-owners, wasting everybody’s time. When I think about the four types, the first type, “serious and in a hurry,” do you think they are going to be out with an agent looking at everything they can to find the best home? Or are they going to be in a rental car trying to find FSBO’s? Secondly, if you are a serious buyer who wants to proceed cautiously and have someone hold your hand, are you going to be out looking on your own, or are you going to be looking with an agent? And if you want to buy homes 10 cents on the dollar, are you going to call an agent, or are you going to call a FSBO? And if you are a Looky-Loo, who cares, right?

Objection 3 -> Another Agent Said They’d List My House For 1%

Handler 1

Ah, I see. That sounds like a pretty great deal. And I must ask you, if that agent is so willing to part with their own income, what makes you think they’ll do everything in their power to protect yours?

You’ve heard the phrase, you get what you pay for, right?

Well, I’d like to show you how we decide our listing commission fees. You see we have a Hassle Free Listing agreement that allows you as the seller to pick one of three compensation structures.

When can I pop by to show you how we get properties sold?

Objection 4 -> I’m Going To Stay With The Same Agent

Handler 1

I understand, and let me ask you a question. IF you stay with the same agent, what are they going to do this time that they didn’t do last time? I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, as I actually heard it from one of my clients. Albert Einstein said that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

Handler 2

That’s great, and what I am hearing is you feel obligated to use your last agent since they’ve invested a lot of time and money into your house, right? Well, Mr./Mrs. Seller, you don’t owe me anything and you don’t really owe them anything, though you do owe yourself the very best. It certainly would not hurt to hear what I do to… GET HOUSES SOLD… would it?

Objection 5 -> We’ve Decided To Take It Off The Market

Handler 1

I see. Just out of curiosity, if you did sell, where were you moving to? WOW! Why was that important? What would that do for you if you had moved? If I could show you a way to make that happen, would you be interested? You see, I specialize in selling houses that did not sell the first time. Even the best houses don’t sell the first time, and it just takes a new approach and new ideas like I use to… GET HOUSE SOLD… When could I stop by and spend 15 minutes with you and show you why so many homeowners… CHOOSE ME… to sell their house?

Handler 2

Mr. / Mrs. Seller, if a contract were presented to you tomorrow, would you still sell? Great, so there is some remaining desire to move, right? You know, Mr. / Mrs. Seller, I specialize in houses that are great, yet didn’t sell the first time for various reasons. Let me ask you: Why do you think your house didn’t sell? What will you look for in the next agent you choose?

Let’s do this – I’ll drop by and look at your house, that way you can… MEET ME… so at a weak moment you don’t end up with a weak agent. After all, you don’t want to put it back on the market later to have it sit for another [6 months], do you?

There you have it.

That’s all for this telephone sales article, I hope you’ve obtained valuable insights.

By the way, we love socializing…

If you have any questions or comments, drop us a line below!

Success by choice, not by chance.

-David Aston


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