Everyone loves answering the phone to an unexpected sales pitch, right? Wrong.

I think it’s safe to say that most surprise sales calls are generally met with an immediate hang-up or a prompt “no thank you.” Decision makers receive an average of 20 to 30 individual sales calls each day. No wonder cold calls are met with disdain!

However, dismissing a company or entire offering simply because your first impression came from a cold call is a disservice to yourself and your business. In fact, this aversion to unexpected sales calls could cause you to fall behind the competition and remain unaware of market changes. I’m not talking about the robocalls saying, “you’ve just won a cruise!” or “you’re eligible for a free night’s stay at the best hotel in Florida!” I’m referencing cold calls targeted to your role and position in the company.

The question is: How can you avoid wasting time with cold callers but still gain insight into what else is out there?

I’m not ashamed to admit it – I make cold calls. I find it to be a great way to introduce our company and myself to prospective customers. Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples giving professionals like myself a bad rap with cold calls. Many of them are downright annoying and have no respect for your time. I’ve even had executives tell me they received cold calls from the same company hourly, for multiple days, even after giving them best follow-up dates. It’s no wonder most people just hang up.

However, when the call comes from a professional–someone who has researched the company and determined what they have to offer might be of interest–the conversation is typically received well. In some instances, I’ve received feedback from prospects that the insights they gained and products they discovered through our conversations helped them gain a more competitive edge in their industry.

For example, ReluTech offers many disruptive technologies which provide tremendous value in areas like data protection, automation, and scale-out storage. These top-tier solutions could certainly be found on the Internet, but many of the individuals tasked with the responsibility of finding a solution simply don’t have the time to prioritize and execute the research.

This is a prime example of why it can be helpful to answer cold calls and at least give the cold callers a chance to be relevant. A true professional making cold calls will seek to understand the prospect’s environment and allow both parties to determine if deeper conversations are justified. This means engaging and listening to a prospect rather than pitching a solution that you assume will be a fit.

Personally, when I am making cold calls, my goal is to learn more and to be as curious as possible. If the conversation goes well and I believe ReluTech can add business value, then my goal is to set up a meeting for further discussion. Of course, I will quickly mention the reason I’m calling so that the recipient can gauge its potential relevance. After that, though, I just shut up and listen.

The next time the phone rings and you hear a sales rep on the other end, be willing to invest 30-45 seconds. If they’re pushy, artificially energetic, won’t ask questions, or won’t let you talk, I actually encourage you to hang up. I certainly know you don’t have time to give “just five minutes” to everyone who calls.

What I would ask, though, is that you give 30-45 seconds to the caller. If, in that time, he can be relevant, consider hearing him out for just a few minutes and then letting him know the most appropriate time to discuss further. By drawing the line in this way, you can avoid wasting time with the pretenders while still managing to learn about new products or services that could truly help your company.

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