3 Sales Call Tips – Dealing with Hostile People

Sales podcast ep 26 Hostile Sales Calls - The Slow Pitch
Sales Podcast, The Slow Pitch
The Slow Pitch Sales Podcast
3 Sales Call Tips - Dealing with Hostile People


Hostile Sales Call Tips

If you’re new to sales, you may not have experienced a hostile person on the other end of the line…but it will happen. In this episode, we provide some tips about making sales calls to hostile people. Hostile people are the worst to deal with when you call they are reacting emotionally or playing a game to test you. Hostile doesn’t always equate to mean or rude. Sometimes hostile sales call can simply mean they are playing a game with you to get you frustrated.

Don’t Let a Hostile Sales Call Get You Down

When we say you’re making calls to hostile people, we’re not saying you know this ahead of time, rather, we’re saying that when you make the call, the person on the other side of the sales call becomes hostile. For example, let’s say you work for a company and have to make outbound calls to get sales. When you connect, they are someone who previously did business with the company, but they had a poor experience with your company and now they are hostile. You may or may not know this when making the call.

How do you sell to hostile people?

Most salespeople struggle when the other party is combative, aggressive, or hostile. Usually it’s because they weren’t prepared with how to deal with it, take it personally, or don’t have the tools to move the conversation away from the aggressive tone to a more adult tone.

In this episode we role play several calls to play out different scenarios. We hope this helps you get prepared for some of the more difficult calls you’ll face as you call hostile people.


Related Episodes:

Make Better Cold Calls By Gamifying The Call

Episode 1: How To Create a 30-Second Sales Pitch

Episode 7: When Is The Best Time To Make a Cold Call?



Green Angry Face Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Music: "Clydesdale Funk" by Cast of Characters, written by: Dustin Ransom.

The Episode

Rob  00:05


Lane  00:06

Hey is this Rob?

Rob  00:07

This is…Who is it?

Lane  00:09

Hey, Rob, this is Lane I’m from Joseph SEO store last year we did some business.

Rob  00:14

Wait Joe’s SEO store?

Lane  00:16

Joe’s SEO store?

Rob  00:17

Yes…What do you need?

Lane  00:18

I’m your new account manager. I was just assigned to you. So I wanted to follow up with you and let you know some of the new services we’ve got going on this year. Some specials….

Rob  00:27

Are you kidding me? Do you know what happened to us last year? You guys screwed all kinds of things up. Why are you even calling me? I don’t get it. Why are you calling me?

Lane  00:40

I’m your new account manager knows I wanted to talk.

Rob  00:42

I don’t even think I have an account manager. I don’t understand. [[Click]] How’d that go?

Lane  00:52

That went great.

Rob  01:02

All right. Welcome, everybody. This is The Slow Pitch. And there’s Lane over there. How you doing over there, Lane?

Lane  01:07

I’m doing great. Rob, how are you?

Rob  01:08

I’m doing well. So that that opening was a little scary, there? Sounds like it didn’t go too well?

Lane  01:17

No, that was a that was a rough call.

Rob  01:20

I’ve had a few of those. And I’m sure you have as well. Not necessarily like if you’ve called somebody they’re like, why do we Why are you calling me back. But you probably had a rough call before where somebody does not treat you well when you first start talking to them. And if you’ve ever had that, as you have and I have. It’s tough because you got to kind of be ready and know what you’re gonna say. And in almost to the point of knowing that it’s going to happen, whether you like it or not on one of the calls that you’re going to make today. Right? So…If you want, should we try it again? Let’s do we’re trying to reverse or do you want to try a second try? See how you can do the second time.

Lane  01:58

Now let’s let’s do it in reverse.

Rob  02:00

All right. Let’s try and reverse. I don’t know that I’m going to be any better. We’ll see. We’ll see. Let’s see what happens.

Lane  02:07


Rob  02:09

Hi. I’m sorry, who am I? Who is this?

Lane  02:12

Oh, Who’s asking?

Rob  02:14

Oh, my name is Rob.

Lane  02:15

Hi Rob, this is Lane.

Rob  02:18

Nice to meet you, Lane. Hey, I don’t know if you recognize the number. We did some business before with you. We’re Joe’s SEO and I wanted to call back to see where we are with some things.

Lane  02:31

Yeah, I remember you believe me. I remember you guys. Not good way back.

Rob  02:36

Oh, not so good. Oh,

Lane  02:37

Not so good. If I if I don’t have I recognize the number I wouldn’t have even answered.

Rob  02:42

Oh, oh, that bad. Oh, gosh. Okay, listen, I’m new here. What What happened? fill me in? Because I kind of want to know.

Lane  02:49

Well, I went from from Google page to to Google page 10. Well, I don’t understand how you do worse for me.

Rob  02:56

I don’t know how I would do any worse either. I mean, that’s horrible.

Lane  03:01

You’ve cost thousands of dollars of business, man. I can’t even I can’t even imagine how much business I’ve lost because of you guys.

Rob  03:08

Oh, my goodness. thousands of dollars of business. Okay, so that’s not good. I don’t. Jeez. Oh, please. I can’t believe you’re still on the line with me.

Lane  03:17

I’m not surprised to?

Rob  03:18

Yeah. Let’s see. Can we talk a little bit about that? Because maybe, I don’t know, I The reason they brought me here was to replace some of the issues that we were having before. And I know that’s just you’ve probably heard that before with other things when there’s problems. But can we talk just for a few minutes? And maybe I’ll get back with you with some some more specific answers that are more related to what you’re dealing with? Or what you dealt with before?

Lane  03:43

You got me.

Rob  03:45

How do you how do you kick somebody like that off off the phone? Right?

Lane  03:48

Yeah, that’s tough. I mean, you got…

Rob  03:50

I took full responsibility. Kick me if you want. I am fully comfortable with that. Because you know, why means nothing to me. It means nothing to me if I’m a new employee, and I’ve never dealt with you. And I had nothing to do with that. And I feel confident that I can do what I can do, then quite honestly, it doesn’t really matter what happened before. But I want to make sure as you feel like you’re being listened to. So first thing I did was what? I tried to neutralize you. I was like, yeah, I’m on your side. Oh, man, I can first of all, I can’t believe you’re still on the phone with me. Which is their open door to hang up on me. I pretty much opened the door for him. And if you’re not gonna hang up, then I knew I could talk some more.

Lane  04:29

Yeah, you open the door, but also that also makes it harder for someone to actually hang up on you. Because,

Rob  04:35

Yeah, where’s this going?

Lane  04:36

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You just gave them permission. And you’re like, no.

Rob  04:42

Yeah, that’s the idea.

Lane  04:43

Now I gotta hear what he says.

Rob  04:44

Yeah, that said, yeah. And then the next step was what I kind of neutralized some more by saying, Can you help me understand what happened is I’m new here. And I kind of want to know what happened. I don’t know what I’m in for. And by doing that, it’s like, oh, yeah, I’m gonna spill some dirt here. That’s what you probably, or maybe not, but my goal was to make you feel like, well, I’m going to talk I’m going to tell you, I’ll tell you what happened. And that’s what I want, I want you talking, I want you emotionally driven to tell me all the things that went wrong. And when you start to get into that emotional driven, here’s all the things that went wrong. Now I can know what the problems were. Now I can talk about, alright, so when we get past all of that, and if I am able to call you back and say, “Okay, now here’s what I found out, here’s what happened.” It’s, it’s irrelevant what we did before and why it was wrong. And then I can tell you that I can fix it. That’s irrelevant. So when I call you back, I might have the conversation with you that says something along the lines of, alright, I did some digging. And you know, I’m seeing a lot of things that you said, and then I’m seeing that there’s some issues and that there were some things that needed to be done correctly, that we’re not done, maybe up to our specs. But, but certainly we’re in, in, in the long range of things was probably within the scope of what we should have and could have done. But in the end, I think we want to try to figure out how to make this right. And are you open to more conversation about this? And at least I know from that conversation, are you going to be open to having conversation again or not? And if you’re not at that point, fine. Okay, no, no harm, no foul, but I’ve opened the door. Anytime you have a sales call, your job is to get the person on the other line, to emotionally get involved, and keep them talking. I always think about when somebody is really mad, the first response should always be address the feelings and know, this is something that’s going to make them angry. So when you are like, I can’t believe I’m talking today, why wouldn’t answer the phone and bla bla bla bla, bla, then I automatically went a little further back to the point of saying, I don’t know why you’re still on the phone with me. Because that makes you feel like I’m I’m, I’m further away from pulling you to a sale, that why is he doing that? What’s the point of that, right? And then if I start to address some of the feelings, which I could have or should have done, it might have been smart for me to say something like, man, it sounds like you’re still angry about that. Let’s tell me more like and that’s kind of what I did without saying the word angry. I could have used it sounds like you’re very frustrated. It sounds like you’re, you’ve got something to tell me about it. Or you know, any way to get you started to address what those feelings are, and to identify what those feelings are. So if you said to me all these things, and I found out and I told you that you were angry. What if you were not angry? You were just disgusted?

Lane  07:30

Yeah, that I miss I misunderstood. Yeah. And I’m not about that not to

Rob  07:35

Yeah. So I want to make sure that I’m clear and understanding what your feelings are, what your emotions are. So if I say angry, and you say no, and then I have to, I have to back up again and say, okay, boy, you know, I, it’s and then you have to get worse still and go, you know, you sound like you just if, if you if I was standing right in front of you right now. you’d punch me in the nose. Hell, yeah, I would, I would punch you right in the nose. Well, okay, now. Now I know you’re still angry. But there’s more to it than that. Right? So the disgusted part and all the other things. So, identifying and addressing those feelings become very, very important early on. And that is the same, by the way, for if you make a phone call to somebody, and they give you this very brush off feeling. So let’s try this again. Let me give you another scenario. Lane. You call me and you get a response. That’s not quite what you were expecting. So let’s have the same call. The phone rings.

Lane  08:34

Hello. Hi. Is this Rob? This is? Hey, Rob. This is Lane from Joe’s SEO. Okay, your new account manager and I just wanted to touch base with you and see how, how business is going and when what we might be able to do to help you.

Rob  08:47

Okay, I’m really busy right now.

Lane  08:48

I’m sorry. Is there a better time for me to call?

Rob  08:50

Not really?

Lane  08:52

Alright, how about an email with that? Could I don’t get email?

Rob  08:55


Lane  08:56

Alright. So it sounds like sounds like you may not be interested in talking. So

Rob  09:01

That’s correct.

Lane  09:02

Can I

Rob  09:05

But I stay on the line the whole time? What’s going on with that? Like?

Lane  09:07


Rob  09:08

I’m staying on the phone. Right. Well, what if we did in reverse?

Lane  09:13


Rob  09:14

Hi. Is this Lane?

Lane  09:15

Yes, it is.

Rob  09:16

Hi, Lane. This is Rob. I’m calling from Joe’s SEO. On your new account.

Lane  09:22

Yeah, what we’re can I do for you?

Rob  09:24

Well, I’m trying to call to find out where we are with the status of different things.

Lane  09:28

Yeah, there’s no different things.

Rob  09:30

None whatsoever.

Lane  09:31

None whatsoever.

Rob  09:32

Hmm. Sounds like I caught you at a bad time. No, no. So it’s a good time to talk.

Lane  09:38

No, it’s not.

Rob  09:39

I’m confused.

Lane  09:41

It sure sounds like it

Rob  09:43

Am I? I’m sorry. Am I the one that’s confused here? I I’m confused. But I’m also feeling like, What happened here? Tell me tell me fill me in.

Lane  09:53

Yeah, we just had a real bad experience with you guys. And I really don’t have the time of day for you.

Rob  09:59

You don’t okay. Well, I don’t blame you. I mean, listen to things like that happen. I wouldn’t have the time of day for me either. Do you do I mean, I can stop by your office and punch me in the face? Yeah. Like,

Lane  10:08

I think that’s a great idea.

Rob  10:10

I yeah, I can imagine. Yeah, listen, I’m new here. So I get it.

Lane  10:12

I’m just gonna need a waiver signed first. But yeah.

Rob  10:16

That’s probably a good idea. So I think the point of that is, is that I’m trying to call out that you’re being very short with me without calling you directly out. And so I’ve had that conversation where someone like that, and when I’ve even said something like, boy, it sounds like you just have zero time for me to talk to you at all. Or I don’t want to you don’t want to talk to me at all, or, like, call it out, make them feel like you understand where they’re at? And sometimes it’s like, oh, well, no, I just, I’m in the middle of something. Oh, well, I can understand that you’re in the middle of something. And I didn’t expect to really have a long conversation with you, either. So when when should I call? Or when can we talk? Is there an email that I can just schedule with you? Or is there a calendar that I can get on just, I’m looking at like 15 minutes about it. And then after that, we can decide, do we want to talk at all after that, because if we get done with 15 minutes, and we’re not done talking, we can schedule more time. If we get to 15 minutes, and you say, I don’t want to talk to you again, tell me. And people are usually pretty okay with that. When you get to the point where somebody’s very short with you, sometimes calling out helps, sometimes even saying the words, are you It sounds like it’s a bad day? Or is this kind of the way you are all the time. And that’ll belong to, because it’s one of those you’re not going to get very far anyway. Now this is one of those you wouldn’t use on somebody that’s an existing client or a past client that you want to try to reconnect with. You wouldn’t do that. But if it’s a full on cold call, you have no idea who they are. They don’t even know who you are necessarily. Right? Then there’s nothing wrong with saying, Listen, I it sounds like either, either it’s a really bad day, or you’re like this all the time. I don’t know what it is. But it’s one of those and you say it nicely. It can make them laugh, or it can make them just hang up. And that’s right, who cares? Who cares? And I think everybody has to understand no matter what, no matter what, when you have a cold call, and somebody hangs up on you. What does that do to you personally? So when when I act that way, you feel very pressured, don’t you, Lane?

Lane  12:18


Rob  12:19

Yeah. When you when you call, when I act that way, or anybody on the phone, it’s like, anybody can be that way. You feel pressure, and instead of feeling pressure, you should feel something else. So figure out in your brain, how you in the next time you have a phone call like this figured out beforehand, alright, what happens if they have this kind of an attitude? You should not feel pressure at all, then what you should feel is relief. Okay, the game on

Lane  12:44

I can have fun with this one,

Rob  12:45

I can have fun with this one. And that’s okay. Because it’s nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with you particularly cold calls. The situation where we just started out with which is you have an old client that you’re trying to get back or there’s an old client that had a bad experience, and you call and then you realize that that was a bad experience before. All of that is a little bit different, but still the same. They’re not a client now anyway, anyway, right. So what’s the difference if they never become a client again, anyway, there’s millions of people out there that could use your service. It doesn’t really matter. So don’t take it personal. And it’s hard, because it feels very personal. What happens if they do something like this? Hello.

Lane  13:22

Hey, is this Rob?

Rob  13:24

Yes, it is.

Lane  13:24

Hey, Rob, this is Lane from Joe’s SEO. I mean, new account manager. I just wanted to touch.

Rob  13:29

Listen, Joe. I don’t even know why. Listen, get out. You know, you’re I don’t want to talk to you. You’re a jerk for even calling me. I can’t stand you get away from me to click, like, heck, I mean, how do you feel that you feel very stressed right? Now that our next one, because in the end, you didn’t have it anyway. You’ve never had that sale. That’s never gonna happen. Thank you for fun, I might mark that one down and in 30 days call again. And the only reason I do that to call again and say, and I would start that call like this.

Lane  14:01


Rob  14:01

Hey, this is Rob. I don’t know if you remember me. How’s your day going today?

Lane  14:05

Who is this?

Rob  14:06

This is Rob. How’s your day coming from? Oh, Joe’s Seo? How’s your day going today?

Lane  14:11

Oh, why are you calling me again?  Oh, it’s not a good day again. Okay, no worries. This is one of those who say, this is one of these you save for when you’re having a bad day, and you want to have a good day. It is simple way to make your day more fun. And then you go Okay, now let’s go get some real phone calls. So anytime you have cold calls that go really bad, use that information and learn from it. But then transition from that feeling pressure to feeling a little bit more like Oh, alright, this is not going anywhere. Let’s have some fun with it. Let’s see where I can go. How do I get this person to stop acting this way? And listen or talk to me? And let me learn a little bit more about them. Is there a way I can do that? And if I can get them to talk more, and get past that point, total different change and all the thing all of the things start happening to start to drive a sale, I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened. And it can happen to you, by the way, in the middle of your sales process, where somebody just says, this is a no go, no problem, I’m not going to be able to do business with you. I had a call today, where they wanted a project. And the project was going to cost minimum. For one component $2,500.. They said they thought their pricing was going to be $500. Now I got the information, they wanted to pay $500 ahead of time. And I said to them, this sounds like this is not going to work. And she said, I don’t understand why. And I said, because I’m five times the price. You just told me it should be. I don’t know what to do with that. I mean, I even hesitate to tell you because I thought you’d fall out of your chair. I thought I’d I tell you that. And there would be dead air because you passed out. And she laughed. But in the end, I knew that that wasn’t going to go anywhere. And I might as well learn from that and see where I can go from there. So when we went from the point of I know, this is a no go. My next few questions were really interesting in terms of, could this actually turn around? I said to her, it sounds like this is a no go. I’m five times the price that you were expecting. To me that number that I thought was the right price. And what she needed is reasonable. It’s not that too far off. It’s actually not a bad price. But when we had that conversation at the end, I said, listen, I don’t want to assume anything. It sounded like this is the price was too high. Should I just shred your information? Like eliminate it delete your phone number? Should I just like pretend this didn’t even happen? She was no, I need to talk to my boss, because she talked to somebody who told her is that price? I said, Okay, well, that’s possible. But what you described to me, it may not be the same thing that she was expecting or wanting to do. So let’s talk about how we need to approach how we’ll talk to her. Let’s go through what is it she needs. So let’s talk about that. We had her I had her answer some questions that I want her to ask her boss, so that when she goes back to her boss, her boss recognizes that the price that she is expecting is way off. And that this is going to only be a one person job versus a three person job that we are actually quoting. Right. So by doing that, I’m educating her how to present it. But I’m also doing something else, which is helping her understand that I will be gone just as best as she tells me to. But if she still wants to have this conversation, I’m open. And then my assumption is that this is a no go. And I should shred your information unless you tell otherwise. And she’s told me, no, no, I will get back to you next week by this date. And so Okay. All right. Then my next question is, if we’re gonna talk next week, I want to make sure they don’t miss your call. What date you think you’d be calling me? Because I don’t know. I said, Okay. What if we do this? What if by Wednesday, if I don’t hear from you? What if I shoot you a quick email, and then you just respond back? It’s no go at all. Or you shoot me a note that says, we’re still talking, or you shoot me back that says, hey, we’re going to talk tomorrow, whatever it is just a quick update. I don’t care one way or the other what the answer is, yep, that’s okay. If I don’t hear a response back from you on that email, what happens then? Should I call you? And she goes, Yeah, why don’t you Why don’t you call me instead of next week? Wednesday, when that email if I don’t call you if I don’t respond to you call me on Friday, and then we’ll talk. Okay. And if I call you at three o’clock? Don’t answer what do you want me to do that? Like I just narrow it down, narrow it down, narrow it down. I know, it sounds annoying. And she laughed, too. But it was one of those. All right, you’re she knows she’s not getting out of this? Unless she tells me No. And I’m okay with that. If she tells me No, I’m okay with that. But she also doesn’t want to tell me no, I can tell by asking her all those questions all on the way. She’s not going, you know what? Never mind. Because that’s what she should be doing. Yeah, based on what she’s telling me for the numbers. But that also tells me the budget is there somewhere they have money there. It’s whether or not they want to part with it. And they don’t think that they have enough. And then once they realize what they’re trying to get versus what they’re getting a quote for. And they realize that that’s not going to be able to get done what they want to get done. That whole thing changes, the game changes. And guess who’s still standing, the one that says, I’ll talk to you by Friday, right? That’s what happens. So all the way through this whole thing, the key to every single conversation you ever have is going to be making sure that you’re prepared for it to happen. And then have fun with it. And figure out how you get past the emotional part by disengaging the emotion by calling out the emotion. Man, you sound really angry. Look, can we talk about that? Because I don’t want to leave this conversation making you feel like this. Still. I know. That’s horrible. Right? Get that out of them. So that that opens up the door to having more conversations for potential sales. Does that help? I mean, having gone through that, does that make you feel less stressful? Yeah, I think it’s more of a practice thing because I feel silly, saying hey, alright, well, you know, if you don’t answer the phone call, can I send you an email? Well, if you don’t respond to that email, can I call you again, I feel silly saying that, but I understand where you’re coming from and, and I will try to take that to heart.

Rob  20:05

Yeah, I know. Everybody always says it feels silly. But here’s what happens when I first did it, it felt silly. But I got answers. And the second time I did it, I got more answers. And now I don’t not say it because I can’t help but say it. Because if I don’t say it, then I don’t know where I stand. And that’s the worst place to be, I would rather know where I stand versus where I don’t know where I stand. And I should also say that with that whole project, I didn’t write any estimates out I give a rough estimate, here’s what it’s going to be. It’s about this much $2,500 plus or minus, depending on what’s going on and some minor details. You never write out a final estimate, until you have some sort of agreement on a rough price. If you have that, then you should be able to go to that final estimate in part. So hopefully that helped everybody else. I know Lane. I know this can take some practice, and it’s gonna take practice for anybody else to, but it’s a fun exercise to do. And until next time, I’ll see you guys later.

Lane  20:56


V/O  20:58

Thank you for listening to the slow pitch. Do you have a question about sales? Call or text your question at (608) 708-SLOW? That’s (608) 708-7569. You can email to Questions@TheSlowPitch.com. Slow down and close more.

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