How to Deal With a Nasty Prospect on Cold Calls

Disclaimer: What you are about to read is not what sales is about 99.5% of the time. This article only refers to what should be a very rare situation, when a prospect is being outright rude to you. This includes calling you names, insulting your job, or cursing you off for making a professional outreach attempt. I never condone rude, disrespectful, or bad language, but sometimes a little wit and humor can make a bad call not feel quite so bad.

If you do a lot of cold calling, it is inevitable you will face some nasty people.

Contrary to what many people outside the sales world think, having insults hurled at you on a B2B sales prospecting call is extremely uncommon if you are doing things the right way.

You should always make an effort to be straightforward, honest, and professional on cold calls. Prospects may not listen to you or care what you say, and certainly may be curt, but the vast majority will be reasonable and respectful.

Unfortunately, the occasional rude person has an over-sized effect, because the thought of this dreaded nasty person looms large in the mind of many sales professionals.

I have seen the confidence of a new sales rep wrecked by a bad call with a prospect who was having a bad day and just wanted to destroy someone.

Nobody wants to be disrespected, especially when doing your job and putting yourself out there.

As a way to feel empowered rather than defenseless I encourage people to feel like you can fight back.

You certainly do not have to, and should feel no pressure to engage with someone who is being rude or disrespectful.

In fact, most of the time you should just proactively wrap up the call with them and move on. Ending the call by deciding this is someone you won’t engage with, instead of feeling like you have to listen to them ream you out is a great way to empower yourself as well.

But once in a while, if you feel like it: give it right back to them. Again, I do not encourage responding in kind, especially if someone is rude, disrespectful, or using nasty language.

I do encourage a witty response that hopefully cuts to the core, and allows you to escape the call with a smile.

Personally, when I was making cold calls I would sometimes find myself in this situation and feel I came out with a few gems I’d like to share.


Example #1

Prospect: For God’s sake what is WRONG with you people that you call me like this.

Me: Again I was..

Prospect: No. It’s bullshit. Stop calling me!

Me: No problem, I will do that. You are in charge of the sales team right?

Prospect: Yes…

Me: Your response to being called on in this way reflects poorly on you as a sales leader. You ought to take your professionalism and job as a sales leader more seriously. Have a good day, and goodbye.


Example #2

Prospect: Why don’t you get a real job?

Me: This is a real job. It sounds like you are pretty unhappy in your job though, if this is how you respond to people calling you! You can disregard this call, goodbye.


Example #3 (and my personal favorite)

Prospect: You must be some kind of idiot, don’t fucking call here again

Me: No problem! Just so I can know- you are actually responsible for evaluating new potential deals for your firm, correct?

Prospect: Yes, I…

Me: Well, you did not do a good job performing that part of your job today. Goodbye.


This may sounds silly. And I suspect some people may take issue with an article about this, and I can understand why.

However, I think it’s important. Sales reps should not be fighting, or angering people, but knowing that just like any other interaction, you should not let people be abusive or disrespectful, regardless of the circumstances. Avoid them, and know that  if you want to, and they really deserve it, you have permission to fight back.

Julian Lumpkin

Julian has focused his career on B2B sales and sales management, specifically bringing new technologies to market. After years as an elite sales rep, he began leading teams, specifically focused on coaching sales reps on how to be direct, credible, and respected throughout the sales process. Julian conceived of and designed SuccessKit when running an 18 person sales-team at Axial, a b2b startup, as a way to help sales reps have better conversations by utilizing customer success examples and other content more effectively.

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