Why Don’t Your Prospects Want to Meet With You?

What does “I’m not interested” really mean?

Photo by Konstantin Pelykh/dpc

Photo by Konstantin Pelykh/dpc

A subscriber recently wrote to me about her struggle to turn cold calls into appointments. She is new to the radio sales business, and has been surprised and a bit disheartened at the rejection she’s faced.

I have never done sales before and while I have no issues with being assertive, I keep finding myself struggling to assure the clients that our radio station is where they want to be before that irritating phrase, “We’re not interested… click[phone hanging up!].”

I believe in this station and the amount of ears we reach with just one broadcast/advertisement, but I am not a rude person by any means and almost feel… well rude when I try to push past that initial turn down! How do I overcome this feeling and open myself up in the sales world?

It’s tough to tell what’s happening when it’s reported in an email, but I’ve made and witnessed enough cold calls to take some educated guesses.

What “Not Interested” Actually Means

One possibility you should not discount: they are genuinely not interested, and nothing you can say will convince them to meet with you. You have zero chance with these people, and your best bet is to move on to someone else as quickly as possible.

More likely, this is what phone sales expert Art Sobczak calls the Triple-R: Resistant Reflex Responses. “They are attempts to get salespeople off the phone. And they usually work. So prospects keep using them.”

How do you tell the difference? Sometimes you can smoke out the answer with a couple of well-placed questions.

In his book Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling, Sobczak talks about an approach that’s worked well for one salesperson:

Inside Sales Rep Jeff Wirsling responds, “That’s fine, Mr. Client. In the event something changes with your current service/supplier, would it be all right if I stay in touch?” Then he questions what would need to change, placing him into a sales conversation.

This won’t work every time. It might fail most of the time.  But if it works on, say, a third of your “not interesteds”, it can significantly increase the number of productive sales conversations you have.

Obviously, if the customer hangs up or won’t give you permission to stay in touch, you have your answer and can move on without guilt. It’s worth a shot to see if the client is… worth a shot.

Sales Skills: Preventing “Not Interested”

A very good, experienced seller once told me that 20% of the people he called weren’t going to interested no matter what he said, and 10% were interested enough to give him an appointment even if his approach wasn’t very good. The other 70% might be interested… if he said the right things when he called.

How do you increase the odds of convincing that 70% in the middle?

It helps to open the conversation with something that gives them a reason to be interested.

Take a good look at your initial approach on the phone. If you are telling people you want to come out and talk about your radio or television station, or that you want to talk to them about advertising, you increase the odds of hitting a brick wall. Most businesspeople aren’t going to care about your radio station, and they aren’t interested in “advertising”.

What do they care about? Here are some topics that are more likely to get them interested

  • More traffic to their website
  • More customers walking in the door
  • More sales

Look at scripting an opening that tells them that you have some ideas to help them find more customers and make more sales. An effective opening quickly communicates three things to the prospect:

  1. There’s a reason you’ve decided to call them. Examples include learning of a new product or location. Perhaps you saw or heard their ad on a competitor. Or you were in their store and saw something that caught their attention.
  2. You have something that could be valuable to them — and that’s not your “First Quarter Fire Sale Package”. It’s an idea to help them accomplish something important to them.
  3. You know something about them already, but need to know more.

Here are some examples of the form, with calls made by a fictional Account Executive at my old employer:


“Mr. Swanson, this is Margaret Dumont with KEX Radio. I read about your upcoming expansion in The Business Journal, and have some ideas that can bring more customers to your new location. I’d like to meet with you early next week to find out a little more about what direction you’re heading.”

or ”

“This is Margaret Dumont with KEX Radio. I saw your ad in the newspaper this morning, and think you may be missing an opportunity to generate more leads, and more qualified leads. I’d like to meet with you next week to find out a little more about where you’re trying to go with the campaign.”


“This is Margaret Dumont with KEX Radio. I read your press release online the other day, and have some ideas to turn the excitement about your new product into sales and revenue. I’d like to meet with you next week to find out a little more about the problem the product is designed to solve.”


In three sentences, the caller  identifies herself and then quickly turns the focus of the call to the customer and how the customer might benefit from meeting with her. It sounds different from what most of the other salespeople say, and can buy you a few seconds to convince the prospect that you are different.

Will this work on everyone? Emphatically not. “Not Interested” has always been part of sales and always will be. And there is more rejection in Year One of a sales career than in any other — a big reason why so many sales rookies never make it to Year Two.

The best way to reduce the number of “Not Interesteds” is to open the conversation with something with something your prospect will find interesting.

Question: How have you turned “Not Interested” into a productive sales conversation? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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3 thoughts on “Why Don’t Your Prospects Want to Meet With You?

  1. Be prepared with your opening script. As in marketing, do some A/B testing on your script. As Phil say’s It’s worth a shot to see if the client is… worth a shot. And the only thing i would add to that is you have NO shot until you take a shot.

    • Good point, John. Writing a script out in advance, rehearsing it, testing it, and making adjustments is the way to win. Whether you can do a good formal A/B test depends on how many outbound calls you make, but even with a smaller number you should be able to get a good feeling for what’s working.