☎️ What to do when you hear “Is this a sales call”

Here are some ideas about how you could handle the situation you encounter when you call someone up and they ask… “Is this a sales call”?

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If you’re making outbound sales calls you’ve no doubt heard this from your prospects at one point in time or another.

It can often be a really curly one to answer for a lot of people. 

So, what should you say?

We’ve all been there, right… you make the call and they say something like. “Is this a sales call” or “I’m not interested” even before you’ve said anything?

The first thing you think of is…

Do you lie or tell the truth?

You might be tempted to try and rationalise a lie this way. 

If you’re a B2B seller, you can’t actually take their money on the phone, so it’s not like you can sell them something. 

So you might be tempted to say ‘No’ I can’t sell you anything it’s not a sales call.

…but then you’d be kind of lying, wouldn’t you? Because it is a sales call, really isn’t it? 

It’s a call about starting the sales process. – so yeah, it’s a sales call.

What would likely happen if you said – “Well yeah it’s a sales call”?

They’re just going to say – “Get off the phone”, …Or “I don’t take cold calls and hang up.

I’ve heard some other people suggest things like you should challenge them about how their company gets new business,… 

ask them … “does your company have salespeople? 

Is this how you’d like them to be treated when they’re trying to have conversations”?

Or something similar, that challenges their negative approach to outbound calls…. but I never like to pick a fight with a prospect on the phone.

Because let’s face it, if you win the argument,… who loses? 

They do…

And How do you think they feel about you now that they’ve lost an argument?

Better or Worse?
I’d say worse.

I don’t like that approach at all. 

It might make you feel good – but it’s not going to help you. 

Being a sales professional means leaving your ego at the door.

So what you’re now coming to realise is that this situation is not as straightforward as answering ‘What do you say next’?.

We need to dive into why are you getting that challenge in the first place.

Think about it.

If one of their customers called them up without notice – do you think they would say “Is this a sales call” 

No… I doubt they would. Why is that?

And this is the important part.

The reason they’re asking you if it’s a sales call It’s because – the way you’ve opened the call has triggered a reflex action on their behalf, – that reflex is to get you off the phone immediately.

Your entry has triggered the reflexive part of their brain the part I call their crocodile brain. I call it the corcodile brain because It acts on instinct.

You’ve sounded just like every other salesperson that they’ve ever spoken to… so they’ve made the mental jump to think you’re a salesperson too. And tried to end the call.

Do a quick check of your script.

If it sounds anything like this.

“Hi Bob, this is Mark from ACME, is now a good time”

This, and every variation of it, makes it very easy to trigger that prospect’s crocodile brain into recognising this is most likely going to be a sales call. And they want out… quickly…

So what you need to do instead, is …. come up with a strategy to not sound like every other telemarketer or salesperson that calls them up.

Review your pace and tone
Don’t be too bouncy or too bubbly.

Watch out for the over use of exclamations, being overly enthusiastic or too easily agreeable.

If you’re overconfident on the phone people can smell that commission breath of yours and they become desperate, desperate to jump off the call as fast as they can.

So if you’re hearing “Is this a sales call” or even “Not interested” early in the call – it’s probably because you sound like a cold caller.

So instead, think about how you can open a call as if you were more likely to be perceived as a buyer or a regular customer,…without being misleading.

The goal is to enter the conversation neutrally.

How might that look?

“Bob, I wanted to talk to you about ACME Corp? 

If you deliver this with a flat tone, without excitement… as if you could care less, they won’t know whether you’re a supplier or a customer or a new vendor.

Once you’re on the call and at a neutral level you can look for a deeper level of engagement.

“I’m from ABC corp… does that ring a bell?”

So work on your tone, pace and change your opener to try and get a more neutral mindset from your prospect when they first hear your voice.

OK, so let’s say that you’ve aced the tone and the pace and you still run into “Is this a sales call” 

Hears what my team currently do.

We say something like this…

“Is this a sales call”

“I completely get it, Bob, I hate making these as much as you hate taking them. 

What about if I ask you a couple of quick questions and if you still HATE me in 30secs you can hang up on me – does that sound fair?

There are a couple of specifics here I want you to take note of.

1: We are saying yes without saying yes.
“I completely get it, Bob, I hate making these as much as you hate taking them”. Acknowledge it is a sales call. No need to tell a lie.

2: By saying we hate making them we are aligning with them around our hatred for cold calls and then asking them to have pity on us. We are falling on the ground in front of their car and asking them not to run us over.

And by asking does that sound fair, well it is fair right?

It works because we are making ourselves more vulnerable.

It’s one of the situations I think permission-based selling works well.

3: By saying if you HATE me in 30secs you can hang up… makes it easy for them to see there is a quick exit possible for the call and most people will think “I don’t really hate you”…

So you might just get the chance to have a conversation after all.,

So there you have it.

What to do when you hear “Is this a sales call”.

In summary:

1: Don’t lie or mislead.

2: The reason you’re getting this challenge is that you sound like everyone else.

3: Change all parts of your intro to sound more neutral as I discussed.

4: Practice. When’s the worst time to work out what to say? Just as you’re about to say it.


let’s not forget that selling is tough, especially making outbound calls to people who aren’t expecting them. 

No matter how good we are, We are not going to get a perfect 100% response rate, we are not going to land a meeting with every call, and we are not always going to have great conversations.

Don’t beat yourself up.

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