If at first you don’t succeed….

I was brought in to one of Canada’s major banks to coach a group of VP’s and Directors who managed large corporate accounts (they were recently been tasked with bringing three new accounts on board with the bank each year by making prospecting calls to C-level executives).

Now, these people had never actually made any prospecting calls before so this was daunting for them, and the bank brought me in to facilitate a workshop on the subject to ease them into it, and then afterwards to provide individual coaching on actual calls to prospects.

We had completed the workshop, and now it was time to coach. This particular coaching was with a Senior V.P. whom we will call Linda. I asked Linda who we were going to call, and one of the prospects she had selected and researched was the CEO of a food distribution company at the city’s main Food Terminal. She had prepared her script and we rehearsed a few times before she dialled.

The CEO picked up immediately, and without any polite preliminaries, simply barked out:


Linda launched into her script:

“Good morning.  This is Linda calling from XYZ Bank….” was as far as she got. As soon as she announced the name of her bank, the CEO spat out something in a language that we presumed was Italian, and then he hung up. Neither Linda nor I speak Italian, so we had no idea what he had said, but we were pretty sure it wasn’t: “Have a nice day.”

Linda looked at me and shrugged and asked what she should do. I asked her if she felt like calling back. She was game for that and asked me what she should say.

“When he answers, tell him who you are again, and say that you must have gotten cut off.”

She dialled his number, and he answered in the same gruff manner:


“Oh hi – this is Linda from XYZ bank again – we must have gotten cut off.”

This time he replied in English:

“Listen, lady – we didn’t get cut off, I hung up on you, and I’m going to do it again!”

And with that, he hung up.

Linda asked me what she should do. She was plucky enough to give it one more try, so I told her what to say this time. She dialled the number, and again got the same greeting.


“This is Linda again. Obviously you must have had a good reason for hanging up on me, do you mind if I ask what it was?”

There was a moment’s silence, and then he said:

“Where are you calling from again?”

“I’m a Senior Vice President with XYZ Bank.”

Again a moment’s pause, and then:

“Okay, lady – you’ve got 30 seconds – what is it you want?”

“The reason for my call is….”

Linda launched into her prepared and rehearsed 15-second value statement, and without pausing for breath, asked for an appointment. There was another moment of silence, and then he replied:

“Alright – I guess you’ve earned it.” And he gave her the appointment.

There are a couple of lessons here:

1. Perseverance pays. In the words of Robert Bruce:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

2. You had better have a well prepared and rehearsed value statement when you make prospecting calls.

3. The variant of “Obviously you must have a good reason for saying that, do you mind if I ask what it is?” question that Linda used worked like a charm. It really is the most useful question in selling.

Try it – it works!