Are You A Creepy Salesperson?

By: Stephen Ekstrom | Fire Starter Brands' President

They are out there and you might be one of them... Creepers. 


There is an unending stream of shocking and creepy prospecting techniques that I continue to see every day. If this article can help just a few of those sketchy cold callers improve their skills, I consider my contribution a win for the industry.

If you ask most people what they think when they hear the word "sales" the results will be, unsurprisingly, harsh. Terms like pushy, sleazy, yuck, difficult and annoying are at the top of the list. Am I surprised when I hear these reactions? No. Are any of those words how I'd describe my own technique? Hell no. Yet, there are still too many salespeople who think the best way to move product is to be manipulative and sketchy. Even when we see how much sales & marketing are changing, many of these bad habits are based on old techniques and it's time for a change. 

Here are some common creeper tactics and tools you can use to fix them...

Bad Cold-Calling Techniques

Why do people continue to use bad tactics on the phone? They can't possibly be working and, still, they happen all the time. Just this week I received two bad calls and I consider both to be creepy.

The Incessant Caller

I get it, this new representative was new at his company and urgently wanted to try to make his first sale but, after trying my number three times in the same day then calling my assistant, asking to speak with the CEO, all I could hear was the desperation and disregard for my needs behind each of those calls.

Remember, salespeople, making your quota is not the prospect's concern. Their need to buy has nothing to do with your quota. Your prospect is focused on their job, their needs and their own timeline. If you can see things from the prospect perspective, you're on your way to being far more successful. 

Like The First Timer, You're Just Too Quick

You know who the prospect is, they filled out the form online or you just sent them the content to review - the marketing is working. But let them breathe! More importantly, let them digest the content - align your follow up with your service and the prospect.

Do not call the prospect within 60 seconds of them receiving your content. Give your marketing content a chance to stand on its own; let the prospect determine how they'd like to proceed and see how your service fits their need.

On the flip side, if the prospect says that it's urgent or an emergency, pick up the damn phone. The last thing a prospect needs in an urgent situation is a brochure or request to set up an appointment for next week.

If the prospect is participating in a tutorial or demonstration, let them finish the demo and work their brain around the product before jumping to close the sale. Give a call the next day to ask what providers the prospect may be using, why they were interested in this solution, did they find what they needed and what additional information they may need. Any of those follow ups would provide the seller with far more valuable information than the immediate request for an appointment.

Some Quick Cold Calling Tips

  • Leave a Voicemail: This is particularly important if you haven't yet done business with the prospect or they aren't familiar yet with your company. Your voicemail should be brief and meet one basic objective - tell the prospect how will your product can help them. The prospect does not care about your rambling product features, just how it will make their life easier. AND... plan a follow up; a single call is not a recipe for call success.
  • Ask the Gatekeeper: Seriously! The gatekeeper works with the prospect every day and can be both a great resource and proven ally, but only if you are honest and polite with them. Ask smart questions like - when is the best time to call, is there a better person to talk with, does this person prefer email or voicemail. If you are nice enough, they may even tell you the answer to the questions you were going to ask the prospect. Ask!
  • Follow Up In Writing: If you are using the right tools and following up with email well, this is incredibly important. It's easier and less pressure for prospects to reply to an email than it is for them to call back. The prospect can find the information they need or forward to the right person if you've included the appropriate links. If your software tracks link opens and clicks, you will already know where the prospect's interests are and have insight on what the best next steps will be. 

Improve Poor Email Habits

Email is a great tool because it allows you to consider the prospect, demonstrate how you can help solve problems and determine the prospect's interest level. The trick is that you have to do this all quickly and grab their attention.

Keep your emails simple, short and to the point. Use salesforce or HubSpot tools to add links and track engagement. Here's what to avoid:

Avoid Buzz Words

Too much talk about your company, services and jargon is like delivering a cloud of wtf. Those buzz words may sound great in your staff meeting or when talking with your marketing team but the prospect needs to see it in their language and your email needs to explain how you can help them, the prospect

Terrible Opening Lines

If the prospect reads only 10 words of your email, it's likely going to be that opening line. Stop saying "I hope this email finds you well" and start grabbing their attention by offering a simple, relatable solution. Every. Word. Counts.

Don't Give the Prospect More Work

If you're selling something, you should be making the prospect's life easier. Don't ask the prospect to set aside time for you unless they've expressed an interest beyond simply being part of whatever list you're working. Don't ask the prospect how you can help; instead, offer to help.

Basic Email Tips:

  • Check your spelling - especially with my name
  • Offer Original Content & Specifics - remind me where I saw you & link back to the content I already viewed. Don't assume that others remember you or what you're talking about. Make it easy to be remembered.
  • Provide Something More - if you're responding to an inquiry, answer the prospect's question and offer an insightful article, links to related topics and, for gosh sakes, ask why I requested additional information.

Faulty or Incomplete Research

Do your damn research before picking up the phone or sitting down for an appointment. You will look like a complete fool if you don't.

I recently sat on the buyer side of the table at a recent trade show and I was amazed by how many people walked up to the meeting not knowing why they'd requested this buyer, whether or not this buyer visited their area or what types of customers this buyer worked with. Whatever shot you had at credibility is gone the moment you ask "Do you come to my area?"

Where can you do quick research? The prospect's website. Industry Association membership listings. Ask the gate keeper or a local colleague.



Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches over 500,000,000 travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a trusted fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of nearly 5,500 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.