Psychology Today

By Judith E. Glaser |
Published: January 14, 2016

Science gives the answer

Anybody who has ever practiced cold calls knows what resistance and avoidance mean and how they feel. But why don’t people want to be sold, though they love to buy? What behavioral patterns stop sales representatives from converting people they call into clients? For the last 15 years of my career I lived with these question marks in mind while investing in reading books and talking to top leading experts.

Thanks to one of my latest discoveries—the book Conversational Intelligence, How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results, by Judith E. Glaser—the dots connected.  Since Conversational Intelligence is founded in science, I could see that what I was learning about conversations would work across the globe. 

Through this book I learned that every conversation we have with another person has a chemical dynamic. Conversations have the power to change our brain, they stimulate the production of certain hormones, stimulate pathways in our body that change the chemistry of our thinking and acting—and also how our clients think!

How a potential buyer feels when he receives an unsolicited call?

A 2007 survey by Marketing Sherpa, a research firm that tracks what works in the marketing profession found that only 11 to 17 percent of business prospects were annoyed by getting an unsolicited cold call, and the reasons is quite fascinating.  The person receiving the cold call is in a fear state.

How does a cold call create fear?

People fear that the person calling will try to sell them something. When your prospective buyer is in fear mode, he will try to safeguard himself. He will never have an open discussion with you—rather he will end the discussion a quickly as possible. 

Fear goes beyond the fear in the prospect; fear agitates the sales person as well—and in the beginning of my career it would happen to me. People were banging down the phone, or were avoiding me. I started increasing the number of calls I made. 

People, when under pressure, tend to retreat to a safe place of what they know rather than taking the risk of trying new things. I was no exception.  I tended to do more of what was not working—thinking that putting more energy into my efforts, or pushing harder would open the door, rather than stepping back, taking a breather and trying to figure out a new approach.

How conversations can heat-up the cold calls!

While cold calling using Conversational Intelligence, there is a way to turn the cold call into a warm call, by thinking through the following Levels of Conversation.

  • Transactional Conversations (“Telling and asking”): Sales people could choose to be transactional – tell the prospect about the product and try to close the sale.
  • Positional Conversations (“Advocating and inquiring”): Or, sales people could be persuasive, and advocate a point of view, try to inquire about the prospect’s beliefs so that they could influence the prospects point of view. In this case Trust is conditional – because the prospect may have ‘fear emerging’ that ‘I am trying to sell them’ – heavy persuasion opens the fear networks and a person feels caution not curiosity. However, imagine a prospect holds no point of view around your product.
  • Transformational Conversations (“Sharing and discovering”): On the other hand, imagine your prospect was not planning to buy anything, related to your product category? How do you create a need about your product in the customer’s mind? You can’t do this, until you gain the trust of the prospect.

Trust Changes Everything

When you gain trust, the prospect opens up with you and shares what’s on his mind—this means moving into Level III Transformational Conversations. Since the prospect trusts and shares all his business situations, you will be able to connect, and navigate with them and if all goes well you will be able to interest them in learning more and even buying. Conversations that transform relationships are those where you and your customer co-create a situation where she experiences the value of your product without the fear of distrust with you.

What you discover through these conversations, is that you can gauge if these products are a right product fit for this person or not. You need the ability to ask questions for which you do not have any answers and listen to connect. Until the prospects trusts and opens up with you, you will not get these inner insights. Is there enough ROI for your customer? How will the product be launched? All the questions that are in their minds floating around – which they can only share with someone they trust.


Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of The CreatingWE Institute; an Organizational Anthropologist, consultant to Fortune 500 Companies, and author of four best-selling business books, including Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.; Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 212-307-4386.

Sudip Samaddar is Head of Marketing & Strategy with Ensembler, a Sales Consultant to SMEs in India. To date he has won 4 awards as Sales Head, and has grown two companies by 150% in revenue. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Keep up-to-date with The CreatingWE Institute and Conversational Intelligence® via our email newsletter