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7 Steps for Dealing with an Angry Prospect

5 min read
Updated Aug. 4, 2021
Published Jul. 21, 2015

This post was originally published on

As a sales development rep, the initial call to a new prospect can be the most daunting step of the sales process, simply because of its unpredictability. No matter how researched and prepared an SDR is for the call, there is no way to predict the mindset of the prospect on the other line when that first call is made.

Best case scenario, the prospect answers the call with an open mind and a positive attitude, and the conversation leads to a set appointment. But, unfortunately, not every scenario is best case, and in those situations, the prospect answers the call angry.

Maybe they’ve been prospected by your company before. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience with a similar product. Maybe they’re just plain having a bad day.

As impossible as it is to predict, the prospect’s mood can be equally as difficult to navigate once the call is underway. How do you deal with an angry prospect, and turn the call into a positive experience for both parties?

Every situation is unique, but in the case of a cold call gone-awry, here are seven steps to handle the situation with grace, patience, and positivity:

1. Take their frustration seriously, but not personally.

You haven’t even introduced them to your company or product, much less the solution you offer, and they’re objecting already… because they don’t trust you. They don’t know you, and they don’t believe you are worth their time. But don’t take this objection personally — you can counteract it by acknowledging the fact that this is a first time conversation in your introduction.

John. It’s Leah from Salesloft. I know we’ve never spoken before, but I’ve got a hypothesis I think can be helpful.”

Establish that you are trying to earn the right to talk to them and take that objection off the table.

2. Control the call — tone and confidence are the most important elements in a phone call.

Don’t let their tone throw you off balance. Who is this? What do you want? Why are you calling me right now? These are all questions you can answer with confidence, so control the call from the start and speak with conviction.

3. Match their brevity.

You may not want to match the prospect’s tone, but you do want to match their brevity. If you can already tell that the prospect is antsy, don’t waste their time. Introduce yourself and deliver your message clearly and succinctly.

4. Practice active listening. Clarification and confirmation.

After letting the prospect hear your motive for calling, it’s time to let them talk. Whether they need to vent about a past experience or they just want to talk about what’s going on in their day — listen. After you’ve heard the prospect’s issues, clarify them and confirm them to prove that you are invested in their issues and are here to help. (Odds are, this will be the most vulnerable time to find out the prospect’s pain points.)

5. Empathize — with positivity.

By connecting with the prospect and letting them that you understand their frustration, you will remind them that you’re a human being on the other end of the line. Empathize with their situation, but do so in a positive way that helps provide ideas for a solution.

Positive is finding the silver lining. It’s transparent, vulnerable, and authentic…not Pollyanna fantasy but believing in the future. Not just in yourself, but in the collective of those around you. It’s the belief that together we can overcome anything.” –Kyle Porter

6. Take baby steps. You don’t need to sell the product — just the next step.

Nothing makes an angry prospect angrier than being pushed to buy something they’re not ready to buy yet. This is clearly a situation where a follow up call or appointment would be the perfect place to delve deeper into their pain points in order to find a solution for the prospect. By simply selling them on the next step, you’re removing the pressure to buy and giving the client a sense of control over the situation.

7. Ask if there is a better time to talk, and actually get an answer (even if the answer is no).

Once you’ve sold the prospect on the next step, make an appointment and set it right then and there. Making vague statements about future conversations and leaving the follow up to chance will only cause all of your hard work from the last few minutes to go down the drain. If the prospect isn’t sold, ask if there is a better time in the future to reach back out. Answer is still no? Respect both the prospect and your time by stepping away.

We all hope for the call that’s a success from dial tone to dial tone, but unfortunately, a good amount of prospects will say no. That’s why it’s the sales development rep’s job to make sure that they are doing everything they can to ensure the best possible chance for a future relationship with a prospect.