The salesperson as paid liar
The phone rings. I answer it, the way I always answer it: "This is Kristin Zhivago. Can I help you?"
There is a bit of silence, then suddenly the line is alive with the sounds of a busy telemarketing boiler room. Many voices can be heard in the background, pleading, sympathizing, pushing, lying. I know exactly what is going to happen next. But, because I am a professional revenue coach, dedicated to improving how people sell their products and services, I stay on the line. The person on the other end has a very thick Indian accent. So we know who is calling and where they're calling from.
"Hello, I'd like to speak to...um...Mrs. Cheerago."
Sigh. "This is Kristin Zhivago," I say again. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, Mrs. Cheerago, this is John McDougal. I'm not calling to sell you anything."
Let's hit the pause button on this oh-so-typical and oh-so-insulting conversation to note a couple of things.
First, there's the problem of having the telemarketer come on the line after the person has said hello, but without the telemarketer knowing how the person said hello. I have already identified myself, but "John McDougal" doesn't know that, so he asks for me.
Second, the salesperson has started out our call with a two bold-faced lies. I am pretty sure that "John McDougal" is not a common name in India, and that this person - whatever his name really is - is using the name "John McDougal" to soften me up: Perhaps this person, with a thick accent, sitting in a boiler room in India, is really calling from a boiler room in Ireland! There. I feel so much better now.
Sometimes I try to imagine how stupid they really think people are. I mean, what if I were as stupid as they were hoping? "Oh, John! So nice to hear from you, and I'm so glad you aren't selling me anything today, because I really hate getting telemarketing calls from people in boiler rooms in far away places trying to take my money. And I'm so glad your name is John McDougal, because I'm much more comfortable talking to someone in Ireland than someone in India."
Honestly, I don't think there are any people this stupid in the world. People who society classifies as "stupid" - people who are mentally retarded, in other words, are smarter than this. Because of my autistic brother, I've known a number of such folks. I can easily imagine someone with Down's syndrome saying, "Ah, I know you are lying, John! You can't fool me! You're in India, and your name isn't John McDougal. Ha! Thought you'd fool me! Ha!"
My sentiments exactly. So I say:
"Well! Good morning to you, John. I do have a question for you. If you're not calling to sell me anything, why did you call? Just to say hello? Have we met before? Do I know you?"
John forces a little laugh. He's probably swearing in his mind, worried that this call will be unpleasant, but he presses on. Gotta get those rupees for that coveted iPhone.
"No, no, Mrs. Cheerago. My name is John McDougal. I am not calling to sell you anything today."
This is a common technique. The customer didn't believe the lie the first time, so we stick to the script and we tell the lie again. Does repetition make lies more believable? Politicians seem to think so.
"Yes, I heard that the first time you said it, John. I was listening to you. So what are you calling about today?"
"Well, I wondered, Mrs. Cheerago, who you are using for your website hosting services?"
"I am very happy with the company I'm using, thanks, and I don't really feel the need to tell you who I'm using, because then you'd try to talk me out of using them, and I don't feel like being talked out of using them right now."
John forces another little laugh. He must practice doing this in front of the mirror each day. "Well, Mrs. Cheerago," he says, totally unaware of how irritating it is for someone to keep mispronouncing your name, especially after you have pronounced it correctly for them, enunciating it clearly. "I understand why you might say that."
Another grating approach.
Do they think we are so starved for sympathy in our lives that we will take any sympathy we can get? That we are, literally, desperate for sympathy, and are just sitting by the phone, waiting for someone to call us and talk about our website hosting company, and sympathize about the problems we've had with them? Puh-leeeeeeze.
"John" continues: "We have talked to many customers who are not getting the service they deserve, and they are paying too much. We have a service that only costs $9.95 a month, for example, and you can switch over to our service in a matter of minutes."
"Whoa! John! I thought you weren't calling to sell me anything! This sounds suspiciously like selling to me. You weren't lying about not calling to sell me anything, were you?"
"John" doesn't laugh this time. "John" is starting to get irritated.
"No, no, Mrs. Cheerago, I am not lying to you! I am just wondering how you feel about your current website provider."
Usually by this time, I know I've learned all I can learn from this phone call, and certainly have enough to write an article. It's time to say goodbye to my new Irish friend in India. I'm afraid I'm not going to help him earn that iPhone. But sometimes I end up giving these paid liars some advice.
"John, I know where this call is going. I've been selling for years. You did call to sell me, and I don't do business with people who lie. So you're not going to be able to get any business from me today. But, you sound like a smart guy. You might want to think about doing something more meaningful with your life. I'm sure you could find a way to help people and get paid for it. You're too smart for this kind of work."
I can hear his eyebrows going up. He laughs this time, for real. For a very brief moment, he stops lying. "Thank you for saying that," he says, and then remembers that the call is being taped. "Um, well..."
His script is failing him now. The script is set up for the usual protests. No where does it say what to do when the person you called just told you that you're too smart for your job and you ought to think about doing something more meaningful with your life. But, rupees are rupees, so "John" tries one more time.
"Mrs. Cheerago, have you ever thought about switching website vendors?"
"OK, John, I have to go back to work. I'm not going to change website vendors. Actually, I'd like you to take me off your list. You are obligated by law to do so when I ask this, OK?"
"But Mrs. Cheerago, I'm not calling to sell you anything, you can try our hosting service for free!"
"John, really, you are legally obligated to take me off your list. And I'm going to hang up on you now, even if you keep insisting on talking, OK?"
"John" does try to keep talking, but I really must get back to more meaningful work.
As my hand reaches for the disconnect button, I say, "Thank you, John, have a nice day, think about what I said, I'm hanging up now."
What has happened here? A website hosting company has hired a telemarketing company in India to call up and lie to their prospects, and to ignore them when they say "No, thanks," and to refuse to take them off their list, and to treat them like they are complete idiots.
This is not selling. This is paying people to lie to and insult your potential customers. This is building a scum brand, one call at a time.