Training with the Telephone Assassin

9 May 2015

Training with the Telephone Assassin

It is true that when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail. I have an impressively broad digital marketing skill set and the strategies I write are multi-channel, precise in audience, measurable, cost effective and they work. However they are based on training and experience that is heavily digitally specialised. Sometimes you have to stop and honesty ask the question: ‘is my approach the best approach’. Sometimes digital need to retreat to a support position and let another discipline take the vanguard.

This is the principal reason I go to networking events. There is a whole world of talented specialists out there with whom there are some very rewarding conversations to be had. There are new perspectives and there is always something new to learn.

I met Anthony Stears, aka the Telephone Assassin at Berkshire Does Business. His branding blew most of the other companies out the water. Anthony Stears was confident in pink. His display was pink. His tie was pink. His socks were pink. He had clearly put effort into the small details of his stand and he was offering the most sinful cupcakes it has ever been my pleasure to add to my waistline.

I had already missed his morning lecture but for £10 you could listen in on a demo where he would be cold calling on behalf of members of the audience. It was the last event of the day and I decided to stick around for it.

We sat around him in circle and he put his iPhone on speaker and held it in front of his face. I’d never seen someone talk on a phone like this. At first he did look rather absurd but we could all hear both sides of the conversation. The people on the other end didn’t mention anything so I assume it sounded natural to them.

One by one each of the company directors in the audience gave him a name and number of someone they wanted as a client and they gave him the briefest overviews of what their business was. He then called the number and talked his way past the receptionist, and scheduled appointments on their behalf.

If the target was not available he would gather as much information as possible about them.

  • Their full names.
  • What time they are out of meetings.
  • When they arrive and leave the office.
  • When their lunch break is.
  • Their mobile number.
  • Their office extension number.
  • The extents of their responsibility.
  • Other contacts in the company who purchased the desired services.

Most of this information is confidential and the receptionists on the other end were almost certainly trained to not give it out but his brand of hesitant familiarity and unassuming inquisitiveness was extremely successful. This was even more impressive when he called a string of pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceuticals have very restrictive guidelines on what can be told over the phone. Because of animal testing they have a no names policy designed to protect their staff from protesters. The Telephone Assassin only had a job title to go on but he was so lovably nervous and sincere that the receptionist told gave him senior employee’s names and schedules.

I have always been terrible on the phone. The thought of picking up a phone and cold calling important business leads terrifies me. But I have a policy: if something pushes you outside your comfort limit it is probably the right thing to do. I signed up to one of his workshops that same day.

The course was full of gems. Here are some of the key points:


Stats show that the more times you are in contact with someone the more likely they are to buy. Stats show that approximately 2% of people buy in the first meeting but about 80% will buy in meeting five. You goal when calling them is not to create a sale. It is to create awareness and rapport so that in a future meeting you can make a sale.


No one likes a cold caller. You have to have a specific reason for calling that specific person. Even if that reason is flimsy. It can be ‘I was at a networking event in Windsor yesterday and {insert name here} said that I should talk to you.’ or ‘I work closely with one of your competitors and when I told them that I was looking to take on another client they said that I should call you.’

If you want to generate a reason you can just look at their LinkedIn profile. They will see that you looked at their profile and then they click on yours just to check who you are. Then you call them and say ‘Hi, I saw that you looked at my LinkedIn profile, I have actually been meaning to call you for some time…’


The first thing you say when you reach the target is ‘Just calling to introduce myself. Is there a better time to have a quick chat?’ The purpose of this is to make it clear that you will not be a burden and give them confidence that they are in control. At this point you have not told them why you have called them and their curiosity will make them then ask you to continue.


The first thing all call centres do is ask them how they are doing. When the first thing I hear on the phone is a strangers voice saying ‘Hi, Mr Hindle. How are you doing today?’ I groan inside. You are not a call centre. Do not act like one.


If you are nervous, don’t be shy in letting them know. You can tell them ‘I was a little nervous calling you, so I have come into the board room, can we talk for a few minutes?’ It makes you human. It makes you differentiates you from a call centre.  It makes them want to help you and it’s a little bit flattering.


Make it clear that this is a limited offer. You are only looking for a single new client. They could miss out if they do not snap up this opportunity. This increases the value of your services and gives them a motivation to act soon. It also leverage’s that psychological truth that people are more willing to take risks to prevent loss than they are to gain something they do not yet possess.


Your sales lead has no motivation to chase you. Even if they need your services they can contact other suppliers. You need to take responsibility of making the next contact. Every time you end a call with them ask them if you can call them again in a few weeks. Put a note in your diary and then keep that appointment.


Messages are innately needy. Don’t leave a message on their machine and certainly don’t leave multiple messages. It is better to leave a dozen missed calls then a single message.

If you do have to leave a message do not tell them why you want to talk to them. Give them something to be curious about. ‘{insert name here} said I should talk with you, I’ve got a proposal he thinks I should run by you. You can reach me on 01234 123123.’


Phoning people is scary and it’s important that you are confident that you will be well received. So when you start a session of calls start with the easy victories to build up your confidence. After a couple of successes those important customers further down your list won’t look so daunting.


Anthony Stears was an excellent teacher and I have since been including strategies he introduced me to in my marketing plans. I would recommend him to any of my clients. Even if they do not intend for telemarketing to be part of their business activities the workshop was a healthy place to polish personal social skills and add a new slant to a business plan.

You can visit his site at or call him on 0800 008 7597. Unsurprisingly he is a very unthreatening telephone personality and is very easy to talk to.

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