We've all been there. It might've been at home. It might have been at work. It might have been both. No matter where it happened, it probably felt rehearsed (at best) and maybe even a bit slimy in that you're-definitely-only-into-me-for-my-money way.
I'm talking about the scripted phone call. Designed to move us through the proven process du jour and ensure everyone on the "customer care" team covers the entirety of the value proposition that cost more than the "customer care rep" makes in a year, the scripted call is somewhat of a dying breed, but it's not dead yet. As someone who sells for a living, I have compassion for the folks whose job it is to face rejection much of the day. As someone who sells based on relationships and (with the intention of) real problem solving, I struggle with this approach far more than I did earlier in my career—perhaps because I was writing those scripts at the time.
There was one call in particular that really struck me. I was in the middle of a hectic day, with meeting after meeting and a few proposal deadlines ahead (I call it Tuesday). The phone rang, and my exchange went something like this (names changed to protect the poor guy, and also because I don't actually remember it):
Sales Dude: Hi, it's Bob from ABC Business Services. I'm calling because you filled out a form on our website, and I'd like to schedule a meeting with you to talk about what we can do. Here is the next part of my call script.
Me: Bob, can I just stop you there? I really don't have time for this call right now. I'm also confused about this call, because I responded to your canned exploration email to say we're not interested.
Bob: Well, I'm actually calling because you had filled out a form with us.
Me: Yes, we've just covered that, and I appreciate your call. As I said, we're not actually interested in the service.
I'm often the first to say that process matters (whether or not I practice what I preach probably depends on who you ask). It really does matter, but not at the expense of the human experience. The reason we still have human beings in sales roles is because real human connections matter when we are asking people to part with their money (or persuading them to do anything, really). Robots can't sell any better than perfectly-followed scripts can, so why are the scripts still out there?
A good script—or process or sales methodology—is a road map, but not the whole journey. Applied well and with the right training, it should take care of the basics so that the people on the front lines can have enough information to know what is critical, and what is important, but if a business is about people (hint: it is), being human always needs to be part of the equation. A person who is actually good at sales has the empathy and instinct to not only know the main roads, but when and how to make a detour on the way to the destination.