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Telephone Terror: Creepy Phone Tactics That Just Won’t Die

6 min readOctober 31, 2020

The house is dark inside and night has fallen. The babysitter is unfamiliar with the home she’s in, the kids have been put down to bed, and she is just passing time. Suddenly, the phone rings:




:heavy breathing:

“Have you checked on the children?”

Revenue.io Telephone Terror

Scenes like these from classic horror movies feel unrealistic today, because nobody answers their phone. It comes as no surprise – the role phones play in our lives has fundamentally changed.

Now, desperate for any chance to get a prospect to answer the phone, salespeople are resorting to creepy tactics that are probably best left to the horror movies. Every day these tactics are used, prospects become less likely to answer.

This Halloween, let’s all commit to stop petrifying prospects with frightening phone sales tactics. Sometimes the things that reps do on the phone are downright scary. From calling far too much, to popping up in places they shouldn’t be, or even behaving downright sinister during a conversation, there are things that just shouldn’t happen on the phone.

These 11 phone sales strategies are guaranteed to creep out potential customers and bury the reputation of sales as a profession.

The Jumpscare: Contacting personal numbers too early

The classic jumpscare is when frightening things appear in a movie where you least expect them to. It follows, then, that the classic sales jumpscare is calling or texting a prospect’s personal cell phone without building a rapport with them first. Don’t spook your prospects by suddenly appearing in places you shouldn’t be. They won’t appreciate it. Don’t get us wrong, texting your prospects is a great idea, just make sure that you have some form of permission or quality relationship before doing so.

The Vampire: Lying in state about a referral

Lying is an easy tactic to abuse over the phone, but oddly the most recent way our team experienced this was via email. A web design agency started messaging us with our CEO’s name in the subject line and copy saying “he referred me to you on the web project”. Needless to say, we all knew that he was making it up. Tactics like these move beyond creepy into obnoxious, desperate, and rude. Your click-through rate, your conversion rate, and one sale are not worth draining the life from your brand. You are better off having no contact at all than getting caught in a lie.

The Call That’s So Cold, It’s Dead: High pressure selling

It just takes a glance at the most popular YouTube sales content to realize that the boiler-room days of yesteryear are still undead. Grinding your prospects through a high pressure, low-empathy phone call is the short ticket to leaving a bad taste in their mouth when it’s over. Modern sales builds lasting relationships. Outdated, high-pressure sales focuses instant gratification. This type of calling is so cold you may as well call it cadaver calling. (Corpse calling? We can say that, this is the Halloween post).

The Zombie: Refusing to take no for an answer

Refusing to take no for an answer is closely related to bullying tactics. A former donation contact center employee once told me he was required to “ask 3 times at all costs” before ending the call, unless the prospect hung up on him. On more than one occasion, during introductory conversation his prospects would reveal that they were going through something that made asking awkward, such as tragedy in their lives. He then awkwardly had to continue through his “3 asks” for donations before ending the conversation, rather than using any real empathy for the hurting human on the other end of the phone. Don’t be the zombie on the phone constantly asking for BRRAAAAAAAAINS without taking some time to really connect with who you are talking to.

The Clown: Using their first name TOO much

Using your prospect’s first name is good… using it too much is just ridiculous. The idea is that your name is your most valued word – when you hear it you become more alert. But that also means when it is overused, we notice right away.

Hi Steve, great to meet you Steve, how is your day going so far Steve? Thank you for that information Steve! OK Steve, when is the next best time to talk again Steve?

Definitely remember a customer’s name, and use it. Be discerning when you choose to use it elsewhere in the conversation. Like clowns, name use is appropriate in the right context, but when you start seeing too many of them, nobody is smiling anymore.

The Stalker: Getting overly personal

Oversharing happens on phone calls. Sometimes you will call someone and it turns out they just needed someone to talk to. But YOU as the sales rep should never be the one leading the oversharing. Don’t talk about your personal life in too much depth, or come across as desperate by saying how bad you need this sale to hit quota. Also, don’t reveal too-intimate details you may have learned by stalking their social media. Building rapport is great and it’s always good to get to know someone personally, but you don’t want them to think “why do they want to know so much about me?” They will wonder what else you know about them, and when you will show up outside their house.

The Steps in the Hallway: Call from ultra-local numbers

It is possible to get a little too close. With sales calls, calling from a local area code (“local presence”) is good. Calling from an ultra-local presence number is not good. Matching the first six digits of your prospect’s phone will actually spook them enough that they won’t answer. You might as well be standing right outside their window, or tiptoeing down their hallways.

These numbers are also easier to identify as a sales or spam call, since the likelihood of someone getting a call from such a similar number is slim to none. When using local presence, stick to just the same area code and you will see much better results.

The Noise In The Dark: Calling multiple times but not leaving a voicemail

Mysterious bumps in the night only get creepier when they happening over and over. It’s just plain creepy to call your prospects again and again without leaving any sort of message. Call and leave a voicemail. Call again after a reasonable passage of time. Calling multiple times, especially every day without any messages is a great way to be ignored.

The Mask: Fake promotions

Michael Myers, Jason, Ghostface, even the Predator. Many of the classic horror characters wear masks. Whether they simply want to conceal their identity or are hiding something far scarier, the mask adds to their frightening intent. Salespeople create the same effect with fake promotions or pricing schemes that disguise the true cost of their product.

Just like movies, eventually the mask will come off and the customers will no longer trust both the sales rep and the company, and will call off the deal. If they already signed the contract, it leads to a churned customer and bad word of mouth.

The Trick or Treater: Autodialers & robodialers

What do trick-or-treaters and auto/robo-dialers have in common? They wander around but never know what they are going to get. Just as trick-or-treaters hope that someone opens the door with extra-large candy bars (but always find that person who hands out toothbrushes or apples), auto-dialers stumble around the phone lines hoping to connect with a potential prospect.

The scariest part of auto-dialers is that they leave reps uninformed and lacking the context needed for a valuable conversation. Without any relevant information surrounding the person they were connected with, they lack insight into the true needs of a contact. Instead, they are forced to ask simple questions and have unproductive conversations on call after call. Trick or treat? Trick or treat? Trick or treat?

The Dark Presence: Being overly persistent

There aren’t many things scarier than a movie about relentless pursuit by some unknown evil. In movies like that, what’s the one thing people do? Run!

Nobody wants to answer a call from an unfamiliar number that they see on their phone every day. Just switching up the time of day of your call doesn’t make it better. Prospects will avoid you, block your number, and never want to speak with you. Don’t unnerve your prospects by being a pest.


This Halloween, let’s make a resolution to not be a goblin, ghost, ghoul, vampire, stalker, or zombie on the phone. Those characters and the tactics used by them do nothing but scare prospects away and cost you sales. Instead, let’s be the hero. The helpful, valuable, thoughtful sales rep. Those are the people that make an impression and build relationships that generate repeat business.