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Tricks cold callers use to keep you hanging on

A Loughborough University team of psychologists has identified the tricks used by cold callers to get contacts to agree to a meeting.

In a paper presented today, Friday 4 May, to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Nottingham, social psychologists from Loughborough showed how salespeople seek to persuade their contacts to have a meeting.

Dr Bogdana Huma, Professor Elizabeth Stokoe and Dr Rein Sikveland, from the School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences, drew on 153 recordings of ‘cold calls’ made by salespeople from three British companies that sell office equipment.

They analysed conversations in which salespeople sought to get contacts to agree to an appointment and found three tactics the salespeople commonly used.

• They got contacts to agree to the idea that a meeting is relevant and beneficial before they suggested one

• They countered possible arguments against a meeting by raising and rebutting them before they were made

• They presented meetings as timely and opportune because of the contact’s current contractual position.

Dr Huma said: “Psychologists have always been interested in persuasion and social influence, but there have been few studies of these phenomena in actual live interaction, in settings where the stakes are real.

“We know that only a very small percentage of cold calls end with the salesperson securing an appointment, so they have to mobilise a wealth of persuasive resources to get prospective customers to agree to a meeting.

“We found that, throughout the appointment-making sequence, the prospective customer appears to be free to say yes or no to a meeting. However, the salesperson’s actions are designed to tilt things so that accepting a meeting is easy but declining one involves complicated explanation.

“While each conversation is different, we did find similar tactics being employed by the many different salespeople.”

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 18/70

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey and named University of the Year in the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2019. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

The British Psychological Society is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. We are responsible for the development, promotion and application of psychology for the public good. For more information visit www.bps.org.uk

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