The Same Malaise Everywhere

So, there I was working away at someone else’s home office. It was 1030. On a sunny, warm April Thursday. In the shadow of Table Mountain.

The lady of the house answered the landline. I wrote down what she said over the next minute or so. Can you guess what the other person was saying?



I’m fine.


No I don’t.

No thank you.

Thanks very much, goodbye.

There were some quite lengthy gaps as I listened. My head shook from side to side as I realised what the poor caller must be going through, day in day, day out.

So I quizzed the recipient of the cold call on what they heard. Roughly, here’s the other side;

Is that Miss K?

I’m so-and-so from Independent Newspapers. How are you today?

I’m phoning in connection with a subscription you recently cancelled. Did you used to take the Sunday Times?

Would you like to renew?

Are there any other publications you might be interested in receiving even if only for a short time?

Thanks for your time, enjoy your day.

Incredible. Who trains these people? Have they ever wondered how their top performers do it?

As an aside, when I talked through the reply, the lady particularly mentioned that the worse thing you can hear is the dreaded “how are you”. She actually put this down to being “just an African thing”. I had to tell her it was in fact a global disease.

It’s hard to envisage any results from such a script. I bet the stats are crucifying. Who on earth when listening to this is going to re-subscribe? The results must be better than 1½ in a hundred (the bog standard mailshot rate) else they surely wouldn’t go to such time and expense. But how they can be, I have no idea.

I personally think this is an online, permission marketing transaction. Not a phone call. I realise printed media is tanking, but a machine built around emailing people periodic elements of what they are missing (and of course moving the whole shabang online) is the only way ahead.

Whatever, let’s riff on the phone call. It’s awkward because it isn’t what you’d label a ‘solution sale’. Nevertheless, your aim is to engage in a conversation, so how you get into one is key.

The outcomes that could drop out of the conflab can be along the lines of a month-long, paid for trial of another publication, an introductory discount elsewhere, or even simply knowing why they stopped or what would tempt them back.

So, starting with a ‘sorry to see you cancel your subscription, it was for the Sunday Times wasn’t it?’ could do the trick. If you follow up with a ‘how long did you subscribe for’, ‘how did you find it’ and ‘what made you stop’ may just sneak you into having that all important trust-building chat. A long shot, but hey, way better than the How Are You blah blah blah, right?

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