Ask Dew: Why Do Prospects Answer When They Can’t Talk?

Ask Dew

Dew: Why do some people answer my call and then immediately tell me that they can’t talk right now because they’re in a meeting?  – Jon

GREAT question, Jon! This is an issue that has bothered me for years.

The short answer is this is just bad phone etiquette—but let’s dig in a little deeper.

So for those of you following along, here’s the situation:

You’re calling on a hot prospect (cold call, follow-up, etc.) and he answers his phonebut immediately tells you that he can’t talk because he’s in the middle of a meeting (usually in an irritated tone of voice that implies that it’s your fault for interrupting).

If you break it down, the prospect can really only be doing 1 of 2 things:

  1. He just lied to you because he really didn’t want to talk to you, or
  2. He is actually in a meeting. In this case, he’s being rude to whoever’s in his office for answering in the first place.

Either way, I would say that this is likely not a good prospect for you. I suggest you move this prospect way down on your priority list (or off your list entirely). It’s best not to waste resources on prospects like this – because the chances of having a productive business relationship with someone like this falls somewhere between slim and none.

There is one exception: If a prospect answers the phone to say, “Hey Dew, I saw your name come up, and I really want to talk, but I’m with someone right now. I’ll call you back in 30 minutes.” If this happens, GREAT! They just saved you the time of leaving a voicemail. But in almost every other case, you are only dealing with someone who is blowing you off or being rude to the person in front of them (or both). Just shrug it off and move on.

But here’s a business phone etiquette tip: If you’re in a meeting, please don’t answer your phone. If you can’t help yourself and just have to answer, give your caller the courtesy of speaking to them for a moment. It’s not their fault that they called you and interrupted your meeting; it’s your fault for answering the phone.

Until next time—go sell some stuff!

Got a sales, management, or business question? Send it to, and I’ll try to answer it in a future post.


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