Pattern Interruption in Sales: What is it and How it Can Help You Get More Sales


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We’ve all been on the receiving end of one of those calls.

You know, the ones that begin with something like:

Caller: “Hello, my name is Susan from<insert generic telecoms company name here>” 

Your reply: “Not today, thank you”. Susan is trying to sell you something and not very successfully. 

Hopefully, your sales team is more adept at handling calls than Susan, and with a much better conversion rate. 

Ten seconds is all the time it takes to identify the prospect’s style of communication. Those ten seconds are crucial for a salesperson to get their first words across; words that can shape the call being a triumph or a disaster. A two-way conversation early on allows the salesperson to understand how their prospect communicates. 

We understand that people buy from people, rather than your stereotypical sales agent. Your sales team must be likable. Another important element is the mirroring of prospects’ conversation patterns gets the conversation flowing, providing more opportunities for sales. 

Have you heard of pattern interruption?

If you’ve been on the ball up until now, you most definitely have heard of pattern interruption.  

As humans, we follow structures and routines to perform day-to-day tasks instinctively. Our assumed patterns carry us through our days without too much thought. 

Pattern interruption is a strategy employed by successful salespeople. The premise is that the reader or listener stops when something unexpected happens. 

Read on to learn more about pattern interruption, and how your sales team can use it to increase conversions and meet KPIs.   


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Interrupting proceedings with a pattern interruption

Pattern interruption is when something happens, compelling you to change your instinctive reaction or behavior pattern. It’s used by psychologists to break habits or conditioned responses and to form new ones.  

The pattern interruption technique is deployed to stop the recipient from saying “No thank you”, (the natural response) and instead, listen to what the person at the other end of the line has to say. 

Cold calls are great examples of sales calls that require thorough prep and thought behind the objective of the call. Going in cold, so to speak, rarely wins sales. 

A classic example of pattern interrupt:

You: “So, the other day when I was in the middle of my dinner at The Olive Garden, you will never guess what happened..”

Colleague: “Oh, I love it there. Did you get the calamari appetizer?”

You: “Erm, no. What was I saying?”

In this scenario, the colleague hit you with a pattern interrupt, and you forgot what you were going to say. When a pattern interrupt occurs, you can sometimes feel a little disoriented. 


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Salespeople at the top of their game are very well aware of the pattern interruption technique. Because when someone is in a state of confusion, they seek clarity. Natural thoughts pause and they become more open to suggestions. This position enables the caller to swoop in with their spiel, whilst the recipient sits back and wonders what happened. 

Effective pattern interrupts can turn a negative customer sentiment into a positive one. Pattern interrupts form part of your customer sentiment analysis reports. It’s worth examining pattern interrupts tactics to establish if they contribute to your positive calls. 

The best pattern interrupts 

Read on for some effective pattern interruption strategies. These will empower your sales team with the tools for more successful sales calls.

The shock tactic

This tactic shocks the listener into stopping immediately. Let’s say a salesperson is offering a valuation packfor properties. What follows would be a very bizarre way for someone to start a sentence:

“You probably don’t need this.”

The prospect would be taken aback by this short and sharp sentence. Especially when it mirrors their thoughts. It’s not a sentence you’d expect to hear from a salesperson, and this is why it is so effective. 

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

The surprise question

This style of question uses the element of surprise:

Are fax machines still relevant in your business?”

This type of unexpected question gives the recipient a second to think about what the caller said. The salesperson can then continue with their next question during the break in conversation.   

The objection

This method taps into the recipient’s instincts (usually along the lines of, “I don’t need this”), and flips it on its head:

“Our products might not be the right fit for your business. Can I just check by asking a couple of questions?”

Once again, this kind of question is abnormal from a salesperson. As salespeople generally want to sell you something, right? The classic sales curveball. 

The weird one

Hearing this might put a smile on someone’s face:

“Sandra, you are the lucky winner of another fantastic cold call from your all-time favorite sales rep!”

Although not for everyone, this approach requires confidence and a bit of boldness to be effective. 

Follow up the interrupt 

Once the attention is gotten, it’s time to swiftly follow up with questions to keep the call going. Sales calls that culminate in an appointment are naturally longer than a rejection. Typical methods for continuing the conversation are questions around pain points. 

Email pattern interrupts 

Email subject lines work well as pattern interrupts, too. Marketers are using shock tactics to cut through the digital noise. Persuading recipients to open their emails, and thereby avoiding the “straight to junk, don’t pass go” scenario.

To incorporate email pattern interrupts, consider creating a formula that consistently provokes reactions. 

Some effective examples include one or two-word subject lines:

  • Aloha
  • Go
  • Panic

The last one is sure to elicit a reaction from the email recipient!  


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Your cold emails should provide the recipients with the opportunity to talk about themselves. Think about them as the objective, and avoid coming across like pretty much every other salesperson on the planet. 

Are you ready for pattern interruption?

A pattern interrupt has three objectives:

  • Instigate a thought process
  • Stimulate a thought pattern
  • Change a thought pattern

The pattern interruption sales technique is a powerful one when used at the right place, at the right time. Sales calls are still effective, but the truth is, most people don’t enjoy being a prospect. Pattern interruption enables your sales team to connect with customers by being different. 

Play around with the pattern interruption techniques that work for your business, and have some fun with it. But always make sure they feel natural to your sales team. 

Why not try the pattern interruption technique?


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Jenna Bunnell
Jenna Bunnell is the Senior Manager for Content Marketing at Dialpad, an AI-incorporated cloud-hosted unified communications system that provides valuable call details for business owners and sales representatives. She is driven and passionate about communicating a brand’s design sensibility and visualizing how content can be presented in creative and comprehensive ways.


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