Editor's note: Upon her indictment on federal money laundering charges and her arrest February 8, 2022, Inc. dismissed Heather Morgan as a contributing columnist. As is our practice, we do not unpublish editorial content, and rather have added this note for full transparency.

"We're calling to give you a final call about the missed payment on your car loan before you default," said a voicemail recording on my phone recently.

We've all gotten spam calls and voicemails on our phones, but this specific call was very irrelevant to me because I don't have a driver's license, and have never owned a car in my life.

Although calls like this are a nuisance, and these scammers are not legitimate businesses, there are several powerful lessons they can teach businesses about sales.

Use a well-targeted list.

Every smart sales organization knows how important the quality of your contact list is when selling to new customers. If less than, say, 30 percent of your audience is actually qualified to or interested in buying from you, of course you're going to convert only a fraction of that audience into new customers. 

In other words, having a garbage list can bottleneck your sales organizations from closing more sales. As the old saying goes, "Garbage in, garbage out."

Spamming potential customers with untargeted messages is trashy.

The criminal organization that tried to trick me into thinking my "auto loan was unpaid," had an extremely untargeted list. They're most likely just spamming everyone above a certain age, or potentially just everyone in the phone book.

Because they're not a legitimate business that wants to protect their brand and reputation, this doesn't really matter to them. They can just get a new throw-away phone number, change the name of their fake business, and even make up another story to try to trick people. 

However, your company can't be so reckless with its reputation; or at least you shouldn't be if you want to stay in business for long. If you carelessly reach out to a large number of people who are outside of your buyer persona, or ideal customer profile (ICP), you'll get spam complaints pretty quickly. You might even get a lawsuit on your hands if you don't keep a good list of the sales leads who have requested that you stop contacting them.  

But more important, if you're reaching out to such an untargeted list, your message also probably isn't very targeted and relevant to your ideal customers. 

Sales is still a numbers game.

Scammers are spamming our phones because sales is still somewhat of a mathematical equation. Call, text, or email a certain number of people, and a certain percentage of people are bound to respond, almost no matter what the message is, and what you're selling. 

For businesses to increase that percentage, you have to think about product-market fit and tweak your message to be as relevant and interesting as possible to your audience. Instead of talking about jargon and features, you need to research your audience to understand what benefits and pain points will resonate the strongest with them. 

Both legitimate businesses and scammers are automating their cold outreach more than ever before. This means our inboxes are fuller, and we're getting wearier to pick up calls from strangers amidst our busy days. It's not fair that scammers are ruining cold calling for legitimate hardworking salespeople, but call blocking strangers is only going to increase as cybercrimes continue to happen. 

As the competition for customers' awareness and time increases, organizations will have to come up with more targeted, thoughtful, and interesting messages if they want to get the same number of sales they did in the past. Just multiplying the volume of sales leads won't work either, as it might have in the past. Instead, the only solution is crafting a message that feels human and builds rapport, using a combination of effective copywriting and personalizing at scale with relevant information.