Overcoming call reluctance is a process. The first step is admitting there is a problem.
If you’ve ever experienced call reluctance–as I did during my cold-calling days–then you know that feeling. You’ve felt that dull throb in the pit of your stomach, that inability to pick up the phone or make the day’s first appointment, that awful dread in which you obsess upon rejection, rejection, rejection.
Call reluctance hits sales rookies and seasoned pros alike, and its impact is well-documented. In The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, Shannon Goodson and George Dudley found that 80% of new salespeople fail because of call reluctance, while 40 percent of veterans stop prospecting because of it.
What causes call reluctance? How can you beat it? For answers, we turned to two experts. Connie Kadansky has coached salespeople in overcoming call reluctance for more than 14 years, while Todd Cohen, the author of Everyone’s in Sales, has 20-plus years in the training field. Here’s how they see and solve the problem.
Major Causes of Call Reluctance
Your Culture Shames the Salesperson
Kadansky says that in many cases, call reluctance stems from a corporate culture where salespeople are painted as the pushy, disreputable cousins of used car peddlers. She recalls a Las Vegas company she consulted where “the message was, ‘Get out and sell, but don’t be a salesperson.’ So the sales force started out with role rejection–and that’s a major source of shame.” It didn’t help that the gag prize for top salesman of the week was a foam rubber pink pig.
Cohen emphasizes that memorizing a cold-call script isn’t nearly the same thing as preparing to meet the potential customer where their needs are. Many sales organizations, he adds, don’t provide the proper support. “You need the coaching from a peer or mentor,” he says.
It’s Not In Your Blood
Some people, Cohen and Kadansky agree, are simply more introverted than others. For them, initiating contact with a stranger may be intimidating. “It’s a personality predisposition, and it can be passed down through DNA,” Kadansky says. Still, if this type of person, she insists, can succeed in overcoming call reluctance, anyone can.
Overcoming Call Reluctance
Bosses Must Respect the Salesperson
With the Las Vegas company, Kadansky had a strong message for the CEO: Ditch the Pink Pig Award and stop treating “sales” like a dirty word. The 20 people manning the phones went from high call reluctance to much lower levels. The pig, by the way, was replaced by a trophy. “It made the whole culture for sales more honorable and respectful,” she says.
Reframe Fear Of Rejection Into Embrace Of Value
Fear of rejection stems from internal causes. But when salespeople focus outward–on how their product or service helps the person on the other end—they become evangelists, overcoming call reluctance. In a recent coaching call with an experienced-but-stuck salesman, Kadansky says: ” We drilled deep, deep down, beyond the financial benefit [of the product] to the emotional and spiritual benefits. Now he knows the value, and he has a responsibility to reach out and make that call.”
Use Essential Oils
That’s right. If call reluctance has a smell, it’s not that of your favorite dessert, or a scent that brings back powerful, positive memories. Overcoming call reluctance could be as simple as diving into fond memories. Essential oils can trick the mind into moving beyond fear and into a place of positive power. “We had a golfer who, when he’d hesitate to make a call, would smell the essential oil of cut grass,” Kadansky says. “It made him happy, he picked up the phone, punched that number ,and made that call.”
Don’t invest everything in the outcome
Overcoming call reluctance is a process. Some salespeople regard a call that doesn’t net a sale as a failure, but that’s exactly the sort of thinking that breeds call reluctance. Take positives where you can, Cohen says. “If every call results in something where the process takes a step forward–even if it’s a baby step–that gives you confidence to make the next call.”