No salesperson is above call reluctance.
Why does it plague most salespeople at one time or another? So many things make prospecting difficult: Hours can pass with no success. People might be mean. It’s boring. Rejection hurts.
More than 40% of salespeople experience at least one bout of call reluctance, according to research from Baylor University and Behavioral Sciences Research Press. Most will battle the issue many times in their careers.
What causes call reluctance
Understanding what causes call reluctance – that hesitation to reach out to prospects or self-promote – can help overcome it. From there, salespeople can use one, some or a combination of the 10 tactics we have to beat it.
Researchers uncovered the nine causes of call reluctance. Reluctant salespeople:
Overdo it on preparation
Salespeople spend too much time preparing what to say, how to say it and when to do it.
Then they spend too little time trying to find qualified prospects and actually calling them. They become well-versed with no one to listen to them.
Seek too much approval
They have a hard time asserting themselves, especially when prospecting. Instead of respectfully boasting benefits and authority, they worry about not being liked or even causing conflict.
They’re overly polite so they don’t seem to be pushy or intrusive.
Think about and plan for doomsday
Salespeople sometimes spend too much time and energy worrying about the worst-case scenarios and preparing for low-probability catastrophes.
Then they focus less on goal-supporting activities such as prospecting.
Fear rejection from people they know
Some salespeople avoid prospecting within the group that is likely to be receptive to their solutions: friends, family and even referrals.
They’re afraid to mix business and family, and even more afraid of rejection from family.
Care mainly about appearances
Some salespeople view prospecting as demeaning or unprofessional. They want to appear successful without having to do what they deem are low-level tasks.
When they actually do invest some time in prospecting, they drop names, fill conversations with jargon and feign an elevated level of sophistication so they appear to be better the “average” salesperson.
Do everything on phones but talk
Many salespeople will spend excess time sending email and sharing on social media from their phones, even though they could have more success with actually using the phone to talk to prospects.
Are afraid of the stage
They might bypass opportunities to prospect in group settings – perhaps a large presentation or at a trade show because – they’re uncomfortable in the spotlight.
Become socially self-conscious
Some salespeople – often new – are intimidated by prospects who they think are wealthier, more prestigious or more powerful than them.
They’re hesitant to make contact, and if they do, they aren’t comfortable.
Don’t ask for help
Some salespeople are so reluctant they won’t ask good clients for referrals.
Instead, they focus on existing customers even if there isn’t a chance for account penetration. They want to stay where it’s safe.
What call reluctance looks and sounds like
Call reluctance comes in many forms, procrastination being the most popular. Salespeople who are reluctant to call on prospects and customers create other things to do:
- post and share on social media
- follow up on things that don’t need to be followed up on
- do more (unnecessary) research
- check the CRM system again and again to confirm contact information
- update and search LinkedIn
- find reasons NOT to ask for referrals
- check email again. And again. And again
- move the furniture …
Meantime, reluctant salespeople do a lot of downward spiraling self-talk (or they might even vocalize it to colleagues or the sales manager):
- “Prospects hate getting.”
- “I’m afraid everyone will hang up on me.”
- “I’m a stranger. No one will take my call.”
- “I’ll probably say the wrong thing anyway.”
- “I don’t want to sound like an annoying salesperson.”
- “No one answers calls. I’m better off sending an email.”
- “Everyone on this list is happy with their current vendor.”
- “I’m just going to pi$$ them off by calling now.”
Salespeople will always be able to find distractions and low-priority tasks to focus on when they have call reluctance. And there will never be a shortage of negative talk.
To avoid all that, here are 10 tactics to get over call reluctance and get back on course to closing deals. Yes, they take discipline, but salespeople can draw on any one – or a few – when they recognize they’re stalling.
1. Re-check priorities
Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least ∼
Set and maintain two to three priorities every week. Focus on one goal at a time. This helps salespeople focus their attention on fewer, high-importance goals.
You’ll avoid jumping from task to task and wasting time on trivial tasks – the kind salespeople often pick up when they’re procrastinating.
2. Set more deadlines
If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind ∼
Deadlines force salespeople to stay laser-focused on their priorities and goals. Set up daily, weekly and monthly deadlines.
The key: Make sure they’re achievable deadlines based on your past performance and amount of manageable time. If deadlines are just wishes, and not feasible, you’ll quickly give up trying to meet them.
3. Face the most difficult problems
Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end ∼
Attack your toughest problems first – the issues that keep you up at night, the lists that seem impossible, the prospects who seem the most reluctant.
Salespeople who deal effectively with their most difficult issues and tasks are more likely to overcome the fears involved with call reluctance than those who put the biggies on a back burner.
4. Shoot for progress, not perfection
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good ∼ John Steinbeck
Do anything to make progress. Forget perfection.
Salespeople who spend enormous amounts of time trying to improve results from, say, 95% to 99% seldom achieve it.
Stop thinking about it and do it. Stop preparing for it and act on it.
5. Reward yourself
If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards ∼ Bear Bryant
Once you set daily goals, reward yourself for achieving them.
Make the contacts you’ve avoided and do something good for yourself based on how many turned into something. Set a baseline – perhaps a cappuccino at 11 a.m. for making the calls. Then up the ante for continued success – perhaps a lunchtime yoga class for a meeting, a post-work cocktail for a referral or a break with a new book for two meetings.
6. Take a (quick) walk down memory lane
Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it ∼
Mentally visualize yourself doing it again with someone you’ll contact today.
7. Move beyond what’s temporary
Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever ∼ Lance Armstrong
One of the worst things about call reluctance is many salespeople get paralyzed by it. They can’t see that it’s a temporary paralysis. Negative self-talk perpetuates it.
8. Make speed your super power
If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough ∼ Mario Andretti
Set a timer when you sit down to work – preferably first thing in the morning, be that 7, 8 or 9 a.m. That’s when most high-level decision-makers are most likely to respond. Set it for 30 minutes and make your first calls before it goes off.
Then reset it, and don’t stop making calls until it goes off again – at least another 30 minutes. This leaves no time for procrastination.
9. Cut the distractions
You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks ∼
This can be one of the physically easiest strategies to adopt – and the psychologically toughest to execute. But if you remove the stimuli that gets you off course – social media feeds, email alerts, research tools, colleagues in eyesight, online shopping, etc. – you will stay focused on hitting a sales goal.
Clear your work area of everything that’s not relevant to the calls you need to make.
Digitally, use browser- and app-blocking tools, and disable alerts that normally get your immediate attention.
10. Keep a script handy
(A) quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business ∼ A.A. Milne
Salespeople don’t have a ton of success reading directly and dryly from a script. But keeping a script handy when you’re reluctant to make calls can help you dig your heels in to the necessary job.
The script is a safety net. It’ll give you stepping off point. If you’re uncomfortable, you have a resource to rein in the nerves. If you’re thrown off track by a prospect, you can refer to it to get back on track.
Don’t read the script. Just let it help you get over early hurdles.