Are you trying to overcome call reluctance? Call reluctance is something many people struggle with at some point in their career. In fact, studies show that approximately 40% of salespeople will experience call reluctance, despite their years of experience.
What is call reluctance?
Call reluctance is basically all of a salesperson’s thoughts, feelings, and “avoidance” behaviors that keep them from taking revenue-generating action. Overcoming call reluctance is crucial because if it’s severe enough, it can threaten your income and livelihood.
It all starts with your inner thoughts about a certain sales or marketing activity, such as cold calling. If the thought is strong enough, it will cause you to respond negatively – both physically and emotionally. Physically, you could have a headache, feel nervous or get queasy. Emotionally, you could feel anxious, nervous, or angry.
This could happen regardless of your competence, skills, knowledge, and other attributes you may have to complete necessary tasks. While call reluctance was typically thought to occur only with cold calls, it can occur with any sales and marketing activity. When it does, it stops everything in its tracks. Here are some of the activities with which salespeople struggle:
- Cold calling prospects.
- Calling existing clients (especially when delivering bad news).
- Asking probing questions during the sales process.
- Public speaking.
- Closing sales.
- Asking for referrals (I see this all the time, too).
If you want to do some quick introspection, go over each of these tasks and give yourself a comfort score on each one. Just assign a 1-10 (1 being very comfortable and 10 being incredibly uncomfortable) to see where you stand.
Types of Call Reluctance
There are actually severally distinct types of fear that can cause salespeople to avoid prospecting activities. Do any of these seem like you?
- You always see the worst case scenario. You won’t take risks and you spend a lot of time protecting yourself against fictional danger. (FEAR = “False Events Appearing Real”)
- You are in a constant state of preparation. You spend a huge amount of time getting ready and end up sacrificing sales opportunities in the name of preparation.
- You’re overly concerned with creating a good impression. You try to impress other people and show them how clever/cool/awesome you are.
- You avoid group selling situations. You are afraid to speak in public or sell in front of a group.
- You are secretly ashamed to be in sales. You prefer to think of yourself as an “advisor” or “product consultant”.
- You are afraid of imposing on others. You don’t want to push and you are worried that you’re always interrupting a prospect. You are always yielding to other people.
- You’re intimidated by people you consider better than you. You are intimidated by those with wealth or a better education, so you avoid selling to these people. This is an absolute killer for financial advisors.
- You avoid doing business with your friends because you believe that friendship and business should never be mixed.
- You avoid doing business with your family.
- You don’t ask for referrals. Or you are constantly waiting for a better time to ask… which never comes.
- You are afraid of using the telephone as a prospecting tool. You hate making cold calls and avoid the phone like the plague.
- You are difficult to train and coach. You become defensive when you’re challenged and view criticism as an attack on your personal credibility.
I personally struggled with call reluctance at one point in my career. I know that some situations wil always be uncomfortable, but I was the person who always imagined the worst case scenario. I would also be extremely hesitant to make cold calls. I remember sitting down at my phone, with a list of 120 people to call that day, feeling nervous. I would literally feel sick every morning and felt like I was going to pass out. But, because my heart would be beating so fast, I never actually passed out. Lucky me, I guess.
So how can you overcome call reluctance? There are a few ways:
1. Recognize that speed is power.
Think about jumping into a cold lake. The best thing to do is to just jump in without over-thinking it. Yes, the water might be cold, but if you jump in you will get acclimated fairly quickly. However, if you stick your toe in, tighten your bathing suit, and think about it, your thoughts will paralyze you.
This analogy holds true with prospecting calls. If you know that you’ll have to engage in prospecting activities, it best to do it quickly and get it over with. Don’t even give yourself a chance to have any second thoughts. Autodialers are great for this, which is why inside sales companies love them so much.
I recommend setting a timer. You can use an egg-timer, your cell phone, or a website to do this. Just set your timer for 30 minutes as soon as you get in the office. Let’s say that you arrive at your desk at 9:00 a.m. You should immediately set your timer, that way you will be making your first prospecting call no later than 9:30 a.m. No excuses; this will make sure you take action before you have time to start procrastinating.
I think that your time-to-dial number is one of the most important metrics you can track in sales. Your time-to-dial (or TTD) tracks how much time passes between when you arrive at the office and your first prospecting call. Top salespeople always make their first prospecting calls early in the day. Your goal should be to get your TTD as low as possible.
2. Use positive affirmations.
Some people may think these are kooky, but hey, they worked for me. I’m a big believer in positive self-talk, and I have seen it help hundreds of people. Create a written list of affirmations to help you feel more confident. Try these on for size:
- “I enjoy prospecting because I know it increases my income.”
- “I act in spite of any discomfort I may feel.”
- “When opportunity presents itself, I take action immediately.”
I want to be clear – I don’t think positive affirmations can help everyone overcome call reluctance, but they can help some people.
3. Have a script.
A big part of my personal call reluctance came from not knowing what to say. I was so afraid of looking stupid or getting tongue-tied when talking to a prospect. Nothing is more demoralizing than stumbling your way through objections and negativity day after day. Having a script really helped me.
Now, I did NOT just read that script word-to-word to my prospects, but it gave me a sense of security in case one of my worst fears (not knowing what to say) ever materialized. It was my safety net and I had it right by my side every time I had to make prospecting calls. It’s like insurance – you might not need it now, but you have peace of mind knowing it’s there if you do need it.
4. Pay attention to your inner dialogue.
Because call reluctance is largely about your thoughts, it makes sense to monitor what you’re thinking about. Some people might think, “Cold calls don’t work anymore – we have social media.” That thought would likely inhibit prospecting over the telephone. Once you become aware of what you’re telling yourself, you can change. Identifying your negative thoughts is at the core of identifying call reluctance issues.
I didn’t try to muscle my way through my prospecting calls once I realized I had call reluctance. Instead, I sat down with a journal and thought about prospecting. Then I paid attention to all of the associations and inner dialogue I would have. “The prospect might be rude”. “People never answer the phone.” “You’ll ruin your friendship.” “Nobody wants to talk to you anyway”. These were all things that were inhibiting my sales activity, and affecting my income.
I projected my own feelings onto my prospects. I imagined that they would judge me. I thought they would dislike me because I was trying to sell them something. Once I noticed what I was thinking, I changed my thinking to a place of helping. But I never would’ve made such incredible progress if I wasn’t able to pinpoint those exact thoughts.
5. Set small goals.
Once you’re aware of where you’re avoiding making contacts, I suggest setting small goals to help you jump over your fear and discomfort. Set a small, specific goal for the number of contacts you’re going to make each day and make that your biggest priority for that day. Once you make those contacts, you can do whatever the heck you want.
When you set a small goal (one you know you can accomplish), you become more comfortable once you reach it. Success will build on itself and it will get easier to make prospecting contacts.
In my opinion, the best way to do this is to break your call blocks into small chunks. You can do this by time or number of calls. For example, it’s much easier to make ten calls than a hundred. It’s also much easier to make calls for fifteen minutes than three hours. It’s easier to overcome your fears a few calls at a time.
Remember, success isn’t owned. It’s rented, and the rent is due every day!
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