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Expert tips for overcoming call reluctance

Nervous-looking woman

Do you hesitate when it comes time to self promote yourself or prospect for new opportunities? This phenomenon is known as call reluctance, and can be damaging to small businesses.

‘Watch who you let near your mind’ is a favourite saying at Barrett because bad news travels fast. If you are around negative people for any period of time it tends to rub off and stick to you like glue. It takes only 6-8 weeks for the negativity of others to start affecting you. That’s also how it goes with the very debilitating phenomenon of call reluctance.

Call reluctance is the hesitation to self promote or prospect for new opportunities. In short, call reluctance can keep people from earning what they are worth financially and emotionally. We know from over 40 years of empirical research that people who don’t hesitate to contact prospective buyers and promote their capabilities to the their market place are five times more productive sales revenue wise compared to their hesitant call reluctant colleagues.

The financial costs of hesitation include:

  • No new sales revenue coming in.
  • Existing customer business drying up.
  • Losing customers to competitors.
  • Poor margins due to unnecessary discounting.
  • Not getting the business you should have.
  • Excessive complaints or returns due to over promising and under delivering.
  • Lost income.
  • Poor brand image.
  • Impaired recruitment.

Coupled with this the emotional cost of hesitation are even more dire:

  • Excessive worrying and anxiety about poor sales revenue results.
  • Doubt about doing this type of work.
  • Lack of sleep and exhaustion.
  • Self doubt about one’s ability to do anything.

At last count there are 12 call reluctant types (learned behaviours) that can keep people from prospecting effectively. All of the 12 call reluctant types are a form of fear that has been learnt. Here are some of the marker behaviours from the more common types that may give you clues that you or some of your people may be suffering from call reluctance:

  • Over-reliance on information such as brochures and technical specs; over-invests energy in always getting ready; never enough information or feel adequately prepared; over-analyses and under acts.
  • Nagging guilt and shame associated with being in a sales career generally based on negative stereotypes; may use ‘deflected identities’ to disguise the sales role; tries to be overly positive and instead comes across as insincere.
  • Hesitates to prospect or close sales due to fear of appearing rude, pushy or intrusive; says ‘yes’ when should say ‘no’; avoids confrontation and needs to feel liked; can gossip to remain ‘in the loop’.
  • Overly-concerned with professional image and credibility; may see prospecting as demeaning and unnecessary; doesn’t listen; may talk over people; needs to be seen as better than average.

Effective prospecting behaviours are the opposite of call reluctance. Prospecting requires sales people to establish contact with people who might buy your products or services. Whether it’s phone prospecting, face-to-face prospecting or group prospecting, in-bound or outbound, nothing gets sold until sales people get in front of or talk to potential buyers. To prospect effectively we need to feel confident in our product offering and ourselves; know how to prospect and to whom; have a clear plan and prioritise daily to prospect. When you suffer from call reluctance it imposes an emotional limit on how much you can prospect. If you limit your prospecting efforts you limit your ability grow sales and clients.

The sad truth is that many people find prospecting very hard work. In fact, research shows that only about 20 percent of sales people are fully effective when prospecting. That leaves approximately 80 percent of people struggling with the function of prospecting. In most cases it is not due to lack of knowledge, skill, ability or talent, rather most people are afraid to prospect due to the attitudes and beliefs they have formed about prospecting over the years.

By becoming more observant you can assess your current level of sales call reluctance by observing your reactions and behaviours to prospecting and self promotion and tracking when you hesitate or not on a daily basis. Maybe there are some calls you can make without fear and others that freak you out. Become aware of these and then begin to work through each fear one by one and you will soon see you can prospect more effectively. Begin by asking yourself “what’s the worst thing they could say to me if I call them?’  The answer is likely to be ‘No’, so what?  Pick yourself up reflect on what you learnt and keep going. That’s what top performers do everyday. The good news is that prospecting hesitations and fears can be overcome and unlearnt, freeing people to prospect in a consistent and confident manner. Whether you identify prospecting hesitations and fears yourself or via a purpose built assessment called the SPQ*Gold, the first step is to recognise and acknowledge if prospecting hesitation and call reluctance is holding you or your sales team hostage and start doing something about. Sitting there waiting for the phone to ring is not a growth strategy.  But you know that.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.