Five Steps to Conquering Sales Call Reluctance

I’ve been selling office equipment and related technology since 1993, and over the years, I’ve talked with many sales people in many different industries. One thing we all have in common is the occasional attack of what’s now termed “call reluctance.” I still think of it as simply fear of rejection.

Since becoming a sales manager for Copeco in 2007 (and even before), I’ve helped several sales employees recognize and deal with call reluctance. It’s a normal part of sales and often occurs when you’re in a slump or if you’re new to an industry. However, it must be handled quickly and effectively, or the fear of cold calling will only increase.

Here are some telltale signs of call reluctance:

  • Spending more time on research than on calls. Often, if you’re nervous about making calls, you will do lots of “prepping” for calls instead of making them.
  • Doing extra paperwork or dropping off business cards. These efforts rarely lead to good leads but instead help you avoid real cold calls.  
  • The numbers don’t add up. Today, a sales force is usually tracked by a computerized system of some kind, and it’s easy to pinpoint low call volumes.

Sales really is a numbers game. You must make a large number of calls to generate a fair amount of appointments or referrals. Then, only a certain percentage of the appointments actually become sales. Bottom line: sales people need to make calls.

Based on my experience, I offer the following five steps to conquering call reluctance:

  1. Do one-on-one and group role playing with sales team members. This gives you an opportunity to rehearse your approach, improve product knowledge and learn how to listen and speak effectively in a non-threatening environment.
  2. Use scripts with a successful track record. Having something tangible to start with – something already written down – usually decreases fear. Customize the script for the market you’re targeting.
  3. Offer potential customers a benefit you believe in. You’ve got to believe in what you’re selling and give customers a reason to see you.
  4. Start off with “warm” calls. Get some feedback and affirmation from someone you’ve done business with recently. Then, move on to your list of cold calls.
  5. Have a purposeful goal when you start each morning. This gets back to the number of calls you need to make in order to generate the sales you want. Then, don’t get sidetracked by prepping or paperwork. Just do it.

If you’re interested in learning more about overcoming call reluctance, I recommend the book, The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance by Dudley and Goodson.