Call reluctance in sales and cold calling is an emotional response centered around hesitation, avoidance, or fear of calling a prospect, most often at the start of the relationship. Studies show it tends to work as a social disease leaving those dealing with it in an emotionally uncomfortable state.
In The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, Dudley and Goodson, authors and co-founders of Behavioral Sciences Research Press shared that, “sales call reluctance single-handedly accounts for over half of all failures in one of the largest professions in the world.” Their studies show:
- Almost 90% of salespeople participants had one or more forms of sales call reluctance
- Up to 80% of all new producers who enter sales positions fail to complete their first year in sales
- And 40% of all experienced, high-producing sales professionals readily admit to one or more episodes of sales call reluctance severe enough to threaten their continuation in sales.
It can be easy to shift this conversation, saying sales professionals only feel call reluctance because cold calling is difficult, but that’s not always the case. If you are experiencing call reluctance there are some strategies that can help you overcome your hesitation. First, you need to determine if you might be experiencing call reluctance or if you just need help with the cold calling process.
How to Identify Cold Call Reluctance
While some salespeople seem to be born into the role, ready to promote and sell, others may find they have an invisible, spirit-crushing fear that causes them to avoid certain tasks like the plague. And for salespeople who already live with a social anxiety disorder, many aspects of being a salesperson can trigger a combination of negative self-evaluations and reactions. But are there scientific reasons this happens?
While some root causes change from one salesperson to the next, there are some tools that can help you better understand the primary factors that fuel your reluctance. According to studies, the three primary reasons that salespeople become resistant to dialing the phone are nerves, rejection, and fatigue. Cold callers can often feel all three, but even just one can result in call reluctance.
- Nerves & the Fear of Failure – Most of us in sales need to perform well to meet quotas and other payment incentives. This can weigh on the mind, bringing out a fear of failure in us that can prevent us from putting our best foot forward. This can also include feelings of imposter syndrome and the belief you will not deliver. Successful selling involves two parts; the first is selling to yourself and the second is selling to your client. If you are not 100% sold on the quality of your service, you will tend to avoid selling situations.
- Am I overwhelmed with nerves before I even get on a call?
- Am I procrastinating other less important tasks over calling due to fear?
- Am I rushing people off the phone?
- Am I feeling sick before or during a call?
- Negativity & the Fear of Rejection – As humans, we only want to pursue positive social interactions but as salespeople, that isn’t always a possibility. When we are rejected in that instance, our biological fear response kicks in, making the thought of picking up the phone an anxiety-inducing episode each time. Each time you hear a “no” it makes it harder and harder to pick up the phone.
- Am I overpreparing for the call to avoid it?
- Am I putting myself down before I even get started?
- Do I feel embarrassed to call my prospects?
- Dealing with Fatigue & Burnout – Fatigue is a long-term effect of being a high-volume cold caller. Fatigue & burnout can be common, especially in call-heavy environments. Maintaining your enthusiasm, following the right script, and thinking on your feet in so many calls every day can easily get exhausting. It zaps your energy and can make it tough to keep hitting the phone, leading to call reluctance.
- Do I have trouble maintaining professional enthusiasm on my calls?
- Am I just doing the bare minimum, even if it means less money?
- Am I just going through the motions?
Over the years other root causes of call reluctance, such as Neurological Predispositions, Poor Company Culture, Lack of Training & Support, and Low-Quality Business Partnerships have been added to this list. One thing is for certain, an atmosphere of safety is needed to support struggling sales teams that are performing emotionally difficult work on a daily basis.
Understanding the Different Types of Call Reluctance
Salespeople facing call reluctance need to be aware of their daily habits and their feelings toward work. These feelings can start to show in your daily habits making you less productive throughout the day. Cold call reluctance can start with the first call, but if not taken care of, it can extend to negotiating, closing deals, or even asking for referrals.
Once you begin to form these habits, they can be difficult to break because they stem from your nerves, fear of rejection, and fatigue — which can end up making your cold call experience even worse. To better understand and defeat the call reluctance you are dealing with, you must first know the different types. To help salespeople better define their experiences, Dudley and Goodson came up with the following list:
The 12 Types of Call Reluctance, excerpted from The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance
- Doomsayer: Worries, will not take social risks (loses three new accounts pre-month).
- Over-Preparer: Over-analyzes, underacts (sells at 43% of quota).
- Hyper-Pro: Obsessed with the image and looking good (but is rated only average in presentation skills.) Confuses packages with prospecting.
- Stage Fright: Fear group presentations (loses $10,800 in annual gross sales).
- Role Rejection: Secretly ashamed of sales careers; deflects identity (loses four accounts per month).
- Yielder: Fears intruding on others (impedes the success of TQM programs).
- Socially Self-Conscious: Intimated by up-market clients (sells 33% under quota).
- Separationist: Won’t mix business and friends (loses three accounts per month).
- Emotionally Unemancipated: Won’t mix business and family (sells 15% under quota).
- Referral Aversion: Fears distributing existing business or client relationships (sells 19% under quota).
- Telephobia: Fears using the telephone for prospecting (loses $10,000 in commissions annually).
- Oppositional Reflex: Argues, blames, rebuffs attempts at coaching (loses nine new accounts per year).
Experiencing a little anxiety from cold calling is normal. But feeling dread every day to perform your job isn’t. From a personal standpoint, it is important to realize how call reluctance is affecting your job and everyday life.
Mental health continues to be a critical factor in the sales profession as more people find themselves dealing with long-term stress and consequential health issues. From a management standpoint, it is important to understand the types of call reluctance so you can better manage your team’s health, expectations, and provide assistance as needed.
Now that we know about the different types of cold call reluctance, we can talk about how to start solving these specific issues you or your team might be facing.
How to Overcome Cold Call Reluctance
It can be hard to get past that first step the first time but addressing these signs head-on will increase your level of success and make your cold calling process more efficient and enjoyable. The strategies below should be used as a repeatable process, helping you generate momentum and confidence as you move forward.
Negative self-talk is destructive – pay attention to your inner dialog. It is important to give yourself grace and know that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Don’t allow intrusive thoughts to keep you from succeeding. Try positive affirmations or use a guided app like Calm or Headspace. Youtube is always a great place for free guided meditations. Whatever can help you to close your eyes, visualize success, and stay focused. A positive mindset is everything, especially in sales.
Create a Routine
Routines can help you better manage stress levels and reduce the number of barriers between you and your goals. Even if you don’t think you’ll thrive on a schedule, give it a try. Especially in times of unpredictability. When following a routine, it becomes more second nature and not just a process. It can help give you a better sense of control, organization, and productivity.
Practice Time Management
Feeling overwhelmed before you even start your day? Try focusing on smaller goals by chunking your to-do list into sections. Small bursts can help you cross one thing off the list at a time. Avoid multi-tasking and stick to the schedule, no matter what you are feeling. Try your best to reduce your distractions and always remember to plan breaks and time for self-care.
Try Changing Your Cold Call Script
Not using a cold call script? You definitely should be! But, if you just aren’t positive about your script and the words coming out of your mouth – try changing it up. Nothing is more demoralizing than stumbling your way through objections and negativity day after day. Having the script will work as a guardrail, helping you figure out the best things to say at the right time, and giving you more confidence along the way.
Ask For Help
Feeling lost and frustrated? It’s okay to ask for help or support from your leaders, mentors, or other members of your team you feel comfortable and safe with. Let them know what this training could provide you and the company. Looking into training for yourself doesn’t have to be expensive either. There are plenty of cold calling courses and resources available on social media. However, if you feel you aren’t getting the training or support you need and your concerns are not being addressed, it may be time to look for another position elsewhere.
Remember, practice makes perfect. There is nothing to be embarrassed about or afraid of. Call reluctance is something that can hold you back from making the type of income you deserve. Don’t let it control you! You can always send us a message through our website chatbot and we can schedule a time to talk about your cold calling needs.