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Overcoming Call Reluctance
By Jim Kasper, President & CEO, Interactive Resource Group

The key is to realize when it happens and do something about it

  • I need to update my call reports.
  • I need to get this customer report to my boss.
  • I should call IRG and see if they received the shipment.
  • The chamber meeting is in an hour. I'd better take some time to get prepared.
  • I'll call my friend Fred and see how his sales are going this month.
  • I made that big sale on Monday. I don't have to make any more calls this week.
  • The market's down 200 points this morning and nobody's returning my calls

While those of us who have sold for years understand the importance of accomplishing the above tasks, we also recognize that these are symptoms of call reluctance. As one sales veteran told us, "After 20 years in selling, I can honestly say that I still experience call reluctance. The key is to realize when it happens and do something about it. My feeling is that it is OK to have call reluctance. It's not OK to do nothing about it."

Why would veteran professional sales representatives become reluctant to do what they're so handsomely paid to do? We recently asked this question in a survey of sales professionals in industries varying from insurance to software to medical equipment sales. We then compiled a list of call reluctance causes. See how many you recognize:
  • Gatekeeper resistance.
  • Another voice mail message goes unanswered.
  • Customer rejection: NO.
  • Inability to answer technical questions.
  • No confidence in product or service.
  • Cold calling is a bother to prospects and customers.
  • Cold calling is a tacky way to prospect for new business.
  • Low self-esteem: I'm not worthy.
  • Defensive position about the business you're in: Another insurance sales person.
  • Lack of confidence in handling objections and stalls.
  • They don't know me: Why should they talk to me?
  • I'm repeatedly stalled. "Next quarter," they say.
  • Continuing bad news about the economy trumps my ability to sell.
If you feel this way, you need to:

1. Admit that you just might be suffering from call reluctance.

This is the first step in solving your dilemma. The biggest barrier to increasing your sales is not the call reluctance you have, but the ability to recognize and correct it. You may feel that something is amiss, but not know that you are in the midst of call reluctance. Review the above list of causes and candidly confront yourself. Despite the typical sales culture of high morale and success, it is OK to feel call reluctance. It's not OK to let it go unchecked.

2. Examine your sales habits, perceptions, and goals.

After you have determined that you are agonizing with call reluctance, you must do a quick examination of your sales habits, perceptions, and goals. To inspect your sales habits, write down on a tablet the current activities you are doing to prospect and move that prospect to the next stage in the sales cycle. Then write down what you had been doing before call reluctance. Notice any difference in your call frequency?

Secondly, if you are displaying any of the call reluctance symptoms listed above, you need to examine your perception of what the customer thinks. Do not try to assume, perceive, or guess what your prospect's reaction will be to your call. Let them tell you how they feel and what they want.

Finally, are your sales goals realistic? All of us tend to lose enthusiasm if we know we cannot reach our goals. Traditionally, strong salespeople have felt that 98% of forecast is failure. We are competitors; that's the reason we sell. However, understand that if you are constantly facing an unrealistic battle, it will take its toll. Take a look at your sales forecasts and confirm they're realistically achievable in our current economic climate and conditions. If you're selling in the residential construction market, your forecasts from 2006-07 won't cut it in 2008!

3. Write, prominently display, and read daily self-talk positive confirmation statements.

Here are some classic examples of self-talk positive confirmation statements:
"I have been very successful in the past and I am very successful now."
"As a salesperson, there are none better than me."
"I will reach my appointment goal of three new appointments today."
Develop your own positive affirmations. Write them down on a 3" x 5" card and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Repeat them everyday and your confidence will soar.

4. Make a list of ten benefits of calling on prospects.

This is a simple exercise that will help you understand why calling prospects is necessary. Even though your years of experience already tell you this, it is more awakening when you put it on paper. Make sure that your benefits list includes the statement, "The more calls I make, and the more money I make."

5. Develop a call and self-reward plan.

Now write a sales call plan. List the number of appointments you intend to make, the number of calls it will take to make these appointments, the names of the prospects you intend to call, and a short script for each prospect. When you have accomplished your appointment goal, do yourself a favor. Give yourself a reward because you deserve it!

6. Now, go make those calls!

Jim Kasper is the Founder and President of Interactive Resource Group. Mr. Kasper has over 26 years of practical experience in direct sales, sales management, sales training, and marketing. Contact him at or call 800-891-7355

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