The Real Secret to Beating Call Reluctance

How do you motivate yourself to make sales calls when you just don’t feel like getting on the phone?

Salespeople need to get on the phone

Photo by Sevendeman

When someone signs up for my mailing list, I send them an email asking what they’re struggling with. These two responses echo many:

From a radio AE in the Midwest:

Call reluctance. Not because I lack the tools (I read your emails to improve my skills and learn, learn, learn!) but because it’s one of the least favorite things to do.

An East Coast Director of Sales had this to say:

My sales team struggles with call reluctance.  It’s an every day battle.

They’re not alone. We all have days when we know it’s time to make new business calls, but we just…don’t…want…to. So the delay tactics start:

  • We check our email.
  • We reorganize our desk.
  • We go through our paperwork to make sure everything’s been filled out and turned in.
  • We go online to do some “research.”
  • We post something on social media.
  • We check our email again.

It’s not hard to kill an hour or two this way. We feel busy. We’ve accomplished nothing. 

The problem hasn’t gone away. We still need that new business.

How do top salespeople beat call reluctance?

Some of the most useful advice I’ve seen on the subject comes from a blog post by Rory Vaden, author of Procrastinate on Purpose.

Vaden recommends starting each day armed with a list of people to call on.

…before you stop working on any given day make sure to choose the first person you will call on the next day. Going door-to-door 80 hours a week for five summers I always had significantly fewer butterflies on days where I knew exactly what my first house would be.”

You can read his full post on the subject here.

Sales Skills: Dealing With The Chicken List

Sometimes we don’t want to to contact complete strangers. On other occasions the problem is someone we know but can’t bring ourselves to call.

The late radio sales trainer and consultant Jim Taszarek used to call these “Chicken Accounts.”

Taz published a great newsletter called Quota Busters. The newsletter’s gone, but some of his wisdom is still available in his book The Best of Quota Busters:

We don’t like to talk about them, but we’ve all got them. They are the accounts that we’re just afraid to call on – for any one of one million reasons.

It’s a normal sales phenomenon called “Call Reluctance”. Everybody’s got it to some extent. We say that the accounts are “too big,”, they are “newspaper only,” they “said no” repeatedly, or we’re just afraid of them. What to do? Sit on them? No way. Try this – it’s easy and you’ll love the results:

Confront them by writing them down. Write ’em down – make a list of our Chicken Accounts in one column, then look at them (Sales Managers, if you ask your staff to do this exercise make sure you emphasize that the list is for the AE’s personal use only. The list will be shared with no one. Not turned into management. No role-playing, no open review of the accounts. That will have the opposite effect of what were looking for. Got it?)

In the 2nd column, write a comment next to each account, answering the big question, like, what’s the barrier? Why are we reluctant to call on them? What’s the big reason we hesitate when we think about calling on them?

In the 3rd column, write a dollar amount of what they be worth to us if we could pop a hefty little schedule out of them.

Then call on one of them a day or a week. And not a halfhearted call either, go for it – the real thing. But just one a week. Or one a day. Depends on you. Then what happens? You’ll connect with one of them. It’ll turn out that there’s a person who listens to you and they’re interested. And they’re not such jerks after all. It turns out we can cut those suckers down to size – if we do them one at a time. And, this is important – remember to reward yourself.

…They’re bigger in our head than they are in reality. Your Chicken List will disappear. Congratulations.

During my radio sales days, I tackled call reluctance by establishing a ritual.

My goal was to start the process with a list of 10-20 people to call. I’d set a cup of coffee on the left side of my desk, the list in the center, and the phone on the right. I’d pick up the receiver and recite the following incantation:

“Time to make the donuts.”

The line came from an old commercial (direct link here):

In my mind, “making the donuts” meant getting down to business; once I said those words I had to make my first call. I can’t tell you why it worked for me, but it worked.

The real secret to beating call reluctance is this: once you make that first call, it’s a whole lot easier to make the second, and the third, and the fourth. You’ve just got to make the first one.

If you can get yourself to start making the donuts, you’ll be on the road to making some dough.

Question: How do you get past call reluctance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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