“Today, I’ll prospect.”
Mark drives to the office, feeling confident and ready to hit the phones. The moment he arrives, his underwriter has some important questions about recent applications. This takes 25 minutes.
Now it’s time for his morning coffee. He walks into the lounge, noticing the empty coffeepot. As he waits for his coffee to brew, he glances at the headlines of the Financial Times. He’s got to read this one story, because it is relevant to his niche.
Coffee in hand, he proceeds to his office, where he sits down to check his e-mail. He has 27 new messages. By the time he’s ready to prospect, it is 10:30 a.m., and he’s got to prepare for his lunch meeting across town with a client. Despite Mark’s best intentions, still another morning has passed without a single prospecting call.
What’s Mark’s story? He is a veteran salesperson. He knows how important prospecting is to his career. Is this poor time management? Lack of motivation? Or could he be experiencing call reluctance?
Call reluctance destroys careers.
Hesitation to make contact with prospective new clients causes more failures for salespeople than any other single factor. Why? Because if you don’t approach enough people, it makes little difference how thorough your expertise is. Without a steady flow of prospects, your magnetic personality, credentials, and product knowledge won’t make much impact.
Successful selling usually involves five steps:
1. Identifying prospective clients.
2. Initiating contact with prospective clients.
3. Introducing yourself, your products and your services.
4. Informing (with your sales presentation).
5. Influencing the prospect to buy from you!
Many salespeople are uncomfortable with steps 2 and 3, initiating and introducing — but without them, informing and influencing can’t happen! Successful salespeople consistently initiate contact with more prospects than their less-than-successful counterparts.
Fear of initiating contact can become so great that it limits one’s ability to connect with potential new clients. Many salespeople find making that first contact so emotionally uncomfortable that they avoid it, delay it or fake it with ineffective strategies, like sending out colorful mailers, e-mail blasts, deflecting the identify (“I’m not selling anything”) or calling on only limited, emotionally safe segments of the market.
All this hesitation falls under the category of call reluctance. It’s common, but it’s potentially catastrophic to any career with a sales component. Call reluctance can be present at the onset of a sales career, or it can strike suddenly in highly productive sales veterans.
What causes call reluctance?
What causes the discrete pattern of escape and avoidance associated with establishing first contact? Why do so many experienced salespeople with otherwise superlative skills and abilities develop escape routes to avoid prospecting?
For one thing, there is a fear of the unknown when you prospect. You do not know how you are going to be received. This uncertainty alone can be a powerful saboteur. And of course, there is the fear that you will not be received well — that you will get…gasp…rejected!
But there’s more than even a flat-out fear of rejection underlying the avoidance of prospecting.
Call reluctance springs from a combination of three sources: personality predispositions, hereditary influences and exposure to others with call reluctance. In fact, in a surprising number of cases, highly contagious forms of call reluctance are often spread inadvertently by the sales training process itself. It can also be spread by a sales manager/trainer who suffers from call reluctance. A sales manager/trainer can actually contaminate the very people he/she intends to inspire. Courageous managers do not hide behind the management veil. They take on their call reluctance. Those are the managers who truly can annihilate call reluctance from their sales force.
The first step in overcoming call reluctance is admitting you have sales call reluctance. It is not prospecting that causes your anxiety. It’s your thought about prospecting that causes anxiety.
Thought realignment is an effective tool for changing your thinking. A belief is a thought you think over and over again. What you think determines how you feel, which, in turn, determines what you do (or don’t do).
To get past the habits that bind, then, we need to go back to their source — our thoughts. Before we’ve even reached for the phone to make a prospecting call, we can make up a story about why that person on the other end of the line will not be interested. The key is to stop making up stories that spiral you into self-doubt.
Capture your self-critical inner voice on paper. Do you recognize this voice? It says things like, “I don’t want to intrude,” or “They will just say no” or “They already have life insurance.”
Once you capture these negative statements on paper, write alternative ways to interpret the “negative intruder.” For example, you might counter with, “The service we provide is valuable.” “Many prospects benefit from meeting with me in some way or another.” “It’s possible they have had life changes since they purchased insurance.” Recognize the goal-obstructing statements and counter them with goal-supporting statements.
Your success as a salesperson depends on your willingness to prospect consistently. You must commit to prospecting and do so with a willingness to overcome any fear surrounding it. Sales call reluctance is nothing to be embarrassed about. Living with it needlessly is.
Connie Kadansky is a certified coach and trainer specializing in overcoming sales call reluctance. She offers effective tools and training to diagnose sales call reluctance and assists salespeople and financial salespeople in highly profitable prospecting. Connie facilitates the Fear-Free Prospecting and Self Promotion Workshops in the United States and Canada. For additional information, contact Connie at (602) 997-1101 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sales Call Reluctance is a registered trademark of Behavioral Sciences Research Press.