Customer Experience News & Trends

Overcoming call reluctance: What sales pros need to know

For some salespeople, prospecting is the weakest link in the selling chain because they suffer from call reluctance. But whether they’re experienced sales pros or new to the field, they need to quickly overcome it to survive. 

A study by Behavioral Sciences Research Press showed 40% of salespeople will experience episodes of call reluctance, despite their years of experience or product knowledge.

Overcoming call reluctance starts with attitude. Determination, perseverance and enthusiasm are the backbone salespeople need to overcome call reluctance.

No one who sells escapes rejection. But the fear of rejection causes far too many sales professionals to fall victim to call reluctance.

Rejection is constant

Salespeople face rejection every day. It never goes away. At times it seems to be in “remission,” but it always returns. Just when it appears to be under control and losing its grasp, it becomes overwhelming.

It’s the fear of rejection — the agony of once again hearing the two-letter word, “no.” Whether it’s trying to get an appointment or pushing for a close, the fear of being turned down is there, and it’s the leading cause of call reluctance.

Call reluctance is a mental condition that prevents salespeople from picking up the phone or walking up to someone to introduce themselves, or a product or service.

All call reluctance is based on fear: fear of rejection, fear of the unknown or fear that we should be doing something more productive with our time. It’s a deadly disorder that any salesperson can catch.

Understanding the fear of rejection

Here are a few ideas to help your salespeople understand the fear of rejection. Share them at your next sales meeting:

  • Rejection is very personal. Selling is a profession where you put yourself on the line. Price is the most common reason salespeople give to overcome rejection. The price excuse takes several forms: “They were just shopping.” “They had no intention of changing suppliers.” “She was just making sure her present vendor wasn’t cheating her.” When outside forces take control and the responsibility is shifted from our shoulders, then the pain eases. It’s a temporary solution. The permanent answer is to stop using price to ease our pain of rejection. Look for the real reasons and your fear of rejection will disappear as you close the sale.
  • Ignoring the fear of rejection can be fatal. The fear never goes away. Some salespeople try to avoid rejection by staying with existing accounts and only occasionally calling on new prospects. Without even realizing it, the salesperson who avoids dealing with the fear of rejection becomes less aggressive, less adventuresome and less effective.
  • The best way to cope with the fear of rejection is to focus on successful selling situations. Every salesperson knows success. It’s out of the successful situations that the fear of rejection can be controlled. The fear of rejection can keep salespeople from selling situations they need in order to be successful. Or this same fear can drive them forward to meet the challenge.

7 ‘rejection’ tips

Here are seven tips that can help your salespeople cope with rejection:

  1. Qualify every prospect. If you fail to qualify each of your prospects, you’ll make calls that foster rejection. You only want to talk to people who want to talk with you and who can benefit from what you have to offer. Taking time to research prospects leads to more sales and less rejection.
  2. Try not to make a call without adequate preparation. The prospect knows when a salesperson is “winging it.” Being prepared means knowing something about the prospect’s business and the challenges facing that business. Well informed salespeople are valuable to customers because they solve problems. By involving yourself more deeply in your prospect’s business, you’ll also become indispensable.
  3. Be sure you’re meeting the prospect’s needs. The best advice is to try not to open your presentation by talking about your product or service. Ask questions that give you some insight into how you can best meet the prospect’s needs. If you propose to solve problems that don’t exist for the prospect, you’re almost sure to feel the pain of rejection. Figure out ways to help your customer become more successful. Taking on the prospect’s problems is an important success strategy.
  4. Justify the price. You have little control over price, but you do have control over presenting the prospect with enough reasons to buy. Your price can be higher than the competition as long as the prospect feels it’s justified in terms of the values and benefits offered.
  5. Differentiate your product or service from competitors. Before you can prove that your product or service is better, you have to prove that it’s different. If your prospects can’t see the difference between the products you’re competing with, they will usually buy the cheapest one. Even if your products are nearly the same, there are always ways to differentiate, such as service, delivery, product durability or company reputation.
  6. Avoid negative self-talk that may lead to rejection. Resist the temptation list what you’re not doing right. Lumping negatives together can be overwhelming and demoralizing. Instead, remember what made you successful in the past. Evaluate your past successes. That will help you understand your current status.
  7. Don’t procrastinate. Some salespeople don’t create the steady flow of new customers needed for long-term success because they’re too busy with trivial jobs. So they procrastinate. They put off calling on prospects in favor of driving around the block or straightening up at the office. Whether you’re an experienced salesperson or new to the field, you need to quickly overcome procrastination.

Fewer calls, fewer sales

Why do salespeople make more calls in good times and fewer calls in bad times? The answer starts with negative thinking and ends with procrastination. There are two kinds of procrastination:

  • Positive procrastination. This is when you legitimately need some time to gather your thoughts and get clear on what you need to do with a prospect or customer. While it may negatively impact the number of calls you make, it may increase the quality.
  • Negative procrastination. This is when you make flimsy excused to avoid making calls.

Controlling negative procrastination

Negative procrastination is a bad habit that greatly restricts results, but it can be controlled. The first step is to identify the reasons behind it, then make the commitment to make calls or start projects in a timely manner.

Here are four causes of negative procrastination:

  1. I can do it tomorrow. This is the most popular justification for procrastination. Waiting just one more day won’t upset too many prospects and customers. Besides, you probably have something else you need to do today. The list could go on forever. The cumulative effect of waiting until tomorrow can dramatically impact on your calls and results. There are many reasons why salespeople avoid meeting with prospects. But while they’re making excuses, other salespeople are making calls and closing deals.
  2. I need to do more research before I call on this prospect. It’s the most frequent excuse salespeople make to avoid making telephone or cold calls. Even if you don’t have everything you think you need, start anyway. If you have to come up with more information later on, you’ll be much further along with a prospect than if you had waited.
  3. I don’t have time right now. Having a short amount of time is not a valid reason for not doing something. If you control or eliminate low priority activities, you’ll find time to devote to high-priority tasks that positively impact your sales results.
  4. I can’t do it perfectly, so I’ll wait. This excuse doesn’t make much sense if you consider the number of things you can do perfectly. Another variation of the perfection ploy is, “I need to do more research until I have all the information I need before calling on this prospect.” “Research” often provides the illusion of productivity to procrastinators. Meanwhile, less perfect competitors are closing accounts. This kind of procrastination makes no sense when you consider that a salesperson may not be fully aware of the prospect’s needs until that first meeting.

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