Call Reluctance: the Bane of Sales People

Do you ever find yourself organizing your desk, calls or calendar, checking email, or talking with co-workers instead of prospecting? Some 80% of all new sales people fail; 40% of all veterans stop prospecting; and sales people earn a small fraction of what they could... all because of call reluctance.  

I remember my first day as a stockbroker like it was yesterday, I was sitting at my desk in my brand new, three-piece suit. I was fired up, ready to start my new career! As I waited for my license to clear over the next three days, I researched different stock ideas that I could recommend to potential investors.

On the third day, the owner of the firm came up to me and asked, "What are you doing?"

I said, "I'm waiting for the phone to ring."

He looked at me with amazement and said, "That's not how this business works! You need to pick up the phone and start making calls." He gave me a list of people to call and walked away.

I sat there for a couple of minutes thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?" This was not how it was supposed to work. Months earlier, I had walked through the skyways in downtown Minneapolis watching stockbrokers jumping up and down with excitement as they watched the tape from the New York Stock Exchange while talking on the phone. It looked like so much fun. Obstacles weren't even on the radar!

Sometimes, it is better to not know about the obstacles that lie ahead.  In the movie "The Wizard of Oz," Glinda the good witch didn't tell Dorothy about all the obstacles she'd face: the poppy field, the spells, the guard. . .  well, you get where I am headed. Had Glinda told her about all of the obstacles, Dorothy might never have made it back to Kansas. She might not even have left Munchkin Land. To this day, I am grateful that I never realized all the obstacles I would encounter as a stockbroker.

My biggest obstacle? Myself. I was flat out afraid: of failure, of success, of the phone! I had severe call reluctance. What was I going to do? How was I going to overcome this? The telephone seemed to weigh a thousand pounds. I had a knot in my stomach the size of a basketball.

I remember the first call; I was terrified. The person I called hung up, and I was relieved, actually, I didn't have to say anything. The next person listened to my pitch but then hung up. I made several calls that day with no success, and I thought, "This is going to be a very tough road." I finally made it to the weekend, went home and did everything I could to avoid thinking about Monday morning.

When it inevitably rolled around, I felt like I was going to the slaughter house. I reluctantly headed to the office to attend my first sales meeting. I still had a knot in my stomach as I sat down to listen to Tom Vanyo, the owner of the investment firm. I had never been to a sales meeting before, and I didn't know what to expect. Deep down, I was hoping it would last all morning so I wouldn't have to get back on the telephone.

For the next 60 minutes, Tom talked about the value of personal development. He repeated over and over again that we must work on sales skills. He shared examples of how to ask better questions to engage the prospect and how to ask for the order more than once. I locked on to every word he said, taking several pages of notes. The entire meeting was inspiring and full of great sales ideas.

Afterward, walking back to my desk, I observed the top producers in the company making outbound calls. I noticed how enthusiastic they were. It was almost like being at a revival. As I pondered my next move, I thought, "Why not model excellence!" I asked a couple of the top producers if I could sit with them to observe their phone presentations. They agreed. I wrote down word for word what they said. I observed the key to their success: They were enthusiastic about what they were selling. I thought: I can do that.

I was so inspired. I still had a knot in my stomach about making phone calls, but I was not going to let that hold me back. Enthusiasm overcame my nerves. In my first month, I opened up more than 35 accounts and earned more than $3,000 in commissions, plus a $250 bonus for opening so many new accounts. Within eight months, I opened up more than 180 accounts. I still knew very little about sales. I did learn, however, the secret to overcoming my call reluctance: enthusiasm! And when I was excited, my prospects and clients got excited, too.

My first full month was simply amazing. I noticed that, with every phone call, my skills were improving dramatically.  This sent my confidence soaring. The more calls I made, the more confident I became. Tom was right. The key to success in sales was personal development.

You, too, can develop yourself.  You have unique skills and abilities.  Add those to a positive attitude, continuing personal development through learning and applying what you learn, preparation, persistence and enthusiasm, and you have some of the keys to transform your own call reluctance.

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