For many years, salespeople have possessed a well-defined reputation as outgoing, fearless, and audacious. However, for many, the familiar stereotypes mask a darker reality. Far from being unstoppable selling machines, they struggle with a secret fear of prospecting.
Whether on the phone, in person, online, or in front of groups, initiating contact with prospective buyers causes emotional discomfort and distress. So, they avoid it. Instead of making calls, they make excuses. It’s a costly trade-off. Sales call reluctance — emotional hesitation to prospect — can be a career killer.
Studies show that up to 80% of new salespeople may fall victim to it. And 40% of veteran sellers have considered leaving the profession because of negative feelings toward prospecting.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Building upon the pioneering research of call reluctance experts George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson, came up with proven strategies for busting through the barriers that keep talented, deserving salespeople from achieving success.
What is a Sales Call Reluctance and how to identify it?
Sales Call Reluctance is a psychological state where salespeople experience specific barriers to reach out to prospective clients.
An effective intervention program always begins with an accurate diagnosis. Typically, diagnoses originate from sophisticated, computer scored call reluctance test – SPQ Gold (Sales Preference Questionnaire). Sales training departments find the added diagnostic precision provided by these assessments to be invaluable aid.
By using this assessment tool and method, decision-makers can get the answers on:
- How much money is this individual likely to make for company?
- How long is this individual likely to take to produce at the desired level and achieve targets?
- What is it going to cost a company to invest in a person to get them perform at the desired level, in terms of additional management time, effort and money?
Here are the 16 distinct types of emotional hesitations that cause salespeople to avoid prospecting:
Doomsayers will not take risks and will divert their energy away from contact with prospective buyers leading to sales stagnation. Salespeople remain preoccupied with the worse-case prospecting possibilities.
Over-preparers have the tendency to overanalyse and avoid action. In sales, they spent too much time preparing what to say but actually spend too little time prospecting for people to give presentations to.
The hyper professionals feel the need to manage people’s perception of them to look above average whilst disguising self-doubt and a proficiency gap. Projecting a successful image together with professional jargon, name-dropping, and a reflexive need to appear better informed, is almost more important that the actual sales tasks.
A debilitating fear or dislike to present to groups due to emotional discomfort. However, other forms of prospecting may be completely unaffected.
Feelings of discomfort or guilt often accompany this career choice. Often fuelled by concerns of what others think about his/her career of choice, they understand the opportunities available in sales but the negative stereotypes about selling makes them feel like failures.
Yielders have the tendency to back off a sale rather than to pursue a matter to a satisfactory result. Characterised by a hesitation to prospect for new business, a yielder fears being considered selfish and intrusive.
Social Self Consciousness
A self-imposed emotional hesitation that prevents effective interaction with particular customer target groups and to some extent also prevents them meeting them at all. Triggers include education or status differences. Although a highly targeted fear, other forms of prospecting may remain unaffected.
Separationists are characterised by their reluctance to ask their friends or peers to help them extend their sales network for fear of conflict or rejection.
The reluctance to ask family members to help extend their sales network or influence for fear of emotional conflict or rejection. It can have adverse consequences even in sales settings where appropriate to call on family members, or when family members are not accessible due to death or geographic distance.
Characterised by emotional discomfort associated with asking existing clients for referrals, Referral Aversion affects salespersons very little or none whatsoever when initiating new contacts or closing sales.
The inability to use the telephone to move sales objectives forward. Although highly targeted, face-to-face forms of prospecting may be completely unimpaired.
Oppositional Reflex is characterised by the inability to share control or be supported. It often manifests itself by high approval needs and low self-esteem. It also comes with a compulsive need to argue, make excuses and blame others. These salespeople are emotionally unable to allow themselves to be coached, advised, managed or trained.
Online Prospecting Discomfort
Prospecting via social media and other latest tech tools
Discomfort when selling in complex sales environments
How salespeople deal when they need to engage in Cross-Selling, Up-Selling, On-Selling
Related to close reluctance or how people behave when they need to close a deal.
What can you do?
As sales management professionals you can test out reasonable sales development programs by purchasing a few and trying them out in pilot studies before signing your name or committing your company to long-term purchases.
When a program works, it earns more money for your company than it cost. You should continue using it, expanding its use throughout your organization. If it doesn’t, trash it. Ignore scientific credibility, academic degrees, or pretenders groveling at your feet.
Junk it! That’s how we think business decisions should be made. Science can play a role, but pious appeals to scientific credibility alone should never be the deciding factor.
This article is written by Vladimir Dordevic, Business Developer and Consultant at Confident Approach. He can be contacted on [email protected].
If you want to know more about Sales Call reluctance, please read here.
If you want to learn more about the SPQ Gold assessment tool, please read here.