Call reluctance is the mental and emotional hesitation to pick up the phone and make a call that affects many salespeople. Finding ways to get past the fear of cold calling is important since phone conversations are the first step in initiating new customer relationships. These nine tips can help you make calls with confidence.
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Here are nine ways that will help you get over call reluctance:
1. Get to Know Your Prospect
Probably the most effective way to get over call reluctance, in terms of lead generation, is to take some time to learn about your prospect. Doing some research ahead of time makes it easier to connect with them personally and gives you a natural topic of conversation, reducing the fear of the unknown. We often make up our mind about a person before we ever actually reach out, which can feed into the anxiety and discomfort that goes along with making customer calls.
Here’s the thing: Even though you’ve never met, the more you feel like you know the person, the more comfortable you will be picking up the phone and calling them. Doing a little research ahead of time can give you the context you need to feel more connected to your prospect. You’ll also learn things that you can use to direct your conversation and give you touchpoints to fall back on to avoid awkward silences.
A few specific ways to learn more about your prospect include visiting professional profiles on social media accounts like LinkedIn, reviewing company bio pages, and reading current news articles related to the company or specific individual you are contacting. Each of these helps you be prepared to have a conversation while also giving you insight into what is important to your prospect.
Pro tip: One way to better know your prospects is to start with high-quality leads, which will also help increase your confidence that you’re calling the right person. There is a variety of online resources for purchasing verified lead contact information; we recommend UpLead because it’s an affordable and easy to use way to make sure you’re calling the right person. Plans begin at $49 per month for up to 200 leads. Visit UpLead to start a seven-day free trial.
2. Know Your Product
Another way to increase your confidence when you pick up the phone is to learn everything you can about your product. Your job is to be the expert on exactly what you do and what you can provide to a client, and the more prepared you are to talk about the products and services you offer, the more comfortable you will feel as you talk with prospects.
This especially helps when your primary reason for call reluctance is that you don’t feel confident that you’ll be able to properly handle questions or issues. Before you make a call, spend time reviewing the most current information about the products or services you sell, and make a note of any recent changes that might be of interest to your prospect. This gives you a quick way to be ready to touch on the unique selling points that are most relevant.
3. Have a Clearly Defined Purpose
It’s important to note that cold calls aren’t the only reason that salespeople experience call reluctance. For example, having to share bad news or deal with a customer complaint can also elicit the same type of emotional response. In each of these cases, it can help to have a clearly defined purpose for the call. Instead of confusing yourself and your prospect by trying to cover too much information, identify the one thing you hope to accomplish and stick to that.
That makes the call less intimidating because you know exactly what you’re asking for, and you don’t have to worry about anything else. In addition, by making your purpose something that’s relatively easy to say yes to, you become less anxious because you know the chance of rejection has decreased.
For example, when I was an account executive, our only goal when we made calls was to gain permission to send a small product guide. It was easy to say yes to because it didn’t require any commitment on the part of the prospect, but it made a natural way to move the relationship forward because it opened the door to another conversation later to follow up.
“Approach the call from a place of developing a relationship, not to sell something. Be in conversation with your prospect by listening and not focusing on selling. Ask, Listen, Clarify—and then ask for the next step, not the sale.”
– Beth Devine, Principal, Devine Solutions Group
4. Have a Plan of Action
If your purpose is where you’re going (your ultimate goal), then your plan is specifically how you intend to get there. It’s the roadmap. I try to write down a quick plan of action for a call. This is different than using a script, which we’ll cover next, and it’s not the same thing as your purpose. Instead, this is a couple of notes for yourself that help you stay focused on each step of the call and a few questions that I can ask to qualify the prospect and move them towards that goal.
Knowing the direction I want to take the call, and having it written down in front of me, helps me to get over the anxiety and worry that comes from not knowing what might happen once I pick up the phone. I would take a Post-it note and write down a couple of words that remind me of my plan. For example, I might write down the name of a professional connection we share to open with, then the name of a product I want to talk about, and a date I’m available to follow up.
5. Use a Call Script
There are definitely benefits to having a call script in front of you when you make cold calls. Mapping out what you want to say in advance, even beyond just the main points you want to cover, can help you get over the anxiety of making a call by providing you with a roadmap. It’s much easier to pick up the phone to make a call when you know your brain won’t have to be coming up with the right words to make the call a success.
Pro tip: There are several CRMs that actually include the ability to create templated call scripts that you can even access on your mobile device when making calls. Using these can help you to stay on message when you make calls, and help you overcome the fear of uncertainty by giving you a template with exactly what you should say.
Many people tend to avoid one of the most important steps involved in overcoming the fear of cold calling, which is rehearsing the conversation. Nothing builds up confidence like practicing what you plan to say and going over it until it’s second nature. Practicing key phrases and responses to questions will help you be prepared without having to stumble over an answer, which will often give you the confidence you need to pick up the phone in the first place.
An even better option is to role-play as a team. This gets you in the rhythm of real conversations and has the benefit of getting feedback from team members who can help you smooth out the rough edges. Even if you don’t role-play, I highly suggest recording yourself—on video if possible. You’ll be surprised how much you notice when you watch yourself, and eventually, you’ll start to improve and feel good about your ability to make successful calls.
7. Use a CRM to Stay Organized
A small business customer relationship management (CRM) tool that helps you keep track of the contacts, deals, leads, and tasks you handle every day can go a long way towards helping you feel more prepared. When used properly, a CRM is a salesperson’s best friend, since it provides you with information about the contact you are calling and gives you a place to keep track of what happened.
Since call reluctance is not just limited to making cold calls, this is especially for those times when you’re making any type of customer call. You can review previous activity, deals, and even problems, which can help you feel better about reaching out and having a conversation.
Even if you are calling a prospect you’ve never met, many qualified lead resources will allow you to import leads directly into your CRM. This provides you with information like the name, title, company, and contact information for the person you are calling, giving you a place to start your research, and add any notes you have ahead of time. Some CRMs will also automatically search for publicly available information on social media to add to the contact’s profile.
8. Send an Email First
When you have a list of individuals you plan to call, one great way to overcome your natural hesitation is to send an email first. This has two benefits. The first is that it means that your prospect is now expecting your call. They may have no idea who you are, and they may not care who you are, but you’ve now made a commitment. Often, being accountable for keeping your word can be a strong motivator to actually pick up the phone.
Second, it has the benefit of making a cold call a little warmer. You’ve now introduced yourself, which can make it much less intimidating to make the phone call. You’ve also already provided at least a little information about your reason for calling, which makes it easier to have something to talk about.
9. Make It a Game
Since salespeople tend to be pretty competitive by nature, another way to help get past call reluctance is to set up a challenge or game. There are a lot of simple-to-use gamification software tools that let you set up interactive goals and “games.” They can also be used to create leaderboards that you can use to show off who has the top performance when it comes to making calls.
Knowing that you’ll be publicly recognized based on how well you are performing can sometimes be what someone needs to get started. If you’re a sales manager, you might also set up a competition or set goals and then provide a bonus based on either who completes the most calls or whoever reaches a specific goal. A bonus or other reward can be another strong motivator that helps salespeople get past the hesitation that comes with call reluctance.
Causes of Call Reluctance
Call reluctance usually results from one of a few causes. The primary cause is often a lack of confidence or a fear of rejection. Both of these can seem paralyzing to salespeople, which is why we put together this list of ways to overcome these challenges. Identifying the primary cause behind your reluctance to make cold calls can help you focus on the strategies above that are most likely to give you the motivation and boost you need to be successful.
Here are a few of the most common causes of call reluctance:
- Fear of rejection: No one likes to hear no, and salespeople probably hear it more often than most. That can lead to very real hesitation in terms of picking up the phone to talk to people who are more likely than not going to say no.
- Uncertainty: In addition to the fear of rejection, many people simply get anxious when they are in situations that feel like they aren’t in control. Uncertainty can cause powerful feelings of hesitation.
- Lack of confidence: Both of the previous causes can also be wrapped up in an overall lack of confidence. Feeling unprepared or unqualified can make it difficult to step out of your comfort zone to start calling people you don’t know.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do the best salespeople still experience call reluctance?
Absolutely. In fact, just because they are successful at building customer relationships doesn’t mean that they don’t experience the same challenges at the beginning. The difference is that they come up with ways that they know work to help them overcome that anxiety and hesitation, because they know that successfully winning sales usually requires starting with a conversation.
Does call reluctance eventually go away?
For some people it probably does, but most salespeople experience it to some degree every time they pick up the phone. It definitely gets easier the more experience you have and the more often you make calls. Over time, you learn what works and develop a rhythm and method that works well, which makes it easier to talk to prospects and customers on the phone.
Bottom Line: Overcoming the Fear of Cold Calling
Call reluctance is a common emotional response to the fear of rejection and uncertainty. The best ways to combat it are to increase your knowledge of the products and improve your ability to connect with prospects through practice. These nine tips can help build your confidence and help you feel prepared the next time you go to pick up the phone.
As you build new customer relationships, a CRM like Pipedrive helps move them through your sales process with a simple visual interface. Pipedrive makes it easy to create and qualify leads, move sales opportunities through your pipeline, and close more deals. Plans start at $12.50 per user, per month, and a 14-day free trial is available. Visit Pipedrive for more information.