We’ve all had them. You know what I’m talking about; those days when the phone is simply too heavy to use. Usually, that’s a rookie symptom. A new person hasn’t developed skin thick enough to brush off the certain rejection that is inherent in sales. In order to avoid that feeling, they simply decide to not make calls (whether consciously or subconsciously). However, even those of us that have been around the business for a while occasionally face bouts of “phone fear.” When that hits, your phone feels like it weighs 500 pounds when you’re calling to schedule appointments or make follow-up calls. Why does this happen?
The Roots of Sales Call Reluctance
Nancy Drew (no, not the teenage girl detective) is the CEO of Drew & Associates International Inc. a company devoted to empowering small businesses and sales professionals throughout North America. She says the roots of sales call reluctance lie in two factors: Repeated Fear and Rejection. When you make sales calls, you’ll get rejections. Sometimes that has to do with us. We may come across sounding stiff, lacking belief, uncertain, or just plain sales-y. Yet even if you overcome all those traits, you’ll still get a measure of rejection. Are all your leads properly qualified? You may find yourself speaking with someone who has no interest or no use for what you offer. Did the prospect have a bad day so far? Were they in a shouting match with the wife/husband, girlfriend/boyfriend last night? Then they’re probably not in the mood to deal with you, no matter how useful your product or service. We could list potential scenarios all day, but the point is clear: You will hear “No.” Rejection is part of the game.
Repeated rejection can wear you down. You begin to lose sight of the fact that the only way to reach “Yes” is to go through “No” enough times (See Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz Go for No website for details on how to embrace this concept). That rejection leads to dejection, and can lead to fear. That’s when we start giving “reasons” for not making our calls. Ms. Drew notes some of these:
- “I’d love to see new customers but I’m too busy putting out fires.”
- “I’m too established to be chasing customers.”
- “I think calling people to promote my product or services is demeaning – I’m not a telephone solicitor.”
If you’ve ever heard or, worse, said something similar to the statements above, then someone is a prime candidate for sales call reluctance. How do you fix this? Theories vary, but here are some general principles you can apply.
How to Put Your Phone on a Diet
From everything above, clearly sales call reluctance stems from your mental perception more than anything else. In order to overcome it, you need to change the way you think about the calls.
Two major principles that most experts embrace are:
- Divorce yourself from the results, and
- Approach things from the customer’s perspective
Maria Brophy incorporates both these points in the tips she offers for overcoming fear of making sales calls. She knows from personal experience how devastating the wrong mindset is to sales call success! She shares the tips she learned when faced with either overcoming her fear or shutting down production of her newly created TV show:
Before making the call, change your mindset by:
- Setting an intention to provide value. If you have the mindset of helping, you’ll always seek to give the prospect something useful. This means being willing to walk away from the sale if what you’re offering isn’t a good fit for the prospect.
- Seek information FIRST. Find out what your customer needs. You wouldn’t respect a doctor who simply started prescribing medication without first learning what’s wrong with you. Similarly, people don’t want you to sell them a product or service without first learning if it actually helps them where it hurts.
- Release your attachment to the outcome. Sure, we want to make sales. However, that should come as an extension of providing value. If we’re too attached to the outcome, people sense it – somewhat like an animal senses fear. Even if it’s over the phone, they can hear your desperation, and it ain’t pretty!
During the call, maintain your mindset by:
- Getting to the point. People are busy, especially if they’re business owners. So have what you want to say well in mind, limited to one or two planned and practiced sentences. And please – make it about them, not about you (Avoid “I really need you to…”)
- Be prepared. In addition to practicing your opening, have your questions in mind and then ask them. That lets you take up less time (as noted above) and sound more convincing.
- Have a conversation. This implies a free flow of expression. It shouldn’t be about you just telling them what you have and what you’ll do. Engage your prospect. It’s amazing what you can learn by doing so.
- Speak from the heart. If your intention to help your prospect is genuine, they’ll sense it. You’ll connect on a personal level. When that happens, they open up and now you can talk to them about your product or service.
- Find out what they need. This is critical. When you get a prospect on the line, you really don’t know what they’re facing. To learn where it hurts, ask questions. Using questions skillfully is the best way of finding someone’s pain points.
Finally, after learning what the prospect needs and determining that what you offer is a good fit, include a call-to-action at the end of the call. It can be getting permission to email information or follow-up at a later (hopefully specified) time. And remember to be courteous and thank the person on the line regardless of how they respond to what you’re offering.
Nancy Drew adds to the discussion by mentioning that in every sales call, you have to win over two people – yourself and your prospect. Make sure you are 100% sold on what you’re offering. She also suggests the following:
- Set a time to get out started. Although she was speaking of getting out of the office to make in-person presentations, it can also apply to phone calls. This helps eliminate procrastination in the form of over-preparation.
- Take a course to improve your craft. Joining an organization like Toastmasters helps develop better speaking/presentation skills which, in turn, can help boost your confidence.
- Role play. Sure, most of us hate the thought of doing this, but as Ms. Drew states, “it’s the most effective way to expand your comfort zone.”
Finally, to round out the approaches towards overcoming sales call fear, we have an interesting approach pioneered by Ari Galper. He bases his method for helping salespeople get over sales call reluctance on the following three principles:
- It’s not your fault. There’s a lot of sales call training centered on the traditional approach of introduce yourself, explain what you do, suggest a benefit to the prospect…then hope and pray the prospect doesn’t hang up. This isn’t a prospect-centered approach, and most often gets the dreaded “No.” [Note: While it may not be your fault others taught you dated techniques, it IS your responsibility to correct them. Therefore don’t be lulled into complacency]
- Are your self perceptions passive or aggressive? Most sales people don’t want to come off sounding too aggressive, and as a result are awkward when making calls. On the other hand, passivity benefits no one. You need to find a middle ground, and that is very possible thing to accomplish.
- Learn to let your language match your thinking. If you change your mindset, the way you communicate needs to change as well. Coming from a place of helping rather than selling allows you to have more natural conversations with prospects.
It sounds like a lot, but remember the two guiding principles mentioned at the outset of this subheading. If you keep those in mind, you’ll find a method that works for you. More importantly, it will work for your prospects, which will increase your success and help you feel better about making your calls.
No one likes rejection, but if you put these best practices in play, you’ll soon find that the phone isn’t so heavy anymore.