90% of salespeople exhibit call reluctance. This shocking find comes from a BSRP study of 197,076 global sellers.
The study concludes that call reluctance is the #1 reason for underperformance in sales. It’s not gaps in training, lack of sales enablement, buyer empowerment, the economy, tough competition or low product value. Number one, above all other reasons, is that sellers are reluctant to make calls on buyers.
Digging deeper, the primary reason for call reluctance – as reported by sellers themselves – is they do not wish to appear pushy or intrusive.
As a sales coach, I’m not surprised. I’ve heard many sellers talk themselves out of timely follow up with their prospects this way. It’s the same reason given for abandoning pursuit prematurely, too.
Call reluctance is rooted in the seller’s identity and confidence. For many sellers, the stereotype of being pushy keeps them from fully committing to the profession. To be a salesperson, they mistakenly believe, is to undergo a personality transplant that makes them obnoxious and uncaring as they bulldoze buyers to make sales.
We inadvertently fuel the notion that sellers shouldn’t be pushy. We talk about relationships and rapport with buyers and about being consultative sellers. This may lead to sellers becoming too protective of their buyers’ time, deferential and/or overly concerned about “bothering” them.
To breakthrough, sellers need:
- Understanding how advancing the sale will benefit buyers.
- Confidence in their own ability to add or create value in every minute spent with a buyer (beyond the product’s inherent value).
- Positive examples of sales professionals who operate with urgency.
- Coaching to challenge their misperceptions about being pushy or intrusive.
- Processes that build in an appropriate call-back cadence for sellers.
To support sellers in making this shift, use these proven strategies that eradicate call reluctance.
Hire for Demonstrated Behaviors
Whenever possible, hire sellers who aren’t already mired in this negative mindset. Screen for call reluctance by:
- Building a check for call reluctance into your hiring process: Did the candidate follow up and demonstrate urgency and persistence in order to get the job? If not, ask why not.
- Asking about sales habits, cadence and perceptions about selling.
- Asking “how do you know when you’ve gone too far and look like a stereotypical pushy seller?”
If you hear any indication of the seller not wanting to “be pushy,” move on or prepare to accept call reluctance behaviors or to overcome them with these additional strategies.
Use Activity Metrics
Activity metrics are useless unless directly linked to results. In this case, the results you’re looking for are sellers breaking through call reluctance. These metrics can produce that result:
- Number of cold calls made per day. When a seller is stuck in this demotivating mindset, I insist they make ten bad calls in rapid sequence. By lowering the bar on quality but insisting on quantity, I get them to push through the first hurdle. Because no one wants to do bad work, the quality (and wins!) often come, too.
- Daily start time for making calls. Within 30 minutes of starting the work day, sellers should be on the phone. If not, too many distractions and procrastinations can give a call reluctant seller the justification they need to stay off the phone (or out of the field).
- Limit on prep time per call. Over-preparation is a sure sign of call reluctance. Monitor this closely.
Ask Coaching Questions
To redirect the call reluctant seller, ask questions like these. They will help the seller see things differently and can also help you pinpoint what’s really going on.
- Do you believe that what you’re selling genuinely brings value to our clients?
- What are some ways your urgency might be useful to your prospects?
- What makes you feel more confident about calling on a prospect?
- Isn’t it a bit presumptuous for you to decide what’s best for your buyers? How will you know what they want or need if you’re not talking to them more often?
- What if you had not followed up with customer name when they were first a prospect?
- Role play intensively and often with your sellers. Show them the difference between a buyer responding to sales urgency and one responding to a truly obnoxious seller.
- Playback recorded calls to identify what works and what doesn’t. Point out customer reactions.
- Listen to others’ recorded calls. Do they seem pushy? Or do they seem helpful?
- End each day with tomorrow’s plan. Identify the follow-up calls to be made.
- Evaluate the cost/benefit analysis of calling vs. not calling. If you call the prospect, what’s the best thing that could happen? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Now ask the same about not calling. If you don’t call the prospect, what’s the best thig that could happen? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
- Reward yourself for making cold calls & following up.
As you help sellers overcome call reluctance, remind them that their feelings are secondary to those of buyers. Buyer research in the Stop Selling & Start Leading® study reveals that a primary buyer concern is that sellers don’t follow up in a timely manner. In other words, by not being “pushy,” sellers are disappointing buyers and losing sales.