Conquering Call Reluctance: 9 Strategies to Overcome Mental and Emotional Barriers

Call reluctance is a common obstacle that hampers the productivity of sales professionals and small business owners. It's the internal resistance to the act of picking up the phone and contacting prospects, often stemming from fear of rejection, lack of confidence, or the comfort of procrastination.  Below are a sequence of 9 strategies to overcome these mental and emotional barriers. You can remember them by the acronym: MAKECALLS to overcome reluctance.

Understanding Call Reluctance

Call reluctance comes in many forms, the most popular being  creative avoidance behavior, where individuals find alternative tasks to avoid the discomfort of making sales calls. This resistance not only impacts sales performance but also inhibits growth opportunities. The right environment plays a crucial role in mitigating this resistance. An organized, distraction-free workspace, clear goals, and supportive relationships can significantly reduce the emotional and mental burden associated with sales calls.

If I am being totally honest, writing this article was a creative avoidance behavior on my part. The point being it can grip anyone at any time. Knowing how to navigate through it is the key.

Two Key Ways to Overcome Call Reluctance:

  1. In their book, Go for No, Richard Fenton and Andrea Waltz emphasize viewing rejection as a necessary step towards success. Rather than perceiving each "no" as a personal failure, sales professionals should see it as progress towards their goals. This mindset shift can transform fear into motivation, reducing the reluctance to initiate contact with prospects.
  2. Sidney Walker highlights the importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence in overcoming call reluctance in his book - How I Conquered Call Reluctance. By understanding personal fears and emotional triggers, individuals can develop coping strategies that address the root causes of their reluctance. This deep self-awareness empowers salespeople to approach calls with more confidence and resilience.

Both the physical and psychological environments are pivotal in reducing call reluctance. A clutter-free physical workspace that minimizes distractions and interruptions can help maintain focus on the task at hand. Psychologically, creating a positive reinforcement system, such as rewards for making a certain number of calls, can motivate and reduce the perceived burden of the task.

The MAKECALLS Process to Overcome Call Reluctance:

M - Mindset Shift: Cultivate a positive mindset that views each call as an opportunity rather than a chore.  One way to think of making calls is to imagine a  gumball machine. There are different colored gumballs in the machine. Let’s say you want a green gumball which represents a positive outcome from having made the call such as a scheduled appointment. We don’t have control over which color will come out at which time. However, what we do have control over  is how many times we put a coin in and turn the handle. In doing so we will get various colors each time. Eventually we will enjoy a green one, or two, or three.  We know we won’t get a green one with every turn. Nobody is that good.

A - Acknowledge Fears: Recognize and accept the fears and anxieties associated with call reluctance. We all experience fear at various times on numerous levels. It’s part of residing on planet earth. Avoid making yourself wrong for feeling the fear.  Feel the fear and make the call anyway.  Say to yourself, “Even though I’m afraid and don’t want to make this call, it’s ok to feel what I’m feeling and I can and will make the call anyway.”  Feeling fear is not a reason to not make the call. What you’re fearing most likely is not real even though it feels real.  The feeling is  letting you know you are thinking or imagining there is a negative experience that will come about as a result of making the call.  By letting your fear hold you back from making the call you just got a “no” anyway. It’s not your job to cast the vote for your prospect. Let them cast their vote. To do so, make the call. Whatever the outcome, it is simply information to be incorporated for the next call.

K - Know Your Goals: Clearly define your sales goals and understand how each call brings you closer to achieving them. This takes us back to the gumball machine. If you want three green gumballs you may have to be willing to put 30 coins and turn the knob 30 times. Are you willing to do what it takes for as long as it takes to get your three?

E - Establish Routine: Create a structured daily schedule dedicated to making calls, reducing the opportunity for procrastination. Many professionals make a game out of it. Here are some examples:  10 Before 10! This is where you make 10 dials before 10 am. Another is, move the paperclips. Set a specific time to make your dials and have a predetermined number of paper clips on the left side of your desk or in your left pocket. With each dial, move one clip from the left pile to the right.  Moving each clip provides a sense of progress and progress equals happiness.  Move a clip and be happy of yourself. Your future successful self expects the current you to block your prospecting power hour in your calendar each day an make your calls.

C - Create a Supportive Environment: Ensure your workspace is organized and free of distracting and tempting activities. Be prepared by having the names and numbers of the people you will call. Have a script or outline of what to say if you get a hold of them as well as if you get their voicemail.  Seek supportive relationships to encourage your efforts.  Find an accountability buddy who needs to make calls too and initiate a friendly  challenge. Hire a coach.  Gather other salespeople in the office and designate a special time for all of you to make your dials and then celebrate with a meal afterword. Another element for a supportive environment may be music that motivates and inspires you. Here’s an inside insight – your body is an environment  unto itself. Stand up when you make your dials. This will cause you to bring more positive energy and confidence to the call.

A - Assess and Adapt: Regularly evaluate your call performance and adjust your strategies as needed. Professionals have a script. They memorize, internalize, and naturalize it.  By doing so they don’t sound mechanical or memorized.  Why do you think your favorite actor is so convincing and good? They naturalized their script of their character. Adlibbing is for amateurs. Naturalize what you say.  Once you have practiced and naturalized your script you will find you will still need to adjust and tweak it based on feedback and interaction from your actual calls. Celebrate what works and calibrate what needs work.

L - Learn from Rejections: Use each rejection as a learning opportunity to refine your approach and improve future interactions. Find your way in navigating your prospect’s concerns rather  than engaging in the  battle  to overcome their objections. To navigate successfully,  listen and acknowledge what they bring up. Ask a deepening question to get them to talk more. You could ask, “What’s your reason for saying that?” “How do you mean?” “Say a little more about that.”  When you can get them to talk more, you both get to discover what’s really going on for them. Once they go a bit deeper, you can then ask, “How does that impact you?” in relation to your time, money, relationships and energy.  In addition to learning and improving how to navigate their concerns, notice what you learn about yourself. How are you getting stronger, better, and more confident?

L - Leverage Strengths and limit negativity: Focus on your strengths and use them to your advantage during sales calls. Avoid negative self-talk and focus on positive outcomes and growth.  Use positive affirmations and ask-formations. An affirmation is an I AM statement. E.g., I AM confident. I AM effective at making prospecting calls. I listen well and seek to understand what people need and help them get it. I AM a kind communicator.  The challenge with affirmations is sometimes they can set off our BS (belief system) alarms inside  us and we might start arguing for our limitations. This can sound like – “I’m not good on the phone and here are the 87 reasons why…”  In that case, create ask-formations. These are activating questions to assist our brain in finding the evidence that we are actually better at something than we may currently think. Here’s an example. “Why am so effective at making my prospecting calls?”  or “How did I get so good at making phone calls?”  What happens as a result of asking these questions of ourself is our brain works like a search engine and scans for evidence to support the statement within the question. Low and behold you start to feel  more resourceful.

S - Stay Committed: Maintain a consistent effort, and don’t let temporary setbacks deter your progress. Take a big swig of KOKO (keep on keepin’ on). When you make your calls, you are pushing the molecules. The universe is watching and rewards those taking action. Studies show that it takes upwards of seven touches for someone to eventually say “Yes” to working with you or buying from you.  The road to YES is paved with NOs. To get there, you have to start here, which is your first dial.

Overcoming call reluctance is a journey for sure.  It requires a combination of mindset shifts, environmental adjustments, and taking action.  Employ the MAKECALLS process and answer the call to adventure of becoming a master on the phone. By sticking with it you demonstrate you are the hero that deserves to win the day.

Quick note… I am happy to report I made the time to make my calls in between starting and finishing this article and got it done. 10 dials, left seven voicemails, spoke to three people and scheduled one appointment.

Remember this, to succeed in the people business you have to win the numbers game. You got this.

Related: High-Performance Culture Through Carefrontation