This article is the second of a two-part series. To review part one, click here.
In the first of this two-part special feature we looked at the background and scientific research that has proven without a doubt that the most authentic predictor of sales success is “the number of contacts initiated with prospective buyers on a consistent basis.” All of you “solution sellers” are probably having a hard time allowing yourself to believe this. After all, we have spent the last decade learning how to use “consultative selling” to improve sales performance. But before you get a chance to sell your solutions, you’ve got to be able to initiate contact with your prospects. In this second part, we’ll take a closer look at the hidden emotional barriers that undermine your ability to build a consistent pipeline of potential buyers.
Last month we introduced you to the psychology behind self-limiting behaviors that keep you and your sales organization from making your numbers and filling your sales pipeline. If you have allowed yourself to believe the evidence behind the 30-year research by George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson, then you are ready to confront the twelve faces of “sales call reluctance®.” I will also introduce you to some of the countermeasures that can counteract behaviors that may be slowing your sales and constraining your ability to act. If you keep doing the same thing, you will continue to have the same results. Here’s something that you can do differently next year to grow your business and compete more effectively for limited dollars available to purchase high-tech products?
In the first part of this series, I gave you the background and painted the picture of what sales call reluctance is and where it originates. Now let’s discover how you can put this valuable insight to work and make this selling season the best you’ve ever had, and more importantly, put your sales career on a powerful trajectory.
Confronting the Enemy
When the fear of self-promotion attaches itself to people in the sales profession, it imposes an artificially low ceiling on prospecting activity and this limits the bottom line, even for sales people who think they are doing great. It goes on in the background, sometimes without us really tuning in. It’s an emotional short-circuit in an otherwise motivated and goal-directed person.
Call reluctance isn’t a one-dimensional trait like “shyness” or “timidity.” Some refer to it as the “fear of rejection” or “fear of failure.” These are designer labels given to behaviors that are more complex. Under the mounting evidence of the complexity of call reluctance, the researchers identified 12 types and as their research continues there may be more.
Four keys unlock the door to emotional freedom from prospecting apprehension and they are start with “A.” They are:
- Admit – Allow yourself to ask, “what emotional barriers are restricting me and/or my sales team from initiating contacts sufficiently to support our sales goals?”
- Awareness – Learn what sales call reluctance is and what you can do to predict, prevent, diagnose, and overcome it.
- Assess – Measure your sales call reluctance scale
- Apply – Apply countermeasures that can eliminate and manage non-productive behaviors caused by sales call reluctance.Sales Call Reluctance® Types
To help you understand call reluctance types, I have described those types that occur the most frequently in sales professionals in the high-tech market. These types were developed from scientific research over thirty years. The SPQ*Gold: Sales Call Reluctance Scale is the instrument used to measure call reluctance types.
This instrument is also used to measure motivation and goal orientation. Think of motivation as the amount of energy available for prospecting and goals as the target that the energy is plugging into. Without sufficient motivation (or energy) to prospect you may not have a call reluctance problem but a “motivation” problem that needs addressing first. If you don’t have clear and focused prospecting goals then your motivation gets diverted to “coping” with prospecting instead of actually prospecting.
Our researchers like to tell the story of a major sales presentation they made to a large company. Being an Over-preparer Call Reluctance type, George spent many hours preparing a 90-minute presentation with featured facts, figures, charts, statistics, endorsement letters, some anecdotes, and one unreliable joke. Early into the presentation the customer asked, “what do I have to do to get started using some of these today” “who do I write the check to.” Seemingly unaware that he could make the close, George continued. Finally, at a break, Shannon tells George that the customer is ready to buy now and that if he continued they might lose the sale. Emotionally stiffening for a fight, George exclaims, “I spent 14 hours learning this presentation and this guy is going to hear it.” Sound like anybody you know?
This type of call reluctance behavior over-analyzes and under acts. Sales presentations tend to stress information and is product-oriented while neglecting emotion. The sales professional with this type of call reluctance will spend more time getting ready to prospect and burn up available energy and have none left over to actually prospect. A learned behavior and most frequent in technical sales people, this type of call reluctance is preventable and correctable.
Dressing for success and managing your image to customers is no doubt an attribute to sales success. But for salespeople with Hyper-Pro Call Reluctance, being overly concerned with how you look and speak, your knowledge, and with the image that others have of you ceases being instrumental and starts to interfere. It drains energy earmarked for prospecting and becomes an end in itself. To a Hyper-Pro, most prospecting is inconsistent with the image they project, so it’s emotionally impossible. I worked with a salesperson that felt he couldn’t call on the executives of prospective buyers unless he had an executive title like Vice President. He actually had business cards (and paid for himself) printed with that title. If you are reading this and suspect that you might have Hyper-Pro characteristics, then ask yourself, “is your image more important than your career?” The outlook for this type of call reluctance depends entirely upon self-responsibility. If you are able to admit to yourself that you have call reluctance, then the outlook is bright. This is the fifth most frequently occurring type of call reluctance and found among sales managers and consultants.
Most technology salespeople will have to present or demonstrate their products and services to prospective buyers. The format may be one-on-one demonstrations or presentations to groups of prospects. If you have Stage Fright Call Reluctance, you may be uncomfortable speaking in front of clients, one-on-one, small groups, or large groups. Avoiding opportunities to present, can limit the types of prospecting you can do. For example, you may totally avoid seminar selling or doing theatre presentations at tradeshows. A learned behavior, this form of call reluctance is the easiest form to correct.
Walking through a tradeshow exhibit floor, I picked up business cards from the staffers doing booth duty. The titles on these cards revealed a common theme among high-tech companies. That theme is related to Role Rejection Call Reluctance and occurs when a salesperson is intellectually willing, but emotionally unable to accept a career in sales. Afflicted with this type of call reluctance, a salesperson may be unaware of the problem except for the nagging feeling that he or she should be considering a career change. These salespeople are hiding the negative beliefs that salespeople are just peddlers, sales is dishonorable, and they are disappointments to family and friends. What I saw on the collected business cards, were deflected titles such as; sales engineer, document management analyst, marketing associate, technical consultant, sales consultant. I commend those companies (which were very few) that actually had a “sales representative.” Sown early in life, this type of call reluctance is learned and easy to correct.
The Yielder Call Reluctance type has difficulty asserting themselves particularly when it comes to prospecting and is a blood cousin to “close reluctance.” This behavior is afraid to incite conflict or risk losing approval. Always tentative, they are unwilling to appear pushy or to seem intrusive. They don’t want to bother the busy, disturb the indisposed, or interrupt the otherwise engaged. They are always waiting for the “right” time, the “right” circumstance to prospect. There is a hereditary component to this type of call reluctance but with appropriate training procedures, it has a positive outlook. It is ranked number one in frequencies of occurrence among sales professionals. (On a personal observation of my own call reluctance, I feel being raised in the south is ground zero for this type of call reluctance!)
If you are planning to reach higher in the decision-making hierarchy to catapult sales in 2004, then assess the level of Social Self-Consciousness Call Reluctance in your sales team. Typically, Socially Self-Consciousness salespeople shun prospects with wealth, prestige, power, education, or social standing. Your salespeople may do great calling on the IT manager or department head, but freeze if they are to make contact higher up in the executive team. When a company shifts marketing emphasis to the board room, or when purchasing decisions for a product or service are made at high organizational levels, or when educated, professional people constitute the prime market for a product or service, Social Self-Consciousness Call Reluctance can be lethal to a sales career. If detected early and the proper training provided it is a relatively easy form of call reluctance to correct.
How many of you sell a product or service that could be used by a friend or family member? I can hear your answer now. Nada. Zippo. Zero. What most of you are saying is that I don’t sell a product that could be used by a family member so this type of call reluctance doesn’t apply to me. Two of the most common types of call reluctance are Separationist and Emotionally Unemancipated. Separationist Call Reluctance types believes that selling to friends is exploitive, and would never prospect to friends. Emotionally Unemancipated Call Reluctance types feel the same way when it comes to selling to family members. Maybe friends and family are not potential customers for your products and services but have you ever considered that they may know other people who could open a door for you. Have you ever really described what you do and told your friends and family what a good lead would look like to you? Give that some thought. This behavior is learned and easy to correct.
The sales world we live in today has tight or non-existent travel budgets and the use of technology is replacing face-to-face sales calls. Sales professionals with Telephobia Call Reluctance types are struggling to get to work every day. I have known salespeople who would rather hop on a plane to follow-up on dubious sales leads then use a telephone to prospect. It’s not about knowing how to prospect on the phone or what to say. It’s about feeling comfortable enough to do it. One negative episode for prospecting purposes is all it could take to stigmatize your phone. Did you ever call someone for a date and get rejected? This one isolated event is enough to cause severe Telephobia when using the phone for sales prospecting. A learned behavior, it can be corrected once a serious commitment is made and serious measures are used.
Most salespeople will tell you that the best lead and route to increased sales is getting a referral from a customer. Salespeople with Referral Aversion Call Reluctance types are losing out because they don’t want to jeopardize the relationships with clients by asking for a referral. Millions of dollars go to the competition because of the reluctance to take this one small step toward your next sale. I think most of you would agree that your customers expect you to ask for referrals and would gladly endorse you and your products, if asked. Sales professionals afflicted with Referral Aversion call reluctance find this too distressful and will avoid asking for referrals at all cost. The behavior is learned and could originate with one unexpected and discourteous reply. With proper diagnosis and training, it is easily corrected.
Now that you have allowed yourself to at least become aware of sales call reluctance types you may be curious. Given that you did identify with any of the types, what can you do to eliminate these barriers and boost your sales performance.
I will introduce you to some of the countermeasures that have been field-tested and work when you actually practice them. It’s important to note that thinking about doing the work is not the same as doing the work. It’s also important that you not try to understand why and how these techniques work–just do it.
There are two categories of countermeasures: word-based and mechanical. Several techniques under each category work with specific types of call reluctance. I will share with you one word-based procedure and one mechanical procedure that can be used with all types of call reluctance.
Word-based procedures depend on words and self-persuasion. You will have to talk yourself into doing what we want to do.
I’ll start with Thought Realignment. Although this procedure may be less effective for combating call reluctance, it may be more familiar to you than some of the other techniques. It’s best suited for preventing call reluctance.
The principle behind Thought Realignment is this:
What you SAY…influences what you FEEL…which alters what you DO. So, if you want to change what you DO… modify what you FEEL…by altering what you SAY.
Can you remember a time when prospecting that you talked yourself out of making a call? A Yielder call reluctance type may hesitate to make the call if they had just tried making contact two days before. Maybe you were going to ask a customer for a referral and then decided to wait a little while longer to make sure the implementation went well. You have your prospect list in front of you and before you start calling you decide you must know what’s going on in the account first. The Overpreparer in you starts searching the entire Internet for news about this customer. Without realizing it, you look at the time and it’s 11:45. You say to yourself that it’s too close to lunchtime and nobody will be around. You’ll start right after lunch.
Okay, to change the above scenarios, you have to change your self-talk. There are two types of self-talk; goal supporting and goal obstructing. Goal supporting self-talk uses statements like “I want to…” “I’d prefer to…” “It would be better if… This kind of self-talk doesn’t put undue pressure on you to achieve perfection every time. Goal obstructing sounds like, “I’d better…” “I can’t…” “I have to…” These statements set up undesirable imagined consequences if not met. This kind of self-talk is obstructive because it can divert your energy away from prospecting and into coping with the imagined consequences of failure.
To give you an example of how this works, let’s take the Yielder scenario above. Using goal supporting self talk, the Yielder could say, “I know I just called this prospect two days ago and I’m sure he has been very busy and didn’t get a chance to return the call. He will be glad that I am diligence in trying to reach him.” Our Yielder changed what he said to himself which changed how he felt about making the call that changed what he did. He made the call.
If your sales call reluctance personal prescription includes Thought Realignment, you’ll use a simple worksheet to keep a daily log of where you are and what you’re doing whenever call reluctance strikes. You’ll write down what you hear yourself say this prospecting situation means to you. It’s important to learn to listen to your self-talk themes. The technique also requires that you challenge the validity of your self-talk. Ask yourself these three clearing questions:
1. Is there proof this has to be a frightening situation?
2. Can you prove that making a phone call (giving a speech, asking for a referral, etc.) requires you to be afraid?
3. Do I have to feel the fear right now?
Mechanical procedures work whether you understand or agree with them. They are more powerful than word-based techniques because they are powered by “brain wiring.”
Most call reluctance is a habit-level behavior. A habit is a “learned automatic sequence of behavior.” Like remembering the feelings stirred by an old song or how it feels to bite into a lemon, you don’t think about your negative reactions to prospecting. They’re automatic. Mechanical procedures work by attacking the automatic stimulus-response sequence.
The mechanical technique, Thought Zapping can be used to prevent and correct all types of call reluctance and if the procedure is applied and practiced, has immediate results.
Here are the six steps for Thought Zapping:
1. List your negative intruders: These are the goal-obstructing thoughts you experience about prospecting.
2. Identify emotional reactions: These are your energy leaks, the physical and emotional responses you experience. For example, refilling your coffee cup, or feelings of irritation.
3. Establish a base rate for intruders: This means that for three days, you’re simply going to count how many times negative feelings intrude on your prospecting activity.
4. Zap to interrupt: Once you begin, it’s important to zap yourself every time a negative thought intrudes on your prospecting. (Wear a thick rubber band on your wrist and zap the top of your wrist.)
5. Insert substitute: Replace the negative thought with a positive image. It can be a reward you hope to obtain, or simply a word of encouragement.
6. Measure your progress: After zapping yourself consistently for a few days, count how many times your negative intruders occur now. Most people find that as thoughts that are more positive begin to take hold, the old negative thoughts decrease in frequency.
That decrease represents recovered Motivation: energy that had been diverted to coping but is now available for prospecting. Used correctly, Thought Zapping can actually provide a measurable increase in available prospecting power. Would that help you to move closer to making your sales goals and filling your pipeline for 2004?
Straight from the Heart
I have been selling for almost 25 years. I have been successful, won awards, made money, and advanced up the corporate executive ladder. During all this time, sales call reluctance hovered over me like a buzzing mosquito biting without warning. My escape route from call reluctance was through management. I had the best sales training and mentors but nothing touched the core of selling–that is being able to comfortably initiate contact on a consistent basis with prospective buyers. A lot of salespeople will continue to hide, deny, and suppress their call reluctance fears. For those who will allow themselves to open their minds and to admit to the possibility that call reluctance may be limiting their ability to achieve sales performance (and do something about it), 2004 will no doubt be a stellar sales year.