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Reluctant ?

01 Nov 06

The selling process is only now being recognised as a professional skill that can be developed and enhanced in people who have a passion for communicating on a person to person level with a wide range of people.   The best definition of the word sale is: a conversation with a series of agreements.

Creating this conversation isn’t all that difficult.  The difficulty many people face is making the first connection so the conversation with agreements can in fact take place.  This function is commonly referred to as the prospecting process and it’s the area that causes most concern to people attracted to the sales profession.  These days, as a result of all the technologies available, the true skills of prospecting are making way for alternative technologies such as lead generation systems through outbound telemarketing systems and email marketing systems.

For those of us who still need to make contact with people for the first time and have to build a relationship from scratch, what are the important factors to consider that will help overcome the call reluctance we all feel when having to make cold calls.  For every sale closed, sales staff have to make numerous contacts and suffer numerous rejections.  On average it takes 25 contacts with prospects to get 12 responses which result in five sales presentations and three sales.

Prospecting is obviously an essential part of the selling game.  In sheer numerical terms it’s probably the most important aspect of selling.  But it’s also sheer hell for a large number of salespeople.

That sinking feeling in the stomach when it’s time to pick up the phone and call a new prospect is something most salespeople are familiar with.  According to the New Zealand Sales Institute these people are really suffering from a problem called Call Reluctance.  It’s something experienced by almost all salespeople at some stage, but until recently little was known about its causes - or more importantly, its cures.

It’s something which has always been treated with panic measures.

When sales start to drop off or level out, managers typically get in motivational speakers, introduce incentives, increase sales quotas, or just tighten the screws and tell staff to sell - or else.

What such measures don’t consider are the reasons for the drop off.

They may actually be doing more harm than good.  He says that call reluctance is something which only occurs in people who are already motivated.  They want to get out there and do their job well, but are prevented from doing so by some internal limitation.  By trying to increase their motivation you are only adding to the frustration.

The causes of call reluctance can vary from inherent personality traits to reactions to previous


Many salespeople develop call reluctance through no fault of their own.  The sales manager who points out that prospecting is a chore that has to be done, for example, may be doing more harm than he realises.

The good news is that call reluctance can be detected, and with work, overcome.


According to the book The Psychology of Call Reluctance there are the following types of genuine call reluctance:

* Intrusion Sensitivity

Occurs when salespeople feel uncomfortable disturbing the prospect’s daily routine.

* Image Sensitivity or Protension

An almost obsessive preoccupation with the need to be perceived as a professional. Protensive salespeople make an exceptionally good first impression but refuse to take personal responsibility for their own careers. They are constantly blaming others for failure and will search endlessly for ways to demand dignity and respect without having to earn them.

* Role Acceptance

Where salespeople cannot reconcile themselves to their career choice.

* Social Differential

A fear of more affluent or superior prospects.  Also threat sensitivity - an unwillingness to take social risks.

* Desurgency

A tendency to over think and under act.

* Group Sensitivity & Reluctance to sell to family

Call reluctance also occurs when salespeople are unwilling to call on personal friends or family or afraid to make group presentations.

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