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Call reluctance is the resistance, fear, or disinterest salespeople feel when making cold calls. If left unchecked, it can result in fewer total calls or cold calls that go poorly, and ultimately jeopardize a cold caller’s career. In this article, we’ll explain the causes of call reluctance as well as the signs you’re experiencing it, and we’ll help you create a repeatable, strategic process that will help you overcome your resistance to cold call.
Call reluctance is one of the most common problems in sales, with 48% of salespeople fearing making cold calls. As a cold caller, you can feel this resistance to pick up the phone for a variety of reasons, including nerves, rejection, and fatigue. Common signs include a slow start to your day, a lack of energy or increased nervousness on the phone, and more.
Luckily, if you’re experiencing call reluctance, there are strategies that can help carry you through. The key is to implement a daily practice that builds momentum and confidence in your ability to have successful cold calls. This can include steps such as meditating when you wake up, making the majority of your calls at the right time, and focusing on your daily successes.
Later in this article, we’ll explain the steps and how they can be used as separate strategies or together as a regimen, but first, let’s dig deeper into the causes of call reluctance.
It can be easy to say that sales professionals feel call reluctance simply because cold calling is not always fun. Cold calling can be arduous, but it’s important to address the root causes of this feeling. The three primary reasons that salespeople become resistant to call are nerves, rejection, and fatigue. Cold callers can often feel all three, but even one can result in call reluctance. Below, let’s look more closely at each of these reasons.
Nerves are usually the first cause of call reluctance that salespeople experience. When you first get on the phone, everything is new and unsure. Compound that with the pressure to impress your employer and your livelihood depending on some level of success, and you’ve got the perfect situation for some serious nerves. Not only that, but speaking with people that you don’t know can be a nerve-racking experience. This makes the first call each day so hard.
Shortly after the nerves comes the rejection. Cold calling involves contacting a high volume of leads that may not be in the mood to talk business. As a result, you’ll be hearing a lot of “no,” “don’t call me again,” and many other unpleasant ways of conveying the same message. This can lead you to anticipate rejection before you get on the phone with a new prospect.
Now, we all know the conversion rate on cold calls isn’t very high. Marketingforsuccess.com estimates a 2% conversion rate, which is pretty generous. This means that, at best, 98% of your calls are going to feel like you’re running into a brick wall. Even though these odds are generally well-known, it can still feel like you’re failing when you’re constantly being rejected by leads. It can often feel like the calls you have to make aren’t worth the time required.
Fatigue is a long-term effect of being a high-volume cold caller. Fatigue can be common, especially in call-heavy environments where you’re making 200-300 calls per day or week. Maintaining enthusiasm, following the right script, and thinking on your feet in many calls every day gets exhausting. It saps your energy and can make it tough to keep hitting the phone.
So, how do you know when your disinterest has turned into reluctance? What can you look for in your day-to-day workflow to know whether you’re experiencing it? There are a few common bad habits that are signs of call reluctance, so look for these throughout your workday to decide whether you have a problem with call reluctance:
Once these habits start to form, it can be difficult to unlearn them. They stem from the root causes we just discussed — nerves, rejection, and fatigue — and they make the cold calling experience less effective and even more monotonous. These signs can affect your success, which makes cold calling even more painful, and far less lucrative. So, let’s talk about how to conquer this reluctance.
Since we’ve identified the signs of call reluctance, we should talk about what to do about them. Addressing these signs head-on will increase your level of success on the phones and make your cold calling process more efficient and enjoyable. The strategies below can be used independently or — even better — as a repeatable process, and they’ll help you generate cold calling momentum and confidence.
Implement these steps to defeat your reluctance to make cold calls:
Let’s look at each step in more detail so you can develop a plan to make your calls every day.
Give yourself a standard routine on workdays to reduce the number of barriers between you and your goal. This means deciding on the coffee or food you grab in the morning, the time you get into the office, and the time you start calling. Keeping your days similar will get your brain in a comfortable space, reducing stress and streamlining your workflow.
Start your day off right with a few minutes of meditation. You can use a guided app like Calm or Headspace, or you can look up some free guided meditations on YouTube. Taking this time to just close your eyes and focus on yourself can get you into the right mindset for work. You can even meditate again during one of your breaks to recuperate from the day and reduce stress or simply to stay in the groove and remain positive.
The best way to make a big call goal look smaller is to take a huge chunk out of it right away, before your first break. If you work in a time zone that allows for it, the moment your butt hits the seat, start calling. Get as many as possible done in your first couple hours without sacrificing quality, and set a solid pace for the day.
You’ll have done so much during the morning hours that you can have a little grace with yourself near the end of the day as you get tired. Use that time to get paperwork done, chat with coworkers, or whatever else you do that isn’t as active as the prospecting process. Use your energy while you have it, and you’ll be much better off.
When I was doing 200 calls per day, I tried to get 100 of them done by the time I took my first break. My desire to take my break incentivized me to just pick up the phone and get them done, and it gave me peace through the rest of the day to know I'd gotten such a solid start.
Low energy in the workplace is usually more mental than physical. If you give in to fatigue from the week or stress from the amount of work in front of you, you’ll end up lacking energy in your voice on your calls and lull yourself into what we call a “cold call coma.” This means that your calls are essentially useless because you’ve simply accepted that you have no energy to give to them.
To avoid this problem, fake a little energy by lifting your tone and speaking with enthusiasm. By raising the energy level of the conversation, you often do the same for the response from the customer. As a result, you end up with a much more interesting and engaging conversation. Not only that, but you’ll also build rapport and increase your conversion rate.
Usually, you’re looking to match your lead’s energy on a cold call. In these moments, though, crank up the dial and overdo it a little bit. Keeping yourself energized is the priority here, so don’t worry too much about going overboard.
Depending on your time zone, you’ll have different prime hours for cold calling. West Coast salespeople should be hitting it hard as early as possible, because the rest of the country is already up and ready to go. Professionals on the East Coast might want to prioritize calling around 11 a.m., when businesses to the west start to open up. Calling early in the morning can help your chances of reaching a prospect before they dive into a project that requires their focus.
Prioritizing calls during these hours will increase your success on the phones, resulting in a more rewarding cold calling experience. More success tends to generate more motivation, and this will help you get more excited for your calls.
Too many salespeople get tired of cold calling, and they begin to actually want the customer to rush them off the phone. If you find yourself in the “if they hang up, they hang up” mood, accept that you’re not in the zone to improvise in that moment. Your natural inclination when you’re in a mood like that is to accept rejection the moment you catch a whiff of it.
To avoid the self-sabotage that comes with this attitude, bring out your script. Read it word-for-word, and don’t worry about it sounding too robotic. Trust me, in that mood, sounding robotic is much better than letting fatigue kill every single call you make that day. Give your calls a fighting chance by sticking to the script when you find yourself inviting the lead to reject you.
If you do start following your script more closely but get exhausted with saying the exact same things over and over again, bring out some alternate scripts that deliver similar information in a new way. Change a few details for each of them that don’t take away from the end goal, like these:
You don’t need to reinvent each detail, but you can add a little flavor to it. Cold callers at smaller businesses can have a special script that uses more casual language so you don’t feel so stiff on every call. For businesses that fill a specific niche that you run into often, you can create a specific script that changes up your delivery to suit their needs. This builds more rapport with customers while also switching up your rhythm to avoid too much repetition.
In the middle of the day or when you’re hit particularly hard with fatigue, nerves, or rejection, take some time to bounce back. The best way to get this done is to establish a routine that only takes a couple of minutes and helps you get yourself relaxed and ready to go.
Try incorporating some of these strategies to help recharge:
Easy, quick, and repeatable methods like these help you create a two- to three-minute recovery ritual that can get you back on track. These rituals break up the monotony of the day, get your body moving, and help you clear your mind after a tough call. You can even take these actions on your regularly scheduled lunch and breaks if you find something that works well for you.
Personally, I recommend keeping your ritual the same every time. The habit-forming parts of the brain seem to respond well to familiar patterns that provide some kind of reward. So, if your brain notices that the same sequence of actions gets you in a better mood, it’s more likely to work again in the future.
Some days, cold calling in the afternoon can seem nearly impossible, especially after a morning full of calls. It can be easy to get lost in prevention strategies and take up a lot of time trying to force yourself into a better or more energetic mood. Whenever you find yourself stuck and wasting too much time, just pick up the phone. Sometimes your mood won’t turn right away, and it’ll take a good call to get your engine running again. So, grab your script and punch in the next number.
Boost your spirits by recognizing even small wins. Every time you make a solid contact, set an appointment, or close a sale, document it on a piece of paper or Word document and briefly celebrate your success. When you start to feel like cold calling just isn’t working, or you might not be good at it, take a look at your “success sheet” and remember that you are making progress, even if it feels slow. Also review the sheet at the end of every workday to end on a positive note.
Sales is an emotional rollercoaster for both the customer and the salesperson. So, lean into the emotional aspect of it to pick yourself up, because there will be times that it pulls you down whether you like it or not.
Try out these steps and modify them so they work for you. While they can be used individually, treating them as a daily routine can help you build better habits and get into a calling mindset. To continue building good patterns, check out Atomic Habits, where James Clear discusses how to break old habits and build new ones, gain motivation and willpower, get back on track when you start to revert back into old ways, and more — all of which can further help you overcome call reluctance.
Why do we need to address call reluctance in the first place? Well, there are many ways that it can negatively affect your work. Each of the following can have impacts on how much money you’re able to make, and how satisfied you are with your job:
Not only will you end up with bad results on your calls, but you’ll also be contributing to a negative feedback loop that continues to make the problem worse. At the end of the day, each of these negative impacts, if left unchecked, can easily end with you failing to meet quotas, stressing yourself and your manager, and even quitting or losing your job. This is why taking the above steps to fix the issue are vital to having success as a salesperson.
Call reluctance is one of the most common issues plaguing salespeople during outbound lead generation. It can result in significant downturns in productivity, and make you really hate your job. The bright side is that we’ve laid out some effective resources to curb the issue before it becomes a potentially career-ending problem. So, implement these strategies and actively build good habits, and you’ll be able to push through call reluctance every time it comes up or experience it less often.