Selling is a numbers game. Success is determined by the number of contacts initiated with prospective buyers on a consistent basis.
Let’s assume you and I have the same product knowledge, abilities, experience and territory. You make 10 new contacts each week and I make one. Who is likely to sell more? This is the one indisputable determiner of success in sales.
Why then do some salespeople not initiate contact with people who are likely to buy what they sell? They know how to do it. Intellectually, they have no problem. Emotionally, it’s a different story. When presented with a sales opportunity, they hesitate.
They spend endless hours and gobs of energy avoiding these opportunities. They come up with many logical reasons why they will not prospect for new business. The most common is lack of time. “We need time management training,” they tell sales managers—who dutifully supply it, only to find that sales do not improve.
Fear? The number one reason for contact avoidance is fear. Salespeople are afraid they will look unprofessional if they toot their own horn. Or that they will appear pushy if they call someone to sell. This fear is “sales call reluctance” and it causes more salespeople
to give up on their dreams than anything else.
It often lurks undetected. Salespeople know something is wrong, but they don’t know what it is. They find it difficult to admit they have a fear of calling on people. Their managers know something is wrong, but they attribute the lackluster performance to laziness, lack of motivation or an uncaring attitude. They talk about attitude adjustment.
We cope. Salespeople find ingenious ways to cope with call reluctance. I remember that I did. I once had my own insurance brokerage company in South Africa. I was doing very well.
There was one salesperson who always seemed to sell more than I did. One day, I did an analysis. I concluded he was not smarter than I was. I could run rings around him on product knowledge. He was not better connected than I was. Some of my friends would not even talk to the likes of him. He didn’t look better than I did. (OK, he was marginally better looking, but I dressed better.) So what was it?
I thought I knew: I was too busy with paperwork! I needed to free up time to be out selling. So I hired a secretary (we still called them that back then) and got ready to beat him. But instead of improving sales, I got busier. So I hired a second secretary. Guess what? No extra sales, just extra expense. (Note to sales managers: I have only once seen a salesperson increase sales after getting an administrative assistant. Don’t fall for that one!)
It finally dawned on me why he was more successful than I was: He contacted more people than I did! While I debated about prospecting, he did it. While I honed my prospect list, he was calling on his. While I held meetings with my secretaries, he was talking to my potential customers.
Coping with my call reluctance was expensive. I have seen salespeople waste countless hours and dollars coping with theirs. Many don’t know they have sales call reluctance and may never know until someone tells them. Its biggest strength is to stay hidden because that allows it to strike with impunity. It makes logical, educated adults very creative—but not in sales. They become creative in finding excuses. They believe these excuses and, like me, they spend huge amounts of money on these excuses. Call reluctance is expensive!
How do you know? One surefire way to know if you have sales call reluctance is to look at sales production and prospecting. If sales production is not where you think it should and could be, look at your prospecting activities. Is prospecting low?
Low prospecting exists if:
1. You’re not selling enough to achieve your personal goals.
2. You’re not selling enough to achieve company goals.
3. Selling opportunities exist that are not being addressed by you but are being addressed by your competition and you could or should be addressing them yourself.
If you feel you could do more but are frustrated because you cannot seem to comfortably prospect—and you want to—then sales call reluctance may be what is stopping you. I know this is small consolation, but the same thing is probably what’s preventing your competition from kicking your butt!
Frank Lee is an author and sales trainer who specializes in the ag equipment industry. You can subscribe to his free monthly Ezine for Managers, a newsletter sent via e-mail. To receive it, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and put “subscribe” in the subject line.