Dealing with Sales Call RELUCTANCE

Categories: Management, Sales & Marketing

By Michael Wilson | June 25, 2019 << Back to Articles Dealing with Sales Call RELUCTANCE

They are here. At the last ISSA trade show in Dallas, TX, many younger faces were seen behind the exhibitor booths. Younger people are finally starting to see the value in working for the professional cleaning industry. They see the connection between cleaning and health, which we have been preaching about for two decades. They see an industry actively promoting green and sustainability initiatives, and yes, they noticed that it is a more than $50 billion industry. That dollar amount spells opportunity.

However, with this new set of younger people coming on board working for jansan distributors around the country, an old problem that their predecessors had to deal with, is now resurfacing. It has nothing to do with a lack of sales skills or poor product knowledge. Quality training programs can overcome these challenges. What these young people are grappling with, is good old fashioned “sales call reluctance.”

While sales trainers may offer a wide range of reasons for sales call reluctance, the root cause of it is typically fear. Sometimes a new salesperson does not even realize that they have this fear until they start making calls. We often see this when it comes to prospecting on the telephone. Some new salespeople don’t even realize they are, what we could call, “telephobic,” until they start using the phone for prospecting. They may have already proven to themselves their own skill in other types of sales situations, only to find that they freeze up, start sweating, and can’t wait to hang up when they start prospecting by phone.

If this telephobia is not overcome, what happens next is that the salesperson may be fired. Among new salespeople, the overwhelming majority that do get fired, are fired due to this and other forms of sales call reluctance, according to research scientists George Dudley and Shannon Goodson.¹

Alternatively, if they manage to keep their jobs, they are unlikely to make as much money as someone else that does not have this or other forms of sales call reluctance. Dudley and Goodson report that telephobic real estate agents, for example, suffered earning losses of up to $20,000 annually due to fear of telephone prospecting. Further, they have lower production levels, and their commitments to their employers and the products they sell, are often less than those of salespeople without this and other forms of sales call reluctance.

In their studies, the scientists have also identified several types of sales call reluctance, many of which we may find among jansan distributors that are new on the job, as well as those that have been around for a while. Among them are the following:

  • The worrier: Some salespeople are habitual worriers. They may worry about a sale falling apart or even worry about getting an appointment. Worriers typically do not make enthusiastic, effective salespeople.
  • Looks the part, but: Some salespeople look great, dress the part, and have all the mannerisms of a successful salesperson. However, their appearance may hide the fact that they have one or more forms of sales call reluctance holding them back from being successful.
  • Stage fright: Today, salespeople are increasingly expected to give presentations before prospects. These individuals may not be telephobic; after all, they very likely have gotten this opportunity by making sales calls and prospecting. But, get them in front of an audience, and it all starts falling apart, along with the sale.
  • Closing fear: Closing a sale is a complicated process; sometimes the best strategy is not to say anything at the end of a presentation. However, some salespeople with sales call reluctance don’t say anything because they are afraid to close the sale. While silence may be golden, usually it’s best to find ways to direct the customer into signing on the dotted line.
  • Referral fear: Some salespeople have done well with their prospects and have loyal customers, but they are averse to asking for a referral. On the other hand, many successful salespeople base their entire success on referrals, making referral fear one of the more severe, and costly, examples of sales call reluctance.
  • Not their cup of tea: While the opportunities may be there and the young person feels they can do a great job, many times it is not until they are out making calls, prospecting, and selling, that they realize selling is just not for them. This leads to all kinds of problems, including sales call reluctance. Hopefully, they find something they are better suited for rather quickly.

Control the fear, or the fear controls you

One of the iconic sales gurus in the real estate industry has been the legendary Tom Hopkins. Sales call reluctance can be widespread among real estate agents. Because of this, he developed a motto for agents to repeat over and over again: “Either you control the fear, or the fear controls you.” Then, as he was working one on one with an agent, he would take the agent in his car, drive to a residential area of town, and tell the agent not to come back to the office until they had called on every homeowner in the area.

Between repeating the motto and the sales calls, the agent typically took a big step in overcoming sales call reluctance. Some other steps distributors specifically can take to help their younger (and older) salespeople get over sales call reluctance include the following:

  • Discuss it: If a salesperson is not performing as well as others in the company, discuss it. Hiding it, or hoping for the best, can make the situation worse.
  • Accept it: After acknowledging sales call reluctance may be an issue, what both parties—employers and salespeople—must do, is accept the fact that it exists. It is not a character issue or a flaw. There is nothing good or bad about sales call reluctance. The problem materializes when the salesperson wants to stay in sales; so, to succeed, they will need to find ways to overcome sales call reluctance.
  • Assess it: Sometimes it’s a good idea to try and find out why, for instance, a salesperson has problems making sales calls over the phone or knocking on doors. While distributorship owners are not therapists, a little investigating as to why the situation is so unpleasant for the salesperson, may help the person overcome it.
  • Appointment setters: Some distributor organizations provide their members with appointment setting services. While salespeople should still overcome telephobia, once the service starts booking appointments, it tells salespeople this can be done, helping to build their confidence.
  • Provide tech-help: Because many younger salespeople are very technologically savvy, providing them with computers or “dashboard” systems that can help their customers make effective buying decisions, can prove very useful. This can be a major stress reliever for the salesperson and help improve sales performance. Now all eyes are on the dashboard, analyzing different products that can address the customer’s cleaning challenges and building operation’s needs.

The final step is to put all of these steps into action. While Hopkins found it best to drop off a real estate agent in the middle of a subdivision, telling them they had to work their way back to the office by making sales calls, what is typically a less jarring but effective approach is to continue monitoring, training, and working with the salesperson.

If the salesperson wants to be in sales, and more specifically jansan sales, focused attention on practice and skill-building should increase the ease with which they set appointments and the number of opportunities they have to close sales. As they build successful outcomes and see commissions increase, sales call reluctance should finally be put to bed. 

1 “Earning What You’re Worth?” The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, by George W. Dudley; published by Behavioral Science Research, 1st edition, November 1995; 5th edition, November 15, 2007.

About the Author.

Michael Wilson is vice president of marketing for AFFLINK™, developers of Rest Assured, a bundle of products designed to protect human health at home, in school, and at work. He may be reached through his company website,