The many faces of call reluctanceKeith Orahoodcall reluctance, George W. Dudley, Shannon L. Goodson, The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What Youâ€™re Worth in Sales
The old adage that there is enough business to go around just
doesnt cut it anymore. Rates are up from a 40-year low, sales
activity is down and refinances are slow. Competition is very
stiff. As an owner, manager or salesperson, the last thing you need
is to be, manage or employ a salesperson who is afraid to make
Emotionally, with most people, there is a constant war or
struggle between the desire to make their competence known and the
reluctance to appear too aggressive. For a majority, it is an
unpleasant feeling to go out and toot ones horn; for others, it is
just unbearable. This fear, as manifested in salespeople, is
referred to as call reluctance by George W. Dudley and Shannon L.
Goodson, co-authors of the book The Psychology of Sales Call
Reluctance: Earning What Youre Worth in Sales.
In practice, it causes a very low number of initial contacts and
can spiral downward from there. Not only is this fear career-ending
for many, it is also very costly for companies who ignore it. Your
company may be hiring, training and, even worse, promoting
After years of study and research, Dudley and Goodson found,
identified and even trademarked 12 separate forms of call
reluctance. As you read through these, see if you can recognize any
of the following call-reluctant types that might be holding down
your sales efforts, production and profits.
Doomsayers (waste energy worrying about
They are preoccupied with worst-case scenarios, will not take
social risks and measure success by the absence of failure.
Prospecting is dangerous to them, so they will not initiate making
calls. Presentation styles are scripted with canned rebuttals, and
they freak out when a curve ball or objection is thrown at them.
Doomsayers will become visibly distressed upon the suggestion of
making cold calls.
Over-preparers (confuse knowing with
They overanalyze and under-act, have encyclopedic knowledge and no
one to share it with, and are more comfortable with data than
people. Their presentation styles stress features, facts and
product knowledge. Over-preparers can be identified as those who
censure their own emotions.
Hyper pros (spend too much time getting
They are overly concerned with image and credibility, invest
heavily in status and declarative clothing and spend as much time
preening as prospecting. There is a huge need to be seen as more
than average. Their selling styles stress self-importance and
knowledge. Hyper pros can be recognized as those who overstate,
name drop or shop to feel good.
Stage frightened (fear seminar selling)
They will not schedule presentations, dread ice-breaking activities
and hate role-playing activities. Their selling styles revert to
customer activities. If and when they do get in front of a group,
they will read to the audience verbatim from notes.
Role rejecters (conflicted about being in
They are secretly ashamed of having sales careers, fear approval
loss from significant others and may even rely on deflecting
identities. Although they have no specific selling styles, you
might recognize this type as self-deprecating and not naturally
positivethose who exaggerate from time to time.
Yielders (wait for just the right time)
They fear being pushy or intrusive and hesitate to express their
own interests and needs, build rapport or be assertive when
necessary. Their selling styles are very customer service and
benefit oriented, but they possess very weak closing skills. If you
have someone on your team who feels taken advantage of, cant speak
when angry or would need hospitalization if called pushy or rude,
he is a yielder.
Socially self-conscious (afraid of powerful decision
They are intimidated by up-market clientele, aim for the wrong
targets in prospecting situations and revert to ingratiating,
childlike behaviors in the presence of wealthy or powerful
individuals. Their selling styles are competition-oriented or
customer service-based. You might misdiagnose this type as having
low motivation or poor direction or being unwilling to set goals,
when they are really just intimidated by powerful people. If one of
your sales team is ingratiating to superiors, yet abusive and
tyrannical toward those they perceive to be of lower status, you
have a socially self-conscious employee.
Separationists (wont prospect or network friends or ask
They fear loss of approval from friends and consider doing business
with them as off limits. They have no set selling styles. You will
recognize separationists by their defensive nature toward friends
should managers or co-workers suggest listing them as prospects.
Oddly enough, they generally have no problem buying goods or
services from those same friends.
Emotionally un-emancipated (wont prospect or network
Similar to separationists, they want to keep business totally
separate from relatives. Relying on family members for business or
referrals is off limits. If you operate a business-to-consumer
sales platform and have a salesperson who refuses to prospect
family members, he is emotionally un-emancipated.
Referral averse (uncomfortable asking for
These people resist asking current clients for referrals, for fear
of jeopardizing those relationships. They assume clients are
offended by such requests. Their selling styles are heavily product
oriented, with decent customer service, but shallow relationships.
Presentations are canned, with mechanical scripts. If you have a
salesperson who knowingly passes by opportunities to ask for
referrals and constantly uses time and circumstances as excuses, he
is referral averse.
Telephonophobics (cringe at the mention of telephone
They fear using the phone for prospecting or self-promotion and
will always go out of their way to schedule face-to-face meetings
when possible. When forced to use the phone, they need to get psych
themselves up beforehand. If someone in your group is slow to get
started and takes a lot of unscheduled breaks for coffee, water or
smokes, you are probably looking at a telephonophobic.
Oppositional reflexives (unable to accept advice,
coaching or constructive criticism)
They are distracted by emotions, fear loss of control and cannot
admit to mistakes. They usually sell against their competition and
have no problems closing. The salesperson who criticizes, blames,
argues and is constantly finding fault with co-workers is an
oppositional reflexive and a detriment to your team.
Like most people, one would think that speaking in public,
making cold calls or calling people on the phone would run the
gamut of call-reluctant behaviors. Yet there are 12 identified
The good news is that these behavior patterns can be tested for,
screened against and modified with countermeasures. While some are
rooted in learned behavior, others are hereditary or a combination
of both. When triggered, they are not preventable. However, you can
prevent them by not hiring candidates with a high prospecting
brake. The prospecting brake is a component of the statistical
analysis from the SPQ* Gold evaluation, designed by Dudley and
Goodson. There are several national and well known mortgage firms
that do not hire without using this tool. If the brake is high,
Keith Orahood is the eastern regional sales manager for
Irvine, Calif.-based GFS
Wholesale. He may be reached at (866) 557-6020, ext. 4704 or