Whether we are working for a private or public company, a “not for profit” or government institution, all of us are in some way competing for access to a revenue source to fund our existence.

How capable people are to take on the responsibility for improving the revenue line of a company is a hot topic in today’s competitive market.

Research shows that no longer can companies and their people rely on their technical competence, passive referrals, reputation, brand or blanket advertising to bring in new business and revenue streams as they may have done in the past. They also need to effectively self- promote and prospect for new business using professional and ethical sales strategies, and demonstrate real value for money.

Visibility Management
In short, we need to be visible and manage our visibility so that customers know who we are and what we can do.

The research shows we need to make our competency visible to people who need to know about us. Therefore, companies and sales people must first be VISIBLE to be RECOGNISED for what they do well and they must be RECOGNISED before they can be REWARDED!

Social media is an emerging avenue that makes getting noticed and making our capabilities visible easier if done properly, however on its own it is unlikely to yield and drive the type of qualified sales leads we want in the time frame and volume we need to keep us viable. Social media is visibility management and an education and influencing forum, however it is only part of a prospecting strategy.

So, because of this we need to make sure that our sales teams are fully equipped to prospect effectively and regularly or else we are at risk of missing sales opportunities. Firstly, let’s quickly define Prospecting.

Prospecting is… The identification and pursuit of new business opportunities in new and/or existing accounts.

Prospecting requires sales people to establish contact with people who might buy your products or services. Whether it’s phone prospecting, face-to-face prospecting or group prospecting, in-bound or outbound, nothing gets sold until sales people get in front of or talk to potential buyers.

However, the sad truth is that many people find prospecting very hard work. In fact, research shows that only about 20% of sales people are fully effective when prospecting.

That leaves approximately 80% of people struggling with the function of prospecting. In most cases it is not due to lack of knowledge, skill, ability or talent, rather most people are afraid to prospect due to the attitudes and beliefs they have formed about prospecting over the years. This fear is known as Call Reluctance®.

So, why focus on Call Reluctance®?
Barrett has assessed over 50,000 people on their Call Reluctance® profiles and we can attest to the fact that most sales people have some form of prospecting hesitation or Call Reluctance® which affects their sales performance. Our work has allowed us to develop a deep understanding of prospecting hesitation and call reluctant behaviour and the accompanying attitudes across sales teams and businesses cultures.

If you are not convinced by our word, here is some of the research by BSRP which has been compiled over the last 40 years.

  • Across industries, the sales people who sell the most are those who are most willing to get in front of prospective buyers on a consistent, daily basis. They sell more because regardless of their talent, experience, or knowledge, they always have new people to sell to.
  • 80% of all sales people fail to complete their first year because of prospecting distress with their energy directed towards coping rather than prospecting strategies.
  • 40% of experienced sales people report one or more episodes of Call Reluctance® severe enough to threaten their career.
  • The hesitation to initiate first contact with prospective buyers on a consistent daily basis is responsible for the failure of more competent, motivated, capable, revenue generating sales people than any other single factor. Nothing else even comes close.
  • Despite content or quality, no training can earn back what it costs unless sales people initiate contact in sufficient numbers with new and existing clients.
  • Research indicates that a prospecting hesitant sales person can cost your company 15 new units of business per month.
  • Non-hesitant sales people are five times more productive than hesitant sales people.
  • The only significant predictor for success in sales is the number of contacts initiated with prospective buyers on a consistent basis!

The bad news
The bad news is that call reluctant behaviours are highly contagious as they are learnt from being around other people who are Call Reluctant®. It can take as little as 6 to 8 weeks to become contaminated.

At last count there are 12 Call Reluctant® types that can keep people from prospecting effectively due to fear. Here are some of the marker behaviours from the more common types that may give you clues that you or some of your people may be suffering from Call Reluctance®:

  • Over-reliance on information such as brochures and technical specs; over-invests energy in always getting ready; never enough information or feel adequately prepared; over-analyses and under acts
  • Nagging guilt and shame associated with being in a sales career generally based on negative stereotypes; may use ‘deflected identities’ to disguise the sales role; tries to be overly positive and instead comes across as insincere
  • Hesitates to prospect or close sales due to fear of appearing rude, pushy or intrusive; says ‘yes’ when should say ‘no’; avoids confrontation and needs to feel liked; can gossip to remain ‘in the loop’
  • Overly-concerned with professional image and credibility; may see prospecting as demeaning and unnecessary; doesn’t listen; may talk over people; needs to be seen as better than average

The good news
The good news is that prospecting hesitations and fears can be overcome and unlearnt, thus freeing people to prospect in a consistent and confident manner. Whether you identify prospecting hesitations and fears via a purpose built assessment or your own observations, the first step is to recognise and acknowledge if prospecting hesitation and Call Reluctance® is holding your or your sales team hostage.

The second step is to put in place strategies to eliminate these unhelpful attitudes and behaviours. This can be done by giving people access to effective prospecting skills training that shows how to confidently and competently prospect in a professional manner. If hesitation or fear still persists, then we suggest that you invest in training and coaching that gives people insight into their specific prospecting hesitations and access to well researched, behavioural changes strategies that can be applied to overcomes these specific types of fears.

Prospecting hesitation is preventable so watch who you let near your mind.

PS Don’t forget to complete the Barrett poll on The 12 Sales Trends of 2010. We want to know what you think will be the number one sales trend in 2010.

We will publish the results of the most important Sales Trends for 2010 in January. Make sure you are subscribed to our blog to receive in depth articles on The 12 Sales Trends of 2010, starting in January with the No. 1 trend as voted by you our readers.

Remember: Everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett is Founder & Managing Director of BARRETT