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Posted on Sun, Oct 7, 2012 : 6 a.m.

An Rx for call reluctance

By Greg Peters


Photo by stock.xchng user rubenshito

It may not be contagious like the common cold, but it seems like everyone catches it sooner or later.

In the Sandler Sales training I received from Joe Marr, I learned about a concept called "call reluctance." Basically, it was the tendency for the phone handset suddenly to weigh 50 pounds when it came time to make cold calls. Of course, I never did really do that. One of the nice things about having a good network is that cold calls become largely unnecessary.

I find it interesting, though, that even networkers can develop a form of call reluctance when it comes to following up on referrals. For some reason, even the warmest of warm calls brings on a state of anxiety, and their response is to ignore the opportunity until it turns cold.

And then they complain that they never get any good referrals.

So, what are some of the underlying "illnesses" which exhibit the call reluctance symptom and what prescription do we need to cure these maladies?

  • Stranger syndrome. For whatever reason, we still hear our mom in the back of our head saying, "Never talk to strangers." For us, every call to someone we don't know is a cold call. It doesn't matter if our contact told us that they are ready to sign a contract with us. We still don't know them and we would rather lose a contract than take the chance when we call of them saying, "Who are you again?"
    Cure: Get an introduction. Ask your referral source if they would be willing to make an introduction. Of course an introduction in person is best, but even an "e-introduction" is better than nothing.
  • Imposition-itis. We really don't want to be a bother. Calling them up out of the blue runs the risk that they may be busy in that moment. Then we feel guilty for bothering them. They probably will have a negative opinion of us from the start which will forever taint this possible relationship. Much better to avoid the whole situation by not calling at all.
    Cure: Schedule the call. Drop them an email and ask for a time when it would be most convenient for you to call.
  • Sales sickness. We've received a referral where we know that they really need to buy our widgets. In fact, they know it, too, and that's why they want us to call. Still, it feels like we are making an assumption by calling them up and basically asking for their credit card number. Maybe we should just wait by the phone for them to call.
    Cure: While it's certainly possible that they might call us, it's also possible that they might call one of our competitors. So, make the call. Instead of presenting yourself as a salesperson, though (which makes it feel a lot like begging), instead put yourself forth as an advisor. "Bob told me to call you because he said you might have some questions about widget buying. How can I help?" If they aren't immediately on the market, they will appreciate your offer to help. If they are on the market, they'll probably let you know in short order.
  • Alignment aphasia. While we really do appreciate the effort our networking connection has made to make the referral, from the sound of it, it might not really be appropriate for us. That being the case, there's no real reason to call.
    Cure: Wrong. There are lots of good reasons to call. Your friend may not have given you the right information. This can happen a lot with technical jobs. Even if the referral isn't right for you, you may know someone for whom it is the right referral. If that's the case, you get to help three people, the person who gave the referral, the person to whom they referred you, and the person to whom you introduce them. Also, if it isn't a good referral for you, this is a chance to better educate your referral partner so it's more likely they will pass you better possibilities in the future.

Remember, the main reason you have a network is to put you in contact with opportunities which will lead to greater success in your personal and professional life. If you ignore the referrals you receive, the situation will correct itself — you just won't receive any more. So take the time to make contact.

The worst that can happen is you'll make a few new friends.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to