Sales Performance

Understanding Sales Call Reluctance and How to Overcome It

What is sales call reluctance and how can you overcome it as a salesperson?

We’ve all been there. You’re about to pick up the phone to dial the next number and reach out to a warm lead -- and then it hits you: A wave of uncertainty and a million different “what-ifs” begin playing in your mind. As this anxiety continues to wash over you, you notice the other salespeople making calls, smiling, and having a wonderful time interacting with their customers.

“How does it come so easily to them?” you ask yourself. Rather than just sitting there and nervously clutching your phone, you decide that, instead of making calls, you should probably go through your CRM one more time to triple-check that all of your contact information is up to date on your leads.

Deep down, you know you should be making calls, but this overwhelming anxiety feels like it’s too much to overcome.

"By understanding the primary factors that fuel your call reluctance, you’re much better equipped to overcome it." Tweet

What you’re experiencing in these moments is known as “call reluctance,” a very common, but potentially very career-damaging inhibition that affects many people within the sales profession.

And while call reluctance can feel indomitable, many salespeople just like you have overcome it by understanding its root causes and building a strategy to confidently reach out to customers, authentically connect, and begin building trust-based relationships.

What Causes Sales Call Reluctance?

The root causes of call reluctance vary from salesperson to salesperson, but it often stems from a few common sources. And when you understand the primary factors that fuel your call reluctance, you’re much better equipped to overcome it.

You have a natural fear of rejection.

As humans, we are inherently wired to pursue positive social interactions, group acceptance, and a knowing that we’re contributing to the group. But when we’re rejected -- be it by a customer, prospect, or fellow salesperson -- our biological fear response kicks in and screams at us that we’re of little worth and that we should retreat from the situation.

On a cognitive level, we’re terrified that rejection and the subsequent biological response that we’re feeling are confirming our deepest fears: That we’re bad at sales and are destined to fail.

These thoughts and feelings, working in conjunction with our body’s biological responses, create a toxic brew of panic. And naturally, we want to avoid experiencing these uncomfortable stimuli ever again, making the thought of picking up the phone an anxiety-inducing episode each time.

You’re not properly qualifying your leads.

One of the core tenets of ethical, customer-first sales is recognizing that your role as a salesperson is that of a trusted advisor, and that you are ultimately there to help your customers solve their problems.

However, if you’re not performing the due diligence to first pre-qualify that your product or service is a good fit for your prospect, then you’re doing a disservice to all parties involved. Your prospect could be wasting their time with a product that isn’t of use to them, and you’re expending time and effort that doesn’t result in prospect’s problem being solved.

Placing yourself before prospects that haven’t been properly pre-qualified greatly increases the likelihood of you being rejected, further reinforcing any negative thoughts and feelings you have concerning your ability to sell effectively.

You don’t have a thorough understanding of the value of your product or service.

A deep and up-to-date knowledge of your organization’s products or services is absolutely crucial.

Without it, you’re left looking unknowledgeable should your customers or prospects have a more nuanced question concerning how your offerings might be of use to them. This increases the chances of you being rejected, compounding the existing negative feelings that are fueling your call reluctance.

Additionally, you lack the ability to determine whether or not your product is the correct fit for your prospects’ needs. This greatly hinders your ability to properly qualify your leads, potentially creating more instances of you being rejected by those who don’t truly have a need for your product or service.

You haven’t practiced enough.

As you gain experience selling, you’ll naturally encounter similar questions, concerns, and problems among your customers and prospects. Additionally, you’ll also begin to get a feel for the different personality types that might be common in your industry.

From these experiences, you gain confidence when navigating similar discussions in the future. These interactions also help reveal where your product or industry knowledge may be lacking, which helps better prepare you to assist customers in solving tough challenges or questions later on.

But if you’re just starting out, or if you’ve let call reluctance take a firm root for too long, you’ll find yourself lacking practice and being out of step with your customers’ problems, needs, and expectations, which can lead to higher rates of rejection.

Every salesperson struggles with call reluctance at some point. Our trainers and coaches can help your or your team overcome it, generate higher sales, and build customer loyalty.

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What Are the Signs of Sales Call Reluctance?

Sales call reluctance can manifest itself in a number of detrimental behaviors that, on the surface, may not seem related to your issues with call reluctance at all. By understanding what these behaviors are and how they’re further compounding your problems, you can more effectively chart a course for personal and professional improvement.

Frequent procrastination

Whenever thinking about a certain task fills us with dread, it’s common to feel the urge to procrastinate and put it off until tomorrow.

And procrastination can masquerade as tasks that seem related to our work, such as visiting email or social media sites for messages from prospects, or double-checking CRM information when we should be making sales calls.

But these tasks, when performed during the times when we should be committed to making our sales calls, only hinder us from getting our real work done and ultimately serve to only compound our problems.

If left unchecked, procrastination can erode the trust you’ve built with customers and the lines of communication you’ve established with prospects, turning warm leads ice cold and evaporating your customer’s faith in your ability to help them.

Over-preparing before your calls

Preparing for your sales calls and properly qualifying prospects is an important aspect of selling. Researching your prospect’s needs, stresses, and other important information ahead of time certainly helps your prospects feel as ease during your call and allows you to more readily address the issues that matter most to them.

However, if you perpetually feel underprepared for your sales calls even after doing all of the necessary research, and you find yourself dedicating more time to preparation than to actually making contact with your prospects and customers, then you’re likely falling into a common form of procrastination known as “overpreparation.”

Though important, your preparation can never guarantee that a call will go perfectly, nor will it ever be able to yield the same amount of information that you could glean by building trust-based relationships with your prospects. And those relationships can only begin to grow if there’s authentic, person-to-person communication.

Feeling ashamed of being in sales

“Sales” and “salesperson” are dirty words for some. Just the mention of them can conjure images of manipulative, pushy salespeople and memories of poor customer service experiences.

And these feelings and memories can stay with a person even when they themselves enter into a sales position, causing them to feel like they’ve become the underhanded salesperson that they always dreaded encountering.

With these feelings always at the forefront of their mind, a salesperson who feels ashamed of their role often gravitates away from their responsibility to follow up with their existing customers and contact new prospects.

Not asking for referrals

A happy customer’s word-of-mouth referral is one of the most effective forms of customer acquisition that exists. It helps you generate more sales and your customer is happy that they got to connect their friend or associate to your helpful service.

But if the thought of having another prospect to call fills you with a sense of dread or you’re actively refusing referrals to avoid interactions with prospects, then that’s a surefire sign that your sales call reluctance needs to be corrected before it irreparably damages your customer relationships.

Always anticipating the worst case scenario

It’s true. Sales calls aren’t always easy.

You may have to break bad news to your customer or inform them that you’re unable to help them with the problems that they’re facing. And these types of calls can understandably get heated as the customer now has to deal with yet another problem.

But if you’re finding yourself paralyzed by an endless string of “what-ifs” and you’re stuck in a cycle of thinking about what could go wrong with each call, then that’s a clear sign of call reluctance that you need help with correcting.

How Can Sales Call Reluctance Affect Your Sales Career?

Though sales call reluctance is quite common, it can quickly become a formidable obstacle in your career if you don’t seek out help and take the necessary steps to overcome it.

You significantly damage your potential sales performance.

If you’re hesitant to pick up the phone and make authentic connections with your customers and prospects, your problems will only compound over time.

Feeling abandoned, your customers and prospects will have a difficult time trusting you or the efficacy of the products or service you’re offering. Naturally, they will be far less likely to do business with you, leading to significantly reduced sales.

Additionally, your leads will cool down and eventually begin to dry up completely as you allow these connection opportunities to continually pass you by.

Ultimately, this all leads to an overall decrease in your sales performance and a drastic shrinking of your ability to perform in your role as a salesperson.

You may be passed up for advancement opportunities.

No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re not able to produce a clear and consistent history of achievement, you’re far less likely to be considered when a potential advancement opportunity becomes available.

You may be terminated from your company.

Sales call reluctance significantly deteriorates every aspect of your sales performance and your ability to connect with prospects and existing customers alike.

If left uncorrected, this consistent decline in performance won’t go unnoticed, potentially leading to your employment being terminated.

Sales call reluctance is a normal hurdle in every salesperson’s career. Let’s work together to get you back on track toward higher sales and happier customers.

Overcome Your Call Reluctance

How Salespeople Can Overcome Call Reluctance

Sales reluctance, as we’ve learned so far, can take root due to a multitude of reasons; however, insecurity -- in one form or another -- always plays a leading role in the development of this aversion to rejection.

Equipped with the knowledge that some form of insecurity is at the root of most forms of call reluctance, and that regardless of how we feel, the only true cure for call reluctance is to confront our aversion head-on, we can develop a strategy for overcoming it.

1. Remind yourself that you’re a problem-solver and a partner.

Many people -- including some salespeople -- see the term “salesperson” and immediately conjure images of dishonest charlatans and other manipulative characters. This is a fairly common experience among newer salespeople and is a leading cause of many cases of call reluctance.

It’s imperative to remind yourself of your true role as a salesperson. Your role is that of a helper, trusted partner, and problem-solver for your customers and prospects.

If you’re going into your calls with the mindset of landing a sale by whatever means necessary, then you’ve already lost and absolutely must correct your course if you expect to find success in the sales industry.

Before each prospect interaction, remind yourself of your true purpose. You are there to be a trusted friend and partner to this person whom you’re about to contact. You are there to help them overcome the challenges and stressors facing them or their business and give them honest, helpful, and actionable insight to address those problems together.

2. Achieve and maintain a deep knowledge of your products or services.

Understanding your company’s products or services doesn’t just allow you to answer prospects’ questions more easily. It also enables you to put forth the heart and mind of servanthood that you must have if you expect to serve your customers ethically.

Having this thorough understanding allows you to realize exactly how you’re helping people, businesses, or whomever your target audience is. You’re able to see first-hand the problems that your customers have, what stresses come from those problems, and how you are uniquely equipped to help solve those problems and continue being a partner for your customers as their success grows.

This instills within you a deep-rooted belief in your products or services and how they bring real help to people in need.

By truly believing in what you sell, you’re able to cast off any feelings of shame you may have had concerning your being a salesperson and you can now work confidently toward helping your customers solve their problems.

3. Pre-qualify each of your sales prospects.

Qualifying a prospect isn’t just sound sales practice -- it also helps put you into the correct mindset of being a trusted partner and helper. While your industry or organization’s qualification process may vary, the heart of qualifying a prospect lies in answering 4 key questions:

  • Do they need what I’m selling?

  • Are they a decision maker?

  • Can they afford what I’m selling?

  • Who would I likely be competing with?

Knowing the answers to these questions, coupled with selling from the mindset that your purpose is to be a problem-solver, will help bolster your confidence going in to your calls.

4. Remove distractions from your physical and digital workspace.

Overcoming your call reluctance will require you to come face to face with the stressful stimuli that you’ve conditioned yourself to avoid.

And, as humans, when we know we have to confront an uncomfortable feeling or action, it makes distractions -- like checking Facebook one more time -- all the more enticing. Knowing this, it’s important that we remove the stumbling blocks from our path before we set out to overcome our call reluctance.

On your desk or workspace, clear everything that’s not relevant to the calls you’re making. By clearing your physical workspace, you free yourself from being affected by outside stimuli that don’t pertain to your sales calls, allowing you to focus purely on being a source of trusted insight to your customers and prospects alike.

Digitally speaking, there are a multitude of productivity and distraction-blocking browser extensions and smartphone apps that can help you stay away from websites and apps that can eat up large portions of your day with fruitless distraction.

Find those which work best for you, install them, and commit your computer and phone to purely being a tool which helps you help your customers.

5. Seek guidance from your sales manager.

It’s natural for salespeople to want to avoid contact with their sales manager when they’re having difficulty with call reluctance. After all, it would be foolish to openly admit to their superior that they’re having difficulty doing a key aspect of their job, right?

This line of thinking couldn’t be any further from the truth. Your sales manager is the first person you should be open and honest with when seeking to address your call reluctance.

Your sales manager, in part, is there to be your coach and help you overcome any challenges that might be in your way when it comes to connecting with prospects, building trust-based relationships, and successfully completing sales.

Be open and honest with your sales manager when you breach this subject. Let them know the outcomes that you’re fearing as well as the steps you’ve taken to start addressing this issue.

In most cases, this won’t be your sales manager’s first time helping a salesperson through call reluctance -- and they have likely had to overcome their own call reluctance when they were a fledgling salesperson!

Being the first to bring this issue to their attention doesn’t demonstrate weakness or inability. Quite to the contrary, this shows your sales manager that you’re committed to improving yourself and, together, you can create an actionable and realistic set of goals to help you overcome your call reluctance.

6. Track your progress after each call.

Before you begin your calls for the day, prepare a spreadsheet or notebook where you can track your progress toward overcoming your sales call reluctance.

In your spreadsheet or notebook, keep a record of the following:

  • Did I meet my goal for the call?

  • What went well?

  • What would I do differently if I did the call over?

  • What is the next step?

By keeping a record of your calls, you provide yourself with concrete proof that you are capable of pushing through your feelings of fear and dread in order to accomplish your goals.

Additionally, it empowers you to continually improve after each all, correcting weaknesses as you continue through your call list, thereby making each call less intimidating.

Be sure to review this list with your sales manager or professional sales coach. During your time together, don’t be afraid to ask any tough questions that arose from your latest call sessions. This is your opportunity to take the hurdles you’ve encountered, learn from them, and turn them into actionable tools you can use to become a better, more confident salesperson.

7. Get professional sales coaching.

When working with a professional SalesEthics coach, you gain the immense benefit of having a seasoned sales expert provide you with the insight and tools you need to overcome your call reluctance -- all from an objective and unbiased perspective.

Working closely together and reviewing every call, our sales coaches can help you understand the exact nature of your call reluctance and create a step-by-step strategy that empowers you with the tools you need to conquer it.

Even if your sales calls or in-person customer visits begin at 5:00AM, we’re right there beside you and helping you build stronger customer relationships every step of the way.

Together, we can help you overcome sales call reluctance, feel relaxed and confident with your customers and prospects, and achieve higher sales.

Schedule a Free Consultation

Conclusion: Understanding and Overcoming Your Sales Call Reluctance

Throughout this deep dive into understanding sales call reluctance and how to overcome it, we’ve learned:

  • Sales call reluctance is largely caused by:

    1. A fear of rejection

    2. A lack of proper preparation

    3. Not having the correct mindset about your role as a salesperson

  • The signs of sales call reluctance are:

    1. Frequent procrastination

    2. Over-preparing for your sales calls

    3. Feeling ashamed of being in sales

    4. Not asking for referrals

    5. Always anticipating the worst case scenario

  • Ignoring your sales call reluctance can lead to:

    1. A significant decrease in sales performance

    2. Being passed up for advancement opportunities

    3. Being terminated from your sales position

  • Overcoming sales call reluctance can be accomplished by:

    1. Recognizing that your purpose is to serve your customers by being their trusted partner and problem-solver

    2. Maintaining a thorough knowledge of your products or services

    3. Properly qualifying your sales prospects

    4. Removing digital and physical distractions from your workspace

    5. Seeking guidance from your sales manager

    6. Tracking your progress after every call

    7. Getting professional sales coaching

Call reluctance is rooted in natural human emotion and it’s a part of nearly every salesperson’s journey -- especially when they’re first starting out. What’s important to remember is that you do possess the ability to understand the nature of your call reluctance and develop a plan for success.

What are your experiences with sales call reluctance? Are there any helpful tips that you wish you knew when you were struggling with it? We always love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Belschak, F. “Coping With Sales Call Anxiety: The Role of Sale Perseverance and Task Concentration Strategies.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, vol. 34, no. 3, Jan. 2006, pp. 403–418., doi:10.1177/0092070306286535.
  2. Kemp, Elyria, et al. “Managing Emotions in Personal Selling: Examining the Role of Emotion Regulation Strategy in Salespeople.” Journal of Selling & Major Account Management, 2012, pp. 18–29.
  3. Silver, Lawrence S., et al. “Learning and Performance Goal Orientation of Salespeople Revisited: The Role of Performance-Approach and Performance-Avoidance Orientations.” Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, vol. 26, no. 1, 2006, pp. 27–38., doi:10.2753/pss0885-3134260103.
  4. Verbeke, Willem, and Richard P. Bagozzi. “Sales Call Anxiety: Exploring What It Means When Fear Rules a Sales Encounter.” Journal of Marketing, vol. 64, no. 3, 2000, pp. 88–101., doi:10.1509/jmkg.
  5. Voordt, Theo J.m. Van Der. “Productivity and Employee Satisfaction in Flexible Workplaces.” Journal of Corporate Real Estate, vol. 6, no. 2, 2004, pp. 133–148., doi:10.1108/14630010410812306.

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