Overcoming the Fear of Prospecting

An all-too-common occurrence in our industry is the fear of making telephone calls. It is a telling paradox in that the telephone is the primary tool of our profession. When I started as a stockbroker in 1980, I experienced major call reluctance. Night after night I sat on my couch with a knot in my stomach anticipating another agonizing day of wrestling with my fear of making phone calls. Over the next couple of years I learned to look at the telephone as a tool. As a result my fear softened, my confidence grew, and the knot disappeared.

When we bring the telephone into its proper perspective, we can see it as a powerful and reliable tool. In its simplicity, it is one-dimensional without lights, camera or special effects. You have your words and the tone of your voice to create pictures in the mind of the listener. We all know the listener can present us with uncertainty and complexity. Once our reluctance of using the telephone is transformed, these challenges are manageable through the acquisition of an array of skills that I'll share with you.

One of the cornerstones of transforming call reluctance is preparation. We've all found ourselves on phone calls, lost in no man's land because we were not prepared. The client hears hesitation, discomfort, a shaky voice, and perhaps a less than smooth attempt to right the ship. If we string several of these calls together, our confidence can falter and our reluctance to make the next call deepens.

Call preparation is only one key component of mastering the telephone. There is a toolbox of skills that we all need to become more effective and confident at our profession. The reasons for call reluctance can be complex and diverse. We could have childhood training such as "don't speak to strangers" that influence our fears today. A fear of rejection and other negative possibilities might haunt us to varying degrees. It is no wonder so many sales people experience call reluctance. Shannon Goodson and George Dudley, in their book The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, surveyed 11,000 sales people. They found that 80% of all new sales people failed because of call reluctance. As we can clearly see from this statistic, overcoming the fear of prospecting is paramount to a successful and prosperous career as a producer.

Although it may be important for some to uncover the reasons for their fears, it is far more crucial to discover and integrate the tools to effectively overcome the fear of prospecting, the fear of picking up the phone. My intention is to sharpen the focus on what you can do about mastering the telephone call.

First, I'd like you to make a list of all the negative things that can or will happen from picking up the phone. Spend some time with this exercise. The voice of fear inside each of us may have many tales to tell and some of them are slow to surface. The purpose of this list is not to stand in judgment of our anxieties. Instead it is meant to act as a mirror for us to clearly see the inner forces that impact our lives. If we do not honestly evaluate our shortcomings, they will rule us. Here are some examples of negative things we may fear:

  1. The prospect will say no when I ask for the business.
  2. The prospect will hang up on me before I can get started.
  3. The prospect will get angry with me for bothering them.
  4. The prospect will swear or be rude to me.

Having made over 250,000 phone calls as a producer, I have experienced all of these anxiety-producing possibilities. None of them are fun but each of them can be seen in a different light. The beauty of the telephone is there is distance between you and the prospect. Regardless how threatening it might get, they can't reach through the phone. Although these possibilities can be hard on the ego, you can give yourself the necessary space to recover, regroup, and prepare for the next call.

Next, I would like you to make a list of the positive things that will happen from picking up the telephone. If you feel some difficulty making a list of positive outcomes, this may point to the very reluctance I'm talking about. Your fears may be blocking your ability to envision the results you want. Here are some possibilities that will make for a different experience:

  1. The prospect says yes.
  2. The prospect doesn't hang up on you.
  3. The prospect is open to you helping solve their problem.
  4. The prospect tells a friend about you.
  5. The prospect becomes a friend.
  6. The prospect is open to a future contact.
  7. The prospect pays you for your services.

There is a tendency at times to focus on the negatives. We've all been there before. Let's use this day as an opportunity to change our focus. If you had a cure for a disease, how many patients with that disease would you call? The answer is obvious. Do you believe you have the cure for the financial ills of your fellow Americans? We live in the richest country in the world and yet most people are broke by age 65. You have an opportunity each day to bring your clients a measure of comfort and security by solving important financial problems like these:

  1. Disability Income planning
  2. Long-term care
  3. Retirement planning
  4. Education planning
  5. Estate planning
  6. Wealth preservation
  7. Legacy

If you are effective, consistent, and confident on the telephone, you will ensure the well being and security of your clients and your personal success and mastery as well.

Overcoming the fear of prospecting can be a difficult task but it is not impossible. It requires determination. Facing the possibility of rejection, of difficult clients, of overcoming objections, is easier to bear if your reason for showing up each day is firmly set. Dig deep and search for that reason. Without it, life often feels like paddling a canoe up stream. It is really, really hard work. Once you find that purpose it's like turning your canoe around, putting the paddles inside and going with the flow of the stream. It is this wisdom that brings a sense of ease to challenges that life offers.

My parting thought to you is every time you pick up the phone you have an opportunity to improve your skill. Each time you improve your skill you become more confident. Confidence is a force of attraction. People are attracted to and want to do business with people that are confident.

Experts Corner - Steve Kloyda

Steve Kloyda
About the Author

Steve is The Prospecting Expert. Since he made his start in 1980, the face of the sales profession has changed dramatically. With the Internet as a driving force, Steve has weaved new technologies into a comprehensive sales and prospecting system. Email, text messaging, voicemail, telephone, video, and Social Networking are the essential tools that Steve brings to each sales person and business. The goal is to formulate and communicate their unique message in order to connect with and engage today’s target audiences.

Steve’s motivation, insights, and down-to-earth strategies provide a powerful learning experience for all. His mission is to lead, teach, and inspire salespeople to apply timeless principles which produce life-changing results.
Since 1980, Steve has made over 250,000 telephone calls. He has listened to and analyzed more than 25,000 sales calls and has personally facilitated over 6,000 coaching sessions.

For more information about Steve Kloyda & The Prospecting Expert visit www.TheProspectingExpertBlog.com or email him at Steve@TheProspectingExpert.com