10 Reasons Salespeople are Afraid to pick up the phone


"Have you made your phone calls yet?" It's a phrase that makes most salespeople cringe. Mishandled phone calls cost you business that you can't afford to throw away. I've trained hundreds of salespeople on phone handling skills and I've compiled a list of the top 10 reasons they weren't excited to pick up the phone. Check it out.


I can still remember my first "phone up". I was a 25 year-old sales recruiter "green pea" sitting in a bullpen-style conference room, facing a wall, unarmed and dangerous on the phone. Not dangerous like an assassin, but dangerous like a liability.


I had no scripts, no word tracks, no direction. I picked up the phone, I fumbled through the questions and once the customer heard enough, they hung up on me. A 20 year sales veteran slid a piece of paper out of his binder and handed it to me. It was a flowchart of scripts that he had used for the past 20 years. I thought "wow, this makes everything easy", then I realized I still wasn't ready. No matter how closely I followed the script, the customers didn't. Now what? I just stopped answering those pages for a "sales call" and refused to call my prospects. I was terrified of the phone. Why was I afraid and why are salespeople today still afraid of the phone, even if they have one in their hand 98% of the time? It is exactly the same as in the dealership sales world as it is in my business (selling services)


1.) Because they haven't been trained. Say what? You mean it's not because they're millennials and they don't know how to communicate? Nope, you haven't trained them. It doesn't matter if they're 19 or 49. An untrained salesperson on the phone is a liability. Training isn't throwing them a book of scripts or printing out a flowchart. Training is role playing, listening to their calls and coaching them through those "hard moments".


2.) They're afraid of rejection. Remember the sweaty palms you got when you asked someone out for a first date or the nerves you had before you took your driver's test? They feel that same feeling every time they think about getting on the phone with a customer. Encourage them. Rome wasn't built overnight and they won't be a phone rock-star overnight either. This will take time and commitment.


3.) They are trying to use scripts. Scripts are cool, but what happens when a customer doesn't follow the script? Role-playing and repetition develops phone skills. Train on word tracks versus scripts. Word tracks can be used during any conversation and will help redirect that conversation in the right direction. Remember the acronym ABC? Always Be Closing.


4.) You don't make phone calls. Remember Mr. Miyagi? He said “Never trust spiritual leader who cannot dance.” Can you do the dance? Using the phone as a tool to generate income needs to be part of your culture. You need to be bought in before you expect your salespeople to be. Encourage them to watch or at least listen to you on the phone.


5.) They aren't armed with enough information to feel confident. A friend of mine in the automotive business recalled to me. I remember when I started in sales and a sales manager would ask me to call a customer that previously walked out on a deal. They'd yell at me across the showroom and say "Just so you know... I'm all in! See if they changed their mind." So, you know how those calls went? "Hey uh... this is Seana checking in with you. Have you decided on the new Camry yet?" The customer would tell me we are still too far apart on the price. I had no power to negotiate over the phone, so I would just say "Ok let me talk to my manager." What did my manager say? "Get 'em back in" So now what did I do? I called them back, fumbled through trying to make an appointment because I refused to give them the information they asked for and I'll probably avoid calling that customer again in the future because I feel like I have nothing to call about. Wasted opportunity for the company. Customers now know they don't need to step foot on a sales floor to get information. It's time you realize either they'll get it from you or someone else. Coach your salespeople through these phone calls and offer to take a T.O. if they can't convert the customer.


6.) They don't have relevant information to deliver. Stop telling salespeople to call and "check in" on their customers. With a 14% nationwide connection rate, they're leaving a bunch of dorky voicemails just "checking in". Newsflash - customers don't want you to check in on them and they won't call you back to tell you about their weekend or their day at work. Deliver relevant content.


7.) They haven't been asked to use the phone. Us humans are creatures of habit. If we've done things the same way for 10 years, chances are, it's going to be hard to change us. Like stated above, using the phone to generate income has to become part of your culture. Typically, a new leader comes in, expects everyone to be gurus on the phone because they're a good salesperson when they're face to face with a customer. Some of the best salespeople I've met in my career are awful on the phone. Some of the best people I've heard on the phone can't close a wet paper bag when it's in front of them. Set expectations and understand habits don't form overnight. Inspect what you expect as you implement the "phone culture" in your organization.


8.) They're not prepared. Make sure your salespeople are set up for success. They should have access to resources to answer sales questions, as well as access to their CRM to start recording all of the data from wherever they're answering or making calls. The odds are against you if you always have to call a prospect back with more information.


9.) They don't see the value. This goes back to culture again. If a salesperson has repeatedly failed on the phone, they'll run from it and think it's a waste of their time. They'll stand outside on black asphalt in 100 degree weather waiting for a prospect instead of kicking their feet up in the AC and dialing. Give them the tools to be successful on the phone and help them realize the potential. Make sure they know WHO to call and what message to deliver to them. Calling dead leads from 5 years ago will drain anyone's morale.


10.) They have poor time management skills. "Green pea" nineteen year old Seana was promoted to a "green pea" twenty-two year old manager. By then, she was pretty damn good on the phone and was tasked to hold salespeople accountable for their phone call production. I remember asking a salesperson why he flat out refused to make phone calls. He looked me straight in the eye and told me "I don't have time for that. I need to catch customers on the lot" I remember asking him if he wanted to spend everyday on 120 degree pavement waiting for a customer that may never roll on the lot. I offered to sit with him while he made his calls, he told me he wasn't interested and he walked out of my office. I was a little shaken. The next day, he apologized and told me he didn't like making calls because he thought it was a waste of time. After a few weeks of working on his phone skills, he loved making phone calls. He found a way to be productive and be in charge of his income.


Next time you tell your salespeople to "get on the phone" or get frustrated because they aren't making calls, think about these 10 reasons. Consistency and repetition is key and they'll need your support. Train them to be so good that you'll have to beg them to get off the phone to wait on a walk-in customer. A highly trained salesperson on the phone is an asset and an untrained salesperson on the phone is a pure liability that will cost you opportunities.

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