Overcoming Anxiety in Sales: 9 Tips to Conquer Sales Call Reluctance



Overcoming anxiety in sales is something that most reps deal with in their life. Dial dread. Sales call reluctance. It happens to the best of us, including reps who regularly find themselves at the top of the leaderboard. According to The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, 80% of new reps fail and 40% of veteran reps will stop prospecting due to sales anxiety like dial dread.

What is Sales Call Reluctance?

Regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry or how much revenue you’ve closed, sales call reluctance (aka Dial Dread) is a common challenge – and it doesn’t necessarily look the same from person to person.

For some, sales call reluctance is a very physical reaction. Reps experience anxiety and symptoms like headaches, sweaty palms, and/or a sinking feeling in their stomach. These symptoms can be triggered by arriving at their desk, putting on their headset, or opening the dialer software.

In other cases, call reluctance is more of a mental block. Reps find themselves having a negative internal dialogue –”What if they think I’m a bother?” “No one wants to talk to me.” “I can’t sell this.” The mental blocks may also take the form of avoiding sales conversations with specific people such as friends, family, or network connections.

In more severe cases of sales call reluctance, reps may be secretly ashamed of their role as a salesperson. This can stem from stereotypes that salespeople are manipulative or greedy and sometimes is the result of how the company views and treats the sales team.

Sales leaders and managers need to know how to spot call reluctance early on and help reps in overcoming anxiety in sales, so they get back on the phones faster.

9 Ways to Help Reps Overcome Anxiety in Sales

1. Build a Positive Environment

Sales call reluctance can be a symptom of a greater problem–a bad sales floor environment. If your sales floor is quiet and has an air of doom and gloom, of course reps are going to be anxious about picking up the phone.

Sometimes reps move from friendly-natured competition to nasty competitive attitudes which undercut positive, productive cultures.

Over-reliance on email can turn the buzz of your sales floor into the clack-clack-clack of keyboards you’d normally find where your software development team sits. If your team defaults to emails instead of calls, have them watch this video from Art Sobczak on why they should just place the call.

Say what you will about open offices, but with the right sales culture, an open environment helps reps dial more often. Hearing their peers dialing and having conversations will drive many reps to do the same because their motivation lies in outperforming their peers.

If an open office isn’t in the cards, or most of your team is turned off by being overheard all the time, consider building phone booths. These may look like individual offices, cubicles, or even literal phone booths reps can step into to make dials or take personal calls.

2. Give Your Reps the Tools & Skills They Need to Succeed

Reps that are confident in their selling abilities have a much easier time picking up the phone. Yet most reps don’t feel like they have a game plan for how to conduct their calls. Give your team the tools and skills they need to sell your products or services like sales playbooks, call blueprints, battle cards, and a library of the best calls to emulate. If you do your reps will find ways to move past an episode of sales call reluctance.

For reps who aren’t getting on calls because they’re afraid of getting tongue-tied or forgetting key points, give them talking points to follow. Call script effectiveness is heavily debated: on one hand, reps need a guide to follow, but on the other, you don’t want your reps to read the script like a paragraph. This is a great little trick to overcoming anxiety in sales!

The solution is sets of 3-4 bullet points under each themed talking point. As reps build or regain their confidence, they’ll rely on these talking points less and less because they understand what “good” looks and sounds like.

If low confidence is the source of sales call reluctance, encourage your reps to borrow a page from one of our favorite clients. This rep felt herself sliding into a pool of doubt and dial dread. She took action and listened to her best calls every morning to start off on the right foot. Doing this helped her get her mojo back and pushed her right back to the top of the leaderboard.

3. Dial Early & Schedule Power Hours

Every rep has their preferred daily schedule of when they’ll research, prospect, dial, etc. The problem with call reluctance is reps will often put off dialing until later in the day… and then they leave for the day after maybe hitting the absolute minimum dial goal.

What do most reps do to start their day? Check email. Shake things up by encouraging reps to dial first thing in the morning. Make a pact as a team to keep your emails closed and only open it AFTER they’ve made 20 dials to start the day. Then get a cup of coffee and check email as a reward for hitting the phones.

Power hours are another effective method to help overcome sales call reluctance. Schedule them before lunch, but give your reps an hour or two to get other tasks out of the way. That way they can focus solely on dialing during the mandated time frame.

4. Embrace Rejection

When call reluctance stems from a fear of rejection, show the rep how they can embrace every “no”. The easiest way to do this is through SPIFFs where the goal is getting as many ‘no’s as possible. This goal can be structured a number of ways depending on what you declare counts as a ‘no’. For example, a gatekeeper saying the prospect is busy could be worth 1 point, but a ‘no’ to the meeting directly from the prospect could earn 3 points.

The great part about encouraging reps to embrace rejection is that it helps with overcoming anxiety in sales by turning a negative into a positive. To get points on the board, they’ll HAVE to dial and have the conversations they’ve been avoiding.

5. Teach Reps the Art of Power Posing

If your sales trainer told you to stand up during calls, it’s for a good reason. Watch this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy on how body language shapes who we are.

TL;DW–It turns out that you can dramatically increase your confidence simply by making yourself bigger. This is real science involving measurement of hormones like cortisol.

Give it a shot before your next sales call or public speaking engagement (all hands meetings included!).

6. Somebody to Lean On

One of the key factors for a successful coaching culture is to leverage your top performers and peer-to-peer coaching. It’s also an instrumental tool in helping reps overcome sales call reluctance and dial dread.

Studies show that you’re often more receptive to your peers than leaders. Reps experiencing sales call reluctance should hear from veteran reps about their own experiences overcoming anxiety in sales.

Best practice and trainwreck call libraries are some other great tools to help conquer call reluctance. Reps can listen to calls from peers past and present to help them learn specific skills such as objection handling and discovery. They can also listen to the trainwreck calls where their peers KNOW a call was absolutely terrible. This exemplifies that it’s okay to fail and you can recover from any bad call.

7. Measure Outcomes and Activities

Sales call reluctance can often be the result of reps becoming overwhelmed by the targets they need to hit. It becomes even more overwhelming if they cannot connect their activities like making dials to outcomes such as scheduled meetings and winning deals.

As a sales leader, you need to be measuring your teams’ activities and outcomes. Taking it further, reps should be able to calculate exactly how many dials and conversations they need to complete to hit their number.

Reps should understand the why behind their targets. If you arbitrarily set a dial goal of 200 without explaining how that number achieves a specific outcome (i.e. conversion rate of dials-to-conversations), then reps will view it as just that: an arbitrary number.

Measuring activities and outcomes will also help reps with overcoming anxiety in sales by revealing where they’re succeeding. If a rep sees that despite low dials they have a good conversion rate, use that to help motivate them.

8. Walk the Walk & Talk the Talk

Want to build huge morale with your team? Get on the floor with them. Make calls yourself. Show them that you’re still ready to make dials with fearless abandon.

Reps experiencing sales call reluctance may believe or convince themselves that senior leadership has no clue how hard their role is. When you dial side-by-side with the team, you’re showing them you understand what their day to day is like.

If your current leadership role does not have you dialing regularly, your reps will probably see you falter and fail. This is HUGE because a) it shows your team that it’s okay to fail and b) it humanizes you as a leader.

9. Practice, Practice, Practice

Remove the pressure of making calls to strangers by practicing with friends and family. Cold call someone you keep meaning to catch up with. Dial mom and tell her about work, then pitch your product to her–this will absolutely help with overcoming anxiety in sales.

Practicing outside of the office helps you in two ways: it removes the awkwardness of talking to strangers and forces you to explain things in laypeople’s terms. Your friends and family want to see you succeed and most will be more than willing to help you overcome sales call reluctance.

What are your dial dread stories? Share them in the comments–you never know how your story could help someone overcome sales call reluctance.