It’s not uncommon to hear stories or even personally encounter promising sales candidates who crushed it during the interview process, but falter when it comes time to start cold-calling.
They actively pursued you throughout the hiring process, tactfully closed the final interview, and assured you that they possess the mentality of a true hunter. Fast forward to their first week on the job however, and they keep making excuses not to prospect. The team finds out their prized hunter is afraid.
He knows the importance of it, he knows the value it can bring, and he knows its part and parcel of his everyday job. And still, there’s just this psychological firewall that’s always on standby, ready to activate and defend against the chilling fears of cold-calling.
Identify the Triggers
In an attempt to disable the metaphorical firewall in discussion, you have to point out the triggers to his fears. Remove these triggers and you remove the underlying motivations for his defense mechanism to switch on.
Speak with your salesperson and have him verbalize the root problems to his fears. It creates awareness on the problems he encounters and lays the foundation for you and him to begin constructing solutions fitting to him and his circumstances.
Zero in on each of the individual problems he brings up. You don’t want to assume the psychological challenges he faces and cut him off from fully sharing his point of view. Fear is an emotional response so the approach should match the overarching issue. In a conversational context, approach it more like you would a therapy session and less like a classroom lesson.
Understand the Fear Mentality
Emotions aren’t rational, they are the irrational versions of ourselves. Spiders, clowns, and heights; the fear of cold calling is comparable. What you may see as simply talking on the phone with a random stranger, he sees it as TALKING ON THE PHONE WITH A RANDOM STRANGER.
Objective reasoning and rationale aren’t going to get you far. It’s highly likely your salesperson already grasps the irrationalities of his fear towards cold calling. He just can’t overcome it. So push him to face his fears head-on – regardless of the outcome. Your salesperson will learn more from experiencing the irrationalities to his fears than by hearing an explanation on how nonsensical it is.
As Steli Efti, CEO of close.io poignantly puts it in his article on the topic, “Fail with every call! That’s the goal he gives his salespeople who find themselves afraid of the phone; to go out there and fail miserably.
Use a Fun Creative Learning Process
Throw enjoyment and laughter into the mix and you’ll transform the supposedly dreadful activity into a pleasant one. In his article, it’s obvious Steli and his team practices and embraces such an outlook towards helping others overcome their fears of cold calling.
“Start with speaking painfully slow and unenthusiastic”, Steli would say and the team would chime in and ask the frightened sales member to stutter on the next. These instructions to purposely screw up did indeed, make for hilarious phone conversations but at the same time, allow frightened sales members to experience the activity they perceived to be so negative in a surprisingly light-hearted manner.
This simple yet effective method not only enhances the end result of eliminating the negative connotations your salesperson had attached to cold calling. It forms positive associations to failing and diminishes the proportion in which its consequences were viewed. Reframing his mentality towards the activity.
Also, you get bonus points for company culture + + +
Once is Never Enough
This needs no iteration (pun intended!), repetition is key. We are no stranger to the powers of practicing and repeating to further hone and develop our skills. It’s no different with cold-calling.
By repeating, repeating, and repeating it’s only a matter of time before he takes his firewall completely offline!
Extra Tips, Tricks and Techniques to Guide Your Hunters Along
There are plenty of supplementary tactics advocated by seasoned sales professionals that can be taught and coached into your salespeople to help them better conquer their fears.
Some of my favorites come from Brendan Alan Barrett when he was interviewed for the Elevate Pharmacy Virtual Summit on Overcoming the Fear of Selling and Cold-Calling.
8 Ways to Help Salespeople Overcome The Fear of Phone Prospecting:
- Lower the Bar
Help your new sales reps set realistic benchmarks. The mark of a great sales hire is that they hold themselves to a higher standard. If you say make 100 calls a day they’ll set their own target of 200 calls. If you say their closing ration should be around 30%, they’ll set their own goal of 60%.
While that ambition is vital to the long-term performance of salesperson it can also challenge their confidence early on when results are few and far between. When selling for the first time time or selling something new, they won’t have the skills right out of the gate to hit ambitious targets. They need to learn to walk before they can run.
2. Do Away With The Guilt of Interruption
You and your sales team should only be calling on prospects you honestly think you can help with your product or service. The only reason for guilt should come from not trying to serve as many people as you possibly can in a single day, and the only way to be of service is to first get their attention.
To win someones attention your sales team must interrupt prospects from whatever they happen to be focusing on. It’s that simple.
Of course, if you’re targeted in who your team calls on prospects won’t be all that bothered by it. Those who buy will probably even thank you.
3. Take It a Step at a Time
Again – A great sales hire will be ambitious as it is. As a sales leader you want to maintain that motivation, but be careful about over-fueling the fire. It’s your job to ensure that the sales professionals on your team master the very basics of prospecting and your companies sales process. Without solid fundamentals, they’re bound to hit plateaus they cant overcome.
Through your on-boarding of new sales hires keep their long-term performance in mind as opposed to stressing, pressuring, or rushing them to produce short-term gains.
5. Don’t Expect Too Much From a Single Call
Where prospects’ interests lie and what they decide on isn’t within much of your control. You know better than to expect them to readily hop on whatever offering sales reps present. You know to view calls as nothing more than a drop in the bucket of a much larger conversation.
As a manager or business owner, it’s your job to make sure your salespeople know this and that your coaching reflects this reality as well. If they perceive that you expect much more from a single touch, you’re essentially burying your sales reps in rejection and defeat.
Instead, refrain from over coaching. If you’re reviewing calls or coaching them as they make calls live, pick just one or two aspects of the call to critic. Trying to improve on much more at once will overwhelm your new hire.
There will always be more calls and the reps might even self-correct some of their own missteps. Try to focus on the errors that occur consistently rather than harping on outlier mistakes that the reps have only made once in 100 calls.
6. Maintain Focus on Your Order of Objectives
As Brendan explains in the interview, “Five whacks in one spot is more likely to knock over the tree than five whacks randomly around the tree.” If a sales rep hasn’t executed step 2 of your company sales process, they shouldn’t be trying to execute step 4. They need to keep focused, stay the course, and put first-things first. Until the tree falls it doesn’t make much sense to try removing the branches.
By defining your process, being a constant reminder of its phases, and holding reps accountable for its proper execution, you can prevent sales reps from deviating from your sales path. Having salespeople who change lanes mid-conversation and starting to pitch your product before they’ve properly qualified a prospect will only serve to slow the buying process or kill a deal before it even has legs.
7. Encourage Salespeople to Use Notes
When you’re afraid, it’s easy to become flustered. The sale professionals on your team experience the same thing. It’s good for them to have prepared a set of notes (and script) they can refer to as a guide before they start making calls. The biggest advantage of having these materials visually accessible is that it goes a long way in simply calming their nerves.
8. Embrace Your Sales Team’s Setbacks
Rejections are inevitable. Don’t brood over them, just move on. You know that there are elements in cold-calling that are out of your control and the control of your sales team.
It’s all about practice, practice, and more practice. If your salesperson works hard and works smart, these principles will naturally be ingrained into their systems.
Practice, Practice, Practice The Real Thing
As important as it is to show your sales reps the insignificance of their fears through actual cold-calling experience, their level of core competency plays a huge role in overcoming fear. 1-on-1 coaching, regular role-playing, workshops, and boot camps are fantastic and available tools that you can use to help your salespeople overcome their fear of phone prospecting, but they don’t replace the effect of real-life experience.
As Chris Spurvey likes to say, “Confidence is actually a reward. Confidence comes as a result of getting out, falling down, learning from mistakes, and zoning in on a unique process that you can call your own.”
It’s the responsibility of sales leaders, managers, and business owners to ensure that sales hires aren’t robbed of the oppotunity to realize the reward experience and making mistakes can provide. Real-life application of their training is the only way your salespeople will be able to develop the skills and confidence necessary to be a true hunter-salesperson.
The Truth About Making Proper Sales Hires
While just about anyone with the right attitude can be taught how to succeed in sales, not every sales role is a perfect fit for teaching sales to all aspiring sales professional.
As a sales leader it’s important that you’re matching your opportunities with people and personality types that will flourish. Not only do mis-hires waste your time and resources training someone who won’t be successful in your organization, it wastes their time too.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve your hiring process to get your ideal salesperson on board in less time, check out Hire Top Performing Salespeople Every Time.
About The Author of This Article: George Eliot is a passionate learner of all things learnable, always looking to try new things and has active interests in entrepreneurship, psychology and technology.
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