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How to Overcome Sales Call Reluctance

Written by:

Sean McAlindin, a business and arts writer, has a decade-long experience in music and culture journalism and recently ventured into business writing.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

How to Overcome Sales Call Reluctance

How to Overcome Sales Call Reluctance

Have you come to the unhappy conclusion that you or someone you know suffers from sales call reluctance? 

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Up to 76% of salespeople experience this common phenomenon at some point in their careers. Furthermore, we’ve got 23 amazing tools and strategies that you can start using today to cure yourself of this all-too-common sales conundrum. 

“Sales call reluctance is a mental habit,” said sales coach Connie Kadanksy during an April phone call with Making That Sale. “They learned it to survive, which is okay. But we can change those mental habits.” 

It’s time to discuss practical steps for supporting your sales team and overcoming this potentially tragic condition. Read on to see how to address the problem that’s stopping salespeople from unleashing their full potential and reaching the sales career of their dreams.

Key Takeaways

  • Sales call reluctance is a psychological phenomenon classified as the fear of reaching out to potential customers.

  • Call reluctance can have many symptoms and causes, but some common patterns and tendencies have been studied and observed.

  • There are 16 distinct types of call reluctance as defined by psychologists and sales training experts.

  • Call reluctance can be overcome using specific tools and techniques.

What is Call Reluctance?

Call reluctance syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which salespeople experience a genuine fear of reaching out to potential customers.

Though common in the world of sales, the consequences of this condition can be devastating, both financially and emotionally. 

For as long as they’ve existed, salespeople have had a reputation as intrepid, outgoing, and determined. But for many, this stereotype disguises a darker reality. Far from being cold-blooded selling machines, many sellers struggle with a secret fear of prospecting.

Whether on the phone, online, or in person, contacting prospective buyers causes stress and anxiety. So instead of making calls, they make excuses. It’s a costly trade-off. Sales call reluctance — the emotional hesitation to prospect — can be a true confidence and career-killer.

By definition, call reluctance is a common problem among sales professionals that manifests as a hesitation or reluctance to make sales calls. It comes in many shapes, from simple procrastination to outright avoidance, but even low call reluctance levels can significantly impact one’s success and productivity.

How to Overcome Call Reluctance

Many people live with call reluctance and never do anything about it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many simple steps you can take to leave this chapter of your life in the dust and learn how to thrive with confidence. 

Take a look at these 23 surefire ways to overcome sales call reluctance. 

1. Admit the problem

For 27 years, Connie Kadansky has licensed the research of psychologists George Dudley and Shannon Goodson of Behavioral Sciences Research Press, who pioneered the first studies into call reluctance syndrome. Kadansky uses the 16 Types of Sales Call Reluctance to help people realize and confront the core beliefs that are holding them back from their dream sales career.

“Call reluctance is the dirty little secret that nobody wants to address,” says Kadansky. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. But living with it needlessly is.”

Remember, 40% of veterans and 80% of newbies admit being prone to call reluctance. Being among them doesn’t mean you’re a lousy salesperson. It means that you’re a human, just like the rest of us. If you find yourself feeling reluctant to make your next sales call, perhaps now would be a good time to do some honest self-reflection. Just be sure to prepare yourself to face what you might find. 

2. Define the root cause

Is it fear of rejection, corporate culture, lack of training, or maybe all of them together? 

Once call reluctance is identified, it’s crucial to uncover the core of your problem and search for ways to solve it. It may be prudent to discuss the issues privately with a trusted friend or counselor to help you pinpoint exactly where these feelings are coming from. 

“With positive psychology, behavioral science, cognitive therapy, and neuroscience, salespeople can truly overcome this fear of proactive outreach,” says Kadansky. “They have to be coachable and vulnerable. They have to be willing to look at the root cause that is causing them to hesitate. When they do that, they can get on the other side of it.”

3. Talk to someone

Don’t be afraid to reach out. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but it is in your supervisor’s best interest to help you face this issue and provide you with professional guidance, support, and training to overcome your fear. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing it up to management, consider meeting with a trusted colleague or confidential mental health counselor. Keeping this problem to yourself isn’t going to help anyone. 

4. Prepare for each call

While over-preparing represents a potential pitfall for procrastinators, getting ready for each cold call is definitely important. Be sure to learn more about your prospect and their company before your dial. Identify their key needs and consider how your product and service can help them. 

Rather than just winging it, you may want to develop a sales pitch script to work from. Remove distractions from your work area and address your personal needs before contacting customers. As you talk with them, make a list of prospecting questions to help you learn more about their goals and problems.

It can also help to create small rituals before the calls. For example, it may seem silly, but one person shared the story of wearing glasses during public speaking to tackle their stage fright. Others do breathing exercises or participate in positive self-talk before and after each call. 

5. Mental Rehearsal

Unlock the power of your imagination. 

Before you conduct a call, use your mind to envision how it will go. Not only does this prepare you for what’s ahead, but it also makes it more likely to happen the way you planned it. Performance artists, fighter pilots, surgeons, and extreme athletes have used this technique for generations to go fully into the moment during the big event. 

“One of the greatest gifts of the human imagination – and possibly also the greatest liability – is the fact that your entire system, mind and body can be as affected by synthetic experience as real experience,” says sales trainers, The Brooks Group. “It’s really a matter of what you choose to ‘feed’ your mind… Mental rehearsal involves perfecting an experience in your mind down to every detail until it becomes a very vivid mental movie. Then you can play that perfect scene over and over in preparation for the real experience.”

6. Practice, practice, practice 

The best way to reduce call reluctance is to practice cold calling frequently. For many people, the initial fear can be managed through repetition. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

It’s sort of like learning to ride a horse. If you fall off the first time, the fear of falling off again intensifies. But horse trainers know that the most important thing after falling off a horse is to get back on it. 

It’s the same with cold calling. Don’t give up. Stick with it. Be committed to overcoming your fears. 

7.  Remind yourself you are here to help

You’re doing good work! 

Too many salespeople get stuck on the notion that they are bothering their customers. Remember, your product or service can increase return on investment, assist companies in attaining their goals, and make business processes more efficient. Your clients need your products and services, and you can give them what they need!

If you think about it that way, you will perceive yourself as more of a savior rather than an intruder. Even if the customer doesn’t take you up on your offer, you’ve presented them with something valuable they can consider at the right time. 

8. Be 110% sold on what you’re selling

If you don’t believe in your product, that’s going to come across to your customers one way or another. Every good company has a reason to exist. What do you do really well? How are you assisting your customers? Reflect on this piece and internalize it into your bones before you begin contacting clients. 

“It’s absolutely essential that you build a genuine sense of pride in what you offer,” says The Brooks Group. “You can start by examining how your product or service has benefited your current customers. Has it made their lives easier? Saved them money? Solved their problems? Helped them start or stay in business? You may be surprised at the tremendous positive impact that your product or service has for your customers.”

9. Set time frames

Think realistically about how many calls you can make in a given time.

You may have a goal to make 20 calls in eight hours. So think about it. In an ideal world, your calls could last up to 10 minutes or more. You will also need time to take notes after each call and prepare for the next one. This means you need to call every 24 minutes if you are lucky enough to connect every call, which rarely happens. 

Once you finish a conversation, set a five-minute countdown to give yourself some time to relax after the call. When the time is over, start searching for a new prospect.

10. Use SMART goals

It’s important to have achievable goals always in our sight. 

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. For example, you might set a goal to do four calls in the next hour. If you only get to two or three, you didn’t meet your goal, but you accomplished something. 

If you want to research a set of potential clients, perhaps set a goal to complete that research before lunch, so you can make a certain amount of calls in the afternoon. Setting little goals like these to aim for throughout the day can help motivate you and distract you from the negative feelings that may be slowing down your workflow. 

11. Provide positive feedback

Everyone deserves a pat on the back. 

As you continue to work through your prospect list, remember to give yourself positive feedback on anything that went well. Maybe you didn’t make the sale, but did you explain the product well? Did you get a referral? Did you learn something new from the conversation? 

It’s okay to be constructive, but remember, there are positives to be gained from every interaction. So put on your rose-colored glasses and recognize the good in what you do. 

12. Develop an optimistic mindset

Pay attention to inner dialogue as you work through your day. Are you putting yourself down? Are you failing to recognize the unlimited potential for new sales? Or are you talking about the positives that are happening all around you?

Every call represents a fresh opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor is a flourishing sales career. Avoid negative self-talk and develop your sense of optimism. Your customers will pick up on your energy and respond accordingly. 

13. Remember, rejection is inevitable

Let’s face it – as a salesperson, rejection is part of your job. It’s normal that many people won’t be able to purchase your product right now. They might use a similar product your competitors offer or have another solution for their business needs. If you believe in your product, they are missing out on a great opportunity. 

Don’t take rejection personally. Try to take the emotion out of it and understand that this is part of what you are getting paid to do. Over time, it should start to bother you less and less as you develop a comfort with both sides of the sales spectrum. 

14. Regularly review your work 

While you don’t want to dwell on the past, it can be helpful to look back at your work from time to time. Some salespeople like to record their calls to listen to what worked and what didn’t. While it may be painful to relive mistakes and failures, you’ll probably notice many things you are also doing well. It’s important to reflect on your roadblocks and successes, so you can continue to grow as a salesperson. 

It can also be helpful to hear other salespeople do their jobs. Some companies keep “listening libraries” where you can hear recordings of top salespeople making calls and closing deals. When calls are slow, this can be a great way to calm your nerves and gain confidence from listening to seasoned salespeople handle it like the pros they are. 

15. Get a sales coach

It’s not uncommon for salespeople to benefit from professional coaching. Smart companies invest in these resources upfront to help their reps achieve maximum potential. If your organization doesn’t have a coach, consider finding outside support to get you on your feet. 

While salespeople tend to be independent self-starters, no one can do this alone. Getting professional help is a sign that you are taking your job seriously and want to improve. It will also give you someone to bounce ideas off of and vent your frustrations when you need to. 

16. Screen your applicants

There are proactive ways to treat and avoid these problems before they get in the way of your career. 

The good news for sales teams and HR departments is that a scale can measure rejection sensitivity. 

The SPQ Gold sales preference questionnaire is the most widely used test with a powerful correlation to predict salespeople´s future performance. Many sales training organizations implement it to help companies determine which candidates are the best fit before they come on board, and which ones are most likely to suffer from call reluctance. It can also be used to diagnose existing call reluctance and reveal its underlying causes. 

“This assessment is the granddaddy of all of them that measures the 16 ways salespeople hesitate,” says Kadansky. “We can zero in and start getting a grasp on this. Then, I have tools that I can customize with them on what is holding them up. I help them help themselves.”

The Behavioral Sciences Research Press also offers a free “EKG survey” to check the pulse of your selling behavior and personality. 

17. Change the corporate culture

Workplace culture can have a huge impact on sales reps’ motivation to get after it. If your team members don’t feel supported and valued, or they don’t believe in what they’re selling, their resiliency to rejection will suffer. A healthy working environment is key for sales representatives to thrive through the inevitable ups and downs of cold calling. 

What is your team saying about the product by the water cooler? Do they believe in the company’s mission? Do they seem happy in their jobs? What steps can you take from the top down to improve the culture throughout your organization?

It’s important to reflect on your business practices as a whole and be willing to make changes when necessary. 

18. Train newbies and veterans regularly

According to the Sales Management Association, firms with effective onboarding programs have 10% greater sales growth rates and 14% better sales and profit objective achievement. 

Before you throw your salespeople to their sharks, ensure they’ve been thoroughly trained on phone-calling techniques, how to use CRM (customer relationship management) software, dialing tools, the value of your product/services, and the needs, goals, and roles of your prospects.

Beyond the basics, there are limitless topics to explore in the world of professional development. Successful salespeople continually learn new skills and review old ones to keep up with the times. 

19. Use only solid leads

Before handing the list of contacts to your sales team, you need to ensure that they’re “prequalified,” in other words, interested in purchasing your service or product.

For this purpose, you must first define your ideal customer profile (ICP). Then acquire a list of leads that fit the ICP and are up-to-date. It’s worth taking the time to vet your prospects so you can focus on the most promising leads.

Too many salespeople waste their time pitching to customers who would never be interested in their product in the first place. A little more research upfront can help save you a lot of time and energy in the long run. 

20. Listen to inspiring salespeople

We all need a little pep talk from time to time. 

It’s always good to get some inspiration from those at the top of their field. Hearing a positive message and new approaches to the sales process can reignite your passion for selling and provide you with a fresh perspective on the craft. Podcasts are a great way to take in this information.

21. Practice mindfulness techniques

Remember to relax! 

It’s all too easy to get swept away in the frantic energy that is often required for selling and making deals. When you begin a call, your customers will pick up on your tone and vibrations. It’s always a good idea to take a moment to breathe before you initiate contact. Envision the positive results you hope to create. Repeat reassuring mantras and positive self-talk to get in the right headspace before you connect with potential customers. 

22. Learn about call reluctance

If you have ever wanted to learn more about why the idea of making a sales call can be so frightening, you’re already ahead of the game just because you chose to read this informative guide.

Another great resource for sales call reluctance is the Behavioral Sciences Research Press. Since the founding of this organization in 1979, they have been exploring how fear influences behavior at work. In fact, they’re the ones who came up with the 16 types of call reluctance in the first place.

Connie Kadansky offers free tips on conquering sales call reluctance through her website at Exceptional Sales Performance. Other agencies like The Brooks Group offer all sorts of sales training programs including those with a focus on call reluctance. 

23. Seek Professional Help

When all else fails, there is no shame in seeking professional help for your sales call reluctance. 

Your hesitation and fear may have a deep-rooted cause that you never realized. Talking with a mental health professional or sales coach can make a big difference in your perspective toward this challenging, yet rewarding career path. Choosing to invest in a relationship with a professional demonstrates your commitment to overcoming this condition and reaching the next level of your sales career. 

Those who are pros work with the pros. Remember, it’s a downpayment in your livelihood and future.

Books about Sales Call Reluctance

Book #1

The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales by George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson (the co-founders of Behavioral Sciences Research Press)

This might well be the Harry Potter of call reluctance books. It comes in at 454 pages and is highly detailed and technical, explaining the science behind the fear. For more information visit,

Book #2

Sales Call Reluctance Is Nothing To Be Embarrassed About. Living With It Needlessly Is by Connie Kadansky

There are times when even the best of us find ourselves in a rut. It seems we are doing the same old things in the same old way and feel that the excitement has gone out of our careers. In this book, you will find some of the best and brightest sharing what they know about personal development. Sales Call Reluctance Coach, Connie Kadansky, shares how to confidently overcome the emotional hesitation to prospect and self-promote. For more info, visit

Book #3

From Hello To Yes In 3 Minutes Or Less: How to Overcome Call Reluctance, Know Exactly What to Say, and Avoid Rejection When Using the Telephone as a Network Marketing Professional by Paul G Walmsley

A fit for a multi-level marketing beginner, this book focuses on building your business by using the telephone and moving beyond the fears that are holding you back. 

Book #4

Selling From The Heart: How Your Authentic Self Sells You! by Larry Levine

There is authentic, introspective work involved in finding the humanity behind selling. Larry Levine employs case studies and stories to describe how to make customer connections and thrive in your true self while also meeting sales goals each and every day. For more information, visit

Book #5

How I Conquered Call Reluctance, Fear of Self-Promotion, & Increased My Prospecting! by Sidney C. Walker

Reviewers of this book say that after reading it, they learned to work with their limitations and strengths, getting to the root of the problem instead of simply treating the symptoms. For more information, visit

Book #6

Smart Calling: Eliminate the Fear, Failure, and Rejection from Cold Calling by Art Sobczak

How do you make cold calling less frigid? Pre-call planning. The author includes sample scripts you can tweak to give you a starting place and provides actionable steps to improve the sales call experience for both your and your clients. For more information, visit


Call reluctance is a fascinating topic that goes far beyond the world of sales, into the realm of psychology, mindfulness, and life philosophy. 

If you are one of the many salespeople who deal with this problem, there are steps you can take to deal with it. With the amount of reflection and proactive measures to confront this issue, you can grow beyond it and realize the full potential of a successful sales career. 

“Perhaps now is a good time to look into the mirror and ask yourself these important questions: What am I really afraid of? Do I have the courage to face my fears? Do I truly want to overcome my call reluctance, or do I need to look for another career? The answers you find just might surprise you.