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The 16 Types of 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.

The 16 Types of Sales Call Reluctance

The 16 Types of Sales Call Reluctance

Do you have reason to believe that you or someone you know may be suffering from sales call reluctance? 

If so, there are steps you can take to overcome it and regain your confidence in the workplace. But first, it’s important to understand what may be holding you back from your true potential as a salesperson. 

In The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, George Dudley and Shannon Goodson of Behavioral Sciences Research Press identified 16 types of salespeople suffering from call reluctance syndrome. While most people fall into more than one category, these classifications can help us further understand what call reluctance looks like in different personality types. Chances are you’ll recognize some of these traits in yourself or people you know.

This is the second article in our three-part series on sales call reluctance. Before we get to how to overcome sales call reluctance, let’s take a deeper look at the psychology of it all. 

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, those who are fighting call reluctance 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 success and productivity when it’s your job to make sales. 

For more information on call reluctance syndrome, including its symptoms, impacts, and causes, read the first part of this series, What is Sales Call Reluctance?

Since call reluctance can be a big problem that’s difficult to overcome, it’s important to have a good understanding of what may be holding you back. So let’s take a deeper look at the 16 types of call reluctance, as defined by Dudley and Goodson. 

1. The Doomsayer

Ever heard the phrase “prepare for the worst, expect the best”? Well, doomsayers do the opposite. 

This type of salesperson is unwilling to take risks. Instead, they remain preoccupied with the worst-case scenario in every situation. Rather than focus on the positive, they divert their energy from contact with prospective buyers towards fear-mongering and self-pity.

Questions abound at every turn: What if they ask me a question I don’t know? What if they say no? What if they don’t like me? Doomsayers simply can’t get past what might go wrong, and it stops them from ever seeing what could possibly go right. 

To overcome your doomsayer tendencies when making sales calls, focus on the benefits, be positive and enthusiastic, listen to the prospect, be honest and transparent, and practice your skills. This will help you to “flip the script” on your mindset, and ditch the Eeyore attitude. 

2. The Over-Preparer

Over-preparers tend to overanalyze every situation, leading them to focus on pre-game rituals and avoid direct sales action. They may spend all day writing the perfect pitch, but fail to pick up the phone and deliver. 

Generally emotionally reserved, over-preparers are busy people with many clients, loads of admin work, files to organize, and current trends to study. This is all good stuff, but what happens when it keeps them from meeting qualified prospects?

Here’s a message for over-preparers: The future called. You’re on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know everything before making every call you need to make every day. No one can ever be perfectly prepared; at some point, over-preparing only means getting ready for a moment that never comes. Sometimes you just have to dive in and hope for the best. 

To avoid becoming an over-preparer, know your product or service, prioritize your research, have a script but be flexible, practice active listening, and set time limits for your calls. By following these tips, you can strike a balance between being well-prepared and being productive and effective in your sales calls.

3. The Hyper Pro

We’ve all seen this person on television or around the office. Hyper-professionals need to manage people’s perception of them and appear above average, all whilst disguising self-doubt and a serious proficiency gap. 

For the hyper pro, projecting a successful image, wearing designer outfits, using professional jargon, name-dropping, and a reflexive need to be the smartest person in the room, are all more important than actual sales tasks. 

They’re obsessed with appearances, but when it comes to presentation skills, they’re not any better than the next salesperson. They may look good, but they confuse the packaging with the actual product. 

To steer clear of being a hyper-pro, instead of concentrating on appearances, focus instead on building a relationship, be honest, respectful, and patient, and take feedback from prospects constructively. This is truly the best way to build a positive reputation as a salesperson and increase your chances of making successful sales in the long run.

4. The Role Rejecter

One of the dirty little secrets of the sales world is the pervasiveness of sales shame. Many salespeople privately harbor feelings of uneasiness or guilt about their career choice.

They probably realize the tremendous prospects available in sales, but their negative perceptions about selling make them feel like failures before they’ve even begun. They worry about what others will think about their chosen vocation and tend to deflect any association with being a salesperson. They believe that society inherently dislikes salespeople. In fact, they themselves get irritated and annoyed when salespeople solicit them.

Suffice it to say, these people are in denial and need a profound “Come to Jesus” moment to realize that the most important part of their job is simply helping people. They are offering something that can improve customers’ lives and businesses. Reestablishing this core truth is essential to moving forward as a role rejecter. 

To gain a positive perspective on your career choice and lose the persona of a role rejector, you can listen to inspiring sales podcasts, talk with trusted mentors, and remind yourself that you are here to provide a valuable service, and no one can do it better than you! This newfound confidence could unlock the sales career of your dreams. 

5. The Yielder

It’s a common misperception that all salespeople are pushy and aggressive. Many successful sales reps are respectful, patient, kind, and understanding. But there is a danger of taking these soft skills too far. 

Yielders tend to back off a sale rather than pursue a matter to a satisfactory result. Characterized by a hesitation to prospect for new business, yielders fear being considered selfish and intrusive. They don’t want to butt in on other people’s lives, yet they strongly need to be liked and accepted. They habitually wait for “just the right time” to make contact. But, of course, that time rarely arrives.

Yielders often fail to stand firm on their own worth, and ironically see assertiveness as unprofessional. They may think, “If I’m nice, they’ll just give it to me.” But the truth is – if you don’t ask, you don’t get! 

To overcome yielder tendencies, be willing to take risks, ask for what you really want, and remember that you have nothing to lose. This will help you to gain the conviction you need to maximize the potential of each and every sale. 

6. The Social Self-Conscious

We all want to bring in the wealthiest clients, don’t we? But what happens when we land the biggest fish in the sea? The social self-conscious lets perceptions of class, race, gender, or education level limit their ability to close deals. 

This tendency appears as self-imposed hesitancy that prevents productive connection with desirable target groups. Social self-conscious salespeople often feel intimidated by up-market clients. They may think they aren’t the right person to handle certain customers. 

This problem prevents a lot of sellers from breaking into a higher price point. While it’s good to be aware of social dynamics, it shouldn’t stop you from working with diverse clients. After all, the only difference between a $100,000 deal and a $1,000,000 deal is a zero, right?

To vanquish social self-consciousness, remind yourself that you deserve to be successful and that moving up in your career is a natural progression. Continue to practice selling to clients from all economic and cultural backgrounds to habitually refine your skills and enhance your comfort level with all prospects. 

7. The Friendshielder

Who can you always count on? 

Our friends offer a valuable network that can often help jumpstart new ventures or serve as a referral pipeline to build new business. Friendshielders, also known as separationists, are characterized by their reluctance to ask their friends or peers to help them extend their sales network for fear of conflict or rejection.

Instead of seeing the potential benefit for both sides of the relationship, they think, “Why would I waste their time?” Some even consider crossing this boundary unethical, which can become even more treacherous when the complications of family dynamics enter the equation. 

To get past this potential roadblock, try talking about your business ventures with friends the next time you are together. Chances are they will respond favorably to your willingness to share. And remember, while they might not always be interested in a sale, they want you to succeed in your career.

8. The Famshielder

Much like friends, family is an integral part of everyone’s life. But do you call on them to help your business? 

Famshielders, also known as emotionally unemancipated, find it difficult, if not darn near impossible, to mix family and business. Whether for ethical reasons, or because it just brings up too many mixed emotions, they won’t reach out to family members to help further their ventures. 

Sure, you can’t be calling Aunt Sally three times a week to sell her your products, but it doesn’t hurt to ask once or twice, does it? At the very least, she may give you a referral to someone who could actually need what you’re selling.  

As with friendshielding, it’s worth trying out your sales ideas on your family. No matter what, they’re likely to give you an honest perspective and a personal take that no one else possibly could.

9. Stage Fright

How are you in front of an audience? 

Stage fright is defined as the anxiety or persistent phobia aroused by the requirement to perform in front of spectators, real or imagined. It is the debilitating fear or dislike of presenting to groups due to emotional discomfort. While salespeople with this condition dread being in front of people, other forms of prospecting, such as by phone or email, may be completely unaffected. 

Rather than concentrating on their strengths, these folks become overly focused on themselves, how they look, how they sound, and what they might be doing wrong. They may even purposely skip presentations and keep their videos off at all times during a Zoom call. 

Maybe they fear their content isn’t good enough or simply lack self-confidence, but stage fright leading to full-on panic attacks is more common than you might think. 

To overcome stage fright, refuse to think thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence, set clear intentions before every presentation, and practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation. And remember, this isn’t Radio City Music Hall. You’re only making a sales presentation

10. Oppositional Reflex

Sometimes referred to as a devil’s advocate, salespeople with oppositional reflex are characterized by an inability to agree with the group, share control, or be supported. These colleagues are emotionally unable to allow themselves to be coached, advised, managed, or trained. This often manifests itself in high approval needs and low self-esteem. It also comes with a compulsive need to argue and make excuses.

They tend to criticize or blame others for what goes wrong with their careers. Even though they are usually gifted, talented, and intelligent, they don’t take responsibility for themselves, and, as a result, they don’t get ahead. 

Moving beyond a penchant for oppositional reflex can take some serious unlearning. Try to remind yourself to be open to new ideas, sit with your thoughts before sharing them, and be willing to give someone else’s idea an honest try. You may find that there’s a lot to be learned from the perspectives and experiences of your colleagues. 

11. Referral Aversion

How do you keep your prospect list fresh?

People with referral aversion might not mind discussing a product, breaking down pricing options, or closing a deal. But for some reason, they don’t feel comfortable asking for referrals. These sales reps will selectively forget to ask for referrals out of fear of disturbing existing relationships. While it seems like a minor oversight, it could cost you a lot of potential business in the long run.

If you suffer from referral aversion, set a reminder to ask for referrals at the end of every call. Before you know it, it will become second nature. And when you see those referrals turn into real sales, you’ll know that it was worth it. 

12. Telephobia

Do you hate it yourself when you get a cold sales call? Would you rather text than talk? Does being on or around phones stress you out? Then you might have telephobia.

Also known as phone anxiety, telephobia is the fear and inability to use the phone to move sales objectives forward. People with this condition may be comfortable with text messaging, emailing, and snail mailing, and face-to-face prospecting is completely unimpaired. But don’t ask them to pick up the phone, especially if it’s the weekend when most clients are actually available for calls. 

To conquer telephobia, pick up the phone, smile, don’t overthink it, and remember to reward yourself after the call. If the condition is serious enough, consider meeting with a therapist or psychologist. The modern phone is a powerful tool, and if understood and used properly, it can help you accomplish a lot of things.

13. Cyberphobia

Much like telephobia, cyberphobia occurs when using social media, email, or other online technologies. We all know somebody who says they don’t believe in using social media. Maybe they don’t like using Zoom and only want to meet face-to-face. But as a seller, you are a public person. So why wouldn’t you have a public account? 

Because people will often want to see your authentic self, sometimes there is no better way to do that than going live on your preferred social media channel. While the tools continue to change with the times, successful salespeople adapt and change with them. 

If you want to work on your cyberphobia, try watching YouTube tutorials to answer questions you may have. Chances are there are loads of other people out there who are struggling with the same confusion and sense of trepidation. 

You can always ask a tech-savvy colleague if you get stuck. Just don’t be afraid to keep learning. Facing this fear will give you the confidence to use all of the best tools out there to make more sales. 

14. Fear of Complex Selling

Can you handle it when things get complex?

Some salespeople are comfortable conducting the basic ins and outs of deals, but get seriously anxious when things become more complicated. They dread negotiations, dealing with multiple partners, or customizing a contract for a particular client. 

Rather than make a mistake, or put themselves out on a limb, they’ll immediately bring in a supervisor to handle the sale. This fear limits their ability to progress in their sales career and meet the ever-evolving needs of their clients. And trust me, if you don’t learn how to branch out and expand your skills, your boss is going to get tired of doing your job.

In order to face a fear of complex selling, prepare yourself before a call for all contingencies, be willing to do the research, and know that you’ll sometimes have to get back to a client. And that’s okay. Complex deals take time, but the payoff can truly be worth it. 

15. Trouble with Extensions

Are you always ready to take your sales further?

Similar to fear of complex selling, trouble with extensions means you struggle with cross-selling (offering other products) or up-selling (offering higher-level products). For whatever reason, those who are struggling with taking sales further come up against a mental block when extra opportunities present themselves, which obviously curbs their ability to increase revenue and line up additional deals. 

One way to get over this is to set small goals for yourself with each call. Challenge yourself to offer an extension and be okay with whatever response you get. Pretty soon you’ll realize there’s nothing to fear and everything to gain. 

16. Fear of Making Payment Arrangements

You’re an expert in explaining your product, building rapport with customers, and generally doing all aspects of your job. But can you close a deal?

Salespeople with difficulty making payment arrangements will always struggle down the home stretch.  They freeze or become awkward when the conversation turns to price. They tend to wait too long to state the price they will charge. Instead, they spend an excessive amount of time showing the product’s value, but never saying what it’s going to cost. 

To overcome a fear of making payment arrangements, have all the pricing information you need available before you make each call. Remind yourself that the customer is paying for something they want or need. Money is a part of every business deal and negotiations are to be expected. If you can master this fear, you could become the record-breaking salesperson you’ve always wanted to be. 


As you can see, the psychology of sales call reluctance runs deep. Do you fit into one or more of the 16 types of call reluctance? Maybe you see some similarities in your reasons for hesitation or find yourself coming up short in one area or another. 

As our tips for improvement suggest, there is hope! Read How to Overcome Sales Reluctance and gain the tools you need to put this chapter of your sales career behind you for good.