It sounds bizarre to learn that a salesperson may have a fear of talking on the phone. They talk all the time! While it seems as absurd as a surgeon fainting at the sight of blood, many sales professionals break into a cold sweat at the prospect of a cold call. But, just like most medical students adapt in their first year of studies, salespeople can overcome their fear too.
When cold calling, there is always the risk of rejection, which is precisely why sales call anxiety is a reality. It’s as true for the rep who made their first call 20 years ago as it is for the one who made their first call an hour ago! The first step to conquering your phone fears is to know your enemy—and it’s not the phone.
Phone Fear – Understanding The Root Cause
Fear is a funny thing. It may strike unexpectedly but has a fixed way of operating. When you are scared, the blood flows away from that part of the brain responsible for rational thinking and rushes to alert your fight or flight mode. This leaves no room for logical reasoning and reinforces your belief that, yes, you’re bad at making phone calls. It’s almost a self-fulfilling, vicious cycle.
So how do you break the cycle?
One method is to give yourself a pep talk:
- “I can do this.”
- “There is no danger here. What’s the worst that can happen?”
- “I am going to kill this.”
As you talk on the phone more, your brain goes easy on the fight or flight reaction. You stop perceiving fear from phone rings. Along with the pep talk, try the tips below to overcome your telephone phobia.
Tips to overcome phone fear
Repeated failure when trying to book a meeting or make a sale over the phone can crush even the most enthusiastic seller’s self-confidence. Did you know our body processes rejection like we do physical pain? It’s no wonder that we don’t want to engage in an activity that involves a lot of rejection! Then there is the fear of looking foolish—probably because you don’t feel prepared or confident enough. You may also be hesitant to interrupt somebody and risk making them angry. It might also be the fear of coming across as the stereotypical aggressive salesperson, something your sales manager probably warned you against.
Let’s address these fears and disconnect them from making phone calls using the 7 tips below.
1. Rehearse like you’re going on stage
Most of the time, sales reps attribute their phone phobia to being unsure of how to begin a conversation. They simply cannot get to the point without sounding like a pushy used car salesperson. Or, they rely too heavily on reading a script and sound robotic.
Say “hello” to fear of appearing awkward or looking incompetent.
To overcome this, draft a script that contains the main points you need to get across and sort your thoughts around them. Rehearse like you’re going on stage. No theater artist mouths their lines and makes a hasty retreat, do they? They work on tonality and use gestures too. Let the conversation flow naturally. The old-fashioned “practicing in front of a mirror” always works to unlock the uninhibited version of you. Have fun, make faces, and be a bit silly if that is what it takes. In sales prospecting, preparation never disappoints.
2. Tell yourself you’re not interrupting the prospect
The moment you think ‘disturb’ and ‘interrupt,’ it triggers fear of rejection. Ultimately, you need to understand that every prospecting action—cold call, cold email, cold text, saying ‘hello’ at a networking event—begins by interrupting. If the interruption is valuable to the lead’s business goals, then all is well. If not… all is still well! You get to move on to find someone else who is interested.
3. Grow a thicker skin with this exercise
When you sign up for adventure sports like mountaineering or skiing, the program always includes a couple of days for acclimatization. People from lower altitudes need time to adjust to the thinner air. Similarly, you can keep your call anxiety under control by acclimatizing yourself to what may not be comfortable in the beginning.
Here is an activity for that. Start each day by calling 10 leads (preferably the least likely to convert). Leave scripts and specifics at the door and tell yourself you don’t give two hoots about the outcome. Just get talking and see what happens. This exercise can help to build the confidence to talk and develop a sense of detachment so that one disappointment won’t crush you. And who knows, maybe when you are freed from the pressure to deliver a positive outcome, you will uncover a new way to engage with prospects!
4. A balanced sales cadence ensures you get enough breaks
To call the prospect too soon after the previous call can be a strain, even for seasoned callers. Again, the ‘too soon’ bit is subjective. Yet, following a balanced cadence can give you a breather. Multiple touchpoints like email, call, SMS, leave a voicemail and targeted social media posts in a proper order ensure there is enough gap between the first and the next call. Nowadays, many sales engagement solutions enable sales managers to set a standard cadence for sales teams, ensuring persistence without annoyance.
5. Set appropriate goals
Most companies do not expect their salespeople to close a deal on their first call or contact attempts. The sales process can take time, and an immediate deal on the phone may not be realistic. In the initial contact attempts, convincing them for a meeting is less challenging than making them buy. Focus on getting that meeting first as it is less pressure. The added benefit of scheduling a meeting is that you will be able to hold the prospect’s full attention. Let the cadence work its magic.
6. Put them on hold, take a deep breath, go back
‘What if they ask me something I don’t know about?’
‘Am I using too many fillers like “um,” “well,” “you see,” and “ah”?’
‘Is my voice getting weaker?’
‘Oh, I need to catch my breath.’
Situations like those listed above are often triggers to your phone phobia. In such situations, the hold button is pure gold. Feel free to use it when you are feeling overwhelmed or you want to retrieve specific information. A quick, ‘Could I place you on hold for a few seconds while I get the answer to your question?’ is not a bad thing to do occasionally.
7. Pick up the phone already
Even in the age of social media, talking in real-time still holds plenty of power to build better rapport with the prospect—if you add value, that is. But first, you need to pick up your phone and dial. Think of it as an adventure and jump in!
Are you ready to say goodbye to telephone phobia?
Deep inside, you know you are good at this. Accept that sales is a noble profession that requires intellect, a mind for learning, and a diverse skillset, which you have. In the end, you help prospects solve their pain points, and your company makes revenue. And the rep who picks up the phone more earns more.
Happy cold calling!