New Sales Hire and Cold Calling

We hear this story a lot.

I recently hired a new sales person. During the interview process they seemed like a great hunter. They pursued me during the hiring process and actively closed me during our final interview. Now that the rep is on-board, it seems they won’t pick up the phone to save their life.

Few products sell themselves. Achieving targets takes concerted effort and in most cases, requires contacting prospects and making cold calls.

If you have a rep on your team, perhaps someone you just hired, who doesn’t seem to want to make cold calls, then you have a serious problem, but you are not alone. The book “The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance“, written by psychologists Shannon Goodson and George Dudley, indicates the following research findings:

As many as 80% of all sales people who fail within their first year, do so because of insufficient prospecting activity.

Even experience does not immunize a sales rep from call reluctance.

….during their careers, approximately 40% (of veteran sales people) will experience one or more episodes of call reluctance serious enough to threaten their continuation in sales – despite years of experience, product knowledge, or current income level.

Our experience from recruiting for thousands of sales positions, Rep right up to Sales VP, indicates that the minority of people in the sales profession are comfortable with calling on new prospects and would rather handle inbound and warm leads where a need has been identified and the customer has invited a call with a salesperson. Unfortunately in most companies, sales growth comes from opening up new accounts, not growing existing ones.

There are many reasons why people avoid cold calling. Various studies show cultural and age correlate to call reluctance, however in our experience, DNA plays the largest factor. Some people are simply not engineered to put themselves to take risks and face the rejection that typically comes with cold calling.

If you hired a sales rep that appeared to have the right DNA for new business development, but won’t make cold calls, chances are you misdiagnosed the person’s DNA when you interviewed and selected them. Now you are faced with two choices. Cut bait and move on, or work with that person. You will know the right answer to this question, based on the the degree of call avoidance, but assuming your initial strategy is to work with the person, here are some of the methods that worked for me as a sales manager that you can employ to try and get your rep to make more outbound sales calls:

  1. Get Trained – Fear of making cold calls can be mitigated if a rep achieves more success in making cold calls and one way to do this is to develop callings skills.
  2. Don’t Take it Personally – Encourage your sales rep to not take the cold calls and rejection personally. A prospect is rejecting the company’s offering, not the sales person.
  3. Get Into a Rhythm – The more calls a rep makes, the more comfortable they will be with the routine and by sheer law of averages, the more positive responses they will get, which in turn helps build confidence and reduces fear of cold calling.
  4. Make it a Game – If you know that you are going to hear “no” 9 time for every “yes”, then turn it into a game whereby the rep tries to see how quickly he or she can get through the the negative responses to get to the Yes. Like the rule of not taking it personally, making turning it into a sport makes cold calling more abstract and less scary.
  5. Get Better at Targeting – Often calling the right person can increase call success rates and reduce fear of cold calling. In a similar way, if a rep improves their ability to qualify a prospect, then they will spend less time with prospects who aren’t going to buy, and more time with those that will. This, of course, reduces the negative feeling associated with prospecting activities.
  6. What is the Worst That Can Happen? If the rep asks themselves honestly, what is the worst that can happen as a result of the rejection on sales calls, they will see it is not that bad. They might fear they are going to be unsuccessful and lose their job, but a smart sales manager doesn’t terminate reps who are doing the work and utilizing their energy efficiently. A smart sales manager knows that if you work the plan, the plan will work and reps will be rewarded who commit to the work.
  7. Develop an Expectation of Success – If the rep knows the ratio of rejects to closed sales, then they can view the cold calling activity as a pure math exercise and one which leads to success. This develops self confidence, reduces call reluctance and has a snowball effect on sales success.

In the end, the sales rep has to buy in and make these techniques work. If you have tried and your sales rep still won’t make the calls, contact us. We’d be happy to help you find a sales rep with the right sales DNA and no fear of cold calling.

To your success!

Photo Credit: Jon Pinder via Compfight cc


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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