Skip to main content

Call Reluctance - a growing business problem

Most people in the developed world communicate these days using texts, messaging, ‘walls’, and of course email. We choose to use these methods of communication because they are cheap, fast, easy (once you’ve mastered a keyboard using varying numbers of fingers), and most importantly, none of them put us on the spot. We can compose what we want to say, in our own time. We also aren’t being judged for our accent, hesitation, pronunciation or, much to the disgust of English teachers throughout the world, spelling and grammar. Unfortunately, by avoiding being put-on-the-spot, we are not practicing the skills required to converse in real-time. We are increasingly losing confidence to either initiate conversations, or to make ourselves available to respond to requests for conversations. And with respect to phone calls, we’re consequently becoming Call Reluctant. We don’t like making calls, and we don’t like answering them.

This is not only true for the general public, it is increasingly true for sales staff. It’s so much easier to respond to an enquiry by email rather than pick up the phone. But research shows that where an enquirer has provided both a valid email address and a phone number, the salesman is considerably more likely (research suggests up to 5 times more likely) to convert the enquiry if he responds by phone rather than email. It’s very easy to ignore an email from a salesman, even if you’re interested in buying something, but try ignoring a ringing phone. And when we answer it, a good salesman will turn at least 1 in 3 calls into an appointment.

It’s not just a matter of developing what marketers call a ‘relationship’. It’s about developing trust, and it’s about countering objections (every trained salesman knows how to do this), and it’s about ‘closing’! It’s so much harder to ‘close’ a sale, or at least to obtain a commitment from a prospect, if you don’t force a reply by pausing after a closing question. “So, if we can get you a blue car to test drive, can I make an appointment for you?”… pause for reply… If the same question is posed by email, the prospect can either ignore it, or type “I’ll think about it” if they’re prepared to reply out of courtesy. It’s easy to be abrupt by email. It’s very hard to do the same in a phone call.

Why do people make phone calls to businesses when it’s so much easier to email? In general, phone calls to businesses fall into three categories. To make or change an appointment, to ask a complicated question, or to complain. The latter two reasons are potentially stressful for the recipient of the call. Yet another reason for Call Reluctance. Calls are becoming fewer and those that are received by businesses are less easy to handle. As a result, people who answer phones need special training to help them better satisfy customers and to increase their own confidence levels. Recording conversations and then analysing them for product knowledge, sales skills and complaint handling procedures is therefore crucial to maximising customer trust, retention and sales.

So phone calls work far better to convert enquiries, but salesmen come from the digital age where they’re comfortable with texting, emailing and ‘walls’. Call Reluctance prevents salesmen initiating the call, and it discourages prospects from answering it – but overcome it, salesmen must. Research in Australia over the past 40 years has come up with the following insight (copied from the BSRP website):

·         Across industries, the sales people who sell the most are those who are most willing to get in front of prospective buyers on a consistent, daily basis. They sell more because regardless of their talent, experience, or knowledge, they always have new people to sell to.
·         80% of all sales people fail to complete their first year because of prospecting distress with their energy directed towards coping rather than prospecting strategies.
·         40% of experienced sales people report one or more episodes of Call Reluctance severe enough to threaten their career.
·         The hesitation to initiate first contact with prospective buyers on a consistent daily basis is responsible for the failure of more competent, motivated, capable, revenue generating sales people than any other single factor. Nothing else even comes close.
·         Despite content or quality, no training can earn back what it costs unless sales people initiate contact in sufficient numbers with new and existing clients.
·         Research indicates that a prospecting hesitant sales person can cost your company 15 new units of business per month.
·         Non-hesitant sales people are five times more productive than hesitant sales people.
·         The only significant predictor for success in sales is the number of contacts initiated with prospective buyers on a consistent basis!

The research went on to say:

The bad news is that call reluctant behaviours are highly contagious as they are learnt from being around other people who are Call Reluctant. It can take as little as 6 to 8 weeks to become contaminated.
At last count there are 12 Call Reluctant types that can keep people from prospecting effectively due to fear. Here are some of the marker behaviours from the more common types that may give you clues that you or some of your people may be suffering from Call Reluctance:

·         Over-reliance on information such as brochures and technical specs; over-invests energy in always getting ready; never enough information or feel adequately prepared; over-analyses and under acts
·         Nagging guilt and shame associated with being in a sales career generally based on negative stereotypes; may use 'deflected identities' to disguise the sales role; tries to be overly positive and instead comes across as insincere
·         Hesitates to prospect or close sales due to fear of appearing rude, pushy or intrusive; says 'yes' when should say 'no'; avoids confrontation and needs to feel liked; can gossip to remain 'in the loop'
·         Overly-concerned with professional image and credibility; may see prospecting as demeaning and unnecessary; doesn't listen; may talk over people; needs to be seen as better than average

At my company 10ACT, we recognised the growing tendency of Call Reluctance within car dealerships. Fewer and fewer leads were being responded to by phone. Sales conversions were reducing year by year, and marketing managers started blaming the internet - better informed consumers who could make many more enquires for every sale - instead of considering the fact that sales people were becoming increasingly reluctant to make those essential calls. So we invented TrackBack to discover whether calls were being made in response to enquiries (or other types of sales enquiries passed to dealers for fulfilment), how long prospects had to wait before they received a call, the result of each call (using our unique end-of-call-feedback) and by listening to the recordings, how well did the salesman perform. We can also distinguish between Call Attempts and Contact Made, so salesmen can also prove they’ve been trying to make contact. Persistence, or tenacity, is what successful selling is all about.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Phillips screws - yes I'm angry about them too

Don't get me wrong. They're a brilliant invention to assist automation and prevent screwdrivers from slipping off screw heads - damaging furniture, paintwork and fingers in the process. Interestingly they weren't invented by Mr Phillips at all, but by a John P Thompson who sold Mr P the idea after failing to commercialise it. Mr P, on the otherhand, quickly succeeded where Mr T had failed. Incredible isn't it. You don't just need a good idea, you need a great salesman and, more importantly, perfect timing to make a success out of something new. Actually, it would seem, he did two clever things (apart from buying the rights). He gave the invention to GM to trial. No-brainer #1. After it was adopted by the great GM, instead of trying to become their sole supplier of Phillips screws, he sold licenses to every other screw manufacturer in the world. A little of a lot is worth a great deal more than a lot of a little + vulnerability (watch out Apple!).

My gromble is abou…

Introducing Product Relationship Management - it's what customers want.

Most businesses these days have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems which store and process vasts amounts of information about us. They use this information to generate communications, amongst other things, which target us to buy their products and services. CRM is all about how a business relates to its customers: Past (keeping them loyal through aftersales and service), Present (helping them buy through bricks and clicks channels) and Future (prospecting).

Most businesses will at some stage have declared themselves 'customer-centric'. They will probably have drawn diagrams on whiteboards that look something like these:



But there's a problem with this whole approach of keeping the customer at the centre of your world and the focal point for everything you do.Is it what the customer wants? Of course companies who ignore their customers eventually go out of business. And those who treat their customers well, tend to thrive. But is it really in the best interests …

The Titus Trust Deceives British Parents to Brainwash their Kids

I have a son who went to a well known preparatory school (7-13) in Surrey. He came home one day clutching a leaflet for fun activity holidays that the school promoted every summer. The Titus Trust operate several camps around the UK where they organise fun outdoor activities for youngsters. Something caught my eye in the leaflet hidden in a paragraph in one of the sections describing the holidays. They used the word Christian. It was the only place in the whole leaflet that the word was used. My suspicions raised, I hunted around the leaflet for more clues and found the imprint which said something like 'A Titus Trust Charity' (the name of the camps was on the title of the leaflet). I dug deeper and found some disturbing evidence of who was behind these 'fun' camps. This is what I wrote at the time to the headmaster:
Dear Headmaster

XXXX came home the other day extremely excited about an outward bound camp next summer that he and his friends had been told about by a rep…