Sales tips for the aspiring rock star!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Conquering Your Fear Of The Phone!

Do you fear the phone? Whenever I ask this of sales people, I can almost hear the internal command that says "Ego Engaged!". Responses range from dirty looks that resemble someone smelling something stinky, to testosterone induced "Hell No's!!!". On the surface, you'd think there were just scattered incidents of this fear of the phone and yet according to Behavioral Sciences Research Press (BSRP) our fear of the phone is responsible for more failures in sales than any other single factor.

Before you jump on the "It aint me Uncle Paul's talking about" bandwagon, think again because statistically speaking, I bet it is you that I am talking about cupcake!

According to BSRP the average sales person sells only 1.5 hours per day and doesn't make a call until 11:00 am. Many sales professionals won't even call a prospect back a second time!

Do you find yourself in situations where you procrastinating when it comes to those calls you want to make but never seem to get around to them? Dr Piers Steel, a University of Calgary Professor, says "Essentially, procrastinators have less confidence in themselves, less expectancy that they can actually complete a task," So maybe, at the root of all this "stuff" that keeps getting in the way of the calls, we're scared!

So, how do we lose that fear, gain the confidence and "Giter done"?

First, you need to do a bit of a reality check. How much emphasis are you putting on your phone work? Why do you feel that you need to work the phones to begin with? I get very sensitive about this point because I've seen otherwise, good sales people beat themselves up, because they basically don't want to "smile and dial". I'm wondering if that's such a bad thing? If you feel strongly about the phone, and you feel you are better at face to face networking, creative things, email, snail mail etc, why wouldn't you put heavy artillery fire there instead? Where is it written that we absolutely must be kick ass when it comes to the phone? By all means, let's face our fears, but stop beating yourself up and work the strong muscle groups too! Check out this link to some interesting ways for you to hunt for business and then check out these 25 Creative Ways For You To Get In The Door

Another crazy reason why sales people aren't digging the phone thing . . . because they feel like they are on display in the sales bullpen when others aren't making calls. The best way to handle this is to try and get everyone (or even just a few sales people) to agree to the concept of "Power Hour" "Power Hour" is simply an agreed upon time where you and members of your team hit the phones together. This way, you aren't self conscious, you can create momentum and even some fun competition. I kind of look at it like having someone spot you when you lift weights. Sometimes, just having that person there increases your productivity! If this doesn't fly, then try making your calls in an empty conference room or office so you can concentrate.

What else can we do?

1) Prepare better. Have a compelling reason for the call. Reference something relevant to their business, their industry. Practice, your phone presentation. Tape yourself, call others who will give you honest feedback. Having a compelling reason and a compelling message can help reduce your fear big time!

Warning: Be careful of over preparing. It can really be a clever disguise for fear!

2) Mentally prepare better! Visualize your success! If you struggle with the phone, I want you to picture the old you struggling and the new, confident, successful you crashing through the old picture. Play the mental video tape faster and faster. Set it to a mental soundtrack. Picture yourself successfully completing a phenomenal phone call. Getting up a saying :"YES" because you nailed it you freakin rock star! Rock horns to you dude!

3) Give yourself a pep talk: This is one of my favorite Dale Carnegie principals. You did it before, you know you can do it again!

4) Review your goals. Keep a collage of the things you want in your life. Look at those pictures before during and after your calls. Its important that we continually remind ourselves why we are working.

5) Laugh: Its really hard to be nervous when you are peeing your pants laughing! I would highly recommend The Jerky Boyz because their comedy was based on things they did on the phone!

6) Music: There is nothing like listening to your favorite tunes to get your "I wanna rip bumpers off of cars" thing going. Why not create a play list on your ipod just for this to get you in your "zone"

7) Use The "30 Minute Rule" I read an article by Gary Stauble who suggests getting on the phone within 30 minutes of our arrival at the office. He likens it to getting into the pool by just jumping in. I like it because we are less likely to get caught up in other, non money activities if we hit the phones quickly!

8) Start off with some easy calls. Perhaps there's a call to a customer or two you could make just to get the muscles going? Consider an exploratory type of call where you are simply calling to find out the name of the decision maker so you can send info. Jill Konrath in her wonderful book Selling To Big Companies suggests that we warm up or practice on our lower priority prospects.

9) Move! Get a headset or long phone chord, get off your rear end and move! Motion creates emotion and you get to burn off that nervous energy.

10) Smile! Smiling relaxes you and study after study tells us that people can actually hear your smile over the phone. Might help to get them in a more receptive mood, huh? Keep a mirror by your phone. How you look, is often how you sound. A focused concentration on something like this will take your mind off the nervousness!

10.5) Keep learning and improving your technique. The better you get the more your confidence will improve. Check out Art Sobczak's book How to Sell More In Less Time With No Rejection. His website has lots of phone tips. Steven Schiffman's Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work book has some cool ideas in it. Jeffrey Gitomer's has phone tips injected with a crazy sense of humor. Here are 12 Ways for you to get your prospect to call you back

What else can we do to avoid that "I wanna curl up in the fecal position" (yes I meant to write fecal. It's a Larry the Cable Guy expression) type of scared?

Hold a ceramic cup of warm water. The warmth travels through your nervous system and has an incredible calming effect.

Post the word "Breathe" by your phone. When we get nervous adrenaline kicks in and that gives us a shortness or breath which in turn makes us more nervous. Having this word by your phone will not only remind you to breathe but will take your focus off of being nervous!

Do NOT take inbound calls, check or respond to emails when you are making outbound calls. This will keep you from clinging to "safe" things and beginning the whole avoidance thing all over again!

Remember to face your fears but also to be realistic about them. Understand that its perfectly OK not to like prospecting and to fear that which makes us uncomfortable.

And sometimes, we need to realize that perhaps we might just be putting way too much emphasis on something that is only a part of an overall sales mix of activities!

Go get 'em!

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  1. Paul,
    Once again thank you for sharing. I know this will help me and a few reps in my office.

  2. @Jamie Always an honor to give back my friend. Go get 'em!

  3. Hello Paul,

    I believe you meant to say curl up in fetal position not "fecal" The fecal position gives me a bad visual. EWWWWWWW...LOL None the less, good stuff!!! Keep the tips comming.

    Ryan Romsland
    Spangler Graphics

  4. Paul,

    Great post! Dialing for dollar$!

    Mike Scaglione

  5. @ Ryan: Believe it or not, I really meant to say "Fecal" It's a Larry the Cable Guy thing I chose to rip off! Thanks dude!

    @ Mike: Thanks amigo. Rock on!

    Thank you both for contributing!

  6. Paul, this article is excellent! Thank you for the ideas.
    It reminds me of the Nike saying, Just Do It!

    Tonight I give my monthly motivational seminar and I address FEAR as False Evidence Appearing Real. Too often, we let "mind chatter" or negative self-talk, get in the way of our action.

    You mentioned Dale Carnegie which is useful.

    Think of the best call you had recently. How did you make that happen? Follow the same recipe for success - and do it again.

    Thank you Paul, I always learn something from your discussions.
    You always add value to the relationship!

    Neil Wood

  7. Paul, another great posting. Several of your 10.5 tips for calling I already use, thanks for refilling my arsenal for the times I need to get past the excuses not to call that we all fall into from time to time.

    Dean Wolter
    Image Systems
    A CGX Company

  8. Well stated Neil! There really is momentum in "Just Doing It!"

    Neil is the author of a fantastic book The Magic Of Working Smarter. A must read for the aspiring rock stars in our group!

    And Neil, you always add value to the relationship my friend!

  9. Thanks Paul...always a worthwhile visit to your blog. I am doing a lot of prospecting right now and getting my ass kicked calling on people who are being bombarded by other calls has made me a little gun shy. I will try to work in some of these techniques. I appreciate the insight.

  10. Paul--you always have such good insight. But one thing, it's "fetal" position, not "fecal," as that word refers to...well, a certain bodily excrement. :)

  11. Hey thanks and believe it or not I meant to write "Fecal" I have gone back in and made a note so you all know it was quite intention.

    Grassy ass!

  12. @Eric: Thanks for the kind words! Keep at it and consider using other things in your sales mix if you aren't doing so already!

  13. Hi Paul,
    Love the article. Even people who have been selling for a long time (14 years in my case) can get phone-shy after several rejections or rude clients. I've noticed myself waiting for something to get my attention away from calling as you said. Guess it's a phase all salespeople go through at times.


  14. Thanks Steve!

    You aren't alone. That's for sure. Actually, WE aren't alone, because I still struggle with that and stage fright every now and again. But its all good. Fear can be a good thing. Keeps us from getting sloppy!

    Rock on Steve!

  15. Lots of good stuff here, but who you calling "Cupcake," Dillweed? I really LOVE the telephone, because no matter what you say or do, the customers can't get their hands on you.

  16. Thanks Hank. You're no cupcake! That's for sure!

    I agree with you about the phone. Its was so much nicer before caller ID :)

  17. Great post...lots of truly good is one to add. As Inside Sales Experts, we encourage our clients to implement a 10x10 policy. That means every rep needs to have made 10 calls by 10am. The manager runs a report every day to verify. In some instances it has raised productivity by 30%! Simple but effective. Thanks again for your tips.

  18. Thanks Trish!

    What a fantastic idea!

    I would highly recommend that our readers consider Trish's Inside Sales Experts blog required reading

    I certainly do!

    Thanks again for contributing Trish!

  19. I love reading these for the kick I need in the right direction.
    Here's a preview of my morning...
    Received a response from a contact after dropping off cookies (adorable foot in the door cookies at that)there was someone else I should talk to.
    I have the email code and phone code of new contact and couldn't decide what to do...
    Call, email, call, email
    So I decide to push my comfort level and go for the call...A little hapahazard, not too much back and forth but still a good conversation.
    Now I can't decide should it have been
    Call, email, call, email
    I suffer from style procrastination and remorse AHHH.
    At least she knows who I am now and my bumbling ways. Guess I'll just roll with it and use it to my advantage!
    Back to creative door openers. More my stong suit. Thanks Paul for the great article


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Paul Castain is the Vice President of Sales Development for Consolidated Graphics (CGX) one of North America’s leading general commercial printing companies. Paul has over 25 years of sales and sales leadership experience. He has trained, mentored and coached over 3,000 sales and sales leadership professionals. An accomplished public speaker, Paul has delivered numerous key note addresses. He has authored numerous training manuals, articles, blog posts and is currently working on his first book for release in 2011. Feel free to email Paul This has been a paid announcement by the friends of Paul Castain!

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Paul Castain's Sales Play Book is blog dedicated to strengthening our sales game, supporting rock star development and developing jedi like skills. All that is required is a willingness to learn and a sick sense of humor!

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