Fear-Free Prospecting: How to Do It

By Connie Kadansky: Prospecting is an emotional as well as intellectual endeavor. So when your energy and enthusiasm for pursuing new clients flags, you may be suffering from call reluctance. Here are four steps you must take to banish fear of prospecting and achieve your greatest success.

Max, a relatively successful advisor, called last week. He had finally come to the conclusion that if he wanted to double his income—which he assured me is entirely doable—he had to start prospecting consistently. The irony of Max’s situation is that he has lots of credentials. He even teaches financial planning classes. Worse, he shared that his buddies laughed at him when he confessed to his sales-call reluctance.

His attempt to have an assistant make prospecting calls wasn’t working very well, either. She got few appointments, and the ones she got weren’t what he had hoped for.

He asked in the most sincere tone of voice, “Is it possible to overcome sales-call reluctance?” I answered in the most sincere tone of voice, “Yes, if you want to, and if you have the motivation to do the activity necessary to build your business.” Those are big ifs—especially for people who are semi-comfortable with their current income.

Sales-call reluctance is the emotional hesitation to initiate contact with potential clients—or the emotional hesitation to prospect and self-promote. Note the word “emotional.” That is a very important word. It is not an intellectual exercise to prospect—it is an emotional exercise. No matter how much experience and expertise you have, sales-call reluctance can hold your career hostage.

Max requested that I outline the four steps to overcoming sales-call reluctance, and what I did for him, I will now share with you.

1. Lock in motivation

First and foremost, you must be motivated and have the will to succeed in your business. If you are not motivated and do not have the will, you have a completely different issue—an issue that looks and feels like sales-call reluctance but is actually totally different and requires a different treatment. You may need to contact a psychologist, a career counselor, or a well-trained coach to get your infrastructure in place to succeed.

2. Identify your “negative intruders”

You must identify your obstacles, or “negative intruders,” head on. What do I mean by that? Well, what is going through your mind when you reach for the phone, then stop, swing around and check the market one more time, then check e-mail, then refill your coffee cup, then get into a conversation with your assistant, and then realize it’s lunchtime and decide you’ll do calls after lunch?

What is it that is causing you to hesitate? What thought comes in your head that stops you from making prospecting calls? Here is a list of what stopped one FA from prospecting:

  • They already have someone else they’re happy with.
  • They’ll say, “No, I’m not interested.”
  • I’ll appear unorganized.
  • I’ll forget what to say.
  • I’ll say the wrong thing.
  • I’ll talk too much.
  • They’re in Florida. Why would they want to work with someone in Arizona?

Here’s another list of obstacles from a different FA:

  • I wonder if I’m ready to make calls.
  • I wonder if I am in the best frame of mind to make calls.
  • I worry if what I’m saying is the ideal thing to say.
  • I worry about their perception of what it is I am trying to accomplish.
  • I worry that I will stumble over my words and they won’t come out right.

Even people who have decided to focus on a referral-based business may experience negative intruders. They might be thinking:

  • I don’t feel I’ve served my client enough to ask.
  • I don’t deserve to get referrals until I have proven myself.
  • I don’t have enough time on my appointments to ask for referrals.
  • I forget to ask.
  • I don’t like to ask for help.
  • I don’t want to sound pushy.
  • I don’t want to make my clients feel uncomfortable.
  • I don’t want to jeopardize the relationship by asking for referrals.

What are your negative intruders? What stops you from prospecting? Stop reading right now. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes and imagine you are ready to prospect. You reach for the phone and you hesitate—what immediately comes to mind? Open your eyes and start writing—your freedom from sales-call reluctance starts with identifying your negative intruders.

3. Realign your thinking

Your brain works in many amazing ways. Here are some of the thought processes that affect call reluctance:

  • Your brain allows you to create visions of the future and dream about achievements and successes! How do you envision your success? How will it change your life? Learning to visualize your future success is important to overcoming call reluctance.
  • Conversely, the brain also has an amazing way of immediately creating obstacles. If you don’t allow yourself to identify your obstacles, overcoming your call reluctance will be very difficult. Awareness is key!
  • The amazing brain has a third ability, which is the ability to strategize to overcome every single obstacle! Yes, it’s true! That is the good news.

Human beings are meaning-making machines. We are always attempting to make meaning out of what we experience. This can be good or bad, but it is the way we are wired. Remember that last time someone expressed interest in talking with you but then wouldn’t take your phone call? How many stories did you make up? For example, did you think, “Oh, she was just trying to be nice at the time,” or “He’s just an insincere jerk,” or “She really had no intention to follow up with me.” And you stopped contacting them—because you bought into your own story. You sandbagged yourself rather than objectively and professionally staying in touch, calling, and marketing to them appropriately.

The trickiest, most interesting part of being a meaning-making machine is that when we don’t know how something is going to turn out, we make up a story—and then we buy into that story. It is the story—not necessarily the truth—that can stop us. There are some people who have a stronger need to know than others. Because of this character trait, these people are extremely uncomfortable with risk and uncertainty—and are extremely prone to this damaging type of thinking.

Do you exhibit this behavior? Thought realignment is one of the main prescriptions for overcoming sales-call reluctance. It is based on the premise that it’s not the situation that causes you anxiety. It is not actually the prospecting that causes anxiety—it’s your thoughts about prospecting that causes your anxiety.

So the reality is that it’s possible to overcome sales-call reluctance, if you are willing to address your obstacles head on. Your ego doesn’t want you to admit your negative intruders—it wants to keep you in deception. So your ego gets bruised as you address your call reluctance, but you are the only one who knows that—and maybe your coach.

4. Don’t judge yourself (or others) harshly

After you have identified your negative intruders, look at the list and say, “These are very interesting.” Notice that you are not labeling them or judging them other than finding them “interesting.” There is no better word to neutralize the negative than “interesting.” Try it! You met an “interesting” person today. Simply “interesting.”

Wow! It’s a psychological relief. It is important not to judge yourself as you go through this process. If you choose to judge yourself, you actually will take yourself in reverse. No judgment and no self-criticism. Also, by being neutral when you meet a new prospect, you’ll begin to break the negative cycle of assigning intent. That person will simply be “interesting,” not “an insincere person who has no intention of meeting” with you.

Here’s an exercise for you: choose one of your obstacles and counter it. What do you need to do to move past it? For example, one of the obstacles of one veteran advisor was “I don’t know what to say.” When he really thought about it, he was able to immediately counter the obstacle with, “That is not true. I simply need a script with bullet points, because in reality I know my business inside and out.” Once you identify your obstacles, you’ll be able to address them one at a time to overcome them.

You will have struggles, guaranteed. However, once you bring your obstacles, your negative intruders, to the surface, you’ll be on your way to fear-free prospecting. Your confidence will soar once you start prospecting. Self-confidence is the by-product of productivity!

How do you handle call reluctance?

If you have an issue with call reluctance, click the feedback button below and tell us your story. Share your obstacles with us!

Connie Kadansky is a consultant, speaker, and trainer specializing in overcoming sales call reluctance. She offers effective tools and training to diagnose call reluctance and assists salespeople in highly profitable prospecting. Connie facilitates the Fear-Free Prospecting and Self-Promotion WorkshopTM nationwide. For additional information, contact Connie at (602) 997-1101 or visit her website at www.exceptionalsales.com.

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