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Paul Weyland

King Revenue Killer: Call Reluctance


One Tuesday afternoon I was leaving a lunch meeting with a client. As we walked toward the parking lot I saw, among a crowd of people exiting a movie theater, one of my salespeople. Surprised, I said, What are you doing at the movies? And, equally surprised, he answered, Hiding from you.

I took the client back to his office and drove back to the station. The entire drive time back to the station I just couldnt shake the image of that employee spending a couple of hours at a movie. I had never done that before. Why would he, especially now as he had failed to meet his numbers for the third month in a row? And this guy was usually a real go-getter. It made me angry. I depended on him and he was hiding from me.

When I returned, I called him in and we sat down in my office and shut the door. Your billing is down. Why were you at the movies instead of calling on clients? I asked. He sighed and said he just felt worn out and unmotivated. Nobody wants to buy in a recession. Our numbers are weak and its hard to justify buying us so I just needed a break, he said. I sensed the diagnosis as what we call reluctance. It happens to virtually everyone at some point.

As a seller I never went to the movies, but I know that sometimes I did other things to avoid making calls and I could always find a way to rationalize my behavior, just like this seller was trying to do.

In my book Successful Local Broadcast Sales I outlined a call-reluctance scenario.

I get to the office at 8 or 8:30okay 9, in the morning. Its not my fault Im late. The traffic is terrible. First I go to the coffee machine. I cant work without my coffee. I run into a coworker. We discuss the game or something else we saw on TV last night. After coffee I go to the restroom and then go back to the break room for another cup. I told you I cant work without my coffee. A couple of more conversations with coworkers. Hey, its time for a cigarette break. I need to smoke when Im working. And Bill and Susan are out there. Okay, time to check my Facebook page. I make a few obligatory client phone calls. Have to. The boss wants us to make a couple of calls. Then, its lunchtime! I might as well go home for lunch. Oh, yeah. Better stop at the cleaners andis that new store finally open? Shopping here is fun. Oh, no! What time is it? What happened to the time? I have the attention span of a ferret on crack. Id better hurry back to the station. DarnI forgot to ask anybody at that store if they do any advertising. Oh, well. Ill do it later. Man, its already two in the afternoon. Id better get back to the computer to crank out some computer-generated proposals for clients. The clients wont understand them, heck, I dont even understand them. Theyll probably reject them anyway. Everybody does. But these are really for the boss. The boss has been on me lately because my billing is down and suddenly she needs to see proof that Im really working. Of course Im really working. Its not my fault the economy is down. Besides, our station sucks in the ratings. Ooh, a message from that furniture client. Says its important. Better call him back. No, that would be a bad idea. Hes mad at me because I didnt call him yesterday. If I call him now hell probably cancel. Ill call him tomorrow. Well, its almost five oclock anyway. Better start shutting it down for the day. Dont want to miss Happy Hour. Man, this media business sure is hard lately. I think Ill leave now and try to beat the traffic.

Lesson: Dont confuse effort with production.

Of course call-reluctance is not a disease limited exclusively to the broadcast industry, it is a scourge in any business that involves selling. But the naked truth is that call-reluctance is perhaps the single-biggest issue confronting sales managers because we know that, like herpes, its always there. Our job is first to acknowledge that reluctance is real. It is the elephant in the room. Once we admit its existence within our ranks, we take immediate action to limit its damage.

Reasons that salespeople avoid making calls vary. Some people have a personality issue and just dont like meeting new people. Many salespeople fear rejection. Some sellers are intimidated by their clients because secretly they are afraid that they dont know what theyre doing. Some people are easily distracted or have poor work habits. And sometimes salespeople just get burned out.

What can we do to battle call reluctance? Confront the problem openly. Admit that it is there and call it out. Bring up the issue in your sales meetings. Teach your team to avoid negative self-talk. Warn new sellers to avoid gossipers and whiners. Work with your sellers one-on-one and help them customize a more structured day. Challenge every objection or excuse for not making calls. Teach your team new headlines they can use to get appointments with decision-makers. Advise salespeople who are burned out to take a few days of vacation. Openly confront and correct attitudinal problems that result in not making calls.

Do the math to show your team why its in their best interest to make more calls. What is the sellers average order amount when he/she does make a sale? What is the commission on that sale? What is that sellers true closing ratio? Divide the closing ratio into the commission from an average sale and show the salesperson that every time he makes a call it is like putting X amount of dollars into her pocket. How much money do you want to make today? Get out there and make the calls.

Paul Weyland helps broadcast stations make more local direct sales. He works with stations in all-sized markets. Buy Pauls books and CDs at . Contact Paul about market trips and webinars at 512 236 1222.

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