Fear of Rejection: The Misdiagnosed Prospecting Problem

Despite its bad reputation, cold calling is a critical component of most organizations’ business development strategy. While emails and social connections absolutely have a place in prospecting, cold calling is the primary means of reaching out to those who may not yet know of your product/service and the value you offer. But if it’s so critical, why do so many reps do it so badly? Experts argue that the primary factor is fear: Fear of rejection, in particular. But fear of rejection is not the culprit. It’s the fear of not knowing what to do.

Say it isn’t so!

So I can sense the incredulity right now. “What do you mean my team doesn’t know what to do? Of course they know what to do!”

Time to put that theory to the test. Let’s say you have 10 sales reps.  Get them all in a room and ask them the following question:

“You have a target account. What research should you do?”

How many different answers do you think will you get? Certainly more than one. In all likelihood, you will get 10. (Which means that at least 9 HAVE to be wrong!).

Now ask these next few questions.

“Who should you reach out to first? Should you call or email?  What do you say in those calls?  What do you write in those emails?  What do you say in your voice mails?”

And a third set of questions…

“When should you follow-up? How long should you wait between follow-ups? How many times should you follow-up? Who else should you contact in that account?”

Going out on a limb here, I’d say you are likely to get 10 different answers to each question, yet again.

10 reps x 10 answers about research x 10 answers about outreach= 1000 possibilities

Yes, the math is correct. Your team may have 1000 variations on how to reach prospects!

Add in the different messages you might deliver during those outreach attempts and the variations are virtually endless.

Adding Insult to Injury…

Not only does your team not know what to do but if you tell them what to do, they almost certainly still can’t do it.

Perhaps a real world example would help explain:

Imagine you are taking a golf lesson and the golf pro says “Use a six iron to drive this ball to the green.” You look at the pro like a deer in headlights, so he says “Let me show you how to do it.” He grabs the six iron, drops a ball on the ground and takes a beautiful swing that sends the ball 180 yards, straight as a string and drops it on the green. Can you do what just as he did? Probably not. It takes time and a lot of practice to match up the ‘know what to do’ with the ‘know how to do it’!

Mastering prospecting skills is the key to success.

The same goes for prospecting.  Sales leaders tell reps to:

  • Do research
  • Develop insights
  • Make calls
  • Leave voice mails
  • Send emails
  • Follow-up regularly
  • Engage in a friendly way
  • Don’t sound like a sales person

But how reps do these things makes a huge difference. It’s important to teach them the right way, but then they must practice, practice, practice!

When outreach is conducted the same way, every single time, that repetition creates prospecting ‘muscle memory’ just like the golf swing. Reps don’t even have to think about what to do when they gain the experience and confidence to execute calls flawlessly. It’s called being unconsciously competent. And that right there is the magic.


The Misplaced Fear

The general assumption is that reps fear rejection when reaching out to cold prospects. The potential for the dreaded hang-up or rude person on the other end of the line must be the barrier to picking up the phone, right? Wrong. The perceived fear of rejection stems from a lack of confidence in what they are doing, and lack of insight into results. Lack of knowledge is scary—how do you think psychics stay in business? The future is unknown and that makes people uneasy.

The best way to help your reps conquer their fears is through knowledge. Stop telling them what to do. Start showing them and then help them master the “how to”. Once you remove the guesswork, the fear will diminish. They will become unconsciously competent and amazing results will ensue.

Removing guesswork leads to flawless execution.

They will become unconsciously competent and amazing results will ensue.

What do you think? Do reps fear rejection or is lack of knowledge to blame?

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