Coaching Tips for Call Reluctance

woman talking on the phone

Over the past 35 years, I’ve spent a lot of time reading resumes and interviewing candidates to fill proactive calling positions. It’s something my clients still ask me to do. And what was true in 1987 is still true today. Finding the right people is challenging because … the job is really hard.

On the surface, it might seem that dialing the phone, leaving messages and having conversations are easy. It isn’t. Because doing it consistently, and doing it well, involves an incredible amount of discipline and organization.

I’ve often encountered individuals who were really, really good at phone sales and customer outreach, yet failed to get the job done on a daily basis. Why? They suffered from call reluctance.

Whether you are managing a team or managing yourself, call reluctance is something you want to quickly identify and then create the necessary coaching.

How can you recognize call reluctance? And how can you eliminate it with coaching?

The word “reluctance” comes to us from 15th-century Latin and means to strive, struggle, rebel against. What this definition reveals is that reluctance has a lot of energy behind it. It isn’t going to dissipate because someone says, “Go and make your calls.” It isn’t influenced by goals, prizes or cash bonuses. When someone is reluctant, they are struggling.

The first step in working with reluctance is recognizing the role it plays in your life.

We are all reluctant about something. In workshops with managers, I’ll ask them, “What are you reluctant about?” The answers range from exercise to housework, to laundry to cleaning the garage.

We all struggle with something. Recognizing this allows us to bring empathy and understanding to our coaching process. It will also allow us to be more creative in supporting ourselves or our team.

Reluctance is related to our belief in the value/priority of the task as well as our ability to create and follow a discipline or process to get the task done. 

For example, when working with new business owners I will ask them, “What is your highest priority as a business owner?” I’ll get great answers about making money, delivering excellent service, and so on. The reality is, if they don’t let their target market know they exist, their business will not survive. It is absolutely vital that they connect with potential clients/customers consistently.

Of course, for everyone, self-employed or not, there are multiple demands in the day. Team members are often constantly interrupted by meetings, office chat messages, incoming calls, etc. It can feel impossible to create the necessary space to make outbound calls. This feeds reluctance.

The #1 way to defeat reluctance is to work with others.

When someone is alone in their office, at home or onsite, the struggle to pick up the phone is massive. But if they are part of a team making calls for the next hour, or matched with a phone buddy at a specific time each day, those calls get made.

We all know this works because, in our own lives, we’ve had friends that get us running, walking, exercising. And friends who’ve helped with big household projects. Reluctance dissolves when met by a team. 

Often the importance of the call is not clearly understood, or it is forgotten. Make sure the reason for making the calls is 100% clear and written down. It can even be posted on a wall or near the phone. Simply saying “We need to make money” is often not enough to defeat the reluctance. Replacing it with “Our customers need and expect our help right now” can be much more motivating. And sometimes a visual of the future can do the trick – like a photo of the next family vacation.

My favorite way of diminishing reluctance? Keeping and sharing both individual and team statistics. It is highly motivating to know that for every 10 calls made, conversations take place with two people and one of them becomes a client, or books a meeting, or buys something.

How do you win the battle with reluctance? It would be great to hear your best strategies. Do share them in the comment section below.


Closing a sale is the natural outcome of inspiring great conversations and listening intently to our potential customers.

This natural approach still involves a process – a plan that moves potential customers through a journey of discovery with you. So ... what's your process? And am I the right sales coach for you? Let's find out.

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