Overcoming Call Reluctance (Part II)

“While not every phone conversation I’ve had has resulted in a sale, every sale I’ve made started with a phone conversation.”
Mary Jane Copps

Thirty-two years ago, when I first sat down at a tiny kitchen table set up in the living room of our bungalow in Toronto’s east end, I had no idea of the challenges I’d face learning how to speak with prospects on the phone in order to make the necessary sales to grow my business. I was so naive! But after a very bumpy start that included some sleepless nights and moments of crying with both frustration and fear, I started to figure it out.

And what I learned continues to help me overcome call reluctance. It isn’t that it doesn’t try to entice me. After all, I could check Twitter and LinkedIn first, couldn’t I? And I could call a friend or two simply to warm up my voice, right? And certainly I don’t want to call anyone while they might be having lunch, don’t you agree?

These thoughts and others like them do not control me. And they don’t have to control you either.

What three steps initially helped me conquer call reluctance? Will they work for you?

Find Your Positive: With current research indicating that up to  80% of our thoughts each day are negative, we have to find – and live by – our own positive. For me, it turned out to be a pledge that, initially, I posted on the wall above my phone, and I still share with new business owners in every workshop.

I realized that if I didn’t let potential customers know my company existed, I was cheating them out of making the best possible decision for themselves. This doesn’t mean they would buy from me but, if they didn’t have any knowledge about my company, they wouldn’t have all the variables necessary to make their best decision.

In addition to this, I realized that everyone I was calling was responsible for cultivating new ideas and service providers. My information was important to them and their work. After understanding this, how could I not call them?

My colleague Steve Foran, founder of Gratitude at Work, has a different approach: I ask myself the question, “Is this business (or client) worth the effort of a phone call?” I’ve never answered, “No”.

So … find your positive. Write it out. Carry it in your wallet, on your phone, or post it on the wall. Allow it to vaporize your call reluctance.

Approach Your Calls As A Game: I grew up with board games and card games and I love all of them. From Monopoly and Scrabble to cribbage and hearts, I can play games for hours. When we play a game, there are moments when things do not go well. Scrabble with no vowels for example, or Monopoly with only $50 left. But it’s a game so you play through to the end and, surprisingly often, things turn around. It’s the same with dialing the phone. Each dial is like a roll of the dice and you have no idea what’s going to happen but you do know that, eventually, it’s going to be good.

Keep – And Trust – Your Statistics: In my early days as an entrepreneur I was definitely more naive than smart. In our second or third year, we did reach out to BDC and a lovely gentleman visited with us for two days, analyzing everything we did. In the end, he sat with me and congratulated me on our accomplishments. I thought, “Uh oh, this was a waste of time,” because I didn’t feel very accomplished and wasn’t yet paying myself a living wage. What was he talking about?

He shared with me that the average salesperson closes one in 10 people they speak with; at the time he’d figured out that I was closing one in five.

Two important lessons collided in that moment. First, I had been living with the incredibly debilitating belief that I was supposed to sell every one I spoke to, ending every day feeling like a complete failure. This information was liberating!

Second, I learned the value of keeping my own statistics and I continue to do it faithfully. I record every dial, message, returned call, meeting, proposal and sale. When you know that for every 20 times you dial the phone, you reach 4 people, and for every 4 people you speak with, three meet with you (or book a demo, or accept a proposal), and for every three people that meet with you, one becomes a client … how can you possibly allow call reluctance to rule your day?

Of course, your statistics don’t indicate how every day will play out. There will be some days when you’ll dial the phone 20 times and not reach anyone. But you can trust that, overall, the averages will hold true. The day, or even week, with no activity will be followed by a day or week or month of steady conversations and meetings and new clients.

Be diligent about keeping your statistics. Trust them.

Pick up the phone and #InspireConversation

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What's The Phone Lady doing?


  • Remote learning experiences + one-on-one coaching for women entrepreneurs (More info about this three-year program here.)
  • Team and individual coaching with a national moving company to refine their sales process
  • Remote half-day training for provincial tourism representatives
  • Remote seven-part sales training program for US-based SaaS
  • Remote webinar on accounts receivable communication for industrial-services company
  • Remote webinar on validation to college students in entrepreneur program
  • In-person workshop on job search skills for women in the trades
  • Remote half-day webinar on written correspondence to customers

Do you or your team want to improve your communication skills? Do you have a communication question or challenge you'd like to discuss? This quick-to-fill-out form is easy to use and you'll hear from Mary Jane very soon.