The Telephone Fear Factor

A few months ago I had lunch with an entrepreneurial friend of mine. He was quieter than usual; I did most of the chatting while we made our menu choices. Once the waiter had taken our order and left, I asked my friend what was on his mind.

And I heard what I often hear – he wasn’t keeping up with prospective clients properly. He wasn’t finding the time to pick up the phone and besides, he said “I hate making those phone calls”.

My immediate reaction to this is always (and forgive me but after all, I am The Phone Lady) you’ve got to be kidding me! There’s potential business out there for you and you are letting it slip away because you don’t like the telephone! Isn’t that well … ridiculous!

But I hear this so often, from so many different people, that I have to temper my reaction. In fact this is such a common lament that I’m constantly looking for the “why” of this somewhat self-destructive avoidance of the telephone. Here’s one possibility:

It starts with a word – vulnerable. The definition of vulnerable is “susceptible to physical or emotional injury; susceptible to attack”. And I believe this to be the key to why so many people have an unreasonable fear of the phone. When you pick up the phone and call someone you don’t know and you can’t see, you are 100% vulnerable to what happens next. And that’s scary!

Let’s for a moment, compare this to networking. In a large room of people we don’t know we have a wide array of signs and signals that help us choose whom to approach. Sometimes we join a conversation that interests us, or we comment on the food to a person standing nearby, or we compliment someone on their jewelry, or we recognize someone’s name, or we walk towards the friendliest smile.

In a face-to-face setting, while we can still feel vulnerable, we are better able to predict who will welcome us, what will happen next. And even more importantly, everyone is sharing an experience – whether it is a seminar or a breakfast meeting – there is something in common to use as a starting point.

That’s not the case on the phone, at least when you are cold calling, or following up on prospects you’ve neglected. You have no idea what they will be doing when you call and you can’t see them to assure yourself that your call will be welcomed.

So the same thing that makes a cold call powerful – the screen analogy that I introduced last week – also makes a cold call frightening.


How do we work with this? At this exact moment, the only answer I have is practice. The vulnerability is real and if you want to use the telephone effectively you have to get comfortable with it and the only way I know how to do that is practice.

It would be good to hear your thoughts. Whether you are someone that spends a lot of time on the phone or someone who avoids it, what is your reaction to this notion of vulnerability? What are your suggestions for working with this aspect of telephone communication? Are there other things you do that contain a similar element of vulnerability but you don’t let it stop you?


Happy dialing everyone! TPL

Leave a comment

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.