Question: “How do you get a salesperson to stop working?”
Answer: “Put a phone in front of him.”
That’s a little joke that elicits nervous laughs at my keynotes and seminars.
For thousands of salespeople, picking up the phone and calling a prospect is the most stressful part of their life. Many of these reluctant salespeople stare at the phone, secretly hoping that it will disappear. They procrastinate, get ducks in a row, and work to ensure that everything is perfect before they dial. Any excuse—and I mean any excuse—to do something else takes priority.
They work over their leaders, too. Whining that no one answers the phone anymore. Arguing that it is a waste of time. Complaining that people don’t like to be contacted by phone.
Last month a top-five insurance company hired me to deliver a Fanatical Prospecting Bootcamp for his team. The executive who bought me in said that the single biggest challenge facing their new agents was prospecting. His words: “We are having such a hard time getting them to just pick up the phone and talk to people.”
When I arrived on the morning of the training, he pulled me aside and said, “I hope I haven’t put you in a bad spot. We didn’t spend time discussing the new reality in our industry, but no one answers the phone anymore. I realize you are going to do live phone blocks, but I wouldn’t expect too much out of them.”
We did three live phone blocks that day using targeted lists the agents brought with them. Over the course of the day, we had a whopping 51 percent contact rate—actual live prospects answering their phones. This was not a statistical anomaly. It was generated by 19 agents who made 1,311 outbound dials.
At the end of the day I sat down with my contact and showed him the numbers. He was both thrilled—as in “when can we get you to come back and do this again” thrilled—and bemused.
“I don’t understand how you got those results. Everybody tells me that people don’t answer the phone anymore.”
“Who is telling you that?” I asked.
“The agents,” he responded.
“The same people that you say won’t make calls?” I asked.
He slowly nodded his head as the weight of this realization sank in.
Nobody answers a phone that doesn’t ring.
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