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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Confronting Call Reluctance

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There will always be times when a financial professional won’t “feel like” making calls. For the intermittent phone-avoider, this article won’t be too helpful. But for those of you who would admit to yourselves that you repeatedly “do something else” instead of making your appointment-setting phone calls, then perhaps a new look at this behavior is in order.

Many managers and trainers will use the phrase “call reluctance” when referring to a specific behavior, i.e., avoiding the phone by finding some other busy work (although legitimate!) during what could and should be calling time.

If you ask managers and trainers, “Why do you think your agents are avoiding the phone?” 9 times out of 10 their answer will be “fear of rejection.”

I disagree.

I, too, thought it was “fear of rejection” until I found that my experience as a phone trainer proved otherwise.

First, how can someone in sales be afraid of rejection? No one sells everybody they see; yet, the morning after we don’t make a sale, we wake up and go after the next sale. If we were truly afraid of rejection, then we wouldn’t be in sales of any kind.

Second, and more importantly, I have seen many “call reluctant” people get on the phone after admitting in class they were suffering from this malady. Yet, after receiving help composing a script that sounded more genuine to them and felt more like the message they wanted to say, they got on the phone. So how can they be “call reluctant” when they gladly picked up the phone in these circumstances?

I think there’s something else going on.

Let’s talk about the people who tend to go into the financial services industry. I would like to make a group of assumptions about those people who might be reading this article.

First, you’re probably a pretty smart person. (That’s not just for reading National Underwriter and other professional journals, but rather because this industry requires a certain amount of “smarts” for initial admission: one has to pass all the licensing exams.) Second, you’re probably an out-going, people-oriented person. If you don’t like people, it’s pretty hard to be a financial consultant.

Third, you most likely have extraordinary verbal skills. Most sales people do. (That’s why we all have to work on listening.) Most of us are great talkers and can engage all types of people in conversation.

And last, I’ll assume that you have faith in your ability to achieve success. People who can do a commission-only job usually have this personality trait.

If you take outgoing, verbally adept, self-reliant people, put them in front of a phone, and they think they may sound like a blubbering idiot, they won’t do it. Here’s an important psychological fact: People will not do an activity that is in conflict with their self-image.

Therefore, good talkers will avoid the “talking activity” of setting their appointments if they think they’ll sound like they’re tripping over their words.

It all comes down to words.

I have seen this behavior throughout the 18 years I have spent training financial services people on appointment-setting phone skills. Once agents have a script that sounds “real” to them and gets the right message across to the prospect, they’ll happily get on the phone. If the prospect is someone in their natural market, the stakes are higher for the script to be “perfect”.

So when the new or experienced agent is not calling neighbors, friends and family, it’s probably not due to “call reluctance.” It is more likely an issue of “what should I be saying to this person that won’t jeopardize our existing relationship?” It all comes back to the words.

The following script is my favorite for those who are intimidated by calling their closest friends, neighbors, etc. It does not imply any pressure to buy or do business with you. It merely says that you’d like to be there for them:

Hi, this is Gail. You know that I’ve been a (financial advisor, agent, consultant, etc.) for a long time, and I have never called you on a professional basis. I am calling to apologize for that because I would simply like to position myself as an additional financial resource to you (and your family or business if appropriate).

Perhaps we can meet for a cup of coffee and I can share with you the total scope of the work that I do. That way, you’ll be able to use me and the resources I represent in any way that makes you feel the most comfortable. I know you are very busy, so what would be less hectic–this week or next?

To all the managers reading this, I would challenge you to reject the concept of “call reluctance” completely. Instead, perhaps we can reframe the behavior as follows: It’s an issue of needing improved training and better scripting. Once the words are organized and sound genuine, any previously reluctant agent should get on the phone.

Suppose your agency has excellent training and someone with good scripting skills, yet you still have people who are unable or unwilling to make phone calls. I’d respectfully offer to you that you may have the wrong recruit for this business.

Once the proper training has been conducted and legitimately strong scripts are shared with an agent, there cannot be any other excuses for not calling. But until those 2 things are in place, it is possible that you might have a group of agents, both young and old, who continue to avoid their calls.


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