Help! I’m frightened to make that call!

Categories: Winnthinks

Ever get this? You have a list of people you need to call, but somehow everything else is more appealing. Filing, checking the database (again), making a coffee … somehow you can’t find your mojo when it comes to picking up the phone. You may even feel nervy and tummyish at the prospect.

You are not alone and it’s something I’ve seen often. Sometimes it’s new starters who are feeling ill-equipped, but just as often it’ll be experienced members of staff – even top performers – who acquire an aversion to calling out. Outbound Paralysis can strike anyone. I’ve experienced it myself.

But the bottom line is that if your job requires you to make calls, you’re going to have to do something about it.

Here are some common beliefs about outbound calling that have been expressed to me.

  • I’m trespassing on their precious time uninvited.
  • Nobody likes a pushy salesperson.
  • The fact that I called them puts huge pressure on me to get it perfectly right.
  • I need to get a result out of every outbound call otherwise it’s been a failure.
  • The switchboard won’t put me through anyway.
  • If that person wanted something they’d get in touch.
  • Even if they say they’re happy to talk, they’re only tolerating me.
  • Only one call in fifteen results in a sale anyway.
  • I’ve got more pressing things to do.
  • I’m the wrong personality for this type of work.
  • I’m not totally in love with what this company is selling.
  • I don’t feel particularly proud representing this organisation.
  • I hate working to a script – it makes me sound like a robot.
  • I wish I had more of a script to help me with what I’m going to say.
  • They always say no anyway.
  • What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?
  • I’m all fingers and thumbs when I’m inputting the data they give me.
  • I never know what to say in response to…
  • I’m never quite sure how to transfer them without cutting them off.
  • Nobody wants a phone call these days – everyone would rather use email or IM.
  • I really messed up the last one.
  • I just don’t feel ready yet.
  • I just don’t enjoy them.
  • I just want to be liked, and they might not like me calling them.

Anything I’ve missed?

Outbound Paralysis could be costing your organisation in terms of:

  • Productive leads that aren’t followed up.
  • Allowing a competitor to slip in and steal your business.
  • Not letting your existing customers know they matter and you’re thinking of them.
  • The ruffled customer, sitting and stewing over something that happened – a quick call could restore their confidence in you.

It may also be harming you personally. Fear and the strain of constantly trying to avoid something can be miserable.

So what’s going on?

Outbound Paralysis stems from the messages we allow to play over and over in our own heads.

If you or I are listening to the radio and we don’t like what’s on, what do we do? We switch to another programme, or we hit the off button. When it comes to what’s playing in our own heads – those negative messages and distraction tactics – we often find it easier to stay tuned and turn the volume up. It doesn’t make sense, but humans often don’t.

The good news is that for every unhelpful belief we’re listening to, there’s an equal and opposite statement to be found on the other channel. For example, instead of: “I’m trespassing on their precious time uninvited,” you could say: “I’m offering a conversation with me as their next activity.”

Instead of “nobody likes a pushy salesman”, tell yourself “everyone likes talking to someone who listens respectfully”.

Instead of “they always say no anyway”, try “I love it when they say yes!”

What you can do:

  • Be clear and realistic about your aim for the next call. If you set the bar too high each time, e.g. to get a sale with every call, you’re setting yourself up to fail. If you aim instead to simply touch base with an old client, or to confirm some contact details, or just to get a call under your belt and enjoy the conversation – that will feel more like setting yourself up to succeed.
  • If making calls is only part of your job, book time with yourself in the diary to do them. It’s often easier to knuckle down and get on with it when you’ve already mentally committed a chunk of the day. Don’t allow this time to be given away to anyone else.
  • If making calls is your main role, learn how to step into Professional You for each one. Use your Self Talk, take the time to replenish yourself often and work with your colleagues as a support network.
  • If you are highly introvert, or very new in your role, you are likely to be less comfortable initiating a conversation. Accept this and form a strategy. Brain pick those around you and write down useful responses to common questions.
  • If you don’t believe in your company or its product, why is that? Is there a bigger picture you’re not seeing? Is there some other sense of meaningfulness you could find in your work? If not, perhaps it’s the right job but the wrong place.
  • Accept that sometimes people won’t want to talk to you. It might not be a good time for them, they may not be interested in what you have to say. It’s a numbers game. It’s not personal. Thank them for their time, update the system and move on.
  • Reset the radio programme. Compose and repeat your own alternative head messages until they become your instinctive response should those unwelcome thoughts creep in.
  • JFDI. (Just Flippin’ Do It).Yes, really. Sometimes it’s a question of simply getting on with it and accepting it really wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be. It’s the tactic that worked for me.

Here’s wishing you every success with your calls, and if this is something you’d like some more help with, please get in touch.

Books you might find helpful:

Maximise Your Phone Confidence by Robbie Stepney
Cold Calling for Chickens by Bob Etherington
The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance by George W Dudley


  1. Hi Rebecca. I couldn’t have put it better myself! #MakeThePhoneYourFriend . Have a great Easter break. Best wishes, Richard

  2. I take that as a huge compliment, Richard, recognising you as a real expert in this area. Thank you indeed! 🙂

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