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The Green Sheet Online Edition

August 10, 2009 • Issue 09:08:01

Call reluctance: Diagnose it and treat it

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

It is common today to hear merchant level salespeople say, "I just don't seem to have much success on calls today; it must be the economy." There is no doubt the economy has affected our industry.

More merchants are closing than opening today, and in some states, the number differential is quite large.

However, are we using the economy as a scapegoat to justify poor performance? Could we be facing the dreaded disease, call reluctance?

Call reluctance has to be identified early and immediately treated. If not, it will lead to lost momentum, stagnant growth, worsening financial pressures and, ultimately, to the death of your business.

The symptoms

The following simple test can identify if you have contracted call reluctance:

  • Do you begin your day by scheduling activities that are not sales related?
  • Do you avoid any call that could be classified as a cold call?
  • When looking back at your normal day, do you find the majority of your time was spent on activities unrelated to sales?

If you answered yes to any of these, you have call reluctance. Without immediate treatment your businesses growth - and your future - may be in peril.

Luckily, you can take steps to reverse call reluctance's effects, but they only treat the symptoms. Without addressing the root cause, you are likely to remain under call reluctance's spell.

Call reluctance is a failure to make the necessary calls for sales success. The onset is subtle, but the disease grows quickly. Its primary trigger is an increased rejection rate: The same number of calls does not lead to the same level of signing success as previously. Success is measured only by signed merchants - no other result matters.

The initial treatment for call reluctance, as well as the steps necessary to avoid it, requires correcting your definition of a successful call. Indeed, a successful call should be defined by only two results: a decision (a yes or a no) or a positive next step.

When we define a successful call as only a signed contract, we begin measuring our success not by our efforts, but by items outside of our control. A no is seen as a failure to be avoided at all costs. We accept even a flicker of a maybe, and then proceed to chase that maybe for weeks or months when the chance for a yes is truly nonexistent. This leads to frustration, the first sign of call reluctance.

The treatment

First, you must drive for an answer, even if the answer is no.

Remember, you can only control your actions, not those of other people. No matter what you say or do, you cannot force someone to say yes. That is the individual's choice, not yours. If you do your part well, and your prospect says no, that is a successful call.

Therefore, it is important that early in the process you give your prospects permission to say no. If they are interested, your customers won't say no.

However, if they are like most people, unless they are certain they can say no without hurting your feelings, they may offer platitudes like asking you to leave them something to read. This isn't a positive next step; it's an avoided no. It becomes a maybe to you, and your time is too valuable to chase maybes.

The recovery

By first addressing your success measurement, you address the emotional impact of all calls. Your value will not be defined by the number of signed contracts, but by your success in getting decisions. Also, by eliminating maybes you eliminate the false hope that results from repeated calls with no success, as well as gain valuable time to spend on positive steps to grow your business.

The second step in avoiding or overcoming call reluctance is to execute a consistent, measurable call plan designed around your definition of success. Again, don't measure the number of signings. Measure success.

For example, you may say you want to sign one merchant a day, but that doesn't define what you are trying to accomplish, as you may make 20 or 30 calls and sign no one. It would be better to say, "I want to get 10 decisions today."

What happens if the first call you make leads to a signed merchant? Many would stop there and call it a successful day. Instead, by measuring decisions, you will have nine more decisions to get before your day is done - even if all are no. You may be surprised at the number of times people say yes instead.

The prognosis

You will likely sign more merchants because you won't be frustrated with those who say no, nor will you be wasting time on those that say maybe.

By chasing decisions, you impact what you can actually control. Measure your call plan by decisions received, and you can find success even in a day when no merchant signs a contract. Ultimately, that is what eliminates call reluctance. The economy is no longer an excuse; you will succeed every day. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Director of Business Development with Clearent LLC. He has more than 12 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340.

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