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A Thing Ask Dr
Ask Dr. Dave - Making Contact

by Dr. Dave Barnett

Who really sells the most? Recently an NFL coach was asked to explain why his team lost the big game. "They did a sloppy job of tackling," he said. "They didn't make contact." It's the same in sales. You've got to make contact! Regardless of what level your sales performance has achieved, you will not maximize your true sales potential without discovering new and creative ways of contacting the people who can make a difference in what you earn.

Many salespeople are taught to hate prospecting. They learned avoidance behaviors rather than approach behaviors back at Level One or Two. It may have been a manager who said, "Anybody who makes cold calls is unprofessional." Or, the company's sales training program reinforced the notion that prospecting is only necessary to build a business and when you make it big, you can stop. When these ideas take root in the salesperson's mind and begin to grow, selling gets sloppy and sporadic. We call these emotional barriers to sales productivity contact hesitation syndrome.

What we know is that people who avoid making contacts may be psychologically comfortable, socially mobile, and organizationally acceptable. They just won't make as much money as salespeople who comfortably and consistently make the calls.No, contact initiation isn't all there is to a successful sales career. It may not even be the most important thing. But what we do know, scientifically, is that it does come first. If your definition of success includes making money, you must identify and overcome contact hesitation and build new patterns of prospecting behavior. Making those calls is the lifeblood of a successful selling career.


What You Really Get Paid to Do At a recent sales convention I asked an auditorium full of peak performing insurance salespeople, "What do you really get paid to do?""Sell!" they shouted in chorus. It was a moment any guru might savor. I went on to finish my point and wouldn't have given it a second thought if I hadn't been approached by one agent after the speech. "Good job," he said. I was relieved. "Except," he went on, "I'd like to disagree with you on one point." "What's that?" I asked. "What we get paid to do," he said, scratching his head, "everybody thinks we get paid to sell, but I'm not so sure about that."He told me he used to work for another insurance company before joining up with his current outfit. He was laid off because the management team got fed up with salespeople not making calls. One day, they got rid of their whole agency force, fired them all. They took the money they used to pay in commissions and started advertising their toll-free telephone number for over-the-phone insurance quotes."That's what I mean; I'm not sure we're paid to sell," he concluded. "The sale is the end result. But what a salesperson does that you can't do with ads and a toll-free phone number is make that personal connection with people."This salesperson was well on the way to discovering the pay-off of Level Four Selling. He had stumbled upon the great truth of sales productivity; you manage results by managing activity. And the single best measure of sales activity is the common, ordinary, one-on-one personal contact. Struggling salespeople have a tendency to make secondary activities more important than initiating contact with prospects, customers, and clients. These distractions are usually worthwhile and sometimes even necessary to support the sales process. But more importantly, they soothe deeper emotional needs for the salesperson rather than activating career needs.

Here's how it works. You get behind quota. Your attention shifts to making the numbers. You feel anxious. You lose long-term focus to mobilize your energies around avoiding disaster rather than achieving success. Suddenly what available energy you have is going into coping with stress rather than contacting clients. It's easy to lose heart when you get away from the heartbeat of sales.

Dr. Dave K. Barnett is a speaker, trainer, and co-author of Earning What You're Worth? The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance. He holds a Doctorate in Organizational Management and is the President of PsychoMetrics International, Inc. PsychoMetrics specializes in convenient, cost-effective leadership development and personal coaching through individualized, interactive training. For more information call (888) PMI-0003 or access