5 Tried-and-True Ways to Overcome Your Reluctance to Call Prospects, According to Hoffman's Founder

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Jeff Hoffman
Jeff Hoffman


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salespeople overcoming their reluctance to call prospects

It doesn’t matter how frequently you call prospects or how many years you’ve been in sales, you’ll always feel some anxiety before you dial — and that’s a good thing. If you’re nervous, you’re taking it seriously.

Anxiety only becomes a problem when it impacts your ability or willingness to call. I’ve met reps who will do everything in their power to avoid making calls, which unsurprisingly hurts their ability to fill their pipeline with new opportunities.

If you struggle with a fear of calling buyers, use these five strategies to overcome it.

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How to Overcome Your Reluctance to Call Prospects

1. Make getting a “no” the goal.

When I was a sales manager, I’d hold a calling contest with a “no” quota whenever I wanted my reps to spend more time on the phone. The winner was the first person who got 25 “nos.” Rather than feeling dejected every time they heard “no” from their prospects, my reps would be excited.

Why is this contest effective? Because the salespeople inevitably heard “yes” as well. It took one of my reps 28 calls to hit her 25 “no” quota — because three prospects decided to set up another meeting.

In fact, salespeople usually have a lower failure rate when you run this contest. They’re less anxious than usual, which leads to confidence that’s apparent to buyers.

Don’t wait for your manager to run this contest — you can do it yourself. Set yourself a “no” quota, grab a notepad and a pen, and keep a running tally of the rejections you get. When you hit your quota, award yourself a prize.

2. Focus on the activity — not the outcome.

Measuring your prospecting activity’s success by how many meetings you book can be dangerous. Let’s say you’re aiming to land three meetings a day. You call 15 people, and every single one is busy, on vacation, away from their desk, in a meeting, or simply in a bad mood. Through no fault of your own, you haven’t managed to schedule a single meeting. You’re probably going to be reluctant to hit the phones again tomorrow.

Reframe your thinking by measuring success by activity, not outcome. In this way, you control whether or not you meet your goal. Instead of attempting to book three meetings, commit to asking 20 prospects for a meeting.

Even if every prospect says no, at least you can go home knowing you accomplished your objective. And chances are, some of those people will say yes.

3. Put yourself in the right environment.

When we don’t want to tackle a task, we can find endless ways to fill our time. That’s why I advise salespeople to put themselves in an environment where they have nothing to do but call.

Prepare your lead list, phone numbers, and research, and go to a conference room or another part of the office with your phone. If you’re sitting at an empty table with no distractions, I guarantee you’ll make calls.

Some reps can’t leave their desks. In that situation, try shutting off your wifi or even blocking specific sites. Do whatever you need to so calling is your only option.

4. Switch leads with another rep.

I use this strategy all the time to combat call anxiety. When you’re struggling to pick up the phone, find another member of your team and switch leads with them. They call 20 of your leads, and you call 20 of theirs. If any of your leads come to fruition, they’ll give those names back, and vice versa.

Because you’re not calling your own leads, you aren’t as emotionally attached to them. It becomes much less nerve-wracking to pick up the phone.

5. Do your homework.

Who wouldn’t be scared of picking up the phone and calling a total stranger? If you don’t research a prospect before the call, you’re not just making it harder to establish credibility and have an educated conversation: You’re also dialing up your own anxiety.

When you know a buyer’s background, responsibilities, details about their company, and challenges they’re probably facing, you’ll feel far more confident calling them. Knowledge is power.

In addition, being prepared transforms your role. Instead of a pesky telemarketer, you’re a subject matter expert with unique insights and advice to offer.

These techniques will help you reduce your fear of dialing from a nine to a three. Your heart will probably still start to race slightly faster before you call a prospect, but remember: A little fear isn’t a bad thing.

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Topics: Sales Calls

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