On my very first day of work, I screwed up the first thing my sales manager asked me to do.
I didn’t even fail, I ignored him and just didn’t attempt it.
“Here are your hospitals, here’s your phone. Go and book some appointments to introduce yourself” he told me with a faint smile.
He then proceeded to sit at the desk next to me and pretend to work through his emails. I instinctively knew this was a test and he was listening to my every word.
I got nervous.
Shy. Which isn’t like me at all.
Let the games begin
I wrote a simple sales script so I wouldn’t be stuttering or getting confused on the phone.
Wow, that killed 10 minutes. But he was still here. Listening.
Watching me from the corner of his eye.
I wrote a list of the staff I needed to meet; operating theatre manager, surgical consultant, lead theatre nurse…
Another 5 minutes. He was still there.
I pulled out my laptop and worked out my top 10 accounts based on previous orders. I noted this down.
7 more minutes.
Doesn’t he have work to do?! People to manage?
He now had his elbow on the desk and chin on palm.
Then I did it. I picked up the phone. I did what every single salesman reading this has done at least once in their sales career, I pretended to dial a number and then faked speaking to a receptionist.
At this point my sales manager closed his laptop, stood up and left the room.
I wasn’t sure if he knew I was bullshitting and had gone to get HR in for a meeting to sack me or he bought it.
What causes phone shyness?
Why had I faked a phone call rather than just speak to someone?
I think it comes from when I was a child. I hated speaking to people on the phone.
So I avoided it.
When you avoid something for long enough the stress of doing it takes on a life of its own and the fear compounds.
Personally I think my issue with speaking on the phone was because it lacks a number of important levels of communication.
Body language, facial expressions, subtle cues are all missing.
I’m a pleaser and so I’d worry that I wasn’t getting the full picture on the call.
I also speak fast and so I’d constantly have people asking me to repeat myself. This doesn’t happen in person which again made me question myself and if I was just wasting the listeners time.
This is compounded further with the fact that I didn’t know who was going to pick up the other end of the phone.
I called for the theatre manager but the Chief Exec of the hospital could easily have answered.
What if I hit their voicemail?
What if they tell me to call back?
What if they slam the phone down?!
I felt I was being judged and had no control over the conversation.
How to overcome phone shyness
Of course like most non-life threatening worries it was unfounded.
This is the biggest take away from this post –
If it’s not going to physically hurt you or a loved one then it’s not worth worrying about
If the worst thing someone can do is hang-up, then there is nothing to worry about.
No one has ever hung up the phone, got in their car and then proceeded to strangle the guy who just cold called them.
At least not to my knowledge.
Over the past few years these are the realisations I’ve had that have gotten me over my phone shyness –
A) It’s your job
You work in sales. You have to cold call and follow up on the phone.
You’re getting paid a great salary to communicate over this medium.
Break down your hourly rate. Then just think, if someone were to hand me £XX in cash right now, would I make a quick phone call to follow up with a prospect?
Of course you would.
It’s easy cash.
B) It’s their job
If you work in B2B sales it’s your prospects job to answer the phone and listen to your pitch.
It’s managements job is to reduce costs, make things more efficient and increase profit.
As your product likely fits into one of those needs then you’re doing them a favour by making contact!
If it doesn’t then you need to find a new product to sell.
C) You’re offering value
If your product or service does what marketing says it does then the prospect should be calling you!
Man, what a privilege it must be to offer someone so much value and to be able to share it with them over the phone rather than in person.
Over the phone you can spread the love to far more people than you ever could hope to do in person.
Once I realised this the fear started to fade.
Practical ways to overcome phone shyness
I never found a magic bullet to overcome my phone shyness.
It just happened over time.
I grinded with a few phone calls a day, hating every minute of it until now it’s just neutral to me.
I’m sorry I don’t have an insta-solution. That’s likely what you read up to this point for.
Most of the time they don’t exist.
Anyone that is pitching you otherwise is trying to sell you a book, software or something else.
However here are a practical few ways you can ease phone shyness a little –
Prepare before your call
For a sales call to be a success (and to reduce the amount of forehead sweat you’re experiencing) you need to do a little preparation.
1) Calm your nerves
Take a few deep breaths and slow your heart rate.
It’s normal to have a little bit of an adrenaline rush before making an important call. I still get that today.
I get it every time I fire up Skype to record a sales conversation on the podcast.
I find once I’ve taken a few breaths I suddenly care a little less about the outcome.
It’s put into perspective.
Being outcome independent is a powerful way to improve your closing rates because it demonstrates to the prospect that your time is valuable.
If they’re not going to buy you have a queue of people lined up who will.
2) Have the DATA
Unless you have a solid CRM system in front of you like Pipedrive (a partner of the Salesman Podcast) you are not ready to pick up the phone.
- Why are you calling this prospect?
- When did you last speak with them?
- What is the name of their dog that you half remembered them mentioning?
- When is this deal likely to close?
This list could go on for days.
A robust CRM like Pipedrive allows you to input DATA at each interaction point and most importantly you can visually see where the prospect is within the sales pipeline.
Your only goal is to move the prospect further along to the right this page.
DATA also allows you to build a…
3) Have a script
You don’t need to spend 10 minutes writing it but a few bullet points of what you’d like to talk about will keep your conversation succinct.
It will give more flow to your conversation and having a direction to aim for stops the potential for any awkwardness.
Scripting an opening is useful too.
It stops you sputtering out your name and then diving into a pitch.
Once you get past this bit of the call you’ll likely feel a lot more comfortable as you’re now in a 2 way conversation.
4) Know your close
Don’t pick up the phone, start replying to an email or head out to a sales meeting without knowing your close.
What is the next step? A demo? Further follow up? Getting the contract signed?
This is one of my strongest traits on the phone. I build rapport and then go in for the kill.
I don’t mess around. I save all that stuff once I’ve taken the persons money. Then we become great friends and do more business in the future.
5) Walk and make gestures
I look like a crazy person when I’m on the phone. I act like the person is sat in front of me and I put on a show.
Arms flailing everywhere. Pacing up and down.
It allows me to express myself better through the limited communication available on the phone itself.
Perhaps they can hear me panting from all the movement or the rustling as a stand up out of my seat to triumphantly ask for their business.
Everyone who has ever done lead generation or worked in a call centre has been taught to smile on the phone.
It makes an audible difference in the sound of your voice.
I can instantly tell if someone is happy that they called me or they’re on the phone because they have to be.
Research shows that smiling can reduce stress even when it’s a huge fake grin your sharing with the office.
Use the kind of smile you flash to the police officer when they’ve pulled you over for doing 32 in a 30 zone.
That’s what I go for.
Of course the best way to overcome phone shyness is to throw yourself into a sales role that requires lots of phone calls (i.e. any professional sales job).
With Salesman.Red I’ve not met a single one of our ad sponsors or clients in person, I’ve done every deal over the phone.
I’m not saying my sales skills are perfect but I’ve come a long way from when I first got started in sales and 90% of that is from just grinding away.
So keep dialling.