Note: The following case study is a fictional account of a salesperson loosely based on an actual salesperson the author has known or has been associated with.
Case Study #1: Bill
Bill enters the office, rushing past the sales manager’s office on the way to his desk. As he passes, Bill breathes a sigh of relief. John, the sales manager, is on the phone and hasn’t noticed him.
At his desk now, Bill scans the all-too-few phone messages in his in-basket. Nothing looks promising—a couple of callbacks from existing customers but no leads, no sales.
Bill knows what he must do, but just can’t get himself to do it. He needs to get off of his seat and get out on the street. He needs to make some cold calls. With less than 50 percent of quota reached and only four days left in the month, Bill feels like a failure and is sure his manager would agree. But next month will be better, Bill assures himself. Next month the leads will improve and some of the proposals he has out would close.
Just then John enters the sales room. “How’s it going, Bill?”
“The month is almost over,” John says. “Do you think you’ll get the sales in by month’s end?”
“It looks real good,” Bill says as he glances at his watch. “Got to run, I don’t want to be late for my appointment. I’m scheduled to call on Acme construction. They build over one hundred homes a year, and I’ve got a shot at their security business.”
Bill lied. He doesn’t have an appointment with Acme Builders. The fact is Bill made one call on Acme. And when the receptionist said no one was available to speak with him, Bill gave her his card and asked her to call if they were ever in need of a security supplier. He never called back.
Twenty minutes later, as Bill sips coffee at the local Denny’s he wonders if he could get a job at the shipyard. They might have an opening in marketing for an experienced salesperson. “The security business is not for me. How can I compete with the big guys here in town?” he thinks. “I’m just in the wrong business.”
Bill, an experienced, once-successful salesperson, has a problem. Nothing is wrong with the industry he is in. Nothing is wrong with the company or product Bill represents. The problem resides in Bill’s mind. Bill may suffer from one or more forms of contact hesitation or call reluctance. Deep down inside, Bill knows he has a problem. However, he doesn’t know how to fix it and he is too embarrassed to ask for help. He certainly won’t ask for help from his sales manager. He feels sure he’ll get fired if he admits his problem.
Bill is hesitant to make the sales calls he needs to make, even though he knows his future in sales depends on it. When he attempts to make cold calls, he becomes nervous and uncomfortable. He feels as if he is imposing on people who have expressed no desire to see him. He knows he should make cold calls; however, at the same time, he feels that making such calls is unprofessional. He prefers to work with clients who have expressed a need for the product, prospects with whom he can develop a relationship over a period of time, winning the right to do business. Cold calls conflict with his vision of professional selling.
What form of call reluctance does he suffer? Without testing, it is hard to say. He could be suffering from yielder call reluctance. The yielder salesperson needs the appreciation and approval of everyone, which often results in indecisiveness and conflict avoidance. Yielders do not prospect well. They may become immobilized by a fear of rejection or disapproval. They may develop an acute sensitivity to interrupting people. Yielders enjoy servicing existing accounts more than aggressively developing new business.
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