How to Help Your New SDRs Overcome Call Avoidance

Call avoidance, or call reluctance, is something that a lot of new sales development reps struggle with. As sales development is typically an entry level role, filled mostly by recent millennial college grads, talking on the phone and having business conversations with high level executives can be a bit scary. One reason our millennials are call avoidant, according to John Brandon (contributing editor at Forbes), is they want to minimize the potential for conflict, which can happen over a phone call. It’s understandable! I didn’t want to get into conflict with prospects when I started making sales calls either! After they go through your on-boarding process and it’s go time, how do you help them get over that fear of actually making a dial? Or if, like some sales leaders I know, you have SDRs that are email-heavy, how do you help them get back on the phone?

Regardless of the reasons your SDR may be hesitant to hop on (or hop back on) the phone, there are some things you can do to help set the on a path for success. As a leader, it’s really our job to serve our SDRs, and so I offer the following ideas as ways to really help sales development reps become great sales executives of the future. There are five things that SDRs need in order to overcome call avoidance:

  1. Perspective
  2. Positive Self Talk
  3. Study Time
  4. Call Shadowing
  5. Role Playing.
The first thing we can do to help SDRs with call avoidance is to help give them some perspective. Their jobs are extremely important in the quest to land new logos, and yet at the same time, we have to give them permission to make mistakes. Perspective can help do that. Is it important that we book a meeting with company X? Absolutely. Is it okay if you flub your call and get blown off the line? Absolutely. Perspective says, “it’s not the end of the world if you get stymied on a call and don’t know what to do.” This needs to be a standard part of any SDR on-boarding. We’re putting the most important part of the sales process into the hands of young twenty- and thirty-somethings, some of whom have never had a “real” job before, so let’s give them some room to make a mistake with grace.

The second way to help out an SDR who may be call avoidant is to teach them to do some positive self-talk before they get on the phones each day. It can definitely sound corny, and may actually even feel weird to do, but research says the effects improve performance. They need to be taught how to do this effectively, though. According to Ethan Kross, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, it’s not enough to do the ol’ Stuart Smalley routine of, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonnit, people like me.” Kross says that you need to speak of yourself either by name or in the third person. As opposed to saying, “Okay, I can make this call,” we should be saying, “Okay, you can make this call.” This is called psychological distancing, and allows you to look at a situation more objectively. Kristen Wong reports that a study done by Kross showed that subjects who practiced this form of self-talk, “not only [felt] less anxiety while performing, but their peers also rated their performances better.” Who doesn’t want to feel less anxious and be a better performer? I can tell you this, Chris does, that’s for sure.

Third, let’s teach our SDRs that they need to take time to study. They’re used to that, being not that far removed from college. What, exactly, should they be studying? Let’s start with your service or solution. Do you want your SDRs to have deep dive discussions with C-level execs? Chances are you don’t, you want them qualifying, but if they have in-depth knowledge of your offering, their confidence is going to boost their performance should they find themselves in that kind of a situation. Investor and entrepreneur Robert T. Kiyosaki says, “knowledge breeds confidence. Confidence destroys fear…” As leaders, we need to give our SDRs time to do that. We need to give them time off the phone (no, not their lunch hour), so that they can steal away into a conference room or a reading nook and really internalize all that your software or service has to offer. Give them the chance to build their confidence so that call avoidance is an after-thought.

The fourth way we can help new SDRs overcome call avoidance is by letting them call shadow some of your more successful reps. I’m sure that this is part of your initial training, and that’s great, but let’s keep it going after that. If you’re in a state that allows for call recordings, I am truly envious of you, as that is the best way to let SDRs in on great calls. You could even set up a private playlist so that they can listen to them on their commute into the office in the morning. Listening in on fruitful calls from their peers (and combined with the positive self-talk) will give them the confidence that they, too, can do the same things. If you’re in a state like Massachusetts, where call recordings must be disclosed before they start, it’s a little more difficult. The option to schedule blocks of call shadowing sessions is really the best one you have. Take those top SDRs and book time for the new ones to sit in and listen, or seat ride, with them and have them take notes.

Lastly, to help those SDRs who may be call avoidant, make time to role play with them. Let them make time to role play with their peers. Role playing is important because it affords SDRs the opportunity to try new techniques (new objection kills, new questioning paths, new open-ended questions, etc.) without that fear that they’re going to “lose a prospect.” The best time to practice? In my opinion it’s the beginning of the day – shake off the cobwebs before actually getting on the phone with prospects. The really elite SDRs are going to pair up with someone during their morning drives to the office and role play over the phone, to make the simulation as real-life as possible. The bold SDRs? They’re going to ask their boss to do the mock calls with them. Help your SDRs who are nervous to hop on the phone by allowing them to be the prospect and listen to you be the rep; give them the opportunity to think through the mind of the buyer.

In conclusion, for the SDRs on your team who may be reluctant to hop on the phone, maybe we really need to ask them if they’re in the right role in the first place? I mean, you need to be on the phones to be successful, and if you’re afraid to get on the phone, maybe there’s another spot on another team for that rep. For the ones that have the chops to do it and may just be skittish, I’m hoping that the suggestions above can help you help them. Let me know in the comments below if you have any other ideas on how to help, or if this post was helpful to you as a leader.


PS: My friend, David A. Brock, has some thoughts on re-thinking the SDR as just an entry-level role, and you should check that out here!


Image Copyright: Elnur / 123RF Stock Photo

Chris Snell

Chris Snell

Chris Snell is Director of Sales and Marketing for QuotaFactory. As the second SDR hired way back in 2002, when the company was formerly known as AG Salesworks, Chris is currently responsible for the sales and marketing efforts of QuotaFactory. Chris lives in southeastern Massachusetts and is the proud father of his two children.

Subscribe to Sales Wars!

Join the Jedi's of the B2B sales and marketing world for data-backed strategies, tactics and methods to accelerate your sales forecast. May the sales acceleration force be with you!