Expert Commentary

Who's Afraid of the CFO?

There are 12 types of sales call reluctance. This article explains one of them, Social Self-Consciousness, and gives practical suggestions for overcoming it.

Eradicating Sales Call Reluctance
April 2000

Ben is a clean-cut, bright-eyed, affluent-looking insurance broker. His job is to call on big clients. He has only one mandate: to bring in clients with annual premiums of $100,000 plus. He looks successful and talks like a sales superstar. He is also the lowest-producing salesperson in the office.

Outgoing and likable, he has all the right qualities to succeed. By all accounts, he should be outselling everyone around him. But he's not. Ben has a dark, secret fear that prevents him from achieving those big dollars that are within his grasp.

Let's Hear Him Tell It

Ben explains: "Every time I have to call a CFO, I start to feel all queasy inside. I know this is stupid. They are the same as every other person, aren't they? They put their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else. I simply can't pick up the phone and call. Isn't that something? I know he'll have questions I can't answer, want information I can't provide, may not have the time to talk to me, and probably will be very rude. Don't you think this is stupid?"

Ben's Sales Manager replies: "Anyone can be rude, including the lowest person on the totem pole. When someone is rude, that's their problem, not yours. They are probably rude to everyone who calls. Matter of fact, the higher you go up the corporate ladder, the less rude people tend to be. Executives may be impatient with those who waste their time, but even then, they're usually polite."

Ben replies: "You're right. I've noticed that when I do get to talk to the CFO, he or she is always very nice to me."

Ben's Sales Manager reassures: "Another thing you should consider is that you are bringing value to the company. If you have a good, valid business reason for calling, then the CFO should be pleased to hear from you and be willing to listen."

Ben answers: "You're right. Our company has brought tremendous value to the clients we serve. Many are just like the CFO I want to call. They really like us and are happy to be clients."

Ben's Sales Manager asks: "So your queasy feeling has no foundation, right?"

Ben exclaims: "You're right! It's stupid! I should just go ahead and make the call. I'll do it!"

Ben seemed confident and pleased with himself.

Case Closed, Right? Wrong!

Two days later...

Ben moans: "It's me. I didn't make the call. Don't ask me why. I don't know. I just can't get myself to do it. I feel so intimidated. What's wrong with me?"

What's wrong? Ben has a type of "Sales Call Reluctance" fear referred to as "Social Self-Consciousness." It attacks good, honest, hard-working, and intelligent salespeople just like Ben every day in all parts of the world and in many different industries. Not only does it defy logic, it plays with it and then ambushes it.

Ben should have made that call, right? He came to the logical conclusion that his "queasiness" was stupid and had no justifiable basis. Unfortunately, logic was not enough. It seldom is.

No matter how many times Ben told himself that his fear was illogical, no matter how many times he tried to talk himself through it, the uneasiness in his stomach prevented him from making the call. Anything else was preferable: a visit to the coffee shop, a walk around the mall, the mound of paperwork on his desk. The call could always be put off until tomorrow.

Ben Is Not Alone

Numerous salespersons have experienced Sales Call Reluctance, even veterans like Ben. It is a fear that defies logical persuasion. It prevents decent, intelligent salesmen and women from doing the things that they not only know how to do, but want to do. They simply will not allow themselves to act. This emotional short-circuit has ruined many a promising sales career and has nothing whatsoever to do with personality, brains, or motivation.

The type of Sales Call Reluctance that Ben experienced, Social Self-Consciousness, involves intense feelings of intimidation. Others are perceived as being better—in a superior position, having more money or power, or even achieving higher education. Unable to place themselves on an equal footing, the salesperson suffering Social Self-Consciousness habitually avoids these people, preferring instead to call on those at a lower level, even if they are not part of the desired market.

In the presence of "better" people, the salesperson becomes like a child and is easily intimidated. They fawn instead of concentrating on their sales presentations. While bragging that they can call on anyone, they secretly fear these "better" people and find every excuse not to call them. This fear must be disguised and hidden from sales managers. Stories may even be created of their exploits among the rich and famous to throw everyone off. And then the suffering salesperson silently slinks off to hide in a quiet place to daydream about becoming all-powerful.

There is another dark side to this Sales Call Reluctance. Those very same salesmen and women who fear those better than themselves tend to treat lesser mortals with disdain and rudeness. It's almost as if they are acting out the way they expect to be treated by those in power.

Sales Call Reluctance does not turn good salespeople evil. It simply prevents them from prospecting at certain levels. It causes entire markets to be ruled out. When forced into those markets, the salesperson suffering Social Self-Consciousness experiences acute discomfort and becomes less than effective.

What Can Be Done?

Fortunately, there is a solution. A process called "Thought Zapping" is an extremely effective mechanical method for replacing fear with more positive feelings. With fear eliminated, calls on CFOs become possible. Although many scoff at the Thought Zapping process, it has been proven to work and work well.

Here is a shortened version of how Thought Zapping works. (For a more detailed explanation, see the book Earning What You're Worth; the Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, by George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson. Available from Sales Academy, Inc.)

Step 1—Select a type of Sales Call Reluctance to fix. (There are 12 types; in this case, Social Self-Consciousness)

Step 2—Place a rubber band on your wrist and find a quiet place to relax.

Step 3—Imagine a scene where you are shying away from calling the CFO. Make this scene vivid in your mind. Experience as fully as possible those gut-wrenching feelings.

Step 4—Zap! Pull the rubber band back and snap your wrist just hard enough to make a loud sound and yank you out of your thoughts.

Step 5—Immediately replace the gut-wrenching feelings with positive ones, such as the feeling of accomplishment when watching the CFO sign the application. Feel the pride.

Step 6—Repeat this process for 3 days, twice a day.

After this, wear the rubber band around your wrist. Each time you experience call reluctance, zap yourself. The snapping of the rubber band will immediately muscle out the fear and instill a feeling of accomplishment. This allows you to act, to do the things you know you should. In just a few days, simply looking at the rubber band will have the same effect and, a few days later, just thinking about it will produce the same result.

Sound stupid? Tell that to the thousands of people who have already experienced its power. Tell that to Ben who is now regularly making calls on CFOs and others in high positions and who has become the number two salesperson in his office.

Other Sales Call Reluctance articles include the following:

Article Topic
Can You Swim? Referral Aversion
Did Your Mom Intend You To Be a Wimp? Yielder
The Most Difficult Salesperson in the World Oppositional Reflex
The Telephone Bug Telephobia
All Dressed Up, Nowhere To Go Low Goal
Am I Adequately Prepared To Sell? Overpreparer
The Secret Shame of Selling Role Rejection
Look at All My Friends! Separationist
Appearance Is EverythingHyperpro
A Fate Worse Than Death Stage Fright
You Can't Pick Your Family Unemancipated
The Doomsayer The Doomsayer

Call Reluctance, the Fear-Free Prospecting and Self-Promotion Workshop and all related terms are copyrights and/or registered trademarks of Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Dallas, Texas. Sales Academy, Inc. is an Advanced Authorized Dealer for the Call Reluctance® Program. Frank Lee is an international expert on Call Reluctance®. He can be reached at (800)898-3743 or at

Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

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