Expert Commentary

You Can't Pick Your Family

Does selling to your family fill you with guilt and dread? Emotionally Unemancipated Sales Call Reluctance is the fear of selling to members of one's own family. It is a behavior that is often triggered by comments from a sales manager, often without realizing the detrimental effect on sales initiative. Salespeople need to recognize this syndrome and overcome it to be effective.

Eradicating Sales Call Reluctance
August 2003

Emotionally Unemancipated Sales Call Reluctance is quite a mouthful. It simply means that, if you have it, you will find it very difficult to mix business with your family. You will have difficulty selling to them and may even find it impossible to ask them for referrals or help. The people most likely to help you will be out-of-bounds for you. The more you have of this, the worse the problem becomes.

Like Telephobia, this is a targeted type of Sales Call Reluctance. It only affects your ability to sell to your family. Other family encounters are generally unobstructed. This type of call reluctance is not a problem if your family members are not in your market. If they are, you might ask someone else to sell them for you.

While not a difficult one to cure, most salespeople with this call reluctance prefer to avoid the issue altogether and compensate for the lack of family help by working harder with strangers.

Bob "The Wheel is Turning" Taylor

When I first started selling life insurance many years ago, my second sales manager was Bob "The Wheel is Turning" Taylor. (The first and last names have been changed, but the middle part has been left intact.) Bob was a smart, respected sales manager. He earned his nickname because he was always telling us, "The wheel is turning." His voice would take on a sinister tone as if he were delivering some ominous news. He would be referring to the fact that time was going by and we needed to hustle. My first sales manager was Big Bill the Basher. Why do we salespeople label our sales managers like this?

I still regard Bob as one of the best sales managers I ever had and I credit him for having saved my faltering sales career. As good as he was, I look back at something he did that has stuck with me and that could have caused me to become more call reluctant than I already was.

We had weekly sales contests and I always managed to pull out just enough sales to win them each week. I was determined to win. The prize was an unusually shaped crystal drinking glass and I was getting quite a collection. My wife looked forward to Monday nights when I would bring a new one home. One week when I was one sale short to win the prize, I called on my sister and sold her the policy I had been meaning to sell her but had never gotten around to doing. When Bob announced me as a winner that Monday, he made a snide remark: "Let's see how well Frank Lee does when he runs out of relatives."

His remark shocked me because I felt it was not warranted. After all, I rightly felt, family members needed insurance too. But guess what? I didn't sell another policy to a family member for months. Thank goodness, common sense overtook this call reluctance. I knew my family members needed insurance and I knew I was the best person to do the job. So I eventually did sell to all of them.

Watch Whom You Let Near Your Mind

I had no Emotionally Unemancipated Call Reluctance then. Bob's comment could have helped me to develop it. It had some effect but not a lasting one. Had he said that to someone who was already leaning toward this reluctance, his simple comment could have pushed the salesperson over the edge and given him a full-blown case. This is why author George Dudley warns salespeople to watch whom they let near their minds.

Sales managers often do not realize the effect their words have on budding salespeople. They can encourage them or they can cause them to develop long-term bad habits based on nothing more than the sales manager's state of mind on that day. I'll bet if you met Bob today and asked him about that comment, he would not even remember making it. Yet, here I am, 35 years later, and I remember it as if it were yesterday.

In all fairness to Bob, it made me more determined than ever to sell—just not to my family. He made selling to family feel like a disgrace so I had to work harder to earn those pretty crystal glasses.

Job Seekers

I often work with job seekers. We call them "in transition" because they are in transition from one job to another. Many are high-level executives. Lately, many have been high-level high-tech people. I found in testing them that a large number score high on the Emotionally Unemancipated scale.

When I discuss this privately with them, they will admit that their close family members do not even know of their distressful situation and this is one reason why they cannot network with them or even ask them for help. They feel almost ashamed of their position and do not want to discuss it with their families.

While I understand their feelings, I cannot help feeling sad that they would exclude the people who probably care most about them from having the opportunity to help them. Unfortunately, like all of the call reluctances, this is an emotional—not a logical—issue.

The Cure?

In their book, The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance—Earning What You're Worth, authors George Dudley and Shannon Goodson recommend several "prescriptions" for this call reluctance. They work. However, I often feel that this is something that has to be worked out between the individual and his or her family as well. There are usually some underlying issues that also have to be resolved.

One salesperson told me he did not have any family. He was an immaculate conception. Another salesperson told me, "You ought to meet my family. You wouldn't want to sell to them either!"

If you are a salesperson with this call reluctance and your family is in your market, I suggest you get this book and read the chapter on it. If your family is not in your market, then forget it. Sales will present enough other challenges for you to deal with.

Other Sales Call Reluctance articles include the following:

Article Topic
Can You Swim? Referral Aversion
Who's Afraid of the CFO? Social Self-Conscious
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
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 1-800-898-3743 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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