Sales and Sales Management Blog

July 29, 2010

Book Review: The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales

Seldom do I review a book that has been on the market for years, much less decades.  But I ran across my old beat up copy of  The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales
and decided since the book was in such poor condition I’d order the newest edition.  After reading it again, I thought I’d do my small part to encourage as many sellers and sales leaders as possible to pick up a copy and set aside some time for some serious—and potentially highly productive—reading.

Authors George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson are psychologists who have spent decades researching one of the key barriers to sales success—call reluctance.  The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales (Behavioral Sciences Research Press, Inc: 5th Edition 2007) is designed to help sellers and sales leaders recognize the issues that are keeping them from prospecting effectively and to overcome them. 

Dudley and Goodson argue that sales call reluctance isn’t as simple as the fear of rejection it is so often claimed to be, but instead can be any one or any combination of twelve different issues that prevent sellers from fully engaging in prospecting. 

After first dealing with the difference between true call reluctance and call reluctance impostors (things that may look like call reluctance but aren’t, such as low motivation or low goals), the authors get down to business by laying out in detail the twelve root causes of call reluctance. 

These prospecting killers are:

  1. Doomsayers those who over prepare for the worst case scenario
  2. Over-Preparer  spends time preparing to prospect, little time prospecting
  3. Hyper-Pro   in Texas we’d call them all hat, no cattle—spends all their time on the show of success, no time on becoming successful
  4. Stage Fright  avoid group presentations
  5. Role Rejection  buried guilt or shame about being a salesperson or self-promoter
  6. Yielder  hesitant to be seen as intrusive or forward
  7. Social Self-Consciousness  afraid to market to upscale prospects
  8. Separationist  resistant to selling and marketing to friends
  9. Emotionally Unemancipated  resistant to selling and marketing to family

10.  Referral Aversion  uncomfortable asking for referrals

11.  Telephobia fear of using the phone to connect with prospects

12.  Oppositional Reflex  a need for a great deal of approval but having very low self-esteem

Like a great many other sellers, I can spot myself in this list—my self-diagnosis is Over-Preparer and Role-Rejection (one of the role rejection issues the authors discuss is a seller’s discomfort with self-promotion as many sellers have been brought up to believe that self-promotion is unseemly and socially unacceptable).

Along with the description of the call reluctance issue, Dudley and Goodson include some self-diagnosis questions and typical work behaviors associated with the issue that will help you determine if you—or one of your sellers-is a victim of the particular prospecting killer.

The authors don’t leave you hanging.

Of course the book would be useless if it only diagnosed the illness without giving an appropriate and effective prescription to cure it. 

Dudley and Goodson lay out in detail six procedures (and a couple of minor ones) to counteract and correct the dozen call reluctance issues.   

Each discussion of a call reluctance issue is accompanied by a list of the countermeasures effective for treating it so you know what your illness is as well as the correct prescription to deal with it. 

A countermeasure is designed to change your thoughts, your feelings or your actions. Every call reluctance issue has multiple countermeasures–at least one countermeasure to deal with your thoughts and at least one to deal with your feelings, and almost all have a countermeasure to help change your actions.

Countermeasures are too complex to go into any detail here, but an idea of where the authors go with countermeasures can be gathered through some of the countermeasure’s names: Thought Realignment, Threat Desensitization, Thought Zapping, and Fear Inversion.

The Pros:

The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance:

  • Presents a research based assessment of the causes of sales call reluctance
  • Provides detailed tested and proven prescriptions for dealing with the identified call reluctance issues
  • Helps distinguish between true call reluctance and those actions that appear to be call reluctance but aren’t

Unlike most sales trainers and consultants who claim to know the cause of call reluctance, Dudley and Goodson have moved well beyond the “fear of rejection” assumption and have provided sellers with a well researched discussion of its causes and cures.  That alone is worth every penny of the book’s cost.

More importantly, the proposed cures really seem to work, which is far more than can be said for the old “just do it” formula so often prescribed by motivational speakers.  A real, workable, effective solution makes the book priceless.

The Cons:

Unfortunately there are cons—both in style and execution.

Let’s take the less important style cons first:

1) The authors skewer sales trainers, psychologists, and motivational speakers for claiming they have ‘the answer.”  Dudley and Goodson are just as guilty if not more so since they make such an issue of beating their straw man sales trainers, psychologists and motivation speakers about the head and shoulders unmercifully. 

2) The authors try too hard to turn a semi-academic work into something more akin to literature.  They get far too carried away trying to make their similes and metaphors cute and unique that they are almost laughable.  Yes, a minor point, but one that after awhile becomes weary. 

Now to the far more important execution issue: the diagnosis and prescriptions are going to be very difficult for a great many sellers to handle on their own (not to mention that an even greater number of sellers will never make it through the tedious detail of the book).  Many, if not most, sellers will have to have someone to both guide them through the book and to hold them accountable for executing the prescriptions.  I think far more sellers will be successful using Dudley and Goodson’s research if they work in conjunction with their manger, a coach, or mentor. 

If you’re a seller, I encourage you to get a copy of the book, work through it, and then find someone—a manager or coach probably—to work with you to diagnose your call reluctance issues (if you have any) and then work through the countermeasures.

If you’re a sales leader, even more this book should not only be on your bookshelf, but should be in your hands—you just might find it solves many a vexing problem your sellers have had.

The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales



  1. […] Book Review: The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales &laqu… […]

    Pingback by Same, same but different | Uncategorized | Information about Careers — July 30, 2010 @ 12:46 am | Reply

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    Comment by Bill Todd — July 30, 2010 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

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