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The Fear of Calling Customers

There are many times throughout the week that we think about picking up the phone to call a customer or a prospect, but do not.

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There are many times throughout the week that we think about picking up the phone to call a customer or a prospect, but do not.

We avoid it. Or we get busy. Another call, or fire, comes in. Or we send an email instead. Or we need to drive somewhere. We could make the call while we drive but we do not. We check in with the family. Or the supplier. (They can’t reject us! Well, they could, but it’s less likely.)

Or, maybe we fire up a web browser window and do some research instead of picking up the phone to call our customers. We research products. And then we research the baseball the baseball standings. How are our baseball teams doing? My Cubs seem to put it together at the right time. Then we go research some football. There’s college football, the NFL (my Bears, are, predictably, off to a terrible start) and so then are our fantasy football teams! How’s the fantasy team doing? Got to check!

And so we don’t call. We avoid the phone call because we are afraid we might be rejected. Of course, the customer is happy to hear from us. Because a customer is also a human being (crazy, right?), all they really want is to know that you are there for them, that you won’t let them down. They want to know that their supplier or provider cares about them.

Fear is the reason we don’t call. It’s the reason you avoid most things you know you should do. Even having to leave a voicemail is often perceived as rejection. I’ve failed!

The fear of rejection has cost you a lot of money. There’s a lot of business you haven’t asked for, or followed up on, because of fear. There are a lot of referrals you haven’t asked for because of fear.

Here’s the thing—just as we are afraid, the customer is also dealing with fear. It’s slightly different, but it’s equally intense: We fear rejection, while the customer fears selecting the wrong supplier or service provider. We fear failure, while the customer fears being let down and looking bad in front of their boss and colleagues. We fear being yelled at by our customers, while our customers fear being yelled at by their boss for your mistakes or problem.

The best thing to do—and there’s nothing even nearly as effective—is to call customers and prospects proactively. Check in with them. Ask them about their families. Tell them you were thinking about them. They won’t get mad at you. In fact, it’s impossible to be angry when somebody tells you they were thinking of you.

Recently, a salesperson at a client’s company made such a call to his customer, a busy project manager. She was stunned. “What do you need,” she asked.

Him: “Nothing, just saying hello, and checking in.”

Her: “Really? What’s wrong?”

Him: “Nothing. I’m just calling to see how you’re doing.”

Her: “But really, what is it?”

Him: “I was just thinking about you, what are you working on that I can help with?”

After her shock and awe wore off—because nobody calls for no reason—he explained to me that they had a lovely conversation for 20 minutes. Two weeks later she called him and increased their work together by more than 50%.

That’s how these things work. When you call, you are present. You are memorable. You are basically Asingular. Because the competition isn’t calling!

Here are four kinds of phone calls you can make:

  • Call a customer you haven’t talked to in six months or more. This will force you to think about and identify these very important people and make contact.
  • Call a prospect. Somebody who hasn’t bought yet. We don’t communicate with prospects typically because we only talk to people who call us. And only customers call us.
  • Call somebody who used to buy, but stopped. Tell them you were thinking about them.
  • Call somebody you know is buying from a competitor. Express interest. Tell them you have a customer similar to them who’s thrilled, and you’d like to help. ‘

Is there some overlap in these categories? Sure. But I want you to think about who you can communicate with. Show people that you care about them, that you’re thinking about them, that you want to help them, and they will thank you with their money.