Conquering Sales Prospecting Reluctance

Conquering Sales Prospecting Reluctance

The truth about salespeople who are reluctant to prospect boils down to two things: First, they are reluctant to prospect because past attempts resulted in failure. Second, they don’t know what to say to prospects. Prospecting reluctance can be the silent killer of sales careers. This article explores the cause and provides actionable advice to overcome prospecting reluctance.

Prospecting avoidance is common, even among the most experienced sales professionals. It’s not something to feel ashamed about. Our brain is naturally wired to avoid risky situations, leading us to tell ourselves things like, “I don’t want to interrupt my prospect” or “I don’t want to come across as pushy or desperate.”

Unfortunately, these thoughts create mental barriers that hinder our success in prospecting. Thus, when salespeople experience reluctance in prospecting, it’s essentially a self-defeating mental habit that has developed. Feeling reluctance toward prospecting is natural, but doing nothing about it will limit our potential.

As sales professionals, we must address this issue and find ways to quiet that little voice in our head telling us not to prospect. By identifying and challenging these limiting beliefs, we can work towards developing a more positive and empowering mindset towards prospecting.

Beliefs Determine Actions

As sales leaders, we must be part psychologists. Think of it as psychological conditioning for sales calls. Since beliefs determine actions, we must provide training, coaching, and support to influence our team’s beliefs. Prospecting reluctance is a symptom of negative beliefs, and as sales leaders, we need to develop to help our team overcome their fear.

Sales training and coaching often teaches sales representatives precisely what to say to prospects. However, the critical issue that needs to be asked is why some sales reps fail to implement these teachings effectively. The key factor behind this failure is execution, a primarily mental challenge, comprising about 80 percent of the equation.

When a salesperson begins rationalizing reasons to avoid prospecting, their reluctance to engage intensifies, much like weeds multiplying in a garden. In this context, it becomes the responsibility of sales leaders to ensure that these metaphorical “weeds” of prospecting reluctance are controlled and managed effectively.

Getting Past Reluctance

In modern selling, the key is to educate prospects and create awareness of needs. However, to be open to learning, a prospect must be curious first. There are numerous ideas online about generating curiosity in sales, and if you have a tactic that’s working well for you, that’s great. But this article is specifically for salespeople facing challenges with prospecting and have yet to discover a solution that works for them.

If you fall into that category of struggling with prospecting, let’s consider flipping the script. How about we acknowledge all our fears about prospecting and use that to our advantage in our opening with prospects? Instead of avoiding the discomfort of prospecting, we embrace it and turn it into a way to connect on a more genuine and relatable level. For example:

Mr. Prospect, this is Nick with Janek Performance Group. You weren’t expecting my call, and I realize unscheduled calls are not always welcomed. In doing some research, I noticed your company is hiring sales reps. Would it be okay if I took 30 seconds to explain why I’m calling? After that, you can decide whether it would be worth continuing the conversation. Does that work?

The strategy of this approach is to confront your prospecting reluctance head-on. I appreciate this approach, especially for those who struggle with prospecting, as it involves being vulnerable and genuine. Additionally, because only a tiny percentage of sales professionals employ this method, it creates a pattern interrupt for the prospects. From my experience, prospects are more likely to hear a salesperson out when they appear vulnerable and genuine.

Make it Difficult to say, “I’m Not Interested.”

The above strategy primarily focuses on providing sales reps with a low-risk approach to overcome their reluctance. However, to progress further, the key is to generate interest. If a prospect has no interest, you have no chance. Top-performing salespeople will tell you their success begins with their ability to create interest.

During this initial stage, you’ve been granted thirty seconds to say something to keep the conversation going. The objective here is not to immediately sell your solution but to offer enough information to earn the right to schedule the next call. Demonstrating credibility is vital; when a salesperson can communicate account-specific details, it enhances their credibility. For example:

Mr. Prospect, I noticed on your company’s LinkedIn page that you are hiring account executives in multiple territories. A challenge many of our clients face is tracking the skill development of new sales hires and ensuring they effectively apply those skills in the field. This leads to longer ramp-up time and higher turnover. Is this something you are experiencing on your end as well?

For salespeople with prospecting reluctance, this simplifies the approach.

It involves making a calculated best guess about their prospects’ problems. When reaching out, the prospect can respond with a yes or no, and either answer is fine. We are only looking for problems we can solve, not trying to sell anyone anything.

This mindset shift has proven highly effective in helping many non-salespeople overcome their prospecting reluctance instead of adopting a high-risk activity around making the prospect buy. They approach prospecting as a low-risk activity of looking for problems to solve. One approach requires the salesperson to be aggressive. The other is looking for problems to be asked to assist with. At Janek, we call this a trusted advisor.

The Prospecting Trap

One of the common challenges we observe with veteran salespeople is their prospecting effort declining as they gain experience and acquire more accounts. In the beginning, when they were new to sales, they diligently invested time in prospecting. However, their focus on prospecting diminishes as they progress and spend more time managing existing accounts and customer relationships.

The consequence of reduced prospecting activity is that they become reluctant to continue the process. This shift becomes a trap, leading them towards less-than-optimal results despite any previous achievements. The difference between top producers and others lies in their ability to maintain a daily prospecting habit.

Sales success extends beyond closing deals and generating revenue; it also involves an ongoing commitment to prospecting for new opportunities and filling the pipeline. While it might be tempting to ease off prospecting once you’ve attained a certain level of success, doing so can lead to complacency and hinder future growth.

Make Prospecting a Habit

In his insightful book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear explains how specific brain areas physically expand and contract based on our activities. This phenomenon has profound implications for salespeople, especially regarding prospecting.

The brain is incredibly adaptive and responsive to our habits. When we consistently engage in a particular activity, the corresponding brain areas responsible for that task strengthen and grow.

Conversely, when we neglect a task, those areas weaken and shrink. This neuroplasticity highlights the importance of making prospecting a daily habit rather than something we resort to only when our sales pipeline runs low, and we desperately need more business. With prospecting, it can be use it or lose it for sales professionals.

By incorporating prospecting into our daily routine, we reinforce and strengthen the neural pathways associated with this crucial sales activity. Prospecting improves proficiency, focus, and confidence when engaging with potential clients. When prospecting becomes a habitual part of our day, we enhance our skills and expand our opportunities.

Moreover, relying solely on prospecting when faced with a low sales pipeline can lead to many challenges. Firstly, it can create a feast-or-famine cycle, where we experience fluctuations in business and struggle to maintain consistently high performance.

Additionally, approaching prospecting only in times of need can be stressful and less effective, as it may come across as desperate or insincere to potential clients. Prospecting under pressure is a high-risk activity we want to avoid.

To maximize our success in sales, we must recognize that consistent prospecting is the lifeblood of sustainable growth and the best way to avoid reluctance. Incorporating it into our daily routines creates a solid foundation for consistent and long-term success.

Avoiding prospecting reluctance is about nurturing a growth mindset. It also recognizes that continuous effort drives our professional development and contributes to expanding our sales opportunities. Embracing prospecting as a daily habit empowers us to cultivate lasting relationships with clients, maintain a strong pipeline, and thrive in the ever-changing sales landscape.


Prospecting is your most crucial responsibility for achieving success in sales. To thrive, you must embrace consistent and comfortable prospecting practices. Prospecting reluctance may evoke feelings of vulnerability and discomfort, but learning to manage these emotions will lead to significant achievements.

Feeling vulnerable is actually beneficial for us as it compels us to relinquish control and step outside our comfort zone. Embracing vulnerability has the potential to transform into a source of confidence and growth. It makes prospecting less risky and simplifies the process.

To become more at ease with prospecting, we should start by being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and triggers. Approaching prospecting calls with confidence and courage is essential. Additionally, it’s crucial to let go of the constant worry about what prospects think of us. Remember that perfection is not necessary, and persistence is key.