Case Study: Case of Hint-Hope

Ninety percent of us inhibit our own success because of Inhibited Social Contact Initiation Syndrome. We are taught the single most common form from a young age: Children are to be seen, not heard. It’s rude to impose your will on anyone. So when people with these learned tendencies start their own business, we see deference not only to the Hint-Hope style of selling, but in leadership as well. The result is lower performance than can be achieved otherwise. In the language of George W. Dudley and Shannon Goodson, authors of “The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance,” these folks are considered Yielders.

Selling is all about getting someone to buy something from you, or imposing your will on them. You want them to buy your stuff. Same holds true with managing others. You want them to do what you need them to do.

A person with these tendencies would generally “yield” expressing their own wants and needs in favor of others. Although it is not the same thing, one could picture a type B personality, or one who often uses passive responses.

It’s important to understand, however, that Inhibited Social Contact Initiation Syndrome isn’t a personality type. It’s not even a description of the person. It is simply a behavior. If Brent has the flu, we don’t say Brent is the flu.

If Brent has the flu, it may prevent him from going to work. If he has a cold, it doesn’t prevent him from going to work and doing his job, but he’s certainly not hitting on all cylinders. The same holds true with initiating contacts in a selling situation. This condition can be toxic and inhibit the person from doing their job, or it can be less toxic and just inhibit the person from achieving all that they could.

In either case, contact hesitancy can be minimized with training. How do you recognize if you have these tendencies (and many already recognize these tendencies in themselves from just this short description). And note, these are just general descriptions. All of these don’t have to apply for us to have hesitancy of this type.

  • When you realize that a worker or customer is taking advantage of you, do you still find it difficult to do anything about it? “I told them to be at work on time, but they just don’t listen.”
  • Do you find yourself complaining loudly to yourself or friends about a worker or customer, but fail to actually confront them?
  • Do you always control your anger? Or do you find yourself unable to talk to the person who upsets you because you are trying to control your own rage? It’s sort of like you could kill the person, but you can’t talk to them? If so, you might have Yielder tendencies.
  • Were you taught not to be too forward? Or that being forward was being selfish and that you must consider others before yourself? Often we see individuals who confuse asserting their interest with being forward and being forward with being bad. Therefore, they could describe themselves as being gentle, but often frustrated.
  • If a prospective client suggested you were being pushy and rude, how would you feel? If you feel you would need hospitalization, then you may have this form of hesitancy.
  • Do you generally prefer talking to prospects in person rather than over the telephone? While it’s always better to talk with the customer in person, a person with toxic levels of this hesitancy tends to highly prefer verbal and visual cues to assure themselves that they are not coming on too strong or doing anything wrong which is difficult to do over the telephone. This, by the way, is not to be confused with a pure form of telephone hesitancy, or the inability to really prospect with the telephone.
  • Have you ever called yourself a wimp—to yourself, of course? Many call themselves far worse things when they have this hesitancy.
  • In talking with others whom you are comfortable with, do you ever exaggerate the way you handled conflict or stood up for yourself or issued ultimatums? In reality, of course, you didn’t do it exactly that way; rather you are really saying what you would have liked to do. The reason you didn’t, of course, is that you know this would be overbearing and improper.
  • Do you feel other people take advantage of you?
  • Do you find it very hard to actually ask for someone to buy from you?
  • Are you repelled by the concept of seeing yourself as a salesperson for your business? If you had a real job in sales, would you rather be called an account executive, consultant, or anything else except salesperson?
  • Would you describe yourself as being sociable, but not necessarily outgoing?
  • Do you strive to be more emphatic and assertive, but find you have a hard time in actually following through?

What Does It Mean?

So what? How does this hurt a business?

In selling, Hint-Hopers have a great deal of difficulty in asserting themselves, particularly when it comes to prospecting. “I know I will be interrupting someone if I call them on the phone and they’ll probably not like me,” would be a common thought. This overlooks the fact that there are many people who actually need what we do and we just as likely are bringing to them an opportunity as an interruption.

Hint-Hopers tend to become too polite, wishing to avoid conflict and maintain approval. They tend to think that, “All businesses have a supplier selling what I am selling, and I certainly don’t want to be in conflict with the other supplier, so I will send them a direct mail piece and if they want to buy from me, they will call me.” They fail to confront the fact that they are in competition whether they want to be or not, and that competition is a conflict, and not all conflicts are bad.

Initiating contact with a suspective buyer is an assertive act. Some are just not willing to engage in the competition and thus end up sacrificing their prosperity because they don’t take needed action. Rather, they wait for the right time, right circumstance, or right product. They dream of having a patented product they can sell with no competition. If you see yourself in a lot of what is listed, you may have a type of hesitancy to initiate contact based on this Yielder style.

Treating the Yielder

What do you do about it? Well, we certainly have training specifically for this, but you can take steps yourself with some basic assertiveness training. Additionally, just reading and seeing yourself in this scenario doesn’t exactly make it so. Testing is available to see if this is at a toxic level or is impairing your performance.

And remember, just because you have these tendencies doesn’t mean they are impairing performance. Over 90% of us have one or more types of Sales Call Reluctance, and over 45% of us have this specific type. So you will commonly see yourself in this or one of the other profiles.

The bottom line is whether this is impairing your business. If it is, then you need to do something about it. If not, then you need to be aware of it so that it doesn’t impair your business in the future.

Tom Crouser is president of CPrint International, a program of Crouser & Associates, 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304/965-7100. Go to and subscribe to CPrint Tips, a free management newsletter. Tom is now Twittering weekdays. Follow his tweets at You may reach Tom at