Case of Job Refusal

One fourth of all salespeople tested in the world have a form of Sales Call Reluctance that is described by behavioral scientists George Dudley and Shannon Goodson as Role-Rejection Call Reluctance. The salespeople have learned somewhere that selling is less than honorable. Even adult business owners who accept the fact that selling is the life blood of business, and would even recommend selling as a career to others, don’t believe it should be the owner’s role. After all, they’re business owners. The result is predictable. Business performance is less than it can be.

What is Role-Rejection Call Reluctance? One business owner hired his corporate salesman-son to join the family business and sell, and paid him a handsomely to do it. Six weeks after the son started, he said, “Dad, I really don’t want to sell. In fact, that’s why I left Big Corporation. What I want to do is be a graphic designer.” Now that’s a stark example of Role-Rejection Call Reluctance; the person decides that they will not do what they were hired to do, so they don’t.

The Issue With Owners

It’s usually more subtle with an owner. We rarely reject the selling role outright. Some even profess to enjoy it, but never get around to doing it. Why? Well, we get caught up in all of the other things that have to be done. After all, we’re running a business here!

The job of the person running the business is to make and meet all budgets. Meeting a budget is pure sales because that is where all cash originates. Therefore, all owners are involved in selling, whether they want to be or not. If your mom won’t brag on you, don’t expect someone else’s mother to do so. And if you won’t sell your own product/service, don’t expect that you can hire someone to do it.

Oh, yes, there are a number of ways to sell that don’t require personal involvement. You can send direct mail, advertise in other ways, network, and do other promotions. But how do you know what to offer unless you’ve been toe to toe with customers? You can’t create a marketing plan without talking to customers.

So at some point, at sometime, and in some way, the owner must sell. What if the business owner refuses? That’s Role-Rejection Call Reluctance. Technically, it occurs when the person is intellectually willing but emotionally unable to accept the job of salesperson.

Now I didn’t say the business owner has to love selling. Many people don’t. I didn’t say the owner had to spend all their time selling. Yes, there are other things to do. But an owner should spend some part of every day selling something to someone. Those who refuse to do so, and there are a lot of them, have toxic levels of Role-Rejection Call Reluctance, and they are holding themselves back.

One son in Los Angeles told us, “The only kinds of people we have to keep Dad away from are customers, vendors, and employees. Other than that, he’s pretty good with people.” There are too many examples of this to relate, but suffice it to say that some owners got into the printing business because they didn’t have to deal with people; especially customers.

Ah-ha! But where is it written that the owner must sell? After all, owners could hire someone to sell for them. Well, we always hire people to do things for us in a business. We hire the press operator to run the press, a CSR to do CSR things, and so on. What’s different about the salesperson? Nothing, but if you started a printing company and had no press operator, no CSR or other people; who would do it? The business owner would, right?

Again, I didn’t say the business owner must be the best press operator, CSR, or salesperson. The business owner, however, is responsible for these functions and must know the work of the work. Ever work for someone who didn’t know your job? How did that work for you? That doesn’t work well normally.

Leading By Example, For Better or Worse

Back to the selling point, for I learned one other big thing and that is Modeling. Sales Call Reluctance is not benign. It is spread like the flu. If an owner has significant hesitancy of a particular type—say, an aversion to ask for referrals—and if the owner hires a salesperson with none of these symptoms; given a short time, the salesperson will model the behavior of the owner and end up with referral hesitancy also.

This explains why so many Role-Rejection Call Reluctance owners throughout the industry have an impossible time in hiring salespeople to do something for them that they refuse to do for themselves. “I want you guys to go over there and shoot at the bad guys, but I’m not going to do it myself.”

Compare that position to the position of a team leader, “Follow me. I am willing to sell, but don’t have time to completely focus on selling. You will be the salesperson and help me with my sales work.” Just like the business owner hires the press operator to help them with the press work. The leader must lead. If not, the followers will stop doing the things that they need to do such as initiating contacts, which is the basis of all selling efforts.

So Role-Rejection Call Reluctance is the refusal to do all or part of a job that the worker does not want to do. Does that mean all businesses where the owner doesn’t sell will fail? No. There are many factors that go into total sales. I know a printer whose best customer set up their office upstairs over the shop and came downstairs to have their work done. The business was quite successful. In fact, it grew up to become listed on a major stock exchange. And while that business was growing, the printer grew from $300,000 to $1 million to more than $5 million. By all counts, this print shop was successful, but it was not successful through selling. It was successful simply because of proximity. Sometimes luck plays a part. And, by the way, the company wasn’t able to reverse the slide in sales when the big customer shrank.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

So how do you know if you have toxic levels of Role-Rejection Call Reluctance? I suspect those who have it have already identified themselves, but here are some other considerations.

The business owner hesitates to associate their selling role when appropriate. I was in a social situation with an owner when we met a prime suspect. The suspect was talking about his printing pains when the owner abruptly changed the conversation to the local civic group. Never did get the conversation turned around.

There’s also another way to identify the trait. I often ask owners to write down five words describing salespeople. Many write: helpful, consultative, friendly, outgoing, knowledgeable, and so on. Others write: pushy, sleazy, manipulative, not trustworthy, and worse. Some will write a mix of descriptors.

What does that tell you? It says that those writing the negative words, especially if all are negative, may have Role-Rejection Call Reluctance because they do not see the selling role positively. Again, it needs to be tested, but I’d bet they have it, although they don’t normally see it as such.

So what effect does this have on your business if you have it? Mostly this is self-explanatory, but the result is lower sales than we could have if we self-promoted.

So what do you do about it? We certainly have training for this, but you can take steps yourself by evaluating and accepting the true role of the owner as salesperson. And you can improve the prospects of your business by initiating contacts.

Again remember, just because you have these tendencies doesn’t mean they are impairing performance. 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 in the future. Next installment, we will take on some of the other styles that are real among owners.

Tom Crouser is now Twittering weekdays. Follow his tweets at Or join him in a seminar near you as he discusses Surviving the Economic Downturn and what you can do about it. Check for upcoming locations. And check out the unique business opportunity offered by CPrint International; a program of Crouser & Associates, 4710 Chimney Drive, Charleston, WV 25302, 304/965-7100. Contact Tom at

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