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Cold calling anxiety can end your sales call before you get started. Discover five ways to overcome your fear and make the sale.

Eddie Van Halen is one of the most well-known guitar players in the world. Guitar World magazine named him the number one guitar player of all time. He’s toured the globe several times over with his band Van Halen, and he’s played on some of the most lucrative rock tours of all time. He also suffers from stage fright, otherwise known as anxiety.

Generally speaking, anxiety is worrying about something that might happen. Or as Seth Godin phrases it, anxiety is “fear about fear.” More specifically, for our purposes, cold calling anxiety is a fear about making the sales calls you know you need to make. And it’s also perfectly normal.

As evidenced by a rock and roll superstar, anxiety can happen to anyone, no matter how skilled or experienced they are. This is true in any field, including sales. In some cases, anxiety can lead to procrastination and poor job performance. It can turn quickly into a vicious circle of worry that limits your success. That’s bad news for a salesperson. But what can you do about it?


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cold calling anxiety

How to keep cold calling anxiety out of your work life

On the surface, cold calling anxiety and stage fright are vastly different. You aren’t performing for thousands of people; you’re making a call to one person at a time. The fear, however, is similar. What if you make a mistake, say something wrong, or your audience (of one or 10,000) doesn’t like you?

If you’re going to do your job and be successful, you have to figure out how to conquer the fear. Here are five ways to do just that.

1. Prepare

Lack of preparation is fuel for cold calling anxiety. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy issue to correct. There are plenty of ways you can prepare to make sales calls. Know your product or service inside and out. Learn how to pronounce the name of your potential customer. Practice reading your sales script to the point of having it memorized. This gives you room to sound natural, while still having the script handy to guide you. Determine what your goal is. Practice your call with friends or colleagues. The more you can prepare, the more you can take control of the situation.

2. Practice

There’s a concept in psychology known as desensitization, which essentially states that the more we are exposed to something we fear, the less afraid we become of it. In the case of cold calling anxiety, you’re slowly retraining your brain to understand that making a cold call is not, in fact, equivalent to facing a hungry grizzly bear.

Dr. Greg Dubord of the University of Toronto offers a five-step system of desensitization:

  1. Define the ultimate “level-10 scary” thing
  2. Define the “level-1 scary” (e.g., saying hello to a stranger)
  3. Brainstorm and rank all points in between
  4. Assign yourself “level-1 scaries” as homework for the week
  5. Move on to level 2 in the second week and so on, until your cold calling anxiety is but a memory

3. Breathe

When you feel stressed or anxious, your breath is shallow, reducing the amount of oxygen flowing through your body. The shoulder muscles, rather than the diaphragm, take on the burden of moving air into and out of the lungs. The result is that the physical symptoms of stress increase, as does anxiety.

Deep, controlled breathing, however, can lower your heart rate, reduce the levels of stress hormones, balance the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your bloodstream, and increase both physical energy and calmness. And unlike many of the body’s autonomic functions, you can control your breathing. Here’s what the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria, Australia, recommends:

  • Try to find a relaxed environment where you can breathe undisturbed for 10 to 20 minutes (although even a few minutes is helpful if you can’t find much time)
  • “Sit comfortably and raise your ribcage to expand your chest. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen”
  • Concentrating on your breath, try to breathe in and out slowly and deeply through your nose. Let your diaphragm do the work
  • “With each breath, allow any tension in your body to slip away. Once you are breathing slowly and with your abdomen, sit quietly and enjoy the sensation of physical relaxation”

4. Set goals

Setting and reaching goals helps build confidence, and confidence helps reduce anxiety. Start small so you can feel successful. That could be as simple as making one call an hour. Got that checked off? Move on to the next goal of making two calls an hour. Once that feels good, set the goal of having a productive, meaningful conversation on a cold call. Every small target you hit gives you the incentive to reach for the next rung on the ladder of success.

And if you need more impetus, give yourself rewards for each goal you reach. That might be a walk around the block, five minutes of surfing the internet for your dream vacation, or something big like buying that expensive chocolate that you usually reserve for special occasions.

5. Fake it ’til ya’ make it

While it’s true you are “just on the phone” with people, there’s a lot you can do to sound and feel professional and successful. And believe it or not, that vibe transfers through the phone. What does this look like on your end?

Dress to impress, even if you won’t be leaving the office. Sit up straight when you make calls. Smile when you talk. Breathe deeply, speak slowly, and envision success. It might sound silly, but you’d be surprised how “tricking” yourself into a winning persona actually works.

Remember, cold calling anxiety is not a unique phenomenon. There’s a good chance one of your colleagues has dealt with the same thing. Use these five tools to your advantage, but don’t forget that talking to someone on your team that you admire can also help you find ways to work through your anxiety and close more deals.


Reach out to more clients and keep track of them with Call Logic’s cloud-based auto-dialing software. Schedule a live demo to find out how we can help you build relationships that lead to closed sales.