Telephobia: The Surprising Psychology Behind Cold-Calling Fear and How to Beat It

by 27 Jun 2023Hints & Tips

Press pause on the panic button and demystify cold calling jitters. Discover mindset shifts, expert tips, and techniques to send telephobia packing for good.

Telephobia: The Surprising Psychology Behind Cold-Calling Fear and How to Beat It

Picture this: you’re sitting at your desk, phone in hand, with that familiar knot in your stomach. You feel a hint of dampness appearing on your (hopefully not grey) shirt. You’ve guessed it – it’s cold-calling time.

You take a deep breath and dial the number, holding that breath while you wait for someone to pick up. The phone rings once… twice… three times… four times… and it goes to voicemail. Relief floods you as the fear recedes – thank you, Universe! The voicemail Gods have answered your prayers.

But… didn’t you WANT to speak to that contact? Was the voicemail REALLY a victory?

If you find this relatable, you’re not alone; many people shudder at the thought of picking up the phone. According to Harvard Business Review, 48% of B2B salespeople are afraid of making cold calls. But cold-calling is an essential part of the sales process, so it’s important to find ways to overcome the fear.

It’s time to reveal the psychology of telephobia and serve you up some clever ways to kick it to the curb. Let’s go!


fear of phonecalls

Telephobia: that cold sweat-inducing fear that makes you want to throw your phone across the room to avoid dialling a stranger. But why do so many of us have it?

You might be wondering what could possibly make that seemingly harmless phone seem like your arch-nemesis. Well, let me introduce you to three quirky little friends that stir up some trouble in the telephobia pot:

1. Fear of rejection

Ah, how human of us. Our innate fear of being dismissed or shot down.

Rejection results in a dysphoric reaction – in short, it makes us feel… bad. And our brains are hardwired to avoid repeating actions that make us feel unpleasant.

2. Fear of failure

We’ve all had the misfortune of an embarrassing moment or two. Fumbling your lines in the school play. Stumbling over your words when asking someone out. Tripping up in front of a crowd.

Who hasn’t had their palms get all clammy at the thought of messing up?

3. Social anxiety

This affects some of us more than others, but Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) affects approximately 7% of the population. And for those who don’t have the actual disorder, many more of us experience some form of social anxiety from time to time.

The phone only magnifies this nerve-wracking experience, making us sweat bullets before hitting that call button.

Mix them all together, add a dash of cold calling‘s unpredictable nature, and you’ve got one heck of a telephobia cocktail.

The sciency bit

Let’s talk about our brain’s reward system. This is a set of neural pathways that link together centres in the brain that process pleasure and reward signals.

Like eating ice cream – the perfect mix of sugar and fat sends our brain’s dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters into overdrive. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in our reward system; that means your brain uses it to tell you whether something is worth repeating or not. And our brains are fine with us repeating the experience of eating ice cream – even if our waistbands aren’t.

Conversely, painful, unpleasant, or scary experiences also send our brains into overdrive, but the difference is that they release the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and cortisol instead. These two chemicals are responsible for our fight-or-flight response and help us deal with dangerous situations by either running away or attacking (fight or flight).

So, if we come across, say, an angry snake, our brain releases these chemicals to help us either run away or deal with the snake. And it isn’t keen on us actively seeking out more venomous snakes to play with again.

So if you’ve faced rejection, embarrassment or failure before, you’ve guessed it, your brain is mistaking your harmless phone for a deadly snake. Bit of an overreaction, brain. But, you know, it’s just trying to protect you.

angry snake

Life in the telephobia zone

The dark side of telephobia goes beyond butterflies in the stomach. We’re talking missed opportunities, a big old “nope” to productivity, and a sales slump for both individuals and businesses. It’s a big deal – and hiding behind emails and LinkedIn messages is not the answer.

Time to crush telephobia!

Now for the good news: you can totally conquer telephobia! Here’s how:

  1. Reframe your mindset

    Shift your perspective to build your confidence and face your fears head-on. Start by viewing each call as an opportunity rather than a disaster waiting to happen. Focus on the fact that you’re providing value to the person on the other end (no matter how small). Remember, sales calls are a two-way street—don’t just think about what you want, but also about their needs. Pretend you’re chatting with a close buddy who trusts you and your expertise. Easier, right?

  2. Prep and practice

    We’re talking unmatchable dedication, highly skilled execution, and an ego-radical focus on self-improvement. Get your Cold-Calling Black Belt by learning the ropes and practising like a champ. Arm yourself with intel about the person or company you’re calling. Understand their position, their pain points. Get your hands on a killer script and study it like it’s your life mission. But don’t forget to leave room for spontaneity – nobody likes a robot. Rehearse cold calls with colleagues – you’ll probably find the real deal far less embarrassing than the run-throughs with people you go to the pub with.

  3. Zen techniques

    Deep breaths, folks. A little bit of positive self-talk and controlled breathing can do wonders. Pep talk yourself in front of the mirror. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly – try box breathing techniques. Take a few moments before each call to mentally prep yourself – and meet your anxiety with understanding and self-acceptance. It’s totally ok to have neurotransmitters, ok?

Cold-calling coolness

Arm yourself with these excellent best practices for cold call dominion:

  1. Goal Digger: Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) goals and watch them pile up!
  2. Say It Like You Mean It: Scripts are your best friends! (But remember, they’re more like guidelines than strict rules.)
  3. Listen & Build Rapport: You’ve got 2 ears and 1 mouth; use them in that ratio! Engage in active listening to create rapport and compelling conversation.

With these tips, telephobia will soon be a distant memory! Overcome that pesky fear and watch your cold-calling skills—and sales—sizzle. For more tips, check out our previous blog 20 Burning Questions About B2B Telemarketing: Your Ultimate FAQ.

Time for a cold-calling victory lap?

telephone confidence

Nobody said getting over telephobia would be a walk in the park, but armed with the right knowledge, tools, and a hearty dose of determination, anyone can crush it.

Beating telephobia comes down to understanding the root causes of your fear, accepting it and equipping yourself with tactics to overcome it. By reframing your mindset, honing your cold-calling communication, setting goals, and embracing empathy for yourself and the people you’re speaking to, you’ll turn those dreaded calls into an opportunity for connection and success. Remember, each call is a chance to learn, grow, and ultimately contribute to your personal and professional development. Embrace the challenge, and watch your sales career soar. And if you’d like a little help with overcoming telephobia, we’ve got a whole training academy dedicated to it.

Discover our training academy
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