I am careful about using the phrase “call reluctance” and you may need to be, too. Here’s why.

Shannon L. Goodson and George W. Dudley are the authors of The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance: Earning What You’re Worth in Sales. This is an appreciation for Dudley in particular, who coined the phrase “call reluctance” maybe as far back as 1943. Call reluctance is a beautiful phrase. It’s also trademarked.

Some years ago, I was asked to observe their training program (delivered by someone else, not Dudley or Goodson) and was given a copy of their book. The goal was to bring me up to speed because I’d deliver my cold calling workshop to the same group the next day. As I sat quietly in the back of the room, I naturally critiqued the training and looked through the book.

I have some education in psychology (completed a BA) and love to rip apart research and its results. I thought the research portions of the book were very well-done and relevant to some concerns people sometimes have about making calls. However, I do not recommend or support the depth of the effects the authors describe, much less the methods presented in training to address the issues. But that’s not the point of this article.

We Are Warned

Not sure what current editions of the book show, but at that time there were many pages on which the authors emphasized their ownership of “call reluctance,” including stern warnings about using it. Those warnings primarily apply to people like me, who may make money using the phrase. At that time I poo-pooed the warnings because the phrase was so commonly used — surely the authors weren’t serious about keeping people from using it, right? Wrong.

Luckily, it wasn’t legal action that changed my use of the phrase. My attitude changed as more and more of my own copyrighted material and trademarks were ripped off… I wasn’t going to go as far as to sprinkle multiple warnings throughout my own books, but I understood why Dudley and Goodson did and wanted to respect that.

Since then, I’ve made efforts to avoid the phrase “call reluctance,” including removing it from articles, training materials and my own books. This has proved tough to do for one reason: it’s a perfect phrase. And that is the point of this article.

Well Done, Dudley

So here’s a shout-out to George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson. “Call reluctance” is concise, evocative, and clear without demeaning. Others may use it with no thought to the artistry that created it, but I think of that every time. The phrase is as elegant as e = mc squared, as beautiful as any of Da Vinci’s sculptures.

(And if you catch me using the phrase in other articles, please let me know.)