The Psychology of

Sales Call Reluctance

by George W. Dudley

& Shannon L. Goodson

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Call Reluctance®

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Our flagship assessment. The only test in the world specifically engineered to detect and measure all twelve types of Sales Call Reluctance®, call reluctance impostors, and more.




The Sales Preference Questionnaire™ (SPQ*GOLD®) is a limited purpose self-descriptive instrument used to assess the presence, predisposition, and degree of sales call reluctance® in candidates for sales positions. It is also used to provide assessment-based support for training and developmental applications with current salespeople.

SPQ*GOLD® measures all 12 call reluctance® types, three call reluctance "impostors," and includes three scales used to detect non-standard attitudes toward completing the instrument. One scale, the "Brake" score, is a statistical composite computed from aggregating scores from the 12 diagnostic sub-categories, and is interpreted as an overall estimate of the effort which could have been available to support sales prospecting but is instead diverted into non-productive coping behaviors intended to reduce emotional discomfort associated with prospecting for new business.


SPQ*GOLD® has been the subject of numerous research efforts aimed at establishing its utility when used as intended. These studies, some of which are proprietary to the sponsoring organizations, make SPQ*GOLD® one of the most validated applications for assessing salespeople in use today. Current applications are based on more than 800,000 administrations internationally, making it the most widely used diagnostic instrument for assessing sales call reluctance® in the world. Summaries of some of the most recent studies are available for review on our Research Page. New studies are regularly completed, continuing a research program originally begun in the early 1970's.


Inhibited Social Contact Initiation Syndrome (ISCIS) is an aggregation of emotion-based escape and avoidance behaviors particularly associated with the act of initiating first social contact. It was originally postulated by Dudley and Goodson in the 1970's and is distinguishable from broader concepts such as social anxiety by the type, degree, onset and limited specific nature of the symptoms. ISCIS symptoms are provoked only by behaviors associated with meeting new people and subside or cease altogether once first contact has been successfully established. It can be observed across contact-dependent life and work settings such as business, government, academics, fundraising, dating and other settings where an individual's likelihood of moving closer to self-selected goals is directly linked to the frequency, quantity and quality of new social contacts.

When ISCIS limits the contact initiation behaviors of direct salespeople, called "sales prospecting," it is termed "sales call reluctance®." Although sales environments can and usually do differ radically from setting to setting, success in sales invariably requires the generation of new business, ultimately measured by increased revenue. Thus, contact initiation with prospective buyers is a core competency for salespeople, and failure to "prospect" consistently for new business is the most frequently cited reason for poor sales performance. Neural network studies, using only call reluctance measures and unambiguous (objective) outcome measures such as dollars of commissions actually earned, have shown that contact initiation with prospective buyers, or the lack thereof, can predict high and low sales producers with up to 73% accuracy. So far, 12 distinct forms of sales call reluctance® have been identified.

Contact initiation with prospective buyers is necessary but not sufficient for success in sales. Other factors become equally if not more important once first contact has been made. However, contact initiation comes first. Initiating contact with prospective buyers on a consistent basis must occur before sales can be made, regardless of product sold, sales training provided, production incentives, sales supports or market conditions.


General overview of SPQ*Gold

SPQ*Gold interpretation supports: