Question: How can I get inside salespeople to do some proactive sales calls each day? I expect our inside salespeople to use some of their time to shift into the “proactive mode” to make outbound phone contact to existing and new business. But it is hard to get them to do this regularly.

Answer: I wish I had five dollars for every time I came across this question. I would have retired years ago. Let me answer it in two ways.

First, “How do you get inside salespeople to be proactive?” Answer: You almost never do.

It is far easier to refloat the Titanic than it is to get a group of essentially reactive customer-service-type personalities to change their mode of operation and make proactive sales calls. That’s because of the personality of the typical inside salesperson/customer service person.

Generally, the people who fill these positions are very reactionary by nature. By that I mean that if a customer comes to them with a problem, they will knock down walls to fix the problem and help the customer. They are great helpers and problem-fixers. That personality characteristic is one of their strengths, and one of the reasons they are good in that job.

However, if you ask inside sales reps to make 10 phone calls to people who are not expecting the call — proactive sales calls, in other words — they will lose sleep the night before, worrying about it. Then tomorrow, when they are supposed to do the proactive calling, they will discover that the amount of other work they have to do has swelled up and crowded out the time that they had dedicated to proactive phone calls. They rarely get to it because “other stuff” gets in the way.

So, my first answer is “Don’t bother trying.” You will be swimming against the current, expending great quantities of time and energy trying to make something work that is probably not going to work. You’ll find yourself and your inside salespeople becoming increasingly frustrated.

Instead, hire someone who can be totally dedicated to proactive work. Keep their job description pure: no reactive stuff, only proactive calls.

Now, it may be that the circumstances of your situation will not allow you to hire a new person and create a new position. If that is the case, then you need to consider my second answer: If you must get inside salespeople to be proactive, follow these guidelines:

1. Make the task extremely specific. It is not, “Proactively call 10 people and see if they need anything.” Instead, the task should be, “From 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday, call the 10 people on the list I give you, and give this 50-word presentation which I have written out for you.” The more specific the task, the more likely it is to happen.

2. Train them in the task. Don’t expect that they automatically know how to do what you want them to do. Hold a two-to-eight hour training session. Have everyone role-play the phone call several times. Identify all the possible responses. Create strategies for each. Get them to memorize the script. Have everyone practice several times.

3. Measure and publish their progress. Keep track of how many calls each person makes, and how successful each call is. Share those numbers with everyone in the group.

4. Reward success. When someone has a successful sales call, praise that person in front of everyone. Lavishly reward them for doing what you asked them to do. Success begets success. Make a big deal of everyone’s success so that they feel more capable of doing this job.

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has personally worked with 287 companies, helping enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transforming sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. More than 3,000 salespeople and 750 companies have benefitted from his Top Gun Sales System Seminars. More than 1,000 sales managers have been trained in his Kahle Way Sales Management System.