Halloween is upon us once again, the season of fear!. Ghosts, goblins, witches and vampires are all characters invented to affect the deep seated anxieties that reside in all of us. And while salespeople may also be frightened by these terrible creatures, they have another set of fears to deal with, and these are ones that can keep them from having a successful career. Based on conversations with sales people, managers, trainers and coaches here is our list of the top five:
1. Cold Calling – This is the number one fear as identified in our survey – by a mile! Picking up the phone and talking to a stranger about your product or service is a cause of great anxiety to even the most seasoned salesperson.
2. Networking – Closely related to cold calling (and in the general area of prospecting) is the idea of meeting people in professional situations. Being at a meeting where one knows that he or she is expected to talk to people and determine if they are a good business contact will cause many of us to be uneasy.
3. Delivering Bad News – Salespeople are relationship centered. They have worked long and hard to build trust with their customers. When they are required to communicate bad news such as price increases, missed delivery dates or manufacturing problems, they see them as opportunities to damage those hard won relationships. This causes them to go into those conversations with a lack of conviction that often makes the problem seem worse than it is.
4. Asking for the Order – Here is another aspect of the fear of rejection, the possibility that that customer will say no! For many salespeople it feels better to draw the sale out as long as they can with the hope that the customer will eventually beg them to close the deal. Another problem is that if the prospect tells them no, then they have to go out and find another one (see fears 1 and 2).
5. Talking to the “C” Level – Many salespeople feel intimidated by the “C” Suite and therefore avoid it. At this level the questions and needs go beyond product or service value and delve into the territories of process improvement, strategic differentiation and revenue impact, areas in which the common salesperson is uninformed and inexperienced. Not wishing to look foolish, they avoid working at this level.
I’m confident that there are other situations that salespeople avoid because they are uncomfortable, but no matter what the cause the rest of this article can give you hope for overcoming them.
How to Deal with These Concerns
Just last weekend I heard a speaker say, “You can’t solve your problems with the same mindset that was used to create them!” (This is similar to an Albert Einstein quote). At the time I was already formulating this article, but it really coalesced my thoughts regarding what we must do to overcome our fears, anxieties, hesitancies or whatever we call those emotional barriers to success. We must gain a new mindset, one that pushes those fears out and allows the new outlook to take its place. Here are some ways that this can be accomplished:
Insulate Yourself from Negative Influences – Once you have decided on a course to overcome your doubts and inhibitions, it is important to control the negative input. Negative comments and conversation can give life to your own reservations regarding the work you need to do and make them seem more valid. When you try to take the positive action such as calling the CEO, these negatives can fill your mind with uncertainty. Negative input can take the form of:
Peers – “I’ve been on the phone all day and haven’t talked to anyone!”
Competitors – “I can’t believe your prices are so high.”
Customers – “I’ve always used your competitor’s product.”
Bosses – “No one has been able to crack that account in the past.”
Family & Friends – “I don’t think the job/company/business will ever pay off for you.”
Here are three strategies on how to deal with these negatators (my own word!).
Avoidance – When you can, just stay away from these people. Avoid the lunchroom, close your office door or don’t talk to them about your work.
Enlisting – If these people care about your success, then explain to them how you are dealing with anxiety and ask them to be more positive in how they talk to you.
Stimulation – Righteous anger has, for many salespeople, the ability to get them to fight harder. When someone questions your ability, get mad enough to say, “I’ll show them!”
A friend of mine once told me that I shouldn’t get SNIOPed. That is Susceptible to the Negative Influences of Other People! Good Advice for all of us.
Employ Positive Self-Talk – If you think back to the last time where fear or anxiety kept you from doing an activity, it is likely that your self-talk was negative and destructive. I know for myself that when I am attempting to make prospecting calls my mental conversation can sound something like this. “This is a waste of time. I’ll be lucky if I get hold of one person in the next hour. Even if I do get hold of someone, they won’t want to talk to me.” Sound familiar? If this is going on in your mind how can you ever have a successful prospecting session? You must drive these thoughts out of you mind. Start by writing out a positive affirmation card that states what you want to accomplish and how successful you will be at it. For example, if I were to do this to help me before a networking activity it might look like this.
I love to go to networking events. Everyone I meet is so interesting and enjoyable. I love to meet new people and am excited to find out about them. I will build great relationships and find ways to compliment each person I meet. I really enjoy meeting new people. I know that some of the people I meet today will be able to help me grow my business and I will be able to help them grow theirs. Everyone here is anxious to meet new people. People just like me. All I have to do is put my hand out and introduce myself…
I could put this on a 3 x 5 card or on my phone and each time I am just about to enter a networking situation, I would read it to build up my confidence and positive expectations for the event. I might even need to find a quiet place during the event and read it again to get my mind right once again. Remember, you must change your mindset to change your situation.
Focus on the Reward – With the encouragement of their sales manager, professional salespeople are often encouraged to think about their quotas and use them as encouragement. Unfortunately, meeting a $100,000 goal or securing our 15th appointment for the week seldom gives us the inspiration we need to overcome emotional obstacles. Instead, we suggest that you focus on what you will attain through successful selling. Perhaps you dream of taking a trip to Cancun in January, or buying a speedboat, or getting new living room furniture. These are the types of motivation we need to do the hard activities. Put pictures of these things on your phone and on the wall near your desk so that you are reminded of them whenever you need a little push to get you going. You may not make that call on the CEO to make your boss happy, but you very well may do it to buy that new Lexus! Keep your mind on the reward and don’t allow the doubtful and anxious thought to invade your mind.
Be Fiercely Committed to the Process – Success is a long term commitment to productive tasks. Sales professionals know what they must do to be successful. Contacts lead to appointments which lead to proposals which lead to sales. You must be fiercely committed to accomplishing your tasks every day, day after day for as long as it takes. This dogmatic commitment to these goals can allow you to replace anxiety with goal orientation. When you string enough of these days together and start to see the success you desire, you will also see that your fears have slipped away to be replaced by confidence and belief.