Here’s a well-known quote about fear from Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his first inauguration, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” I think that he was correct in his words about fear in the context of the Great Depression, but I don’t believe the sentiment is correct in regard to sales.
Every single salesperson, from the rookie to the pro, gets nervous and is fearful, at some instance, of something or some situation. I believe that fear is something to be embraced…the great salespeople learn how to use ‘fear’ to their advantage.
Let’s look at this more closely:
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Success
- Fear of Change.
Fear of Failure
Whether you’re an aspiring salesperson, or even an actor, you have to get used to the concept of failure. You don’t need to accept it or be happy about it, but the reality is that you are going to fail more often than you win. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The top salespeople that I know will always learn more from failing than from a success. Think about a presentation or meeting that didn’t go well…during the meeting ‘post-mortem’, you and other team members will discuss things that you can do differently at the next meeting. You will think back about 1-2 moments where you could have answered an objection better or more coherently explained a feature or benefit.
One of the best things about a failure is that it helps provide a little dose of humility to the salesperson. When you’re ‘on top of the world’ or ‘in the zone’ salespeople, or sales organizations, can become arrogant and overconfident and forget about what is best for the customer. There is nothing that turns off a customer more than an arrogant salesperson or sales organization.
That little dose of humility is what keeps the great salespeople focused on the customer and how to best help the customer achieve their goals.
Fear of Success
Now this might seem like an odd fear to have but I’ve seen many salespeople actually unknowingly ‘self-sabotage’ a sale…or even their career growth because of this. I believe that the reason for a “fear of success” lies mostly when people get in a comfortable situation and become complacent. For example, some sales organizations actually ‘cap’ commission once a salesperson achieves their revenue goal. I have never understood this because what possible incentive does this policy give a salesperson to continue making sales? With this kind of company sales policy, every single dollar the salesperson sells above quota will penalize them the following year. This will cause even the most professional salespeople to sit back, become complacent, and fall into bad habits.
The best salespeople, or sales managers, know that even if they love their current jobs and are not interested in making a move that they have to always be challenging themselves in order to grow as salespeople. A promotion, new territory, or new sales position can be uncomfortable at first…but learning to stretch yourself in mastering the new role will make you a stronger person, sales or otherwise. Many great salespeople don’t want the headaches that can come with becoming a sales manager and they are able to prosper as senior individual contributors. I believe, though, that it is good to try different things and this leads us to discuss the next fear.
Fear of Change
I’ll bet that you, like most people, don’t like change…I know that I have not always liked change, whether voluntary or otherwise. Yet each major change that I’ve had in my career has made me a better person…and I believe that can be true for others in sales and sales management. I believe it is particularly important to talk with and learn from all members of your team. Then newest or most junior member will have invaluable insights that can help you grow in your sales career. Many times, salespeople will be fearful or apprehensive when new sales leadership joins their sales organizations. I would strongly encourage you to give them the benefit of the doubt as they are learning about your organization and team. They may or may not prove to be strong leaders but it is in your best interests to give them a chance to demonstrate the abilities. The same is true for new sales training programs. I’ve participated in many sales training programs and some are definitely better than others. However, even with the weakest curriculum, I’ve been able to gain some new knowledge or perspective by enthusiastically engaging with the instructors or program.
Using ‘fear’ to your advantage in sales will help you learn new things about yourself as a person and a salesperson. Get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself.