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Why We Fear To Sell And How You Can Overcome It By Robert Warlow


So, you have set up your business, got all your stationery printed, got the premises and office sorted and now you have to get out there and …sell! Suddenly you break into a cold sweat but you persevere, pick up the phone or approach your first customer and it all goes horribly wrong! This really sets you up for the next one!

The fear of selling is something which most first time business owners suffer from. Selling is not something we are taught in school or shown by our parents (unless you are immersed in business from an earlier age!) and so the whole process is alien to us. In this article we are going to look at exactly why we have this fear of selling and what you can do to overcome it.

What Is Fear?

But first of all what is ‘fear’? One great definition I have heard is that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. That really sums up what fear is – our mind has gathered all this evidence to back up our inner doubts. This evidence is usually false but to our conscious mind it appears real and so translates into fear! At the end of the day, our fears are mainly thoughts and that’s it!

When our fears grab hold of us we find every excuse under the sun not to do something to get a sale – “I’ll ring again because it’s too early/lunch time/too late”, “I won’t approach them now; they don’t look in a good mood”, “I have a feeling that it’s not the right time to get in touch – may be next week.”

Sound familiar? With these ‘blockers’ getting in the way, your business will never take off! This is why you have to conquer those fears. But what are our main fears when it comes to selling and how can they be overcome?

Fear of failure…

Undoubtedly top of the list for any first time (and some experienced sales people!) is the fear of failure. We never like to fail, especially in a success-orientated environment. When we do, it makes the task even harder next time round. In school we are taught to fear failure (remember all those tests when the results were read out for all the class to hear?) and this stays with us in our adult life. Success has one fatal enemy and that’s the fear of failure!

But, don’t be like Homer Simpson when he tried to consol his son Bart who had failed in his bid to be class president,

“You tried and you failed. The lesson is … never try.”

So, what can you do to conquer your fear of failure? The bottom line is that you need a rock solid positive attitude. You must have an inner voice which is continually pushing you onto the next prospect and saying, “Come on, let’s find the one who’s going to say yes!”

Failure has to be seen as a learning opportunity. In every failure, there is a nugget of information, which next time, can point you in the direction of better success. James Dyson, the inventor of the revolutionary vacuum cleaner, summed up the need for a positive attitude, when he said, “Success is made up of 99% failure. You galvanise yourself and you keep going as a full optimist.”

Image Fears…

We all have the image of a successful salesperson – self confident, well dressed, good communicator, knowledgeable. We are our own worst critic and we quickly see the supposed flaws in our characters, which are either not there, or are so small that most people cannot detect them. Yet we allow our poor self image to drag us down. We convince ourselves that we cannot sell. Unless you are confident about your own ability to sell then the task is twice as hard. Remember that you are not born with confidence – it’s something we learn!

Not everyone has boundless self-confidence. When you start out in business, there is sometimes a nagging doubt that you may have bitten off more than you can chew. This inner doubt chips away at your self confidence and soon you have a poor self image, which reflects in your sales pitch. To be a successful salesperson you have to have a strong self image.

To improve your self image follow these steps:

• Write down the qualities which you believe a successful salesperson should possess. Try and limit the list to 4 or 5 key qualities

• Find a quiet spot and relax your body and mind with deep and steady breathing

• Once you are totally relaxed recite the strong, self image qualities you identified earlier

• Imagine or visualize yourself possessing each of these qualities. See in your minds eye how you look, now that you have these qualities. See how successful you are, how you look, and the car you are driving, where you are living

• Repeat to yourself that you are assuming each of these qualities and becoming a better person with each day that passes

Repeat this exercise first thing in the morning and last thing at night and you’ll soon find your self image and confidence levels increasing!

Fear of Rejection…

No one likes to hear the word “No”! The fear of rejection is another major stumbling block some people have to overcome when selling. Sometimes the fear of rejection is so big that their whole sales presentation is overshadowed. Their subconscious is saying “Why are you bothering? You know they are going to say no!” The presentation gets even worse; words are mumbled and product features are forgotten. The result? They get a ‘No’!

Hearing the response “No” is not a great motivator! The main way to deal with rejection is just to accept that it happens. Try and re-frame any rejection you get by saying to yourself that it’s the customer who loses out, not you. Walk away with a smug smile on your face and remind yourself that you are one step closer to someone who will say “Yes”.

Product Knowledge Fears…

Successful selling can only be achieved if you know your product or service inside out. If you don’t know all the features and benefits how can you ever hope to persuade someone that your product can solve all their problems? You may have had one bad experience where a customer highlighted your lack of knowledge but for some reason you have not put it right. Your subconscious continues to recognize this weakness and does what it can to sabotage your future presentations!

A lack of in depth knowledge about your product or service quickly finds its way to making for a poor presentation. There is only one solution … and that’s to get learning! Absorb yourself in the product. Understand all the features and benefits, so that you can confidently talk about all aspects of your offering. Banishing this fear is one of the easy ones to put right.

Fear of Criticism…

No one likes being criticized for what they do! We may do something to the best of our ability but our self confidence soon disappears when someone criticizes our selling style or product. This links in with the fear of a poor self image. If you have a low self image then criticism can hurt even more. On the other hand, people with a high self image can usually bounce back from a critical comment.

If you carry out the exercises on improving your self-image, your ability to take criticism will also improve. Decide to view criticism more as feedback than a direct attack on you. There is usually some element of truth in the majority of critical comments and it’s important that you take the opportunity to learn and change.

Presentation Fears…

You may be aware that your presentation skills leave a lot to be desired! Your sales pitch may be all over the place and lack any real structure, resulting in an inability to get the customer to commit. Your lack of confidence quickly shows up and the customer walks off with his wallet firmly in his pocket. This fear all boils down to lack of training. If you can spot this weakness or fear, then you are half way there. Many sales people don’t even know they have a training problem!

Your presentation fear can be down to a lack of structure around your sales process. Write a basic outline on how you wish a perfect sales pitch to go. Prepare a script for the key parts of the presentation and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

Why not ask someone to help you role play a sales presentation? This will give you the opportunity to make all the mistakes you want but in a risk-free environment! You should also visit your local Business Link office and see what courses they are running on sales skills. Look out for books and tapes on effective selling. All of these actions will assist in improving your confidence and result in a more professional sales presentation.

Selling does not have to be a fearful experience! If you have the right attitude, a strong self belief, a full understanding of your product and plenty of practice, then you will have nothing to fear. So, take a look at each of these fears and put a plan in place to tackle them today!

© Robert Warlow -Small Business Success
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