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Failing Sales People: Could It Be Fear?

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Are Sales People Afraid? 

I know, it sounds a bit silly. Afraid of what?

Well, here is the thing. In my experience, many sales people are actually afraid of rejection. Why?

Because there is no business practice where you have to bring yourself in as much as when selling. Whether it’s selling a product or a service, sales is emotional and personal. We professionals in sales live by how well we perform. That means our livelihood is in the balance every day, every call, every client interaction. Though not as common in a traditional sales environment, fear can also be felt in a consultative sales environment.

So where does this fear originate?

It starts with the cold calling/prospecting efforts that most sales people are terrified of. Hint to CEOs and sales managers – sales people who don’t like cold calling will most likely try to avoid it at any cost.

It could be a mindset issue that is keeping you from breaking through to others. Although counter-intuitive, being afraid of success is something fairly common in the business world (or on a personal level). In a sales environment it’s a lot more transparent and easier to detect. The effects are also a lot more drastic, because so many sales people depend on earning commission.

Fear-less Cold-calling/Prospecting? Is there such a thing?

There is various ways to deal with the fear of cold-calling issue.

You can hire an inside sales person or a lead generation team to take the cold calling off your sales people.

You can help your sales people overcome the reluctance of cold calling. Structuring the prospecting process with the right kind of research and providing training are two of a number of ways to reduce the fear of cold-calling.

But the fear usually doesn’t stop after that. Sales people need to bring themselves in at every step of the sales process. Sales people are mostly measured by numbers. And if we don’t put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us.

Not every sales person is good at everything

There is always the option to outsource the lead generation process, or to develop an inside sales team. Many companies who have taken that path have seen sales soar as a result. The “front-end” of the sales process (filling the pipeline) is the one area that can be outsourced successfully with great results. Developing qualified opportunities is the toughest part of the sales process (I know, because I do it for my clients on a daily basis) and it makes sense to hire specialists.

Afraid to Ask for a Sale?

Not everybody is equipped to ask for money and that’s essentially what we need to do in a sales environment. We are asking people to trust us to part with their or their company’s funds. If our prospects end up buying from us and the product/service doesn’t meet their needs, we will be held accountable for that decision. All of those areas are deeply emotional and directly connected to mindset. A good salesperson can be trained on how and when to ask for a sale that is not fear-inducing!

Is Fear Rational Behavior?

In the world of sales, fear is often irrational. Just as we are not afraid of flying because we don’t like to be up in the air, we are afraid because we could die and we have no “control”. Doesn’t sound very rational when we put it in those terms, does it? Take the fear of public speaking – it is so intense that some people freeze up although there is no imminent danger lurking.

Help Can Be Right There In Your Team!

The most effective way to help sales people be more comfortable in a sales environment is to help them feel more confident. Confidence often stems from having been successful, so when companies establish an environment where sales people are nurtured and trained rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.

Also, understand what your sales people are good at and where the weaknesses (or as we prefer to say: the opportunities) lie. That is essential when helping them. If you have a strong cold caller on your team, tap into that talent (trust me, it’s rare) and share commission when revenue is closed.

When you have a strong “closer” on your team, bring him/her into final meetings to lend support. Very often we ask too much of sales people and the feeling over being overwhelmed results in panic, desperation and in the worst case scenario unprofessional behavior.

What Are We Best At?

So, in the end, always try to analyze why your sales people are not producing. Develop their strengths, and nurture their areas of opportunities through training and support. The investment you make can pay off manifold if you choose training that actually effects real behavioral change! And finally, just maybe, some sales people might not really be equipped to be in sales. You might detect that in the way they position your company offering, or in their attitude and/or work habits. You will definitely find out if revenue is lacking. You can also simply test their sales acumen. My company offers a Skills & Knowledge Assessment that is not an exam or test, but rather a quick and thorough method to measure sales skills and knowledge. It serves as a vehicle for manager’s to understand the performance gaps of their team members. This Sales IQ will help you gain insight on the strengths of your team members as compared to over 4,000 top sales performers, certified SuperSellersTM, from a cross-section of different industries.

Whatever changes you decide to make to increase your sales revenues, make sure you know your sales staff well. They are your first and foremost representation. We should all shine as sales people, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more “fearless” salespeople!

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