The Top 4 Fears Salespeople Face—and How to Overcome Them

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Every Halloween, I think about the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West. As a child, the Wicked Witch scared the living daylights out of me. I can still see her saying to Dorothy (famously played by Judy Garland), “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”

Each year, after freshly watching the movie, which ran annually on national TV, I was afraid that the Wicked Witch would come down and sweep me away—especially when I went down a long dark hall to a bathroom in my home. As time went on, I grew up and grew out of it, and I learned that the Wicked Witch of the West was actually not a witch—she was a fine actor, Margaret Hamilton. And when she was not in character, I learned, she was a person—maybe not like most of us because she was an accomplished actor, but a person nonetheless.

What does this have to do with me and my profession as a salesperson? It reminds me that as salespeople, we are often our own worst enemy—building fears of things that don’t really exist. And if we face our fears, we overcome them. Read on for what I have found to be the top four fears that salespeople face, and how to overcome them and be the stronger for it.

1. Fear of saying, “I don’t know.” For starters, don’t ever lie and make something up. Most of us have done this as salespeople, thinking we need to provide an instant answer. It can only get you in trouble because you are not being forthright.

Overcome the fear: Instead, follow up (“I just want to check on that and I’ll get back to you”). This ensures another level of trust with your client. First, this reinforces that everything you’ve answered thus far is accurate and correct, or else you would have said so. Second, following through quickly gains you respect and allows you to continue a relationship built off honesty.

2. Fear of not hitting a quota. Plain and simple—don’t find excuses or blame other people.

Overcome the fear: Instead, pause and take a good look at your day-to-day activities. Are you doing enough to drive a sale? If your key metrics do not add up, then your technique might be off. And don’t wait. No one loses 10 pounds in a day, and few hit their sales quota in one day. It takes persistence and consistency.

3. Fear of asking what you think is a “stupid” question. Just ask it!

Overcome the fear: Put yourself in your client’s shoes and ask any question you’re embarrassed to ask about their business. It’s not that you’re not smart, it’s that ego can sometimes get in the way, misaligning messaging and creating mistrust. Put your ego aside and be authentic, always. 

4. Fear of hearing “no.” “No” means you’re closer to a “yes.”
Overcome the fear: First, learn that hearing no is a time saver—it beats “maybe.” Maybes can have you chasing a prospect who never has any real interest in buying, which is a huge waste of time and effort. Second, often in a no you can find out why a prospect does not have interest, and learn from that. Finally, a no can lead you to overcome the fear of immediately making that next phone call—even after you may have been rejected all day long. In the end, you might hear no a lot of times before you finally hear yes, but celebrate all the times you do because they mean you’re closer to your yes.

So can sales be a scary adventure? Perhaps at first. But, over time, sales fears can be overcome. And most of us find that our greatest obstacle is actually our own fears, which are often fairy tales. Embrace your fears head-on and you will overcome them, and you may even find that they can be pretty helpful motivators. Today, I hear the Wicked Witch in my head. She says, “Go back to work, my pretty, and land a big new deal too.”

Tara Bryant is senior vice president of Global Sales at Pipedrive, a CRM platform built from the salesperson’s point of view. Bryant brings more than 25 years of sales experience to Pipedrive, where she is responsible for driving the company’s sales functions and revenue, managing strategic partnerships, and overseeing the global sales team.

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