I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
I know, it sounds a bit silly. Afraid of what?
Well, here is the thing. In my experience, many salespeople 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/prospectingefforts that most salespeople are terrified of. Hint to CEOs and sales managers – salespeople 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 counterintuitive, 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 salespeople depend on earning commission.
Fearless cold calling/prospecting? Is there such a thing?
There are various ways to deal with the fear of cold calling issue. You can hire an inside salesperson or a lead generation team to take the cold calling off your salespeople.
You can help your salespeople 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. Salespeople need to bring themselves in at every step of the sales process. Salespeople are mostly measured by numbers. And if we don't put numbers on the books it puts enormous pressure on us.
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 salespeople 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 salespeople are nurtured and trained rather than pushed and reprimanded, success flows more freely.
Also, understand what your salespeople 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. Often, we ask too much of salespeople and the feeling over being overwhelmed results in panic, desperation and in the worst case scenario unprofessional behavior.
What are we best at?
Always try to analyze why your salespeople 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 salespeople 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. 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 salespeople, and we should be supported to do just that. And that will result in a lot more "fearless" salespeople.
Monika D’Agostino is the Chief Consultative Sales Officer of the Consultative Sales Academy.