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Hidden Fears Hinder Sales
Simple Steps to Solve Sagging Sales

By: Scott Sindelar, Ph.D.

Dr. Scott Sindelar is a Business Psychologist and expert on Fear, Anger, Stress and other barriers to effective selling and management. His newest book is entitled: Fear-Free Selling - How To Become Absolutely Fearless Selling Anything: Products, Services, Even Yourself!

He speaks to and consults with businesses, executives, and organizations internationally. He can be reached at or (602) 482-1487 in Scottsdale Arizona.

Hidden fears may be hindering your sales. Whatever you are selling, products, services, even yourself (in a job interview), your fear may be blocking your success.

When sales start sagging, or when we don't get the job or the contract, it is easy to blame external forces. We can complain about too much competition, bemoan bad management, finger a failing economy. We can even whine about war. The fortunate truth is that much of the problem lies within, even when such truth is hidden from our own eyes.

Fortunate? How can this truth be fortunate? It is fortunate because the true causes of slowing sales are under our control. Fear is a driving force behind diminishing sales; and fear is under our control. Even though we may not know how to operate the mental machinery that triggers fear, it is possible to learn how to operate and control it. If our sales problems were all external, we might have little power to overcome them. Internal problems at least provide us with a sporting chance to overcome them.

Telltale Signs of Hidden Fears

There are six major signs that hidden fears are sabotaging our sales. If you find yourself engaging in any of these behaviors, be aware that your productivity, and your income, is suffering.
  1. Procrastinating. "Sales Call Reluctance" is just a fancy phrase for fear. When we procrastinate, fear is running the show. Procrastination is often present when fear causes us to mix up our priorities and do everything else but work on making the sale.

  2. Whining. Underneath this activity is the fear that we are going to get punished. This is an attempt to gain sympathy and support for our mistakes and poor results. We may also fear that we are not going to get our rewards. We may hope that whining will be accepted as an excuse for missing our sales targets.

  3. Blaming. This is an age-old tactic learned in childhood. If we can find someone else or something else to blame, will think we will escape punishment. Again fear is causing us to focus on the perceived threat rather than on the potential sale.

  4. Perseverating. This means doing the same thing over and over again. I call this the sign of the "One Pitch Wonders". If we stumbled on a pitch that works, we may continue to use it even though circumstances change and it becomes less effective. We may fear trying new approaches, or fear that we are incapable of learning new styles of selling. So we keep using the same pitch over and over. In many markets, change is so rapid that we cannot afford perseverating.

  5. Avoiding. Fear causes us to avoid doing the very things that can generate success. We imagine terrible things happening to us if we fail to make the sale. By avoiding making an attempt at selling, (and failing) we experience relief. Just as a person who is afraid of public speaking, and therefore avoids it and feels relief, a person who avoids a potential failure will feel temporarily better.

  6. Diverting. Fear can be so painful, that we may create diversions for ourselves to hide the distress. We can cover it up with diversions that take our minds off of the problems and guilt. Our fear of looking bad may drive us to distract our bosses (and ourselves) with stories or discussions about anything else besides our own sales behaviors.

Fear-Free Tools for Handling the Hidden Fears

Three Tips for Sellers

Do the Hardest Thing First. A powerful tool to overcome procrastination is to discipline yourself to structure your day starting with the most difficult tasks. This is one of the secrets of high achievers. Start your day doing the hardest thing first, and then move on to the next hardest thing. Repeat until the day is done. In this way your day will become easier and easier as you move through each task.

Do the Thing You Are Afraid To Do. One of the most effective tools to overcome fear is to do the thing you are afraid to do. This means you must act against your feelings. While fear is motivating you to avoid, learn to use the energy of anxiety to force yourself forward. Many public speakers overcame their fear of speaking by speaking anyway, anywhere, anytime they could. The fear will not kill you, but avoidance can kill your career.

Harness the Power of the "What Ifs". Many of our fears begin in our minds with questions of "What If?" We think about "What if" some bad things happen, and we naturally feel fear.

The way to overcome this fear is to answer the "What if?" question. When you find yourself feeling fear, look for your "What ifs". . Change the "What if" into: "So What? Then What?" This turns a fearful situation into a solution-focused situation. Look for alternatives and creative ways to handle the potential problems. When you have answers to the "What ifs" you can control your fear.

Three Tips for Sales Managers

Change competition to cooperation. Whining, Blaming, and Diverting are fear-based responses that can be overcome when management structures the sales environment for productivity rather than punishment. A punishing sales environment often comes from looking at a sales force as if it were a sports team. Even worse, is when the sales environment is structured in such a way as to create internal "player against player" competition. This often results in creating a few "star players" but also results in high turnover or discouragement among the rest of the players.

High productivity selling is not a sporting event where only one person or one team wins. Creating sales environments where your sales force is competing against each other like gladiators often results in one winner while the rest of the group ends up as demoralized losers.

Instead, structure the sales environment so that everyone cooperates and teaches each other how to become better sellers. When people are focused on the excitement of learning and the rewards of success rather than the fear of failing, sales can soar through the roof.

Best Tip Of The Day. Sales meetings can be structured to highlight and examine what is working well, rather than focusing on mistakes and failures. Most of my clients have incomes of six figures or more. These high productivity sales professionals want to do better and they are often eager to learn tools that work. Hold sales meetings where sellers are encouraged to tell about their success stories of the day so the others can learn from them.

Research and Development. Hold brainstorming meetings where you examine why a tool works or what elements of the techniques seem to be most effective. Your sales force can use the tools of research and development to find and practice new and improved selling skills.

As Frank Herbert wrote in his epic novel, Dune, "Fear is the mind killer." The good news is that we also have a mind that can kill the fear.

© 2002 Scott Sindelar Ph.D.

Books by Scott Sindelar, Ph.D.

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The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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