Fear: the Greatest Destroyer of Business
Fear: the Greatest Destroyer of Business

Fear is the greatest enemy you’ll ever encounter in business. It’s especially prevalent in sales situations. Few business professionals recognize that fear appears on both sides of most business or selling situations. The level of success you will achieve in your career depends on your understanding of and mastery over fear.

Most salespeople have fears of not getting enough business, making mistakes or losing face. Some even fear required aspects of selling such as prospecting or closing. Fear can be readily conquered through increases in product knowledge, selling skills and experience.

Being educated and well-prepared to perform in this industry brings about a high level of self-confidence. And self-confidence is a great fear-killer.

The toughest job you’ll encounter in business is when you have to help others admit to and overcome their fears so you can earn the right to serve their needs. Fear is what builds that wall of resistance you so often run into in selling situations. There are skills you must master to climb over or break through that wall. But, first, you must understand customers' fears:

Fear of Salespeople. I think you’ll agree with me that salespeople are not generally accepted with open arms—even by other salespeople.

Even if you are going to help someone you already know — a friend or acquaintance or even a relative — when you enter their lives in the role of a sales professional, certain fears will arise. It’s bound to happen in 99 percent of your presentations. (I’ll give you a one percent non-fear situation with your parents or grandparents, simply because in most cases they’ll believe in you and trust you no matter what role you play with them.)

What you need to do to conquer the “salesperson fear” is to master the skill of putting people at ease. Learn to use a relaxed manner and reassuring tone of voice. Use rapport-building comments and questions that show them you are interested in them, not just in the transaction. Come across as warm, friendly and inviting. If you truly believe in your products and the quality of service you and your company can deliver, it should show.

Try these words: “John and Mary, let me begin by thanking you in advance for the time we’ll share. I hope we can consider this meeting somewhat exploratory, meaning my job is to analyze your needs and show you how we at (name of your business) can assist you with your (type of product) needs.”

You didn’t say, “We’re going to find the right product for you today.” That would be too pushy and might cause them to add a few bricks to their wall of resistance. This type of statement is just as effective with purchasing agents or dealers. After all, we’re in the people business and the same fears apply whether we’re making a buying decision for ourselves or for our companies.

One of the simplest things you can do to put others at ease is to smile. This may sound elementary, but glance at yourself in a mirror or window as you pass. Do you naturally have a smile on your face? Probably not. You wear whatever is on your mind on your face. When you’re with clients, it needs to be a warm, sincere smile of appreciation for their time.

Watch for something for which you can give your clients a sincere compliment. That is another way of putting them at ease. If they’re meeting you at your business, compliment them for being punctual. If you’re in their office or home, they will likely have something on display that represents something they’re proud of…family photos, awards, art. Take a moment to compliment them on whatever it is. It’s just another way of keeping their fears at bay.

Also, thank them for the opportunity to serve their needs. In other words, treat them as you would a guest you are honored to have in your home.

Fear of making a mistake. We all have that one, don’t we? We’ve all said things we wished we hadn’t. And, we’ve made decisions we’ve later regretted. You must take the time to talk them through every aspect of the transaction very carefully. Ask what hesitations they have about making a purchase of this kind. Ask about their past experiences. Most people will not stray far from their past buying histories. You will want to know theirs before presenting an offer that they might think is beyond their means.

You are the expert. You know this business. You may have knowledge about aspects of it that they may not have thought of, and if they had, their decisions may have been different. You must go into every presentation with a very curious interest in the who, what, when, where and why of the transaction. When you’ve satisfied yourself that it is in their best interest to proceed, then it’s your duty as an expert to persuade them that this decision is truly good for them.

Fear of spending money. Customers may make irrational statements or may ask questions that seem out of place. They may even mistrust what you have to say. They may want to negotiate fees.

Realize that it’s simply a symptom of the fear they are feeling about the transaction. When you notice something along these lines, pause in your presentation. You might want to do a brief summary of what’s been discussed thus far to be certain they understand everything you’ve covered and see the benefits to them of owning your product versus hanging on to their money.

This challenge may appear in many variations, depending on the negotiating skills of your clients.

  • They may stall making any decision to go ahead and you’ll have to draw them out.
  • They may be point blank about it and you’ll have to sell them on the value of the service you provide.

A good way to handle most fears is to confront them head on, but gently. You might simply say, “John, I feel you have some hesitation about going ahead with this. Would you mind sharing with me what it is?” Then, be quiet and wait for their reply.

It could be that they’ve had a bad past experience and are fearful of having another. They’re waiting and watching you for signs that you’re not like that other salesperson. Get them talking about their fears so you can determine something concrete to work on. Help them to see how different you and your company are.

People won’t do business with you if they don’t like you, trust you and want to listen to you. Fear gets in the way of all three of those areas.

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