standing at the edge of a cliff, staring out over a green, verdant valley, 1,000 feet below, that stretches as far as the eye can
see. Towering mountains rise in the
distance. High above, you see a hawk
soaring towards the clouds. A steady
breeze blows on your face.
How do you feel?
Next, imagine that
you're hooked into a hang glider, and you aren't just enjoying the scenery - you're about to become a part of it!
Now how do you feel?
If you're like most
people who are reading this, your heart just skipped a beat and your hands started
to sweat. Because the mere thought of launching oneself
off a cliff attached to a big kite is enough to strike fear in the hearts of anyone. I know - because I've been
there, and done that - many, many times.
And the very first time I did, I felt fear. Real fear.
The dictionary defines fear as
"a distressing emotion aroused by anticipation or awareness of danger, evil, pain, harm, or discomfort,
whether the threat is real or imagined." Now, while selling may not
instill the same type or degree of fear as launching oneself off a cliff would, there are aspects of our
profession where we find ourselves anticipating discomfort. Our stomachs get tied in knots, our mouths go dry, and our hands become moist. Not
exactly a pleasant state of affairs!
fear necessarily bad? No. Fear motivates us to remove ourselves from
dangerous and potentially painful, or harmful, situations - when doing so is
necessary for our survival. Fear can
also cause us to focus intently on the task at hand, to ensure it's done
right. When I'm standing on launch, the butterflies in my stomach create a laser like focus on
what I'm about to do ("wings level," "nose down," "smooth run," "GO!!"). But if not handled right, fear can cause
you great harm. It can cause you bodily harm, if, for example, you are being
physically attacked. It can cause you professional harm, if, for example, you
freeze up while making a presentation before a prospect's senior management
team - especially if your boss is there to witness it (as happened to me
greatest power is to paralyze us into inaction.
Some of us have a fear of cold calling.
Do you? If so, you won't make your calls, you won't have a robust
pipeline, and you won't close much business.
Do you have a fear of public speaking?
If so, you'll pass on opportunities to communicate your message
powerfully and persuasively to the people who need - and want - to hear it.
Do you fear rejection in the form of objections? If so, you're in for a
tough career in Sales if you don't address that fear.
workplace, the most common cause of fear - more appropriately called
"apprehension" - is from being put into situations with which we're not
familiar, or having to use skills we've not developed. We're outside of our comfort zone. We feel out of control. And that's scary.
then, to conquering your workplace fears, is to first face them, and then commit
to confronting them. Force yourself to
be in situations and environments that feel uncomfortable. Do that enough times, and after a while it
won't feel so uncomfortable. Practice
the skills and develop the competencies you lack, but which you know you need
in order to be successful, and you'll begin improving on them - eventually
mastering them. You will stumble along the way, but in the end you will succeed. And the day
will come when you realize that what once terrified you has now become second
to fly a hang glider required me to force myself to do what did not come
naturally - leave the security of terra firma, and overcome the fear associated
with doing so. By practicing over and
over and over again, first on small slopes, then on higher ones, then in a
tandem flight of a cliff, I eventually overcame that fear. One day I made my first solo mountain
launch. From there on, as I got more
air time than was possible on the bunny slopes, my skills began to
sharpen: executing a crisp turn, reacting
to adverse wind currents, nailing landings in tight spaces. I've since flown over 2,000' above launch, soared with an
eagle, and fought through strong late afternoon surface winds to land my glider. I was able to accomplish these things because
I put the time in; because I was willing to accept constructive feedback and
coaching from other, more experienced pilots; because I incorporated that coaching into
subsequent flights, and by practicing, practicing, practicing.
antidote for fear is courage. Courage is
"the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty,
danger, pain, etc., without fear." Pick an
aspect of selling which is critical to your success, but about which you are
apprehensive. Commit the time and effort
to work on this skill, and to master it. Repeatedly
put yourself in situations and environments in which you are uncomfortable, and
get accustomed to being in those environments.
Do this diligently, and the result will be increased confidence in
yourself. And confidence enables
courage. And courage conquers fear.
Do it today. Do it now!