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Sales Solutions
Conquer Your Fears vol 5, issue #10
October, 2008

Picture yourself 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!


Now, is 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 once!).


Fear's 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.


In the 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. 


The key, 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 nature.


Learning 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.



Action item

The 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!

Good selling!

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