Selling Power Magazine Article

Troubled Waters
Gerhard Gschwandtner

Storm clouds hang over the economic sky, seeded by the recession and political uncertainty. Both have sent showers and shivers through all sectors of the economy. Salespeople find it increasingly difficult to deal with worried buyers. Sales managers suddenly face the challenge of calming anxious salespeople while working hard to keep their own worries under control. Even top managers and business owners agree that selling has become more emotionally stressful than ever before.
 

Doctor Dominic DiMattia, a noted psychotherapist and business consultant, explained the potentially harmful consequences of exaggerating or ignoring the new realities of business, and he shared specific steps you can take to help your customers, your salespeople, and yourself calm economic fears. Sales executives who follow Dr. DiMattia’s advice can lower their stress, increase their ability to adapt successfully, and even learn how to turn a seemingly impossible situation into a new opportunity for further growth.

FEAR
 

Selling Power (SP): How should salespeople deal with fear of the recession?
DiMattia: We have to distinguish between legitimate concerns and exaggerated fears. I think it would be immature for anyone to ignore the warning signs of a shrinking economy. Salespeople have bills to pay, and they have valid concerns about their jobs. When they see people get laid off, they may ask themselves, “When is it going to be me?” The real danger is to exaggerate the situation with such thoughts as, “If I get fired, I won’t be able to support my family!” or “If I get fired, I won’t be able to get a new job!” As a result of this kind of thinking, people whip themselves into a state of undue emotional stress that keeps them from functioning productively.

SP: Are you saying that it is OK to question the state of the economy and ask tough questions about the future, but it would be foolish to predict that the worst is going to happen?
DiMattia: Exactly. The nonadaptive response would be, “It is hopeless. There is no way I can beat this. I can’t stand another rejection. There is just no business out there. My customers are just too scared to spend money, and they are not going to buy anything at this time.” If salespeople produce these kinds of predictions, then their anxiety level is going to increase dramatically. As a result, they move into self-sabotaging avoidance patterns, such as drinking, drugs, gambling, driving aimlessly through the streets, or engaging in promiscuous sex just to avoid dealing with the discomforting realities of business. The nonadaptive response is like a runaway train: once it gains momentum, it is very hard to stop. Anxiety often creates a lot of unproductive work, which leads to new evidence that success is impossible.

SP: What would be a more productive response?
DiMattia: In a recession, survivors take positive action. They work hard at their jobs. They cut back on their spending, trim their budgets, explore alternative sources of income, forge backup plans, and consider new possibilities.
 

SP: What can we do to reduce the emotional stress triggered by recession?
DiMattia: It is important to separate our thoughts about the recession from our feelings of anxiety. Recessions don’t cause anxiety. Our interpretation and evaluation of ourselves trigger our emotions. Our feelings are a result of our own thinking and not a result of external events. All our emotions are a function of our thinking. I know many people who see recessions as opportunities to invest in basically temporary cash-flow problems. These people believe that they will benefit from riding out the storm. The longer we’re in a recession, the greater the probability we’ll come out of it.

SP: Some people may even confuse this temporary recession with a depression.
DiMattia: That’s right. Just the word “depression” can trigger images of hopelessness and desperation, such as soup kitchens, milk lines, and people jumping out of windows.

HUBRIS
 

SP: But there are some people who think they are untouchable. They pretend they are above it all and tell you that they’re recession proof, yet their sales are down.
DiMattia: These people are probably more frightened by the possibility of having to make major changes or losing their jobs, so they decide to exaggerate in the opposite direction. They tell you that everything is wonderful and terrific. At the same time, they can’t pay their rent. These people have attached their sense of self-worth to being very successful. The thought of being unsuccessful tends to create tremendous fear and discomfort for them. To avoid these unpleasant feelings, they (continued on page 2)
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