In sales, anxiety is the enemy of success. Yet many salespeople are plagued by this emotion daily.
Anxiety often stems from the instinct for self-preservation – for overprotecting what you are afraid of losing. It creates a myopic or narcissistic mindset that, in turn, creates selfish, off-putting behaviors. If not addressed, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“Self-preservation is like a cancer, especially on sales teams,” says Jeremie Kubicek, CEO of GiANT Impact and author of Leadership Is Dead: How Influence Is Reviving It. “If I were a leader wanting to change direction and create a new culture, I would spend most of my time focusing on overcoming that issue.”
How Does Fear Impact Salespeople?
- Reps who are highly fearful of not hitting quota can become so transactional and defensive, they turn people away from them – which, in turn, leads to the very thing they were afraid of: not hitting quota.
- Kubicek remembers a sales leader on his team who was so afraid of losing his job during an economic downturn that it was all he could talk about. “He was a good leader before the recession, but he became such a nuisance because of his own fear that he worked himself out of a job,” he remembers. “We wound up letting him go.”
- Another sales rep who came from a higher level in the company was so focused on protecting her reputation as someone important that she came across as an insufferable know-it-all. Confronted with her behavior and her sales results showing that her performance was near the bottom of the team, she made some major changes in her attitude and is now the company’s second-best salesperson.
“Self-preservation is the chief limiter for most salespeople,” he concludes. “If I want to get my team members to the next level, I’m going to help them get secure in their role in the world. When they get there, they become authentic and start giving freely of themselves, and then people want to be around them, which leads them to achieve what they wanted in the first place.”
How to Instill Confidence in Salespeople
Credibility with the customer is everything. Of course your salespeople will be fearful walking into meetings if they’re not confident. Your salespeople should feel credible in multiple ways: what they know, how they speak, and how they appear to the customer. Here are three specific areas to focus on.
- Are your salespeople dressing the part? Find out what your salespeople are wearing to meetings. They should be dressing in a way that complements the environment of the customer. It’s better to err on the side of being more formal than to be too casual. Above all, the salesperson should be visibly comfortable in his or her own clothes. Remember that neatness (which includes grooming as well as clothing) counts.
- Do your salespeople sound professional over the phone? Examine the salesperson’s telephone skills. There are all sorts of ways salespeople can turn off customers on the phone with their voice alone. Speaking too quickly, talking over the customer, failing to enunciate their words, speaking timidly, speaking too softly or loudly…these verbal tics can wreak havoc on a simple conversation. Remember, your salespeople often present a very different voice to the customer than to you.
- Do your salespeople know the customer’s business problems before the meeting takes place? Quiz your salespeople to find out how much research they’re doing before sales calls. They should be able to answer basic questions about information available online about the customer’s business. If this is an existing customer, the salesperson should pull up any existing service records to see the history of interaction and engagement with the customer. When salespeople rely on meetings to find out information about the customer, they’re likely to be met with impatience, aggravation, frustration, and, ultimately, rejection on the part of the customer. The easy way to sidestep this is to simply have salespeople do their due diligence before they step into the meeting.