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Fear of failure

Most people have two fears when they are selling: the fear of failure and the fear of rejection.

Let’s take the fear of rejection first.

If your prospect says ‘no’ to your offer one of two things has happened:

  1. You have not sold the product or service such that the prospect sees clearly their outcomes from buying
  2. Your prospect doesn’t need or want your product or service

In the first example you need to look at how you were selling and in the second you need to look at how you were qualifying the prospect.

The brutal reality, though, is that rejection is part of selling. Every sales person that I know faces rejection, many on a daily basis and there is an understanding in professional selling that goes like this:

“Some will. Some won’t. So what? Next!”

Learning to accept rejection is an important skill but all rejections bring with them something valuable… a lesson in why. As the Dalai Lama said:

“When you lose, don’t lose the lesson”

Fear of failure is something else.

Firstly you need to assess what you believe to be ‘failure’ and in the eyes of whom.

  • Is losing a sale to a prospect that was incorrectly qualified a failure?
  • Is getting trumped on price by an aggressive competitor a failure?
  • Is simply not reaching quota a failure?

All are very different.

Fear of failure can, and does, lead to ultimate failure to win business. In the first instance the fear can actually stop us from facing the challenge in the first place… putting ‘obstacles’ in the way such as calling when we know they will not be available, calling and leaving a voicemail for them to ‘get back to you’ or simply procrastinating over contacting them until the order has gone elsewhere. I have seen all of these done many, many times. It is not through laziness in most cases it is a fear of facing the customer through a fear of failure.

If we do make the appointment the fear of failure can also lead us to jabber-on endlessly in the meeting, fearing the silence, making unnecessary observations about the product of the weather etc. Remember, as Brian Tracy1 says:

“The sale takes place with the words, but the buying takes place in the silence.”

It is essential that before going into any sales situation that we reinforce our own confidence in ourselves. Remember that the prospect has agreed to see us so we have something that interests them, something that they may be willing to buy for the outcomes it will provide. Control the nerves, remind ourselves that we do have something to offer and we do know how to sell it.

Keep a check on the nerves by buying time and how do we buy time? Simple. Ask a question! the person that asks the question is in control and if we are in control what do we have to fear?

Fear of Failure - Psychology of Selling cover image
1Brian Tracy is one of the world’s most respected sales trainers and author of many books including the highly successful Psychology of Selling, which we recommend.