Overcoming Your Fear of Selling

Businessmen talking near car
••• Robert Daly/OJO Images / Getty Images

Fear of selling varies from person to person. Usually, there's a specific aspect of sales that trigger unpleasant feelings. The first step to overcoming this fear is pinpointing it. Think about each step of the sales process: prospecting for leads, setting appointments (both cold calling and following up on warm leads), qualifying prospects, making presentations, handling objections, closing the sale, and asking for referrals. Rank these stages in the order in which they bother you, from worst to best.

Now review the list below to find out how you can feel less anxious during the stages that affect you the most.

Prospecting / Lead Generation 

Fear in this stage usually stems from one of two causes. Either you have trouble finding leads, and thus prospecting makes you anxious because you worry about not being able to find potential customers; or you end up with thousands of leads, in which case you're overwhelmed by the thought of dealing with them all.

In either case, you can address the problem by fixing up your lead generation process. If you can't find enough leads, try talking with a list broker. Good lead lists are expensive but not as expensive as bankruptcy, so this may be your best option. In the second case, you're probably pulling leads that aren't really good matches for your product. Your problem isn't in the generation; it's in qualification. Again, a good list broker can help (or if you've already got a list broker, it may be time to find a new one).

Setting Appointments 

Even experienced salespeople occasionally get sweaty palms before a round of cold calling. Picking up the phone and talking to complete strangers isn't easy because it triggers a fundamental anxiety – fear of rejection. 

Qualifying Prospects 

If qualifying makes you nervous, you're probably viewing it as an intrusion – asking strangers fairly personal questions so that you can determine if they're potential customers. In that case, shifting your viewpoint can help. You're not intruding by getting in touch and asking questions. Instead, you're giving prospects an opportunity to find out about a fantastic product. After all, if you didn't believe your product was terrific, you wouldn't have started a business making it! When you qualify prospects, think of yourself as an expert – like a doctor or lawyer – who is assessing the prospect's needs and finding a solution for her problem.

Making Presentations 

It's not easy to stand up in front of an audience, even an audience of one. When your presentation happens in front of a whole crowd of businesspeople, all of whom have their game faces on, it can feel like a pretty frightening idea. The easiest way to get a handle on this fear is to do your homework. If you're fully prepared and have a great presentation ready, and you've rehearsed it until it sounds perfect, you'll feel much safer.​

Handling Objections

Often it's not the answering objections itself that unnerve sellers. Instead, it's the fear you feel before an appointment. What if the prospect comes up with something I've never thought of? What if he's right? What if my mind goes blank and he thinks I'm an idiot?

There will probably be some appointments where these kinds of scenarios will play out. However, the good news is that the more appointments you keep, the less likely you are to run into trouble. Over time, you'll hear many different objections, and you'll work out good responses to each one.

If you do hear an objection that you can't answer, you can always stall for time. Make up a delaying response like, “Mr. Jones, that's an excellent point. I want to address that concern fully, but I don't have all the information I need with me. May I email it to you later today?”

Closing the Sale 

The close is the moment of truth, where you find out whether or not your hard work is about to pay off. There are at least as many ways to close a sale as there are salespeople. However, you don't have to get tricky. The important thing is to have a few simple closing phrases in mind so that you can spit one out at the appropriate moment.

Asking for Referrals 

Many new salespeople skip this step entirely. That's unfortunate, since getting referrals from a new customer will save you time cold calling – which is another anxiety-ridden stage of sales! If a prospect is happy enough to buy from you, he's probably happy to tell you about other people who can benefit from having your product.