The Fear of Selling is Normal
I wish there was a way to tell you that you can get over your fear of selling… but that would be a lie. A big, bold lie.
This is something I learned from an early age for myself.
When I was 11 I started my first business. Neighborhood lawn mowing. I wanted to buy comic books and my monthly allowance wasn’t cutting it, so I decided I’d knock on doors to find some customers.
Except instead of knocking on everyone’s doors, I knocked on a few doors of the people I knew well, then put flyers in everyone’s mailbox and waited to see who would respond to me.
The strategy worked just well enough that I never had to look again. My customers stuck with me, I’d add new customers every so often through word of mouth, and I made enough to buy my comic books.
Never knocked on those other doors, though.
This pattern has repeated itself in one way or another throughout my life. Show me another way to get in front of a prospect and I’ll take it. If I can avoid a cold call… I will.
Yes, I’ve learned ways to minimize it, to get past it, and to take action. The truth is, I’ve always been afraid to sell.
It seems better to start this post by making it clear that if you’re afraid to sell today, odds are the fear will never go away.
And that’s ok. You don’t need the fear to go away. You can learn how to minimize it, get past it, and take action. That’s as good as it’s going to get.
Let’s start with something that seems obvious, yet no one ever talks about it.
Has anyone told you it’s normal to feel fear when you ask for the sale? It is normal. It’s a 100% sane, normal, common feeling to have.
We’re hard-wired to need to belong to a group, a tribe, since that’s how we survived for at least tens of thousands of years. To be cast out from your community meant that you lost your only support system. Your community helped raise you, feed you, protect you, shelter you, and you added to that so everyone else could do the same.
Getting rejected socially was a potential death sentence.
Accept feeling afraid. It’s normal. Go ahead and smile, it means you’re human!
There are different aspects of sales that might cause you to feel fear. For me, it’s cold outreach. For others it may be handling objections or asking for the sale. There are more (I dig into another one of mine later on in this post). Keep in mind that the process of getting better in these situations in the same, even if the source of the fear is different.
So how can you still take action even though you’re afraid? Let’s talk about what’s happening.
In that moment when you feel fear and you don’t act, you’re flinching and standing still. Julien Smith wrote a wonderful short book on this. It boils down to the fact that every time we face something we don’t want to do, we flinch. If you stand still when you flinch… you lose. Game over.
The key isn’t to not flinch. You will still flinch, even as your response gets more comfortable and more automatic. The key is to accept that you’re going to flinch and know how to
still go forward with it.
You need to understand those two things about yourself and why you’re flinching. If you can understand those two things, you can find a way to still move after you flinch… and even while you’re flinching.
First, understand the specific reason you’re afraid. I’ve talked to dozens of people as part of my immersion – one group in sales, one group of small business owners – and both shared the same few reasons they were afraid. What’s curious is that most people are not afraid of every single thing, just one or two specific things.
I mentioned that I had another fear in sales. Early on in my career I was afraid of calling people higher up in the organization. I felt if I got the CEO or a Regional Director on the phone, the ultimate buyer, and they said ‘no’ that I was dead forever in that account. At least if I started low and they said ‘no’ I could go above them, right?
Except at the end of the day I needed to sell that CEO or Regional Director anyway. If I started at the top and got a ‘yes’? Smooth sailing from there.
I was trying to prevent losing my ability to sell to the account over going on offense to win the account. Once I went on offense? Huge difference.
(Secret: if you cold pitch someone they won’t remember you, especially higher-ups. They get pitched every day. Heck, I’m a mid-level manager and I forget most of the people who pitch me, and I only get a couple per month!)
Second, look at the transaction from both sides. What kind of impact can you have on the other person’s life if they say ‘yes’ to you?
So many times we’re too busy lost in our own heads that we forget the impact we can have on others if they say ‘yes’, and that we’re doing them a disservice if we don’t ask for the sale and don’t charge appropriately. We forget that if we decide to take on great clients who pay well that we’ll deliver an even better experience.
I always remind myself that it’s ok if the other person says ‘no’, but it’s no ok if I fail to ask for the same or charge an amount that pushes me to deliver huge results.
This is super common. So many people have told me they’re afraid to ask for the sale because it feels like they’re taking money from the other person. Or that they’re not worth a certain amount of money they’d like to charge.
How are you going to have the impact you want to have?
Ask for the sale, let the other person decide, and charge enough so you feel obligated to deliver for your customers.
Let’s unpack the last two pieces of that sentence.
I’ve heard it many times: I feel like I’m being pushy, aggressive, or scammy selling. Nothing could be further from the truth when I do it.
Why? Because I’m guiding the other person through a buying decision, not selling them. It allows me to make sure that they’re saying “yes” or “no” for the right reasons.
It also lets me decide whether or not I want to work with this customer. I’ve had more than enough experiences with customers I shouldn’t have worked with, both in my own business and working for others, to know that the money will not outweigh the headaches when it’s not a great fit.
Then you have to charge enough to feel like you need to deliver. This was something I had to work on as a sales professional, too. I always thought, “If I charge too much they won’t buy!”
Now I know better. If I charge too little I won’t deliver the level of service they deserve.
You should make sure you’re charging enough that you feel like this client is gold to you. Not because they’re your client, because they’re paying you well for what you’re delivering and you have something bigger to live up to than collecting a mere paycheck.
One last thought on selling that helps tie all of this together: it always seems easier to push than to pull.
We fall short when we feel like we’re trying to pull someone’s money out of their pocket. That’s where sales feels scammy and aggressive. We flinch because we’re afraid to take. We push past the flinch when we realize both sides are better off if we say ‘yes’ to one another. It’s easier to feel pushed into action, past the fear of selling, because if my prospects knew how I could change their lives they would be pushing me to help them out.
Think of it as the push you give your friend when they need a hand. A well placed nudge that’s easier on both of you than grabbing their hand and pulling them into whatever they’re afraid of.
If you found this helpful, tell me, what’s your biggest fear selling? What do you think you could change to help you get past the flinch?