Would you be surprised to learn that, after 35 years, I experience fear prior to sales calls, presentations, training and speaking engagements? Yeah, I’d be surprised to read that too – except I really do. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t cause stress or anxiety, it doesn’t prevent me from doing what I need to do and I don’t attempt to overcome it. Why? Because after 35 years, it’s the fear that makes me excel. It’s the fear that makes my speaking engagements so memorable. It’s the fear that makes my training programs so effective. It’s the fear that helps me succeed on my sales calls.

I’ve worked with tens of thousands of salespeople and a fairly high percentage of them don’t have or won’t admit to any fear. A significant percentage of salespeople have so much fear and it is so transparent that it causes them to be terribly ineffective. You can hear it in their voices, see it in their eyes, and watch it in their trembling hands. They’re petrified every time they get in front of a prospect!

Somewhere in between fearless and afraid there is a happy medium and I’d like to share some of my thoughts on fear so that you can use fear to improve your effectiveness:

  • instead of asking yourself, “what if I screw up?”, ask yourself, “what could I screw up and what should I do to make sure that doesn’t happen?”
  • instead of asking yourself “what if they don’t like me?”, ask yourself, “what might they not like about me and what can I do to compensate for that?”
  • instead of asking yourself, “what if I can’t answer their questions?”, ask yourself, “what questions could come up that I need to be better prepared to answer?”
  • instead of asking yourself, “what if I fail?”, ask yourself, “what must I do on this call to put myself in the best possible scenario to succeed?”
  • instead of asking yourself, “what if they give me a really hard time?”, ask yourself, “what will I do if they give me a really hard time?”
  • instead of asking yourself, “what if they prefer the competition to me?”, ask yourself, “assuming they prefer the competition, what can I do to reposition us and change their perception?”
Used properly, fear allows you to be more prepared, better equipped and actually more confident than if your fear didn’t cause you to completely rehearse your next call.

One of my one-liners that I’ve been sharing with salespeople for more than twenty years is this: Be eternally optimistic about your outcomes, but pessimistic about what will happen along the way. In other words, know in your heart that you will succeed in the end, but be prepared for everything that can and will go wrong along the way!