And the 5 steps to overcome those fears
Jody was calling me from the prospect’s parking lot. A bit nervous to make her first call on a prospect alone, she phoned to “just talk” for a few minutes. It didn’t take long to realize the anxiety around this call had been building with Jody for the last day or so. My initial reaction was to just shrug it off as new person jitters and tell her to just pull herself together and get in there for the appointment. Truth is, I might have even lead with that advice. It was clear though that the anxiety was pretty intense as Jody was thinking of leaving and not calling on the prospect.
She had been on territory for about a month or more learning the business of selling to both Ag retailers and direct to farmers. Most of that time had been on ride alongs with either myself or other members of the sales team. Now, the time had come for her to take off on her own and solo on sales calls. It had been a few years since I made my first solo sales calls. I forgot how nervous you can get on them. Honestly, the call from her surprised me some as Jody had more experience in the Ag retail business than most new reps.
Deciding to back up and take a breath for a moment, we went through some typical coaching methodology. We reviewed her preparation for the call. We reviewed the reason the prospect gave her the appointment in the first place. We reviewed how prepared she was with a game plan for the call with objectives, solid questions to get her the info needed to reach those objectives and all the collateral marketing material she would need. We also discussed how well she knew the products and the industry.
The impromptu coaching seemed like it helped a little to calm her nerves, as she finally decided to get out of the car and call on the Ag Retailer. She promised to call me right away afterward and let me know how it went – assuring me she was somehow going to mess up. Knowing if things went bad, I would get a call in about 15 minutes. To my surprise, it took over an hour before I received her call. It went better than expected. Jody uncovered a couple of newer pieces of information that she could work on to sell them. In summary, a moderate level of confidence was shining through and certainly, the enjoyment that she didn’t “Mess up”.
Fears! We all have them. We all deal with them in our own way. Because selling involves so much human interaction, fears multiply in many of the activities we are expected to do. Included in our regular fears, we have an added component of social anxiety involved. Examples:
- Fear of Cold Calling – It’s that awkward moment when you have to break the ice in person or over the phone. Will they accept me or am I being intrusive?
- Fear of public speaking – Often, we are given the opportunity to “Say a few words”. This can be paralyzing for some as they try to say just the right thing. Learn to see these as golden opportunities to introduce yourself, build a little on your personal brand and promote your company.
- Fear of looking like we are incompetent – this one comes out in all of us at different times. First realize you will not know it all and have all the answers. Learn as much as you can and ask questions when you run out of knowledge.
- Fear of being too Salesy – Surprise, surprise, your customer knows why you are there! I say this often throughout my training sessions. Why? Because too often I see salespeople trying to not be salesy by evading the process. Get over this fear by realizing that your customer knows why you are there. Get to the point. Let them know what you want them to do (Call to Action). Then deal with the objections or discussion afterward.
- Fear of asking those prying questions – This is one area where you are going to have to develop a good intuition as to how much you can pry into the customer’s business. See my blog on asking questions. http://gregmartinelli.net/asking-high-value-questions-to-grain-farmers-livestock-producers-ag-buyers/
- Fear of calling on the “Big” accounts – Your inner fear dialogue says “They are so much more knowledgeable than I am”. “They look so busy”. “How could I possibly add value to their operation”? The inner dialogue keeps going on and on in your head as you simply drive your pick up right past their driveway. Readjust your thought process. I enjoy meeting these individuals. They have figured out how to grow their business beyond others. I have so many questions when I meet them that it’s difficult to control the urge to just rivet them with questions. Think of it this way. Which would you rather be – the most knowledgeable person in a room or the least knowledgeable person in a room? While it might feel good to our ego to be the most knowledgeable, we will learn and grow the most in a room full of more knowledgeable people.
5 Tactics for Taming your Selling Fears!
- Do a Pre-Call Plan
- learn as much as you can beforehand about your prospect. Try Google, LinkedIn, industry information, internal files if they did business with you before, your peers that have been around for a while, other company reps that might call on the prospect
- Develop a one-page to leave behind. Even for an initial call, it helps to have something in hard copy for the prospect to look at after you are gone.
- Write out a few bullet points on your key topics so you aren’t reading from your notes.
- Prepare some good/appropriate questions and write them down.
2. Review & Reflect
- Take a moment to calm down and take stock of what you have to offer: products, services and advantages over competitors.
- Think through the steps you will go through on this call. I kept a small cheat sheet of the major sales steps in my planner that I reviewed right before a sales call.
- Review the questions you want to be answered on this call and lastly review the end game you want for the call – your goal.
- Think through why the customer/prospect gave you the appointment in the first place. If that’s different than your goal, you will need to explain that to them right away in the discussion.
3. Be yourself
Self-explanatory. Realize that you are at the stage of your career, knowledge and skill level. You have prepared as best you can. You don’t have to be perfect – just interested in getting better and learning from each sales call.
4. Ask Questions:
It helps to have a natural sense of curiosity. It also helps to have some questions written out for you in case you get stuck or get overly nervous. It may seem like a waste of time to prepare this way. However, you will be glad you did if you do get hit with the fear of not knowing what to discuss on a call.
5. Close/Follow up
Above all else on your call, you will eventually have to bring it to a summation by Closing and then figuring out how to Follow-up the call. I like to spend a lot of time on the Follow up in my training for two reasons. First, typical programs spend little time on it. So, people tend to be weak in this area. Secondly, very few customers buy on the first call. So, figuring out how to come back for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 20th sales call, gets to be a challenge. Most of the time, your follow up points will be uncovered during a good sales call, where information is flowing back and forth between you and the customer. But sometimes we don’t have these good sales calls. Don’t leave Follow-up to chance or ad-lib it. Have an idea going into the call on what areas you will come back for the next appointment.
As with any fear management discussion, you soon realize that facing your fears and doing what you are afraid of will bring you that valuable experience you need. Soon those fears will seem so distant and trivial, that you learn to laugh at yourself at how much you worried about them. Don’t get too comfortable though, as you will replace those thoughts with a whole new set of fears. That’s sort of the way we are wired. Once we solve one fear, we look for the next thing to worry about. So, keep this blog handy. You may need it more than once. And send it to that salesperson you know that needs reassurance.