Fear Drives the 80/20 Rule for Sales Professionals

A quick internet search on sales success, sales coaching or sales literature reveals an inexhaustible body of research and resources all promising a glowing future of increased confidence, higher commissions, shorter sales cycles and higher close ratios. With this overwhelming abundance of books, DVDs, courses and coaches available to support and develop what is fundamentally a coin-operated workforce one would expect to find a highly skilled, maniacally focused, well-disciplined selling force tearing its way through an ill-equipped buying community. Knife to the gun fight kind of inequality. But such is not the case…which begs the obvious question; why not?

To proactively (and successfully) pursue a professional sales career one requires a skills arsenal that includes varying degrees of intelligence, fearlessness, greed, tenacity, curiosity, situational and self awareness as well as a twisted combination of humility and brazen boldness. Yet even with this cornucopia of strengths at their disposal many sales professionals consciously avoid the very activities that history has proven (and THEY KNOW) produces spectacular results; like prospecting.

What is it about prospecting that turns even the most tenured sales professional into an avoiding turtle? Every artifact of sales literature produced from time immemorial preaches/screams in unequivocal and non-negotiable terms how CRITICAL prospecting activities are to the overall evolution and effectiveness of the sales warrior. And yet, with limited exceptions, sales professionals approach prospecting in much the same way they would an anesthetic-free root canal.

Year and year annual territory plans are littered to overflowing with genuine and heartfelt commitments to improve prospecting activities and yet during uncomfortable quarterly or semi-annual reviews, most sales professionals concede that, to date, little has been accomplished. Despite being convinced that prospecting inevitably and predictably drives pipeline health, and higher incomes, sales professionals find all manner of excuses and distractions to avoid the very activities that ensure their success; a set of behaviours that inevitably leads us to the psyche.

When we CONSCIOUSLY ignore or delay (procrastinate) an activity that we KNOW will benefit our well-being we move from the domain of logic to the domain of emotion; and ultimately to the realm of beliefs and fear. Beliefs based on experiences of previous failed attempts, fear of not knowing how to effectively convert outbound engagement into opportunities, fear of failure and fear of too much success undermine the very foundation of our commitments. Regardless of how they show up understand that fears are nothing more than the anticipation of pain, with the anticipation more often than not being worse than the actual experience of the pain itself.

So the next time you are staring down the disappointment of broken prospecting commitments, challenge yourself to look beyond the obvious (and generally believable) reasons, excuses and stories that justify the missed goals and ask yourself some critical questions:

  • What goal or objective do I most want to achieve in my life right now (professional or personal)?
  • What fear am I allowing to keep me from achieving this goal or objective?
  • What price do I pay for allowing this fear to control me?
  • How would my life be different without this fear?
  • What is the WORST thing that could happen to me if I engaged in what I am afraid of?
  • Is my fear worthy of the price I pay to avoid it?

Ultimately all stress, anxieties and worries boil down to a single fear: that we won’t be able to handle “it”(“it” being whatever is on the other side of the fearful experience), yet by virtue of being alive you have managed to handle everything that has come your way in life so far (albeit with varying outcomes, but handled nonetheless).

Fear is an illusion that keeps us “safe”; which unfortunately is not an experience generally associated with sales professionals, and certainly not with the top 20% that generate 80% of the commissions. Commit to the uncomfortable activities that you KNOW will lead to greater success, identify SPECIFIC times to complete these activities, acknowledge your discomfort, ignore the negative/self-limiting internal dialogue and then move into action. In short…feel the fear and then do it anyway!


– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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George Brown

Insight written by George Brown

Senior Vice President at Rand Group

A thought leader and pioneer in the areas of cloud computing, sales and marketing, George is a highly regarded subject matter expert and leader with over 30 years’ experience in strategically propelling businesses forward.

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