Deal with Fear
If you let fear rule your business, there’s only one outcome, and it’s not the one you want.
I remember my first day on the job as a classified sales rep in the same way as you remember a major car accident. The moments leading up to it, the mounting terror, are seared into my memory. That actual first call is a blank.
I guess that’s how your mind stops you reliving the pain!
These days I don’t find chatting with strangers any more difficult than chatting with friends, but it’s ironic back then that all those weeks of training didn’t make me feel better about sales. It just wound me up into a tight ball of anxiety that meant I couldn’t function properly for months.
Embrace the Risk
Just as it was for me, the biggest obstacle to business development is fear.
It’s a normal feeling but if you let it overwhelm you it becomes a barrier to success.
Take a look at these numbers:
- 80% of sales come after five or more calls to the same customer
- 48% of all sales people make only one call per customer
- 25% quit after the second call
- 10% of all salespeople keep calling until they have a sale or a definite no.
The final 10% of salespeople are the most successful. They strive for excellence, not perfection, and quality not quantity.
Most importantly they’ve overcome the fear of failure that undermines their ambition.
More powerfully, fear can lead to desperation. It eats away at your confidence to the point that you want the sale so badly that you scare customers away. Prospects do not want to do business with sales people operating out of fear.
So however much it’s eating you up, the first thing we need to do is lose that phone fear.
Leverage the Routine
Sports psychologists address this problem as a core part of their job. Leading sportspeople have to make split second decisions that make the difference between winning and losing.
They put their faith in routine.
Jonny Wilkinson was England’s spot kicker in their triumphant 2003 Rugby World Cup winning team, and he had two tricks up his sleeve:
The first was routine: he would make a series of ritualistic hand gestures as a countdown to kicking, tapping his fingers on his thigh. If he had a panic attack he’d just start again, and let the familiarity take his mind off the occasion.
The other was changing his perspective: instead of the goal posts, Jonny visualised an elderly female relative (called Dotty) standing way up in the stands, egging him on to kick the ball to her!
So the challenge in sales is both to establish an effective routine, and to find our own way of relieving the pressure – to give ourselves the chance to be natural, the best part of ourselves.
Get Organized and Use Time Properly
Time management and organization are key to prospecting. Set daily, weekly and monthly prospecting goals and stick to your schedule of calls and call-backs. There is no quick fix solution -- only hard work, persistence and commitment.
Work your prospecting in blocks of two to three hours to avoid burnout. Take breaks to perform other sales functions. Find productive calling periods in your market. After three rounds of phone tag, explore other options such as e-mail. Always leave a message and let the prospect know you will be calling back. Constant, organized follow-up is critical.
The ritual generated around fixed, dedicated times does a lot to ward off those last-minute jitters that tempt you to delay it until tomorrow!
Recognise that it’s a Numbers Game
The key to sales prospecting is persistence, because prospecting is a numbers game. The more calls you make, the closer you are to a sale.
Determine your conversion rates and use those to motivate you toward the next sale.
Track prospecting numbers such as the number of calls made, decision-maker contacts, appointments and other activities. Each call brings you closer to a sale.
The record will give you a sense of achievement and evidence of your commitment.
Know Your Marketplace
The first step in prospecting is to get the inside line on your target market. Know the key hot buttons that stimulate action in your prospects. Establish a profile of your customers and determine why they buy. Do your homework outside of critical working hours and acquire in-depth knowledge of your target market.
Create handy summary sheets that sit on your desk that remind you of the key facts that will support you at a moment’s notice.
Remember, you’re not trying to tell your customer what they want, you’re just giving yourself the authority and credibility to hold a conversation!
A Reason to Call
Do a quick online search for new stories around either your customer or their industry. Nothing is a more powerful icebreaker than ‘I saw this and thought of you…’.
Do NOT allow this 60 second search to turn into an investigation – you’re looking for an icebreaker not a thesis!
The First Impression
Take a deep breath, compose yourself and smile.
A first impression is usually made during prospecting, and whilst it does not always make or break the sale, it is going to have a lasting impact. Do not make up your mind about the prospect based on your first impression. However, make sure the customer’s first impression of you is positive.
You never know where the next big account will come from. Be clear about the impression you want to leave with people and ask those close to you what kind of impressions they think you leave with people.
Deal with Rejection
Dealing with rejection is part of prospecting. Be ready for it. Rejection is not about you. It is usually about the idea or the way in which you are selling. Some prospects will not be interested; others will.
See rejection as part of the process and be ready to move on. At the very least you now have more information and you are one step closer to a sale. "No" is far better than "Maybe," uncertainty or delaying tactics. Rejection gives you a solution and the best way to handle rejection is to make another prospecting call...
Learn to Harvest
Most of all, effective sales is about achieving a sense of inner calm.
Remember that you increase your own success by bringing value to others. You cannot bring value to others unless you make contacts. Contacts are made through prospecting. If you do nothing else but prospect, you are already winning.
Prospecting is like planting seeds and tending them with loving care until the harvest. You don’t know which seeds will be the best or bear the most fruit, so you tend them all the same. Patience, persistence and proper technique lead to a great harvest.
Establish your ritual:
- Allocate your time
- Set yourself targets
- Research your market
- Create a reason to call
- Make a great first impression
- Deal with rejection
Phone fear, or call reluctance, is overcome through hard work. You’ll need awareness of your fears and by changing your outlook.
If anxiety is threatening your approach, try saying your fears out loud to people and see how small they can be. Fears are usually based on deep emotional issues and not often reality.
Most of all, establish your routine and get going – there’s no time like RIGHT NOW!