The fear of failure is the biggest single reason for failure in adult life. It is not failure itself, but the fear of failure, the prospect of failure, the anticipation of failure, that causes you to freeze up and perform at a lower level.
The fear of failure is a deep subconscious fear that we all develop early in life, usually as the result of destructive criticism from one or both parents when we are children. If your parents criticized you continually when you were growing up, you will experience this deeply entrenched, unconscious fear of failure as an adult, at least until you learn to get rid of it.
Why Customers Don't Buy
The fear of failure in the mind of the customer or the prospect is the one greatest obstacle to buying. Every customer has made countless buying mistakes. He has purchased services that he later found were overpriced. He has bought products that broke down and that he could not get repaired. He has been sold things that he did not want, could not use, and could not afford. He has been burned so many times in sales experiences that he is like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
This fear of failure and disappointment is the number one reason why customers do not buy. So, one of the most important things you can do in the process of building trust and credibility is to reduce the customer's fear to the point where he has no hesitation about going ahead with your offer.
The Fear of Rejection
The second major obstacle to selling and closing is the fear of rejection. This is the fear that the potential buyer might say no. The fear of rejection is triggered by the possibility of rudeness, disapproval, or criticism toward the salesperson by the prospect.
The rule is that 80 percent of sales calls will end in a no, for a thousand different reasons. This does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with the salesperson or the product or service being sold. People say no because they simply do not need it, do not want it, cannot use it, cannot afford it, or some other reason.
If you are in sales and you fear rejection, you've picked the wrong way to make a living. The fact is that you are going to get a lot of rejections. As they say, "It goes with the territory."
Every experience of failure or rejection affects your self-esteem. It hurts your self-image. It makes you feel bad about yourself and triggers your worst fear: "I'm not good enough."
If it were not for the fear of rejection, we would all be terrific salespeople. We would all make twice as much, and maybe even five or ten times as much.
The Salesperson's Average Day
In a study at Columbia University a few years ago, they found that the average salesperson works approximately one and a half hours per day. They also found that, on the average, the first sales call is not made before eleven o'clock in the morning. The final sales call is usually made at about three thirty in the afternoon, and the average salesperson quits working shortly after that. He goes back to the office or heads for home.
Most people spend half the morning getting warmed up, drinking coffee, chatting with coworkers, reading the paper, shuffling their business cards, and surfing the Internet. Then they go out and make a sales call just in time for lunch. The second sales call isn't made until about 1:00 or 2:00 PM, after which the average salesperson begins winding down for the day. The total amount of time spent face-to-face with customers works out to about ninety minutes per day. That is the average—half are above; half are below that average.
The Brake on Sales Performance
Why is it that salespeople work so little and avoid getting face-to-face with customers so much? Simple: fear of rejection. The fear of rejection acts like a subconscious "brake" that holds people back and causes them to underperform. Of course, they always have a wonderful selection of excuses and rationalizations, but the real reason is fear of rejection.
It is easy to prove this. Let us conduct an experiment. Imagine that your company has hired a marketing research firm to find customers for you. This firm has developed a sophisticated way of identifying ideal prospects. Using this system, they can give you a computer printout of fifty prospects that will be literally guaranteed, with 90 percent accuracy, to buy on a particular day. This list of hot, qualified prospects is so precise that it is only valid for twenty-four hours. Imagine that they call you in and give you this list of fifty top prospects for the following day.
If you received a list of fifty highly qualified prospects, 90 percent of whom were guaranteed to buy if you could call on them within that one-day period, what time would you start in the morning? How much time would you take for coffee breaks or lunch during the day? How long would you spend chatting with your colleagues and reading the newspaper? If you were guaranteed a sale to virtually every single person you spoke to in a one-day period, you would probably start at the crack of dawn and keep on going until midnight if you possibly could. If you had no fear of rejection and you were guaranteed a high level of success, you would be calling on prospects every single waking moment.
Rejection is not Personal
All top salespeople have reached the point where they no longer fear rejection. They have built their self-esteem and self-concepts up such that if someone says no to them, it does not hurt them or put them off. It does not send them dejected back to their offices or cars.
Here's the key to dealing with rejection. You must realize that rejection is not personal. It is not aimed at you. Rejection has nothing to do with you. Instead, it is like the rain or the sunshine. It just happens from day to day. When you can rise above yourself, stop taking yourself so seriously, and recognize that rejection simply goes with the territory, it will have no more fear for you. You will ignore it like water off a duck's back. You will expect it in the normal course of things, shrug your shoulders, and move on to the next prospect.
There is a sales motto: "Some will; some won't; so what? Next!" This should be your motto as well.
Never Give up
Perhaps the two most fundamental qualities for success in sales are boldness and persistence. It takes courage to get up each day and constantly face the fears of failure and rejection. It takes persistence to keep coming back, day after day, in spite of continued difficulties and disappointment.
But the good news is that courage is a habit. Like a muscle, the more you practice courage, the stronger you become. Eventually, you reach the point at which you are virtually unafraid. After that, your career takes off like a rocket.
Five Calls or Closes
A full 80 percent of sales are never closed before the fifth meeting or closing attempt. It is after the fifth time that you ask the prospect to make a buying decision that you make most of your sales.
These numbers turn out to be valid especially when you are trying to get your prospect to change from buying from one company to buying from your company. At least eight out of ten of all first purchases from a new supplier take place after the fifth call or visit.
It seems that only about 10 percent of salespeople make more than five calls or attempts to close the sale. Half of all salespeople, or more, make only one call before they give up. When you are selling to a company that you want to switch from their existing supplier to you, remember that it usually takes about five visits to break down the prospect's natural skepticism and resistance.
This does not mean that you have to spend five hours. It just means that you have to make five visits or more. You have to make an appointment, go and see the prospect, talk to him, tell him that you and your company are available to serve him. It is usually after the fifth visit that the prospect starts to become interested.
In a recent study, it was discovered that 48 percent of all sales calls end without the salesperson trying to close even once. The salesperson meets with the prospect, talks enthusiastically about his product or service, shows him the written information, and dazzles him with reasons to buy. Then, when the prospect has been completely overwhelmed with his charm, enthusiasm, and verbal agility, he takes a deep breath, sits back, and says, "Well, what do you think?"
This almost automatically triggers the response, "Well, I'd like to think it over." The prospect says he wants to talk it over with his boss, wife, cousin, brother, uncle, sister, partner, board of directors, banker, accountant, and whoever else he can think of. "Could you call me back later?"
Prospects Don't Think it Over
One of the important secrets of success in sales is for you to understand and accept that people don't "think it over." The minute you walk out of the prospect's office or home, he or she forgets that you ever lived.
Have you ever gone back to see a prospect a week later, after you thought you had a fantastic sales conversation and he was thinking it over? Some salespeople have the vanity to believe that this prospect has gone home and has been thinking about their product or service twenty-four hours a day. They think he turns it over in his mind and talks about it with everyone he meets. He thinks about it and dreams about it, just waiting for you to come back.
Then, when you visit the prospect a week or two later, you are amazed to find that he has forgotten your name, your product, and everything else. He doesn't remember who you are or what you sell. He has not been thinking about you or your product or service at all.
People don't think things over with regard to products or sales. These words are a polite way of saying, "Good-bye forever." When they say to you, "Let me think it over," they are announcing to you that the interview is over and that you have lost your entire investment of time and energy in this prospect.
Self-Esteem Eliminates Fear
The reason I mention this direct relationship between courage and persistence on the one hand, and making multiple calls and sales success on the other, is this: there is a direct and inverse relationship between the fears of rejection and failure, and high self-esteem. The more you like yourself, the less you feel rejection and the less you fear failure.
Imagine two escalators that go in different directions. One is the up escalator to high self-esteem, and the other is the down escalator to the fears of failure and rejection that hold you back. The more you like yourself and the higher your self-esteem, the faster you go up the escalator to courage and confidence. The more you think about failure or rejection, the more you ride the down escalator toward fears of failure and rejection.
You are a Good Person
When a person says no to you, he is not saying no to you as a person. He is simply saying no to your offering or your presentation or your prices. The rejection is not personal. Once you know and understand that saying no is not personal, you stop worrying about it when people react to you or your product negatively.
Here's the danger: if you take a "no" personally, you can start to think there is something wrong with you as an individual. Or you begin to believe that your product or your company is faulty. When you begin thinking like this, you can soon become discouraged. You will lose your enthusiasm for selling. As a result, you will start cutting back on prospecting. Soon you will only be working an hour and a half per day.
Fear Leads to Excuses for not Selling
As your fears increase, you will begin to rationalize and justify your nonselling behavior. You will make excuses and create all kinds of "make-work" at the office. You will convince yourself that you have to read the newspaper so that you will be fully informed when you call on prospects. You have to shuffle your business cards and check the office to see if there have been any phone calls. You have all those people out there who are "thinking it over." Maybe one of them has called and ordered something.
You go into the office and plan your first hour or two around a couple of cups of coffee. After all, you have to wake yourself up in the morning so that you are sharp and alert when you go out to see customers. You chat with your coworkers and talk about business, especially how tough the business is. You kill most of the morning; then you realize that you had better go out and call on somebody, anybody. So you rush out and make a call just before it's time for lunch.
An Unproductive Day
You wouldn't want to interrupt prospects when they are going for lunch. Therefore, you don't make any calls after 11:30 AM. You go and have lunch with your friends, go shopping, get your car washed, or kill time.
Time passes. You certainly don't want to call on people immediately after they get back from lunch. It might disturb their digestion. So you make up a few more excuses and rationalizations, and you don't make your next call until 2:00 or 3:00 PM. Soon it's 3:30, then 4:00, and of course, everybody's on their way home, aren't they?
You don't want to go out and bother people late in the afternoon while they are preparing to wrap up for the day. Instead, you go back to the office to commiserate with the other salespeople who are gathering there like survivors after an accident and talk about what a tough day you've had.
There is the story of the two salesmen who go back to the office at the end of the day. One says, "Boy, did I ever have a lot of good interviews today!"
The other one says, "Yeah, I didn't sell anything either."
Can you identify with any of these behaviors? They are the favorite practices and excuses of salespeople in the bottom 20 percent of money earners in their fields.
Increase Traveling Time
Another way that salespeople avoid the possibility of failure and rejection is by spreading out their sales calls geographically. Such a salesperson makes one call at one end of town and makes her second call in the afternoon at the other end of town. This gives her a nice solid hour of driving in between, which allows her to pretend that she is working, when in reality, she is just putting off getting face-to-face with a prospect.
The fears of failure and rejection, which lower your self-esteem, quickly become the major obstacles to success in sales.