I had always wanted a sports car.
A few years ago, I finally purchased one. Before I wrote the check for the down payment, my husband cautioned me that the car I wanted was available only with a manual transmission. I had never driven a manual, but I said, “No problem, I’ll learn.”
We picked up the car; the dealer handed me the keys. I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t drive this car, I don’t know how. It’s brand new, I don’t want to crash it.” I handed him the keys.
Only on the drive back home did it begin to dawn on me what I had done. I had purchased a car that I couldn’t drive. That fact made me feel more than a little restless. While I was still in the passenger seat, I vowed to master the art of driving the stick shift.
Over the next few weeks, with my patient husband’s help, I tried to get acquainted with a whole new way of driving. It wasn’t easy. I lacked confidence in myself. I had this belief that I would stall out while climbing a hill, that drivers behind me would honk to get me to move forward, and that I might even roll back into the car behind me. I played the whole thing out – and terrified myself. My fear of this scenario was so strong that I only drove my new car on short, flat road trips! Eventually, I decided that this state of affairs was ridiculous. With plenty of practice and repetition, my fear lessened, and I now enjoy the car’s great ride – even uphill. I could have kept talking myself out of getting the most from my car … but fortunately my desire to drive the car was stronger than my fear.
I liken this experience to following a career in sales. Sales is full of risk: the risk of rejection, the risk of running into a buyer who wants to diminish your stature, the risk of having to decide that it’s time to plant your heels, focus on the real issue, and request a yes or no decision – a process that isn’t easy at first. As women, we can easily talk ourselves out of a very lucrative and rewarding career. We can choose to sell ourselves short, but if we do, we will never achieve our full potential, or enjoy the sales role. Why not?
Because of the pressure we place on ourselves and the way we allow others to treat us.
Everyone experiences fear. A little fear is not a bad thing – it gets our adrenaline going and spurs us to take action. Too much fear, however, makes us opt for bad outcomes like never driving our sports car up a hill. Highly successful saleswomen may not be literally fearless – but they do put in place a number of important safeguards that help them to become less fearful. Here are seven best practices that can help you to do just that.
1. Frame your sales role as a stepping stone to what you want most in life.
One great way to do this is to create a vision board with images that remind you what you are moving toward, what is important to you in life, why you get up each morning to do what you do. Place this board where you see it each day as a reminder of your personal “why?”
2. Recognize you come to the job at an advantage over your male counterparts… and leverage your strengths.
Guess what? Women tend to be superior relationship builders, connectors, listeners, questioners, and nurturers. Don’t those sound like important attributes to use in a sales role?
3. Do the opposite of what a traditional sales person does.
Turn the table and become “outer focused” – as opposed to “inner focused.” In other words, focus the conversation on your prospect and his problems. Stop talking about your product features and benefits when you are in front of a prospect. Seek first to understand!
4. Understand and embrace that being uncomfortable is something everyone experiences.
Learn to put the experience in context. Ask yourself these questions:
- What, specifically, makes me uncomfortable? Example: Calling on C-level decision makers.
- What do I fear emotionally about this? That I am not good enough to call at the top levels of a target company.
- What do I fear that I might do or say? That I won’t know what to say or that I will say something stupid.
- What’s the worst that could happen? I get hung up on and told never to call back.
- What’s the best that could happen? They have a need and we schedule an appointment.
- Will taking the risk kill me? No.
- What can I do to lessen my fears? Prepare and practice what I will say. Role play with my own CEO. Tell myself, “Some of these people will have a need – some won’t.”
5. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people who will cheer you on.
Support them in turn!
6. Control who you allow into your castle.
Your “castle” is who you are as a person – it’s your self-image. When you let someone get to you personally, you have let the drawbridge down. Realize it is your role, not you as a person, that they may not like! Keep the drawbridge up.
7. Have a healthy viewpoint about what selling really is.
Selling isn’t about convincing anyone of anything. It’s actually about helping someone discover for themselves whether they have a problem … and then helping them discover for themselves that you offer the best solution. That feels less scary already, doesn’t it? Great! Now you’re in gear!
About the Author
Lorraine Ferguson is author of The Unapologetic Saleswoman: Breaking The Barriers, Beating The Odds. Ferguson is a dynamic trainer and coach who accelerates growth in companies by focusing on the right behaviors, attitudes and techniques that drive success. She has brought the Sandler Selling System to hundreds of selling professionals and businesses. Companies and individuals have transformed their business development ability by working with Ferguson.
For more information, please visit https://www.sandler.com/resources/sandler-books/unapologetic-saleswoman
Guest contributor’s views are their own and are not necessarily endorsed by theglasshammer.com