The Difficult Challenge of a Fear-Based Sales Approach

There was a time when a post like this would be about salespeople who used high-pressure selling techniques, the hard sell and bullying to cause their polite, conflict-averse prospective clients (i.e., victims) to buy products or services under duress. The craft we call “sales” has evolved, and thankfully, the sales techniques described here are lost forever and unknown to salespeople. No one longs for the days of old, least of all your clients.

Often, a pendulum swings too far in the other direction, and today the idea of fear-based selling represents a difficult challenge, with many salespeople afraid of selling.

New Fears

The new variety of fear-based selling is in exact opposition to what those words would have meant in the past. Now, many salespeople fear their clients, customers, and prospects, holding a position that we might describe as subservient, servile, submissive, or deferential. They are compliant and weak-kneed, worrying that any conflict will kill their chances of winning deals.

You witness this behavior when salespeople worry about calling their dream client, believing they might bother their contact while they are busy, something they believe will surely cause the client to avoid them in the future. Instead, they send an email, spending hours crafting the message, concerned that a lack of a perfect wording might offend their prospective client. Their contact doesn’t give the message any time or attention.

Ideas like the Challenger Sale and insight-based selling or provocation through a strong point of view are all useful for compelling change and creating new opportunities. Salespeople who fear their theory might be incorrect, that their client knows more than they do, or believes a strong point of view is offensive and will cause them to lose deals fear the wrong danger. Instead of fearing a selling approach built on value creation, they should fear irrelevance.

They would be better served by fearing their competitors with serious chops, the kind that positions them to win.

One of the primary ways salespeople who operate out of fear find themselves losing deals they might have won is their failure to attempt to control the process. An unwillingness to recommend a process known to help your clients decide on the right solution and the best partner allows them to skip necessary conversations and commitments. The fear of conflict over the sales process is real, but that fear should not outweigh the fear of failing the client—and losing for having done so.

Necessary Conflicts

Much of the fears described above are required. You have to do what is right, even if you find it unpleasant. Some conflicts are quickly addressed, while others are tricky and need more difficult conversations.

An aversion to picking up the phone because you believe you are bothering someone is an indication that you will experience greater fear sharing an insight that helps your B2B buyer because it exposes they’ve fallen behind in their thinking and their approach. Concerns about offending your client by illuminating a performance gap are addressed by diplomacy and language that prevents an adverse reaction.

Avoiding sharing your point of view is to fail to compel change—and a failure to serve your prospective client. Those who would be trusted advisors must tell the truth.

Being frightened by having to quarrel over the process means being petrified of losing when your dream client challenges your price, demanding instead that you sharpen your pencil. Your contact is trying to do right by their company by ensuring they get the best possible deal. Your responsibility is to your company and your client, both of whom need an investment that allows you to deliver results for them.

Your sales organization needs a price that ensures execution. Your client also requires an amount that guarantees they achieve results. Your fear of talking about money and outcomes allows your client to choose a competitor or underinvest in the results they need.

Sales approaches aren’t rife with any more discord than a business is generally. Success in business means dealing with difficult conversations, challenging problems, failures that harm your clients, and working with people with taxing personalities. The lid on your success is, in part, your ability and willingness to handle things. The sales conversation is much easier than many other challenges that come with serving clients.

Fear of Inaction

We tend to fear the wrong dangers. You should replace the fear of taking the action you believe to be good, right, and necessary with the fear of failing your prospective client and losing a deal you could have won had you acted. You can win deals you didn’t deserve to win and lose sales after you have done a spectacular job serving your prospect through the process. Hopefully, these are rare exceptions. On average, your results will be better when you sell better—and when you have the necessary conversations, even when they are uncomfortable.

No one likes losing. But worse than losing is losing because you were afraid to do what was necessary to win.

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