On my 2nd day of work as “Technical Sales Guy” at the advertising agency, my boss and I arrived at our client’s office and were escorted into a huge boardroom full of VP’s who had flown in from all over the country for this meeting.
When all 30 people turned to look at us, I wanted to run right out of the room.
Only 3 days earlier, I had been a retail computer store salesman who worked only with SMB clients. I had never even been inside of a corporate boardroom before!
Everyone around the table introduced himself and then the head VP said,
“Since you’ve been working on our project for several months, why don’t you start by giving us an update on where it currently stands?
My boss then dropped a bomb on me that I was not expecting,
“Steve…why don’t you give everyone an update?”
Except for a quick briefing during the car ride over, I knew nothing about the project other than we really hadn’t done much on it yet.
My face turned bright red, my hands shook, and my heart raced. But instead of running out the door, I took a deep breath, gathered my thoughts, stood up and said,
“I recently joined the agency to run Technical Projects. In fact, my first day was yesterday. But your business is so important to us that I wanted to join this meeting today, even though I haven’t had time to dive into the project yet. Why don’t we start with a few questions for everyone in the room so I can get a better understanding of your expectations, goals and thoughts on the project?”
And you know what? It worked.
By the end of the 2 hour meeting, everyone in the room was nodding in agreement to project plan and next steps I had mapped out during the meeting.
Why didn’t I run away?
When faced with fear, I used to run away.
In grade school, I avoided fights by running away (literally). In middle school, I avoided uncomfortable situations by burying my head in books. In high school, when my girlfriend broke up with me or I got in a fight with a friend, I simply never spoke to them again. In college, I meticulously avoided public speaking by dropping every class where an oral presentation was required.
Sales taught me to face my fears by taking action.
When I first started selling I was so nervous that I’d freeze up. I couldn’t remember what to say, I’d stammer, my palms would sweat and I’d feel like a moron. Fortunately, my customers and coworkers helped me out.
After years in sales, I’d still get anxious before a big presentation or meeting with a new prospect.
Even today, I sometimes get nervous before a meeting or presentation.
Here are 2 things that helped:
- I learned to ask questions, listen attentively, and admit when I didn’t know the answers. Most customers will tell tell you everything you need to know and will be pretty forgiving when you don’t have all the answers.
- I needed the money. In all of my sales jobs, a large part of my compensation was commission (usually 50%). Having bills to pay and a family counting on me gave me the extra push I needed to take action despite my fears.
Sales can teach you to face your fears
No matter what uncomfortable situations you have been trying to avoid – confrontation, hard work, public speaking, accountability, embarrassment, rejection, failure – working in sales will give you many opportunities to face these.
What I’ve learned is that my fears only diminish when I face them and take action anyway.
It gets easier
Everytime you take action in the face of fear, it gets easier. I think it’s because:
- Experience: You know how to handle similar situations the next time.
- Perspective: The consequences of small failures become less important after you’ve dealt with larger issues.
- Momentum: The more you face your fears and take action anyway, the more confident you become the next time you feel fear stirring in your gut.
As a child, I thought that growing up meant I would never feel fear or worry. I just didn’t realize that getting over fear would require work.*
But the more I face my fears and take action, the more the fears diminish and the better things tend to work out.
They will for you too.
*My wife thinks I’ve totally lost my fear of dressing badly. She frequently tells me, “Go put on another shirt- you look like a homeless guy”. What she doesn’t realize, is that I never had this fear to begin with.
Originally published at www.insidesalesdude.com