If we allow it to, fear can hold us back and dominate our lives, but if we focus instead on understanding and managing fear, we can identify the source of our fear and we can improve our own performance.
Kristy Ellington shares today why she believes that being fearless is a myth, and how she overcame years-old fears to unlock improved performance in her own job.
Being fearless is a myth because the truth is that everyone experiences fear. Fear doesn’t simply infect one section of our lives, but rather every part.
We get caught up in our thoughts and emotions, and fear keeps us from doing the things we want or need to do to get to the next level. Fear causes us to focus inward instead of focusing on the client, which is really detrimental in sales.
As sellers, we want to focus on our clients and how we can connect with them, but fear keeps us focused on how they perceive us, and whether they are judging us, and how we look to them.
Fight or flight
Fear triggers our natural fight-or-flight instinct, which diverts resources from our brains into our arms, legs, heart, and lungs.
It slows down our thinking so that we can’t fully analyze situations and we can’t think critically. We have no available judgment and we can’t find creative solutions because we’re afraid.
Fear hinders us in a variety of ways, but realistically it’s all in our heads and it’s all connected back to some unidentified source of fear that we have to address.
For sellers, the need to overcome fear is real, and they don’t have a lot of time to do it. They have quotas to meet and they have to pick up the phone.
Understand your trigger. If you’re afraid of picking up the phone, unpack that fear. It’s often the fear of judgment or the fear of rejection or not being professional or expert enough. You fear going off-script and looking or sounding stupid.
Use this five-step process before any big presentation or conversation:
- Notice. Recognize the problem. Admit when you’re afraid.
- Aware. Be aware of where the problem is: tightness in your throat or butterflies in your stomach.
- Make. Make the connection. Where did you first feel this problem? What’s the source? A bad public speaking experience?
- Evaluate. Is this real right now? You have no reason to believe that anyone will make fun of you, so your own thoughts are causing the fear. It isn’t real.
- Shift. Once you understand that your fear isn’t real, you can shift your focus back to your client.
If you have any kind of fear, it’s always valid to determine the worst-case scenario.
If you fear elevators because you fear getting stuck and being claustrophobic, ask yourself if it’s real. Is it true that you really won’t be able to breathe in the elevator?
Is it true that the elevator is going to fall while you’re in it? That’s likely something you saw in a scary movie once.
Fear is false evidence appearing real.
Imposter Syndrome is huge for many people, and it prevents you from asking questions for fear that you’ll look stupid. It can prevent you from understanding the buying decision or the challenges that your customers are facing.
People also fear saying “no” to clients who aren’t the best fit for fear of what might happen. They fear failure and what failure might lead to. Maybe you don’t get the promotion or you don’t make enough commission to pay your bills.
As a result, you end up with the worst clients on earth because you bent over backward for clients that really weren’t worth the effort.
It’s probably not really realistic to think that someday you’ll be fearless. No matter what level you are in life, you’ll experience fear.
The fears for a sales development rep will be different for that of a CRO. You’ll always experience fear somehow. If you don’t experience fear somehow, you’re probably not moving forward.
You should be feeling fear. It’s a biological response. You can’t crush it or eliminate it. You must learn to manage it.
When you do, you can move forward and take inspired action that’s thoughtful and clear instead of action that’s chaotic and desperate.
Fear is really just there to protect us and keep us safe. Your brain is working to protect you from bad things that happened in the past. Our fears now are social in nature, but they manifest in the same way that physical threats did generations ago.
We don’t have to spend so much time being afraid of fear.
Leaders are just as afraid of looking stupid as the rest of us, just on a different level. They inadvertently create a culture of fear because they are operating from fear.
The stressors are different because they have more responsibility.
As you address fears, it becomes easier to manage them.
“That which we consistently do becomes easier, not because the nature of the thing changes but our ability changes.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fear into confidence
It’s possible to turn fear into confidence.
You have to be comfortable with emotion because it’s an important part of sales. Empathy is an important part of the work sellers do.
If you’re running from emotion, it will make your job much tougher. Embrace emotion. Embrace fear. Start to learn what that looks like.
“Understanding & Managing Fear” episode resources
You can connect with Kristy on LinkedIn, Twitter, or on her website KristyEllington.com
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