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Hope, Fear, and Selling


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The bottom line of selling is going to the bank; however, prospects are more likely to offer hope instead of an order when meeting a salesperson.

“Hope is the only thing stronger than fear,”—President Snow, the Hunger Games. “A little hope is effective; a lot of hope is dangerous.”

Because hope is stronger than fear, a salesperson is comfortable taking their prospect’s hope (“we’re giving you top consideration”) instead of overcoming their fear of losing a deal and gently asking what does “top consideration” really means.

As time passes, the salesperson’s pipeline becomes filled with opportunities that will never close while their sales manager increases pressure (fear) on the salesperson to close more deals. At this point the salesperson has three options:

  1. Put pressure on their prospects
  2. Quit
  3. Take responsibility for changing

Options 1 and 2 are quick ways to the unemployment line.

Option 3 is more difficult than the other options, but it does also offer the most potential reward. To effectively eliminate the hope/fear danger, the salesperson must:

  1. Examine their fears – what is preventing them from either closing the file of an unqualified prospect or asking for a commitment from a qualified prospect?
  2. Write down the worst case scenarios for confronting each fear – if they ask for a commitment from a qualified prospect and get a negative response, what will that mean to them?
  3. Ask themselves if they can live with the worst case scenario – if they can’t (unlikely) then they should find another profession. If they can, move to step four.
  4. Script out how they will address their fears with their prospects – could be in their Up-Front Contract or through the Sandler Rule, “if you feel it, say it” (gently).
  5. Find a support person to practice with – the salesperson’s manager, peers or Sandler Trainer are good options; practicing in front of their prospects is not a good option.
  6. Implement fear-busting tactics – starting small, overcoming one fear at a time. Tracking progress and setbacks in their journal so they can see improvement.

Every couple of months do a “hope check” on your pipeline. A little hope is okay, you probably have a plan to effectively advance or close those opportunities. A lot of hope indicates you have some fears that need resolving before they put your pipeline, and your business, in danger.


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