Fear. The Salesperson’s Friend.

Several years ago, at the University of Chicago, we conducted a test of high performance salespeople to see if we could identify some common characteristics and behavior. One of the more interesting elements that came up was “fear,” as in fear of failure.

What we learned is that nearly all top salespeople are highly competitive, and love winning. But the flipside to that proposition is that they also hate losing. In fact, they fear the feeling of losing so much they will do almost anything to avoid it, including training hard, preparing well and bringing tremendous focus and intensity to their work and to the service they provide. They also use fear to fuel their performance when it comes time to sell rather than allowing it to paralyze or restrict their efforts.

I read a Bruce Springsteen article in which he was asked, after all these years, if he ever experienced stage fright? He said, “Every single time. Until I start singing. Then I draw energy from it to feed my music.”

Fear, as we know, produces adrenaline and adrenaline when channeled properly, increases power. The key is to recognize and control its energy, whether it’s part of a big presentation or worrying about our quarterly results in the middle of the night.

The next time you feel fear as a salesperson, rest assured you are part of a universal club of people who have the guts to put it on the line every day. We all feel it, and we all need it, to hone our skills and raise our games to the level it takes to compete and perform.

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