Understanding People’s Natural Fears


Think for a moment about what the greatest enemy is to the process of helping people come to a decision that’s truly good for them and getting an agreement for them to own your product or service. What is it that jumps in and brings presentations that were previously sailing smoothly along to a screeching halt? You may think it’s the competition or maybe the financial aspects of your proposal. Perhaps you think it’s the prospective client’s inability to make a decision.   Well, if you think any of those things, you are right. But, with selling being what it is — a bottom line business — let’s dig deeper and find the bottom line of what lies between you and your ‘future client’ coming to an agreement.   If you look at all the enemies you and your associates can come up with, you’ll find they have a common denominator. That common denominator is a thing called FEAR.

Fear is the greatest enemy you’ll ever encounter as a professional salesperson. Your fears, the prospect’s fear, market and trend fears and so on.   What do we fear? As salespeople, we fear saying or doing things that may halt a potential sale. Hopefully, you’ll learn to recognize and conquer your fears through continual education, practice, drill and rehearsal of strategies and tactics that will keep you ahead of the pack.   A tough part of our jobs as salespeople is in helping others understand and overcome their fears so we can earn the opportunity to help them make decisions. Fear is what builds that wall of resistance we so often run into. You must master the skills to either climb over or break through those walls.   When you recognize your potential clients’ fears as barriers to giving them excellent service, you are then ready to learn how to dismantle that wall, one brick at a time, thus gaining their confidence and trust. Your goal is to get them to like you and trust you by serving them with warmth and empathy. The first step in accomplishing this is to show them you understand and offer reassurance and a bit of education.   Here are some other common, normal and potentially paralyzing fears that many people face in decision-making situations and what you should do about them.

1. Your prospective client is initially afraid of you.
This is simply because you are a salesperson. I think you’ll agree with me that most people do not generally accept salespeople with open arms. Even if you are going to help someone you already know — a friend or acquaintance or even a relative — when you get down to business, certain fears will arise. It’s bound to happen in 99% of your presentations. (I’ll give you a 1% non-fear situation with your parents or grandparents, simply because in most cases they’ll believe in you and trust you no matter what role you play with them.) What do you do about the others?   Accept it. There are some people who are going to be afraid of you just as there are patients who are panic-stricken when they have appointments with doctors or dentists. What you need to do to conquer the fear of salespeople is to master the skill of putting people at ease. Learn to use a relaxed manner and tone of voice. Use rapport-setting comments and questions that show them you are interested in the people who own the home, not just in moving product.

2. They have a fear of making a mistake.
We all have that one, don’t we? We’ve all made decisions we’ve later regretted. Perhaps we relied on someone when we weren’t sure of his or her knowledge on the matter. When you are the salesperson, your prospective client must recognize you as an expert. You know this business. You should have knowledge about aspects of your product or service that they haven’t even considered. To help people overcome the fear of making a mistake, you need to lay out all the details they require in an easy-to-understand manner. Once they gain confidence in their knowledge, making a decision will be easy.

3. They fear being lied to.
Face it, the selling profession is still suffering from the antics of those less-than-scrupulous folks who used to be known to say anything to ‘close the deal.’ This is where your literature, testimonial letters and referrals come in. People are more likely to believe the written word than the spoken word so let them read the good news about your product or service for themselves. Let them see how happy the people you currently serve as clients are with the product and your service in particular.

4. They’re afraid of owing money
Most people have a tremendous fear of debt. If your product or service requires financing of some sort, you’ll have to be ready to address this concern. Covering the financial details very carefully is key here.   You’ll also encounter those people who will try to haggle with you over any investment. Most people wouldn’t attempt to negotiate with a company or financial institution so you need to address financial details by referring to the lender once you reach that point. Be ready, though, for those who will try to negotiate with you about your fee. This challenge may appear in many variations, depending upon the negotiating skills of your clients. They may go at it in a roundabout way such as saying, “Another company we talked with will charge a lot less.” When you hear that remark, here’s what I recommend you say, “You know, I’ve learned something over the years. People look for three things when they spend money. They look for the finest quality, the best service, and of course, the lowest investment. I’ve also found that no company can offer all three. They can’t offer the finest quality and the best service for the lowest investment and I’m curious, for your long-term happiness, which of the three would you be most willing to give up? Fine quality? Excellent service? Or the lowest fee?” Most will respond that quality and service are of utmost concern, which overcomes the concern about the fee. Your next move would be to re-iterate everything you will do for them. Again, sell the value of the service you and your company provide.

5. Many people are afraid of losing face.
Have you ever made a poor decision that was big enough that most of your friends and family members knew about it? If you have, you know exactly what I mean here. If not, believe me when I say it can be totally demeaning and embarrassing. Often a situation like that makes you feel like a child again — insecure and powerless.   For that reason, many potential clients will stall making the decision to own your product or service. Knowing that this could be a challenge, your primary goal should be to help them feel secure with you. Let them know they are not relinquishing total power to you. You are simply acting in their behalf, performing a service they need to have done.

6. They are afraid of the unknown.
A lack of understanding is a reasonable cause for delaying any transaction. If your company has national name recognition, that should help eliminate some of this fear. If you work for a local company, I suggest you work with your fellow agents to earn a great local reputation. It will save you a lot of time over the years.   I have long noticed that former teachers often make the best salespeople. Correction, good former teachers almost always achieve champion status when they make the switch to careers in sales. Selling is little more than a matter of educating the people on the benefits of doing business with you. Once you educate them, they will feel confident in making a wise decision.   Some of seller’s most common fears may seem irrational to you, but remember, you are an educated, professional expert. You have eliminated the unknown from being a potential fear through your own education and personal experience in the business. You have already been involved in more transactions in your career than the average person will be in his or her entire lifetime (unless they join the ranks of sales professionals themselves.)

7. Your decision-makers may have had bad past experience with a salesperson or with a product or service like yours.
Have they ever made a decision like this before? If not, it’ll be like going back to kindergarten for the teacher in you. You’ll have to bring them up to speed on exactly what to expect before you can expect them to make a decision.   If they have made a decision like this before, what kind of experience was it for them? You need to ask the proper questions to get those answers. If they hesitate to tell you, you may assume it was a bad past experience and you’ll have to overcome a lot more fear than if they’ve never owned a product like yours before.

8. Their fear may be based on third party information. Someone they admire or respect may have told them to keep their existing product, or to wait for a sale. That third party will stand between you and them until you convince or persuade them that you can help them more than that person because you are the expert. You’ll have to work hard to earn their trust. You may even have to enlist the aid of some of your past happy clients as references.   You must be prepared to do whatever it takes to replace any fears they may have with confidence in the decision they’re making and in the service you will provide.   No one wants to handle a transaction in which the client may be dissatisfied with the result. Believe me, there will be cases where the grief you will get from that client won’t be worth the fee you’ll earn on the product or service. It doesn’t happen often, but you must go into every presentation with a very curious interest in the who, what, when, where and why of the situation. When you’ve satisfied yourself that this decision is in their best interest, then it’s your duty as an expert in your industry to convince them that this decision is truly good for them.  

This information is copyrighted by Tom Hopkins International, Inc. for reprint permission, contact Judy Slack (judys@tomhopkins.com).








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