Selling is a Nightmare for Many People. Why?

To sell efficiently and effectively, people need to build trust and to convey timely information in the right place and to the right person – and to persuade.

Walid O. El-Cheikh, 09.04.2018

People think of selling as a nightmare as both arouse uncomfortable emotions like fear, anxiety, depression and hopelessness. For most salespeople, their nightmare is alive as they need to reach targets on daily basis. This is the reality of today’s business environment. It will always be people selling to people – unless and until robots learn how to sell better. To sell efficiently and effectively, people need to build trust and to convey timely information in the right place and to the right person – and to persuade. Robots are still far from being able to persuade because they lack empathy, according to Katri Saarikivi, Researcher at the Helsinki University, Department of Psychology, Cognitive Brain Research Unit.

What do people fear about selling?

To gain more understanding of feelings about selling, I asked hundreds of people over a year why selling is their nightmare. The focus was on the human-side of sales rather than digital marketing, robots were excluded. The interviewees were from diverse age groups and backgrounds, and with different positions in industries ranging from startups and SMEs to large companies. Below is a summary of the answers, with some direct quotes collected anonymously.

"Approaching people is scary"

I am not sure how to start a conversation or what to say. I am an introverted, shy and quiet person. I am an engineer not a businessperson. I’m afraid of rejection and am not good at dealing with public embarrassment. It is super uncomfortable to talk to strangers because there is a high chance that I would say something wrong and annoy or upset them. So I avoid it and sit in the corner of the room hoping that no one notices me because I am equally afraid that they will approach me.

"Persuasion is hard"

Argumentation is for lawyers and I am not one. I do not want anyone to see me as pushy, aggressive, needy or, worst of all, desperate. So I avoid saying much, and sometimes I say nothing at all. In some cases, I also notice myself talking way too much, throwing every tiny piece of information about my offering into the customer’s face. Convincing people to buy into my ideas is out of my comfort zone, I can’t even remember why I signed up for this. I want people to like me and am secretly hoping they will trust me enough to buy something from me.

"Selling is mostly about manipulation"

I am an honest person, and I do not want to lie to my customers. I cannot live with myself if I sell something to someone that he/she does not need or want. I simply cannot be so shallow as to trick someone into paying so much for this [product]. I want people to respect me even though I am trying to sell them expensive stuff that they cannot afford. I try to help them by giving every detail about the offering; my colleagues are less conscientious and they sell more. I have a heart and I do not know how they can sleep at night.

"Building networks is a burden"

I simply do not have time to attend all networking events in the city, not to mention abroad. I feel trapped around people, I cannot focus, I cannot adapt to different conversations, and most importantly I do not feel myself. I avoid small talk as it’s not part of my nature; I am a serious person and I want people to know that. I am not a clown or a comedian. I do not think people will even like my jokes. I want people to take my business card and just email me. I don’t want them to call me as it terrifies me to speak on the phone with someone I cannot see. I wish that they could magically understand what we do for them and just buy online. I want people to be my friends. I prefer to meet meaningful prospects, only a handful of them, I do not care about the numbers’ game. I envy people who can meet hundreds of people over a weekend and leave a good impression on most of them. I simply do not have the energy or interest to expose myself and swim with sharks.

"Closing deals is a lengthy process"

I have no idea about selling. Closing a deal is a nightmare because people tend to be so enthusiastic when I meet them or talk to them on the phone, but they never follow through. I am afraid to email or call someone as I don’t want to annoy them or be pushy. I hate it when people spam my inbox, so I wouldn’t want to do it to anyone. I don’t know when is the right time to contact them – what if they are in a meeting? I prefer to offer them discounts than wait for them to buy at full price. If I have called many times but the person is always busy, I think he doesn’t like me. Worst of all is when I can’t reach someone, it drives me crazy and I ask myself how hard it can be to clearly say “Yes” or “No”? I wish they would say “Yes” every time. I know it isn’t possible, but it really affects me when they say “No”. Rejection is probably the worst thing after being laughed at.

What do we learn from this?

The comments show that we are afraid of situations beyond our control – similar to nightmares, which are a product of our subconscious. But the examples also show that most fears or biases about selling are the result of conscious decisions: we decide not to approach someone or say/do something; we compare ourselves to others thus feeding our insecurities; we assume selling is more efficient when we lie; and we do not follow-up on opportunities. Nobody can deny that selling is hard, and that the argumentation/persuasion part is probably the most crucial and troublesome. Thus, the best advice I can give to anyone who wishes to improve his/her selling skills is to embrace your strengths and weaknesses, focus on creating value to customers and be yourself. The key is to practice and improve your own style, balancing customer value with persuasion techniques. By following these simple steps, you will enjoy selling more, help more people by providing them with products and services they desire, and most importantly you will close deals faster. 

Walid O. El Cheikh works as a Program Manager at Aalto EE. He will share more tips about the selling process in a webinar on “How to Adapt Startup Pitching to Selling in Large Organizations” hosted online and at the Aalto University Developing Entrepreneurship's (Aalto ENT) premises in Mechelininkatu 3 C (Helsinki), on April 30, 2018 at 08:30–10:30.

You will learn about the fundamentals of pitching and networking and ways to adapt dynamic selling techniques in large organizations. It will help you to sell more, better and faster!

The webinar is free of charge, but places are limited so register soon.

Read more about the Sales Executive Bootcamp program.

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