Last week I spent time onsite with a VP of Sales.Why_Fear_is_Killing_Your_Career

As we were reviewing priorities for next fiscal year, I noticed hesitation.  He was struggling on many of the items we discussed as top priorities.  I sensed that something was holding him back.  He knew he needed to make changes, but he was afraid to act.  Fear was impacting his ability to lead.


Webster’s dictionary defines fear as:  


Fear– verb or noun


  • To be afraid of (something or someone)
  • To expect or worry about (something bad or unpleasant)
  • To be afraid and worried


Are you letting fear impact your career?  That’s a question only you can answer.  Others may see it as someone who doesn’t take risks.  They may also wonder how valuable you are to the organization.  Especially if you don’t try new things.  Here are two common fears I see when working with leaders:


  • The fear of change.
  • The fear of failing.


Each one of these fears can be overcome with guidance, practice and determination.  We have all been in situations when we were afraid or hesitant.  How did we overcome it?  We learned from others.  We pushed through with determination.  We had help.  You will not be a successful sales leader if you continue to be afraid.  On the flip side, it’s hard to manage someone who is afraid.  You become frustrated as they don’t want to get out of their comfort zone.  Fear can hold you back from being the best you can be.


Here are some interesting stats on Fear:


  • 90% of things we fear are considered to be insignificant issues
  • 60% of the things we fear will never take place  *Source NIH


Fear of Change

“I’ve been in this industry for 18 years and know what our buyers want.” This is the comment made by the sales leader.  When pressed, he admitted he hasn’t hit his number in two years.  In addition, he had poor answers to the following:


  • When was the last time you did a win/loss analysis?
  • What questions does your buyer ask themselves when they make a purchase?
  • How does your sales team use social selling?
  • What gamification is in place for your team?
  • What is your coaching methodology?


The sales leader had a hard time answering.  He had not changed his way of selling.  These were sales paradigms that he has not embraced.  His expertise and knowledge is not current.  He is being out-paced by his peers. More importantly, his fear will impact performance and career potential.  It may not happen today, but it will catch up to him.  He has two options:


  1. Status quo– Continue down the same path with the same results.
  2. Evolve– Embrace new learnings and how they will impact success.  Become comfortable being “uncomfortable.”  Learn from trying new things.  Keep pace with competitors and peers.


Fear of Failing

No one wants to be called a failure.  No one wants to be fired.  Think of someone you know that has taken a risk and it’s paid off.  Why did they do it?  Why were they successful?  Sure, you can think of things that failed.  Successful leaders don’t stop when they fail.  They get up and push ahead.  They learn from their mistakes and cascade those learnings through the organization.  Learn to “fail fast.”  Become an agile sales leader that is willing to take risks. Read more about being a successful agile leader in this post.


Overcoming Your Fear

Below are a few steps to get you focused on learning something new:


  1. Get Uncomfortable- Identify a sales effectiveness topic that you are not familiar with.
  2. Research- Read and learn as much as you can on the topic.
  3. Plan- Evaluate how the new learning could be applied within your organization.
  4. Pilot or test- Learn from your failures and successes with a small team and document results.
  5. Rollout- Roll it out to a broader team and track the impact on revenue attainment.


Some great sales effectiveness examples are located within our 2015 Make the Number reportDownload it now to get a jump-start.  The report will give you insight into what top sales leaders are focusing on.  Take control of your fear and position yourself for that next career move.


Josh Horstmann

Brings a deep level of experience and insight in helping organizations develop and execute their corporate, sales and marketing strategies.

Josh specializes in helping clients solve demanding sales and marketing challenges through aligning functional strategies within an organization. He has worked with clients in manufacturing, ecommerce, software, financial services and technology sectors.


Recently he helped transform an international services company ‘go to market’ strategy, which included assessing talent, re-organizing the sales force, increasing team productivity, reducing the cost of sale and aligning the marketing and sales strategies.


Josh continues to provide thought leadership to his clients advising them on how to build inside sales teams, develop compensation programs, share best practices on social selling, transform sales organizations, drive demand generation programs and acquire and cultivate talent. Along with this he helps organizations align functional strategies.


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