Sales Managers: Help Your Reps Overcome Sales Fears

If you’ve ever been a salesperson, you know that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been selling for five months or fifteen years, you will struggle with fear. Along with that struggle is the search for a remedy, with everyone telling you to just do it–whatever it is. And it’s true. The fears that come with selling are often ones that prevent you from actually doing work, never knowing if your fear was actually warranted.

Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.

This quote by Suzy Kassem tells it like it is. You will never know what will happen unless you actually do something. There are salespeople who are already convinced that the prospect is going to say no even before picking up the phone. Well, the prospect probably will.

As the sales manager, it is part of your job to help sales reps navigate their daily tasks and goals. In the core of this is helping them have the right attitude towards selling, and actually get on the phone or on the field and sell. Fear is definitely out of that equation.

Make them realize: If they never give themselves the chance to succeed, they never will.

The first step: Acknowledging the issue

Reps need to recognize a challenge in order to overcome it. Being in denial about the fear that comes with a sales job will only delay the process of learning how to overcome it.

There are different fears sales reps struggle with. Here are some of them:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of losing their job
  • Fear of annoying the prospect
  • Fear of doing the wrong thing
  • Fear of being embarrassed

Putting their egos on the backburner is a prerequisite. From there, you can help identify their fears and tackle them head on.

How to help reps overcome sales fears

Sales reps should turn to management when they feel like they’re unable to accomplish tasks. At the same time, sales managers should be able to identify when reps are exhibiting behavior that looks like being overwhelmed by their fears of failure.

When you rep or your whole team needs help, here are some steps you should take.

Demystify rejection

When a prospect says no, they are not rejecting you. There is simply a disconnect between the value you see and the value they perceive. The rejection is not personal; it’s more like “I can’t see why I should buy that right now.”

Instead of taking the no to heart, teach your reps to immerse themselves in the reason instead. This is a chance for the rep to sit back and think of what could’ve gone better in the sales call. It’s the best time to reexamine their approach.

Teaching them the simple shift from dwelling on the no to focusing on the why will help them see past one event and realize that they can take what they learned from a single call to improve all the other ones after it.

Build confidence through sales training

As you should know, sales training is an ongoing process. You as the manager are in charge of taking notes on the weaknesses and strengths of your team. Ensuring that they are well-equipped not only with tools but with soft skills will give them confidence in their daily tasks.

Not only do managers have to note down what the sales reps need to improve on, you also need to deliver constant training yourself. Many sales managers lag in this regard. Simply keeping sales collateral and materials updated gives a huge boost in having your reps always ready for the floor.

Put them in the position to succeed and watch their lack of confidence vanish.

Dissect sales assumptions

A lot of sales reps operate on assumptions. They read somewhere that one shouldn’t talk to a non-decision maker so they don’t call at all. They also heard that cold calling is dead so they just wait for inbound leads. They’re afraid to act during these situations because they’ve heard something somewhere and they’re pretty sure they will fail so might as well not try.

You need to sit your reps down–let it be known that assumptions and results very rarely go hand-in-hand. If in their heads, they already have the complete storyline of how they will fail, the will fail.

This is what you need them to do: Before a cold call, ask them what they think is going to happen. Listen to the rep tell you a fantasy tale about how prospects hate being called on the phone without an appointment, how busy this particular prospect is, or how they saw that this prospect already has a product in place. After they spill, ask them a simple question: Did all of that already happen or are you making that up right now?”

This is a teaching moment. They will realize how much they are limiting themselves when you allow them to vocalize their fears. They need to drop the assumptions. This simple shift in attitude will help them shift their behavior towards selling.

Focus on activity metrics

From your side of the game, here’s what you can do to encourage call activity and prevent your reps from being bound by their fear of rejection: Focus on activity metrics. Activity metrics measure the activity that is taken, not the particular result.

For sales, activity metrics include tracking how many calls were made, how many were connected to, how many voicemails were left, how many attempts at appointment setting were taken, and so on.

There are two reasons why this approach would work: First, you’re setting a goal that they can hit no matter what the outcome on the other end of the line is. Second, if the rep is suffering from really low confidence, this gives them the opportunity to keep practicing. Give them low-quality leads at first, so they can just focus on making the phone calls. Shadow them and give them pointers. Gradually give them better leads as they improve.


Fear is something that sales reps deal with on a daily basis. The key is having the tools to battle it. As their manager, it is your duty to make sure that they have access to those tools and that you are providing support as needed.


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Dan Sincavage

Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

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