Ever wish you could just sit in your workshop or office all day and create? Of course you do!
Whether you make music, furniture, jewelry, or poetry, you’re in love with the act of creating - not selling and promoting. But in order to be successful and run a profitable business, you can’t be afraid when selling to potential customers, trying to land your dream client, or pursuing a new wholesale partnership.
Ask a recent business school graduate what kind of job they’re looking for and they’ll probably say, “Anything but sales.” The idea of selling yourself and your work for a living is laced with fear and trepidation, even for people who study it. There are lots of reasons why people are afraid of sales, but there are two primary culprits that make it feel especially daunting. Understanding them is the best way to combat those fears head on.
Fear of Rejection
The primary reason why people are afraid of putting themselves out there is the possibility of rejection. If you removed rejection from the equation and were guaranteed to be successful, you would love promoting your work. It’d be fun, exciting, and rewarding. But the truth of the matter is that even the best salesperson gets rejected far more times than they close the deal.
If you’re someone who likes to feel accepted by people and doesn’t like the idea of being turned away, this can be a stressful thought for you. It can be hard not to take rejection personally, so it makes sense when you try to avoid it at all costs.
Fear of Embarrassment
Some people are more afraid of being embarrassed than anything else. They worry that they won’t know the answer to a prospective client’s question. Or worse, they fear that they’ll say the wrong thing and offend the person across the table.
Embarrassment, like rejection, doesn’t feel good. So the answer is simple, right? We can avoid unnecessary embarrassment by staying away from any situations where awkwardness and humiliation are possible. But with that mindset, every new opportunity becomes a potential stumbling block.
How to Overcome Your Fears
In a perfect world, you’d be able to make things and they’d automatically sell. You don’t operate in a perfect world, though. The good news is that anyone can overcome a fear of self-promotion by making a conscious effort to move past the underlying issues at play. Here are a few practical tips you’ll find helpful to do that.
Recognize the Source of Fear
The first step is to identify your fear. One way to do this is by picturing the worst possible scenario. What you’ll realize from this little mental exercise is that the worst-case scenario isn’t really that bad. What’s someone going to do - make fun of your product and tell you no?
After you’ve imagined the worst possible scenario - something that will rarely, if ever happen - everything else pales in comparison. As a result, selling becomes far more innocuous.
A primary reason for rejection and embarrassment when selling is being unprepared. You need to have all of your ducks in a row - you can’t just move straight from the creation phase to the sales phase without any preparation in between. For one, that means having a cohesive online brand experience. You need a good website with the right design that clearly conveys what you stand for. Crisp, high-resolution images and graphics are a must.
When you have these steps squared away, you’ll discover that you’re much more confident in what you’re selling, and those elements will back up your pitch when potential customers go for a second look.
Go For It
“The best way to get over the fear of rejection is to grit your teeth and face it,” says Wendy Connick, a sales professional with 15 years of experience. “Like all fears, once you’ve confronted it a few times it will start to lose its power over you. After a while, the ‘nos’ that you hear will seem less important – especially once you start getting ‘yes’ instead and realize how good it feels!”
The first step is the hardest to take. Once you get some experience under your belt, you’ll feel much more confident.
Tap Into Your Passion
To be successful with sales, stop focusing on sales. Instead, tap into your passion as a creator and let it shine through. You aren’t just selling someone a product for the purpose of making money - you’re providing them with something of value. “If you operate on the assumption that people will benefit from using your products and services, then sales is entirely about helping others,” entrepreneur Scott Edinger says. “Done well, selling today is helping people identify and address their needs in order to achieve their goals: to improve efficiency in a business, to make something easier, to live a better life in retirement, to be safer, live longer, and so forth.”
Done well, selling your work facilitates a mutually beneficial transaction that adds value to the customer’s life. Once you realize this, everything changes.
The Key to Running a Successful Business
You can be the most talented creator your niche has ever seen, but you aren’t going to be a wildly successful entrepreneur if you don’t confront your fears. You’ll always be haunted by rejection and embarrassment and will fail to live up to your potential.
Being a great self-promoter isn’t a skill that you’re born with. While certain people may seem naturally disposed to putting themselves in the spotlight, anyone can acquire the skills needed to be successful. Trust me, you can do it!
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffPost.com, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. You can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.