Sales anxiety isn’t limited to rookie salespeople; even the most experienced agents can suffer. Here’s what you can do.

Let’s set the record straight. Anxiety, including sales anxiety, isn’t always a bad thing. In the early days of humans, anxiety helped us survive. Worrying about predators, venomous snakes, or poisonous berries allowed us to remain aware of our surroundings and alert enough to avoid deadly encounters. Even today, the anxiety we feel driving through heavy rains or snowstorms can help us focus. 

At a certain point, however, anxiety becomes counterproductive. For example, we worry so much about inclement weather and accidents that we don’t drive at all, even on clear, sunny days when we need to go to the grocery store. Or, in the case of sales anxiety, we become so sure we’re going to fail that we give up before we get started. 

This isn’t unusual, either. Nor is it limited to new sales agents or those entering a new industry. Sales anxiety can bring down even the most experienced and successful agents. However, just because anxiety is hardwired into our brains doesn’t mean we’re helpless. 

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sales anxiety

Overcoming sales anxiety and getting back to work

1. Breathe. I know this seems cliché, but it works. If you notice sales anxiety creeping up, or even if you’re in the midst of full-blown anxiety, stop what you’re doing and breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly through your nose, counting to 10 with each breath. Try to focus your mind on breathing and tune out everything else as much as possible. This gives your brain a moment to reset and remember that a sales call isn’t a life or death situation. 

2. Accept failure. There’s simply no way you’ll have a 100% success rate with sales. It’s impossible. The trick is to turn those failures into positives. Whether someone hangs up on you in the first 10 seconds of a cold call or changes their mind just as they’re about to sign a contract, those failures mean you’re trying. You could even set “failure goals” for yourself, which isn’t to say you should try to fail. Rather, it’s a way of challenging yourself to make a certain number of calls per day or week, knowing ahead of time that they won’t all be successful. 

3. Prepare. One of the most significant sources of sales anxiety is a lack of preparation. Maybe you don’t fully understand a basic policy concept, or you keep getting questions from prospects that you aren’t sure how to answer. It’s like test anxiety; much of the worry comes from a lack of confidence in knowing the material. The more you prepare, the less likely you are to experience anxiety. 

4. Get organized. Disorganization is a huge trigger for sales anxiety. This could be anything from a messy pile of client and prospect contact information to losing a new customer’s policy. Good organization will help you get rid of anxiety and also help you work more efficiently. Not to mention, it’s also good customer service, which pays off in better sales results and more long-term customers. 

5. Set small goals. Large goals can feel unattainable and lead to an ongoing concern that we can’t get through our work or meet our goals. Small goals, on the other hand, feel obtainable and can eventually help us reach those larger goals. As an example, actor Terry Crews once said that the most challenging part of working out was just getting to the gym. Once you’re there, you’re there. So rather than setting an ambiguous goal to exercise, perhaps the goal is to get in the car and get to the gym. It’s the same with sales. For now, don’t worry about those big numbers or closing rates. Simply set a goal to gather and organize your list of people to call. Nice and easy. Once that’s done, move on to the next goal of contacting at least 10% of them today. Keep moving along with those small goals, and before you know it, you’ll reach those larger goals. 

Remember, sales anxiety is there to help you if you let it. Too much can hamper your abilities and lead to declining performance. So accept it, take steps to limit its impact, and soon you’ll forget it’s even there. 

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