At first glance, sales seems to be the domain of the fearless optimists. Sales people are extroverts, boldly approaching (new) customers and convincing them to buy our products. Everything is possible (as long as there are the right products, of course) and the glass is always half full. But: is this really true?

Sales – the land of the brave?

Even though sales people need to be optimists to do their job effectively, fears have a big influence, affecting sales strategies as well as tactics. In order to make better decisions especially sales managers have to be aware this very often hidden phenomenon.

Here some examples:

1. Fear of conflicts leading to wrong Sales Channel Strategies

In many of our projects we came to a point where we proposed to set up a direct sales channel in addition to existing indirect ones. In most cases the first reaction was: “Oh no, we cannot do that. We endanger our existing business by upsetting our partners!”. This is clearly a fear-driven approach. The more rational approach would be: “Ok. I understand that we really need to set up a direct sales channel. How exactly will we do that without endangering our existing business?”

As a Chief Sales Officer you need to be aware that sales people usually tend to avoid conflicts with their customers and therefore defend the things as they are.

2. Fear of customer disapointment preventing effective Multi Channel Sales

Here comes a second example: when implementing a potential based sales strategy, consisting of focusing the sales team on bigger customers and having smaller customers more often contacted by in-house sales, the first response of the field sales team was negative. They feared to lose “their” customers because “they are used to be visited” etc. Nevertheless: after implementing this new sales strategy there was no measurable customer loss. On the contrary: many customers reacted very positively when being called by in-house sales.

As a Chief Sales Officer you need to be aware that sales people tend to be very loyal to their customers, sometimes feeling that their customer relations are their most important asset. Therefore resistance to “loose” these customers (even to peers) is high.

3. Fear of losing face hinder Best Practice in International Sales

Here is another fear sometimes preventing success: Suppose that you as a new Chief Sales Officer of an international company discover that sales strategies and their results differ heavily country by country. Therefore you start looking for best practices and try to transfer them to other countries. In many cases the reaction of the local management is: “Well, great idea. But it will not work here. The market is different, the culture is different, etc..” You are probably uncertain because there are definitely differences between markets and cultures. Without having first hand experience it is difficult to judge this argument.

Nevertheless you need to be aware, that sales people are very often proud people, convinced that they know exactly how things work. If you come up with sales strategies that have been successful elsewhere, there is the fear of losing face by the local management by having to adopt it.

I can remember one project where the local management did everything to prove that the sales strategy of the German mother company would not work Japan. Well: it was new for the Japanese market and it worked in more than 50 other countries, but if implementing it successfully the local management feared to lose their face. By the way: this fear is not limited to Japan. It exists everywhere.

Therefore: if you want to multiply best practices successfully, have them discovered, adapted and worked out by the managers you want to adopt them. This seems cumbersome but in many cases it is the only way to make it work.