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Why Your Rural Sales Reps Won’t Sell Remotely

 In All, Rural Sales

Remote selling isn’t something new yet we’re seeing a lot of resistance to it right now.

Many clients are telling us their reps won’t sell remotely, complaining that they “need to see the customer”.

Whilst I buy that argument in-part, selling remotely has been around for a wee while. Phone, email or online have been a stable source of sales for years. They aren’t new technologies. 

The real reason why most sales reps feel they can’t sell remotely is because of fear.

And this fear can come in several forms (warning this is a long one as we’ve seen a lot over the years which we want to share with you so feel free to scroll down to the one that suits you or your sales team most):

Problem #1: Fear of failure

Fear of failure is a very natural human condition and it can cripple you. You have to conquer that fear if you want to succeed in sales.

Most people don’t do things through fear of failure.

They don’t do anything new that threatens their ego, or self-worth, as it exposes them to ridicule or criticism from themselves or others.

This means they like to stay in their comfort zone rather than stretch and develop their skills and talents in the challenge zone.

When they do this, they and the businesses that employ them shrink in sales and profit through the law of diminishing returns getting less from more each time.

You can be sure that sales will always only get harder as market conditions, technology and competitors continue to change.

You have to keep up with the game which means constantly honing your craft and becoming better through training, learning, practising, role-playing and rehearsing.

Solution: belief in what you do and what you sell. If you don’t have a deep-rooted belief that the product or service you sell can improve your client’s condition you will never be able to sell it to anyone else.

The first sale is always to yourself.

When you believe deeply in the product or service you see you have a forcefield of buoyancy where any rejection doesn’t hurt you because you know, even if they don’t, that you could have helped them.

When this happens just move onto the next one and don’t waste any more time or emotion on that lead. Don’t ruminate or mope on a repeat cycle as it’s a downward spiral. Move on because you if yo believe in you and what you sell you know there are prospects out there who need you and your product.

Problem #2: Fear of lost identity

Research shows 80% of sales people never thought they’d end up in sales which makes them reluctant sales people.

Because of this they will feel that a job or career in sales is “beneath them” so they won’t sell with the same passion natural sales people have.

Their identity will be more related to being a “service” person rather than a “sales” person. They lose their sense of self in the process so they fight it because of such conflict.

By not seeing someone in person, this can reinforce their uncomfortable feeling, convincing themselves selling remotely is an even less noble thing to do, making it even more “salesy”.

Sales has always been seen as a sleazy snake oil salesman profession. Not much higher than a used car salesman.

Yet sales are proven top be the #1 profession for income generation. Great sales people always make the most money. All the world’s wealthiest business people are natural salespeople – Branson, Bezos, Benioff, Musk, or Ma. They all sell.

Learning to sell is the number one skill that ensures you will never go hungry. Don’t fight it or fear it, learn to love it so you can always feed your family. 

Solution: turn the definition of sales around in your own head. Think of sales as a service where you are there to serve to sell. BIG flippin’ difference! Adopting this shift in mindset will make you more successful. It will help ensure everything you do and say is there to serve their needs, not yours. When you put your customers best interests ahead of your own, you will make more sales. 

Problem#3: Fear of exposure

People like to feel in control and the fear of being exposed for what you don’t know can make them feel vulnerable or appear weak.

We’re all supposed to know everything right? Our super ego tells us this to protect us.

Sometimes sales teams will do things to cover this up like say “we need to be out there selling” or “we don’t have time to train”. Try telling that to the All Blacks…

Exposing ourselves to ourselves or others can be scary. We hate to admit we’re wrong or we don’t know, or should know something so we don’t expose ourselves or that weakness as it can lessen our standing.

Solution: be someone who likes to learn. Exposing yourself to new ideas and insights makes you stronger, not weaker. Keep that ego in check.

Problem #4: Fear of loss

Loss aversion is a biggie in human behaviour.

Nobel Prize winner and behavioural economist Daniel Kauffman proved humans are twice as motivated to loss than gain (you can read more about this in his brilliant book Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow).

When we don’t do something we are in fear of losing something. It might be social standing, significance or status amongst our peers or self-worth inside ourselves.

We are super sensitive to loss and wired to avoid it. That’s how we’ve survived as a species. 

This is why so many of us don’t publicly declare or commit to goals through fear of losing to them. The loss makes us feel like a failure if we don’t reach them, so many of us don’t make them in the first place to avoid that feeling.

If we don’t make our sales targets we feel like a failure too so we do our best to talk them down or set the bar low so anything else is a bonus.

Solution: make it clear to your sales team that they and the business have a lot more to lose if they don’t perform. Trying is fine. Not trying is not. Failing is fine too so long as you don’t keep making the same mistakes and adapting your approach. “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson” – Dalai Lama.

Problem #5: Fear of criticism

Social studies have shown we respond to psychological pain as much or even more than we experience physical pain. Whilst wounds heal, words can carry.

Words said or abusive relationships can create permanent brain damage through the neural responses we repeat and ruminate on.

And when you open yourself up, you open yourself up to criticism.

Most of us deep down know we want to be celebrated and complimented, not criticised.

Here’s the thing: we really fear criticism it’s because we are fearful that what other tells us matches what we tell ourselves.

This reflection of truth is super painful. We always do all we can seek pleasure and avoid pain so many of us don’t proactively pursue criticism. 

Some of us hate confrontation because we find it uncomfortable so we do all we can to avoid it too.

Feedback really is the breakfast of champions. It’s a gift and you only get better when you get better. Top sports team are monitored, recorded and heavily scrutinised. It’s the price they pay for greatness. 

Solution: seek constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid of feedback. If it’s well intended then you only stand to grow and develop more from it. Of course, choose carefully but make sure you get an outside-in perspective. You’ll go so much further when you do.

Problem #6: Fear of being wrong

“The man who believes he knows everything learns nothing.”

Most of us like to think we’re right. It protects us and our ego. We can’t be wrong because we don’t get things wrong right?

It’s much easier to live with yourself thinking you are right about things than wrong about things.

The problem is most of us don’t know a lot and we often get things wrong.

Why? Because we are all very biased.

How we were brought up and how life experiences shaped us have helped us become the person we are today. When that sense of self or identity is threatened we see it as an attack and one we want to defend.

It’s hard to teach anyone anything when they think they know it all. Because of this they don’t learn from their mistakes, grow, develop as a person and professional or make it to the next level. They get left behind.

The more we admit what we don’t know, the more we learn and grow.

So next time you are told something you already know, don’t say “I know this already”, say “How well am I doing it?”. Knowing and doing are two very different things.

Problem #7: Fear of rejection

This is a big one. Rejection hurts. We all know this. Broken hearts or broken homes can leave big lasting scars.

Sales people will often avoid making sales through fear of rejection. Yet being told no is part and parcel of being a professional sales person

Solution: no is a good thing. It makes sure you’re not wasting time investing in the wrong prospect which frees up time to find the right one. The more nos you get the less of a surprise it becomes. And remember almost all nos are a “no not now” It will mean the timing isn’t right. Come back another time and try again. Persistence and perseverance will win through all in good time. 

Reject rejection. Don’t take it personally. It isn’t. It’s just part of the profession. They’re not rejecting you. They are rejecting your product.

Problem #8: Fear of uncertainty

Again, we like to be certain of ourselves and the environment we live in. Our status, survival and significance depends on it.

The more certain we pretend we are the more uncertain we really are. “The man doth protest too much” tells you there is a massive protection mechanism at work.

When we overly-defend a position or repeat our cause it’s a signal to tell you something’s up.

When we are certain we impede our ability to learn, develop and grow. Embrace uncertainty as there’s so much to learn from it.

Problem #9: Fear of loss of control

When sales reps are out and about spending major time on minor things (like spending enormous amounts of time travelling in their trucks to see sales prospects instead of taking the time to qualify them on the phone first) they feel they are in control.

They look busy so they think they’e busy, when often they’re not.

Many sales reps esp. the lower performing ones have mastered the art of looking busy to keep their sales manager or business owners distracted with a flurry of activity or appointments. 

Top tip: those that talk about their sales efforts are the ones who are making the less effort.

We teach all our clients that you should never confuse activity with accomplishment. Enthusiasm doesn’t equal effectiveness and you can be busy working on the wrong stuff (travelling or seeing the wrong prospect) instead of the right stuff (preparing your sales call and the qualifying questions you are going to ask to better understand their buying motives).

When they do this you will get a nasty surprise when it comes to your sales pipeline.

Some sales reps believe in the safety of “out of sight, out of mind”.

The problem with this approach is it doesn’t nothing to engender trust, it only creates distrust and greater micro-management interventions which becomes wearisome for all involved.

The only way to secure trust is to secure more sales.

Instead of trying to retain control, take control instead. Be accountable for your own performance. Kick your own arse instead. Get the job done and do your best.

+++

The true sign of a mature and willing rural sales person is to take responsibility for their own performance – and be intrinsically motivated (for more on this read here).

If they’re not making sales they need to look at themselves first before pointing the finger at others.

Sales reps need to have open growth mindsets, not fixed ones. If they engage the former and do less of the latter they will excel.

As Franklin D Roosevelt said in the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to hear is fear itself.”

Fear is a mental construct that is there to protect us.

Push through that fear and you will succeed.

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