Ways To Combat Nerves Before A Sales Interaction

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Nervous business woman with prospectIt’s a common subject brought up on our training programmes, and it can affect even the most experienced of salespeople.

How do we overcome the feeling of nervousness before having a sales interaction?

First, let’s highlight why nerves may show themselves.

Feeling anxious, uneasy or worried is a natural reaction to stressful or uncomfortable situations.

The body is anticipating some form of danger and is preparing for it.

Your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

The physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, faster breathing, headaches and even feeling sick.

Think of it as the body preparing you for a challenging situation.

The problem arises when it happens regularly and you have no control over it.

It can affect your mood, your confidence, even your thinking ability.

According to ‘Science ABC’, when your neocortex (your thinking brain) attaches extreme importance to an activity, it triggers a part of the limbic brain called the hypothalamus and the signal is misperceived, as though there is some sort of danger, since your situation is not considered “normal” in your brain.

The hypothalamus thus triggers the fight or flight response, in which the sympathetic nervous system sends out impulses to glands and smooth muscles, and directs the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream, which increases heart rate and blood pressure.

What can you do to overcome these nervous responses?

Here are ten tips:

1) Listen to what messages your nerves are actually telling you

Rebecca Newton of Forbes Magazine suggests you listen to what the voice in your head is actually telling you, and then come up with counter statements.

For example, if the voice is saying ‘You’re going to fail here because you’re not technically competent’ then you can replace that with ‘I don’t have to be a technical expert; I need to be a strong generalist and focus on the business application of my products’

This will act as that confidence-booster in your mind, as you will concentrate on what you are good at instead of what you’re not.

2) Prepare as clearly as possible

This seems obvious, but many people prepare so as to be perfect, and then get nervous because they know they can’t be.

Henrick Edberg wrote that we should think through various scenarios and then prepare according to what we think may happen.

For example, if we are meeting a new client, we can ask ourselves what questions we may need to ask and actually write them out so we don’t forget.

Preparation will help our brain practice in a safe environment what will possibly happen and identify how to make ourselves confident in dealing with it.

3) Practice whatever makes you nervous

If you are preparing for a sales presentation, then practice exactly what you are going to say in front of a mirror or with a colleague.

This will show your brain that you know what you want to say and how to say it, so it doesn’t see the event as being the first time this has occurred.

If your nerves are caused by a new situation that you haven’t experienced before, then imagine yourself in that situation and deliberately work on what you are going to say and do, as if you are really there, even doing it with your eyes closed if possible.

4) Visualise yourself in the situation being confident

The subconscious brain cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality.

That’s why you sometimes wake up sweaty when you’ve had a nasty dream; your body responds as if it’s really happening, even though it’s in your imagination.

By visualising yourself in the situation that is making you nervous, you can walk through the meeting or event in your mind and imagine yourself saying and doing all the right things.

This will immediately be coded in your subconscious as something to look forward to, rather than dreaded.

5) Try to relax, through concentrated and conscious breathing

It’s your nervous energy that is driving the nervous responses, so by relaxing and breathing deeply, you calm the excess energy and help yourself adapt to the new situation.

Going for a quiet walk may help.

Or sitting in a quiet room and practising a form of ‘mindfulness’ may be beneficial.

6) Notice what body language you display when you suffer from nervousness

It’s possible that your hands shake or your mouth goes dry or some other physical reaction occurs, caused by the increased adrenaline.

If you can observe what the symptoms are, it may be possible to respond accordingly to them.

Instead of shifting around nervously, try standing still.

Hold your hands loosely by your side.

Breathe consciously at a steady rate.

Concentrate on making your body respond to your positivity rather than reacting to what your worry is telling it.

7) Ask, what is the worst that can realistically happen?

Henrick Edberg again.

He states that you should highlight what is the worst outcome and work backwards from there.

It helps stop you making a mountain out of a molehill.

If you work out that the worst that can happen is you don’t get the sale, then ensure you can live with that.

There will be plenty more opportunities out there.

8) Do not try to be perfect

I was talking to a salesperson once who, no matter what suggestions I made to coach him for improvement, he always answered with ‘what if…’ and then came up with a fictitious event that might occur (once in a blue moon).

Remember that you’ll never get to the point where you get a perfect outcome.

You can’t control outside influences, like what then customer might object to, or the traffic on the way to the meeting.

Instead, work on what you can control, and work on being the best you can be, rather than attaining perfection in everything you attempt.

9) Put the emphasis on the other person

Most people feel nervous because they are worried about how other people will view them or perceive what they do or say.

The real truth is that other people are more concerned about themselves or their next meeting or their lunch appointment or their weekend or their child’s runny nose or their irritating boss, much more than they are concerned about you.

Instead of being anxious about the impression you are trying to make or what you are going to do with your laptop, put the emphasis on them.

What is it they are struggling with at the moment?

How can their business be more successful?

Why should they change now?

By placing the attention on them, you reduce the pressure on you and allow the conversation to flow easier.

10) Create new emotions in your body to replace the nervous ones

The body’s response is always to try to protect you.

Fear is induced to protect you from danger; anger is produced to allow you to respond to specific situations; and nervousness and anxiety are there to make you create changes in the way you deal with the flight or fight response.

Instead of creating a nervous disposition, ask yourself what you would like to feel instead.

Replace fear with courage.

Replace nervousness with excitement.

Replace anxiety with confidence.

By telling yourself that you will have a confident attitude to the situation you are facing, you convince that part of the brain that is responsible for emotions (your limbic system) that you have nothing to fear and everything to gain from what is about to occur.

Try some of these ideas the next time you are in a situation that drives you to be nervous and see if they have a positive and encouraging effect on you.

Happy selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training 

450 sales questions free report

Updated on: 20 August, 2018

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