Are You Afraid of Success?

Jan 3, 2017 | Sales Blog

mountain-climbAre you afraid of sales success?

You’ve all heard of fear of failure.

Fear of failure has a sibling that could be holding you back. It’s called fear of success. Psychologists have a name for it: achievemephobia.

I often think that this is a bigger problem for sales leaders and sales professionals than a fear of failure.

I worked with a client where the top performing Account Exec, Charles, had to leave the room every time he was on the verge of closing a new order. Whenever he reached the final few minutes of conversation where the customer was going to commit, he would excuse himself to “make an urgent call.” Understandably this often created an awkward moment with the buyer. Just at the critical moment.

Don’t Fear the Expectations of Others
I asked Charles to try to analyze why he freaked out in this situation. As we talked about it it became clear that his fears were focused on the expectations that would be created as a result of winning the deal. This is a typical anxiety that accompanies a fear of success.

First, his VP of Sales, the CEO and the investors would now expect him to close more deals just like this one. Charles nervously said that they didn’t see “just how really just lucky we were to have won this deal” and that “there aren’t any other deals like this one out there” and “how in the world did we win this one anyway?”

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, this new customer would be expecting great service and a solid product. “Are we really ready for this?” And even though customer success was not his responsibility, he was already projecting forward, “If we really nail this one, then there will be others just like it. How are we going to support and service them? Where are we going to find the people and resources?”

I’ve witnessed sales reps and sales leaders subconsciously undermine their own success through actions or words with buyers that seemed completely out of character. This is a symptom of achievemephobia.

Visualize The Positives of Success
There are steps you can take to deal with a fear of success. Visualization is a simple tool that you can use to change negative thoughts into positive actions. Think about the sales situations that you encounter that typically trigger anxiety and envision what you could do differently that would keep you feeling positive about the outcomes. Visualize what you would do to reward yourself for achieving your goal. Mindfulness meditation techniques also can be very helpful in teaching you how to navigate stressful situations and to lessen the weight of the expectations of others.

Some degree of nerves and fear is natural in sales. But, you shouldn’t fear the consequences of success. Or, let the fear of not meeting the expectations of others drive you to act in ways that are not consistent with your abilities or your personality.


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