Fear Factors in Small Business: Sales & Marketing
There are plenty of theories, books, myths and ideas put
forward to explain why sales and marketing are hard to start, harder to keep
going, and harder still to master, but the simple truth is that the challenge almost always boils down to a four
letter word we’re all familiar with, fear.
Fear of rejection. Almost everyone wants to have a job that they like, and that other people like them doing. When a potential customer says no, it feels like they aren’t just rejecting the product or service, they are also rejecting the salesperson. For a small business owner, it also feels like they are rejecting the business itself.
Fear of failure. No-one wants to lose, to come up short or to fail, but when a marketing campaign doesn’t work or sales presentations don’t produce results, failure is what it feels like.
Fear of success. Once you are successful in your efforts, more success is expected. Sales & Marketing is and will always be the “What have you done for me lately?” part of any successful business, and every new sale and each new achievement raises the bar.
Fear of too much success to soon or too fast. Small business owners are almost always limited in how much product, service or support they will be able to provide to each customer. Getting that great big sale could mean the end of the business if you aren’t able to step up and deliver. Or it could mean that you are working 16 hour days, 7 days a week just to satisfy your existing customers.
Fear of attrition. Many small businesses rely on only a few key customers, suppliers or employees. Losing any one of those can mean a serious hit to the bottom line and even the end of the business itself.
Fear of commitment. Small business owners have to be truly committed to the work required to make the business a success. That’s hard to do when you realize there needs to be some balance between the business with your family, social or spiritual responsibilities. Complicating that commitment issue is the added challenge of business or strategic partnerships with other people who also have conflicting responsibilities beyond the business itself.
Fear of competition. Very few small business owners have a monopoly on the products and services they can offer, and often the competition or even the risk that competition may come is enough to invoke the freeze, fight or flight instincts in us.
Fear of the unknown. What you don’t know can hurt you, and in small business it feels like there is a world of unknown just waiting to leap up out of the swamp and bite the small business owner.
Fear of uncertainty. Small business has some of the most difficult project and business management challenges you can imagine. Accounts receivable almost always takes more time to collect than accounts payable has time before payments are due. Suppliers often take longer to deliver than customers are expecting. Employees never seem to get sick when things are slow. Weather always seems to be bad when it needs to be clear, or clear when it would be easier to work if it wasn’t so nice out. Family members, customers, employees and close friends have babies, get married, or die, and almost never check in with you first to see when would be the most convenient time.
Fear of banks. In small business you can’t live without banking arrangements, but none of those banking services are really there to help make the business easier. The services are unnecessarily complicated, the paperwork seems deliberately baffling, the restrictions can be suffocating, and the fees virtually impossible to understand or manage. Top that off with staff turnovers and transfers and for most small business owners the banking relationship is one of ‘show them the money’ or have a nice day with the personal service at an ATM since you probably can’t get into the bank when they are open for business.
Fear of government. Taxes, regulations, inspections, permits, reporting, payroll, workman’s compensation are all there to make the simple job of providing products and services as hard to get to as possible.
Fear of fear itself. Whenever I go over this list of fears for small business owners I feel the same sense of fear about my own business. It’s daunting, it’s real, and it’s unavoidable, and my choices are limited to the same responses we have when facing any other fears – freeze, fight or flee…
In business you can’t succeed if you are a quitter, so “freeze” or “flee” are rarely a good first choice when facing these fears and that leaves only “fight”. Fortunately fighting these fears can be much easier than you think if you can learn to apply Franklin D. Roosevelt’s simple rule”
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself
• Pick up the phone and make the calls.
• Write and send the emails.
• Ask for leads and referrals.
• Ask for the business.
Make the call backs on time, every time.