For over two decades I have asked audiences a simple question, “What is your biggest fear?”  The question is asked not to depress my audiences, or to place a dark cloud over the session I am about to conduct, but rather to expose these fears, and ultimately work through them.  The Book of Lists[i] produced a rather famous collection of fears that surprised a few people when their top five turned out to be:

1)    Speaking before a group

2)    Heights

3)    Insects and bugs

4)    Financial problems

5)    Deep water

Interestingly enough, “speaking before a group” was not only number one,it comfortably exceeded the others in that category.  For the record, “death” came in at number seven on this list.  However, in the last 18 months I contend that a new fear has emerged, and is making its way up this list.  What’s more, it is a far more personally destructive fear.  I’m referring to the “fear of change.”

Think back in your life and how often you have been faced with a challenging decision to make.  You no doubt weighed your options, and both logic and instinct presented you with a solution.  Then, you did what so many of us are guilty of doing; you did nothing.  The fear of change not only overpowered your reasoning, it left you with a frustrating reminder when you finally did make the change.  Your souvenir was the phrase that came out like a mantra: “I wish I had done it sooner.”

So here we are in 2010, and all of us are keenly aware of the economic troubles that permeate the air.  There isn’t a newspaper, magazine, television, radio, or friendly get-together where the dreaded “economic crisis” topic doesn’t rear its ugly head.  And what have most of us done to combat this crisis?  Nothing.  And why have we done nothing?  Because our fear of change instinct has been ruling the day.  You get a chance to see it in others every time you visit a client who is not thrilled with their current situation but unwilling to do anything about it.  Try this Rob saying on for size…

~The fear of the unknown often outweighs the pain of the present.~

If you have a job that involves selling, there is a solution and it comes from your ability to stay away from solutions, and focus on client problems… and when I say focus on client problems, I mean really focus on their problems.  That means taking those probing skills of yours and drilling as deeply as possible on, “the pain of the present.”

Our clients rarely look down the road at the true costs and impact of their problems, and if they did, you would not have to bother calling to set up an appointment.  They would be calling you.  So you see, the solution is an easy one.  If you want to defuse fear of change, increase urgency within your client’s mind, and truly problem solve with your client, it all hinges on your ability to study the problem.

For those of you who don’t sell others for a living, heed these words and sell yourself.  Look at the big picture of the issues you are dealing with, and if all else fails, ask yourself this questions.  “What if… ?”  You’ll know what to fill in the blanks with.  You don’t have to wait for it to be a big problem to treat it as one.


[i] * David Wallechinsky et al.:  The Book of Lists (New York:  Wm. Morrow & Co., Inc.)

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