Sales and Sales Management Blog

July 16, 2012

The Value of Fear

Filed under: career development,motivation,success — Paul McCord @ 12:08 pm
Tags: ,

“I’m not afraid of anything,” goes the boast so often heard from sellers who are trying to impress their manager. 

The idea that a top seller is so confident, so cool, so well prepared that they’re not afraid of anyone or anything, including failure, seems to be more prevalent now than in the past.  Maybe I’m just more attuned to it now than I had been. 

Whichever it is, I’m hearing it more and more often and most of the time it seems to be coming from young sellers who grew up being told that they not only could do anything they put their minds to but they deserve success because they are the most educated and admirable generation ever.

It seems that the coddling has bleached out all sense of fear and anxiety—and a great deal of hardness and determination—from the up and coming generation of sellers.

And although this isn’t universal, of course, it seems we’ve done them a mighty disservice. 

To pervert one of Gordon Gekko’s quotes, “Fear is good.”  Fear is, in fact, the stuff that success is made of.  Fear of failure.  Fear of losing one’s job or status or position or respect.  Fear of disappointing oneself and others.  Fear of not achieving.  Fear of not living out one’s dream.

Fear is more powerful than the lure of success.  It puts more demands on you than the want of things.  Fear is a motivator like no other.  For most of us it isn’t the carrot as much as the stick that is the base motivating factor.

And we have a generation that has been force fed unwarranted success through the elimination of the potential for failure and, thus, the purging of the sense of fear of failure.

I’ve yet to find a highly successful person who doesn’t respect fear—and if you haven’t had the opportunity to taste it in big chunks you can’t respect it.  It is so simple and terrible, yet so powerful.  Don’t allow yourself or your sales team to live with the illusion that success can be acquired without the help of fear.

If you’re a sales leader who has sellers who voice a lack of fear, encourage them to go out and get a really good taste of failure.



  1. I’m a Gen Y-er and would agree almost 100% with your statement about the elimination for the potential of failure. Having researched generational needs and desires with changes in workplace and corporate real estate, I think this post is right on point. There is a large shift occurring in the workforce as Generation Y and the generation behind it (some say “Digital Natives”) enter employment. A great resource on this is Tammy Erickson of HBS: Because Generation Y actually desires much more feedback than previous generations, there is a balance that needs to be struck: Don’t micromanage and let them feel failure (and now fear it too) while at the same time provide enough support so they don’t leave your organization before reaching full potential as a salesman. Would you agree? I think performance management tools can aid in finding that balance if it’s dealt with in a direct conversation between sales reps and managers.

    Comment by Nat Estes — July 19, 2012 @ 8:00 am | Reply

  2. That’s such a great point Paul. I loved how you said fear is a motivator like no other. One thing I learned about sales before I became a bestselling author is over-confidence could greatly hinder success. I was over-confident when I took my first job as a mortgage broker and didn’t close a single sale in three months. I forgot the lessons I learned during my first attempt and was just as unsuccessful my second attempt. My first two mortgage brokerage failures were major setbacks
    that I took personally. However, I realized those experiences ultimately could help me become a successful business professional and a better person. It is true that you can never get too comfortable, and your determination must stay at a high to achieve and maintain success.

    Comment by Daniel Milstein — July 19, 2012 @ 9:36 am | Reply

  3. I couldn’t disagree more. Rather than wanting our salespeople to experience and fear we as sales managers should be doing everything possible to make sure they don’t experience it. I don’t think fear can help anyone. I hate fear. I make sure that my salespeople never fail. Any so called failure they have I turn into a positive. I make sure my people only have good experiences because I want them to feel good about themselves, the job their doing, and their prospects and customers. The last thing I want them to experience is anything negative and I will NEVER allow my salespeople to fear or fail.

    Comment by Tim Miller — July 21, 2012 @ 9:50 am | Reply

  4. […] am Tags: sales, selling, team development I have received several email responses to my recent The Value of Fear post that have been very critical of my position that fear not only is a great motivator but that […]

    Pingback by Sorry, Buddy, But Your Best Just Isn’t Good Enough « Sales and Sales Management Blog — July 23, 2012 @ 10:06 am | Reply

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