They Can Smell Fear

We all know that animals can smell fear and desperation. So can prospects and referral partners. If you want to slam the door on your business, behave with fear or desperation as your primary motivator.

What do I mean by this? Many small business owners and salespeople have their own needs in the forefront of their minds. This focus makes them frame their message from a position of fear. When the owner or salesperson is worried about meeting their financial obligations or is in fear of being fired, they lead with that emotion.

This is really dangerous for a couple of reasons.

They Can Smell Fear

First of all, it isn’t the client’s problem whether you can meet payroll or pay your mortgage. They aren’t your partner. To share your situation with them will only make them nervous that you won’t be able to perform. You aren’t going to persuade them to do business with you. Quite the opposite; they will run from you. They can’t afford to get into a relationship with a business they fear will vanish soon.

Secondly, prospects buy from people they have confidence in. When you are fearful or desperate, they can smell it – even if you don’t share your problems with them. When they don’t feel confident with what you are telling them, you won’t get the business.

In the same vein, referral partners will not feel comfortable referring you. You will lose your relationships that could be serving your business.  Deb Ng shares a great article on Bizsugar about the impact of desperation on social networks, “6 Ways People Show Desperation on the Social Networks.”

Are you starting to see what happens when you are fearful or desperate? You get the opposite result than the one you need so desperately. You realize what you fear most – failure. No matter where you network, prospect or market, showing fear and desperation is a biz killer.

So, what to do? First of all, move your focus from yourself to your prospect. Concentrate your message on what they need, the value you bring, and how you can help them solve their problem. When we operate from a position of giving, the money comes. You can solve your own problem by helping others solve theirs. When you focus on others you will relax and feel confident. After all, you are confident of the value you bring to your clients, aren’t you? Exactly! And when you act with confidence, others feel it and want to do business with you.

Use your fear to propel you to action–action that is in the best interest of your prospect or client. This action will help you let go of your fear. Remember that when you are fearful you are living in the future. When you take action you are living in the present. The more action you take, the more in the present you are, the more successful you will be.


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

7 Reactions
  1. I think it applies to a job interview as well.

  2. Great analogy. Fear can be a prime factor in holding a person back. I agree that a person has to overcome–and even use–their fear to be successful.

  3. Great points, Diane!

    You are 100% on the money with this post, for sure.

    It’s amazing, but I’ve found that when I am mellow, and act as if it doesn’t matter whether or not I get the deal/the sale, whatever, things still turn out ok.

    Either the client/customer buys, or they don’t. I’m always ok with either result.

    It’s when we push really hard that they don’t.

    The Franchise King®

  4. This is probably the greatest secret and maybe even the most misunderstood aspect of business. As far as the American Dream goes in teaching that hard work will get you wherever you want to go, it is probably more truthful to phrase it that believing in yourself to a fault will get you there. On this note it does not seem so coincidental that Mad Men has been such a successful show since the primary narrative depicts a character who has re-created himself with all of the confidence in the world. Machiavelli had his insights.

  5. Hi Diane,

    I completely agree with you, fear should always be a positive driving force rather than a negative one. When you’re out to sell, you need to believe in yourself, only then would others believe in you, yet its true that a lot of times people fail to understand that and portray otherwise. Great post, thanks for sharing!

    Riya Sam

  6. Goooood article! I am in sales and so relate to this! It’s like going to Vegas with “scared” money – you’ll surely lose. Going with a “set” amount and a “mindset” that you have this to lose – you could most likely come out ahead or at least not panicked or worse off. Many should appreciate this post – thank you!

    With kindness, Elena

  7. I actually saw two emails from a salesman begging his referral network for referrals OR business. The desperation was palpable. While I feel sorry for him it was a stark example of how not to behave. It doesn’t instill confidence in the prospect or partner. Yes, having a confident mindset, understanding that when you offer value the money will come, will get you ahead. Fear, well, it’s a repellent.
    Thanks for the great input – love the vegas analogy!

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