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5-Minute Sales Coach: How to allay fear on both sides of sales calls

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By Bill McCrary

What are your reps’ biggest fears during sales calls? I’ll bet these are high on the list:

  • Prospects who won’t let their guard down—who won’t answer questions candidly and thus won’t give the salesperson the information he needs to create best-fit solutions.
  • Prospects who want to “think it over” before they’ll agree to any next steps (a follow-up meeting, involving other decision makers, etc.).
  • Prospects who already have providers they like and are using your reps for check quotes.

Let’s look at the other side: What are some of the most common fears prospects have when meeting with sales reps?

  • The salesperson will be pushy and high-pressure.
  • The prospect will buy something he doesn’t need.
  • The salesperson will stay too long or waste the prospect’s time.

These are legitimate fears on both sides. Every day there are thousands of meetings between poorly trained salespeople and unlucky prospects in which these fears are realized.

Your salespeople need to deal with all of these fears—to eliminate them—at the start of every new sales call. Otherwise, what’s the point? How can a prospect relax and speak honestly to your rep about his issues if he’s focused on defending himself (and his budget) from the high-pressure sales tactics he’s experienced before?

Good news. There’s a simple way to erase all these fears. Your people must learn to establish expectations—ground rules—for the meeting before it starts.

This is not as complicated or confrontational as it sounds. In fact, it’s the opposite. Here’s an example you can use with your team:

Salesperson: “Hi, Paul, thanks for meeting today. I know you have a lot going on. How are you on time?”


Prospect: “Hi, Susan. I’ve scheduled 45 minutes for our meeting.”


Salesperson: “Okay. I’ve got 10:30, so I’ll be out of here at 11:15. Does that sound all right?”


Prospect: “Sure.”


Salesperson: “What issues do you have, what questions do you want answered, what information would make this meeting a productive use of your time?”

POOF! The prospect’s fear of the salesperson staying too long or wasting his time is gone. Do you think he’s beginning to relax?


Prospect: “Well, I wanted to know more about X and Y. . . .”


Salesperson: “Ok. I may have a few questions for you, if that’s ok? I want to figure out what we’d need to do to be different or better than who you’re using now, to warrant you being comfortable making a change. It may not make sense for me to quote this job for you—you may be ok right where you are!”

POOF! The pressure in the room has dropped by 99%. Our salesperson is the antithesis of high-pressure. If she can’t offer something the prospect really needs, she doesn’t even want to quote the job! Two more of the prospect’s fears are annihilated. Do you think he’s starting to trust Susan a little? Is he much more likely to open up to her? Yes. And by getting Paul to relax, Susan has eliminated one of her own fears—that he won’t share information.

Salesperson: “On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with me, and we discover some issues that I can help with, why don’t we spend a few minutes at the end of this conversation figuring out if it’s worth our time to meet again, and who we might want to include in that meeting. Would that be ok?”

Here our salesperson is removing another of her fears—that the prospect won’t be willing to give a firm yes (let’s get another meeting on the calendar) or no (let’s not waste any more of each others’ time) at the end of the meeting.

Salesperson: “One more thing before we get started. I know you’ve been using XYZ Company for a while. I’m afraid that we might come up with some issues we could help you with, but that they won’t be significant enough for you to feel comfortable making a change.”

Prospect: “We’ve been with them a while, but we’re open to other options.”

Salesperson: “Well, let’s figure out if that’s true by the end of our meeting today, agreed?”

Wasn’t that nice and easy? Our salesperson took a few moments to casually and conversationally present some expectations for the meeting, while coming across to the prospect as a person of integrity who wasn’t going to take advantage of him.

Everyone goes into a sales call with fears! Teach your team to deal with those fears up front. Their prospects will be more comfortable, more trusting, and much more likely to reveal the truth—the pain—that will ultimately allow your reps to close more sales.

Published from the April 11, 2016 print issue

Bill McCrary, a speaker, coach and trainer, founded Strategic Partner, an authorized Sandler Training Center, in 1997. You can contact McCrary at 803-771-0800, or

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