What is your Biggest Fear – Speaking, Rejection, or Failing?

What is your Biggest Fear – Speaking, Rejection, or Failing?

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.


It is said that speaking in public is a bigger fear than death. I don’t buy it. I think if someone put a gun to your head and said speak in public or die — you’d find that lost William Jennings Bryan oration within you.

By far the biggest fear of salespeople is fear of failure. It has a cousin — fear of rejection. Rejection is the pathway to failure — if you fear it. While failure itself is real, the fear of it is a condition of the mind.

Earl Nightingale’s legendary recording, “The Strangest Secret” says, “You become what you think about.” If that’s true, why doesn’t everyone think “success?” The answer is a combination of what we expose ourselves to, and how we condition ourselves.

We live in a world of negative conditioning. The three big motivators are fear, greed and vanity. They drive the American sales process — and they drive the American salesperson.

Our society preys on the fear factor. It’s in 50%of the ads we see (the rest are greed or vanity). Ads about life insurance for death and disability, credit cards stolen, anti-freeze for stalled cars, tires that grip the road in the rain, brakes that stop to avoid hitting a child on a bike, and security systems so your home won’t be robbed. You see that crap enough, you become “fear-conditioned.”

We are constantly reminded to carry mace, get a burglar alarm, and be sure we have The Club. To make matters worse we now see police at ATM machines, metal detectors in schools, and can rely on the local news to promulgate the trend. They are dedicated to promote issues of fear every minute they’re on the air.

Once society gives you fear, it’s natural that you take it with you into the workplace. It transmutes into a fear of failure. This fear intensifies in workplaces with hostile environments. Bosses and managers who threaten, intimidate and ridicule.

In the midst of this, we struggle for success. And while we think we fear failure, or at least don’t want it around us– we all face it in one form or another every day. Everyone fails. But, failure is relative. It’s measurement is subjective. Mostly it occurs in your mind. If you exchange “I failed” for “I learned what never to do again,” it’s a completely different mindset. The status of failure is up to you.

Over the years of my failures, I have developed a great way of looking at it (lots of practice). I learn from it, or I ignore it.

Thomas Edison failed 6,000 times before the light bulb, Donald Trump had monumental failures on his way to the top, Mike Schmidt – third baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies failed at the plate (at bat) two out of three times for 20 years, and was inducted into baseballs Hall of Fame as one of the greatest ball players of all time. Were these men failures? Did they fear failure?

There are degrees of failure in sales. Here are some external ones:

  • Failure to prepare
  • Failure to make contacts
  • Failure to make a sale
  • Failure to meet a quota
  • Failure to keep a job

External (outside) fears, lead to internal (inside) fears — fear based on what happens when you fail or are close to failing. Your reaction to internal fear determines your fate. It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you. Here are the five typical reactions to rejection or failure:

  1. Curse it.
  2. Deny it (a nice way of saying lie about it).
  3. Avoid it.
  4. Make an excuse about it.
  5. Blame others (the easiest thing to do).
  6. Quit.

Failure actually only occurs when you decide to quit. You choose your results. Here are a few simple things you can do to avoid getting to the “quit” stage:

Look at failure as an event not a person. Look for the why, and find the solution (If you look at “no” hard enough, it will lead you to yes). List possible opportunities. Ask yourself what have I learned, and try again. Don’t mope around with other failures — go find a successful person, and hang around him/her.

Here are a few complicated things you can do to avoid getting to the “I quit” stage:

  • Create a new environment.
  • Cultivate new associations.
  • Access new information.
  • Get a new mind set — create new background thoughts.

It’s always too soon to quit.

Afraid to speak, or afraid to fail? Which is the greater fear? When you consider the complications and ramifications of failure, making a speech to 1,000 people, by comparison, is a walk in the park.

Go to www.gitomer.com, click Access GitBit, register if you’re a first time user and enter the word PERSISTENCE in the search box.