How fear of uncertainty is holding us back (and why it shouldn’t)

Sep 24, 2020
Author: Sarah Hicks


The brain craves safety, Bill explains on a recent episode of the Predictable Revenue podcast. A lot of people are controlled by fear because they don’t understand its origins, and how the brain functions. So the first step in combating fear is awareness –  and once you are aware of something, you have both the capacity to, and the responsibility to do something about it. 


Fear can be both an ally and an adversary. Evolution molded fear into animals’ brains over thousands of years as an early warning signal to protect us from imminent danger. But the modern brain can’t tell the difference between real, imminent danger, and imagined danger.

As Bill puts it, the sabre tooth tiger once chased us and our tribes across the plains, now we bring the concept of the sabre tooth tiger with us into the conference room. We feel fear as we picture all the worst case scenarios, and it causes us to shrink down into our box of comfort. 

What we need to do, and quickly, is discern how much of what we’re experiencing is real fear (imminent danger), and how much is in our imaginations. There likely is a mix of the two. So how can we tell the difference? The brain is broken into three parts: the Prefrontal Cortex, the Hippocampus, and the Amygdala. We need to pull ourselves from the emotional quagmire in the Amygdala, and up into the rational Prefrontal Cortex.

We can do that by asking ourselves what is actually happening, and what is an imagined or assumed worst case scenario we’ve invented or been fed? Where we are getting our information – from reputable sources, or from fear mongering tabloids? What am I going to take in and accept as my truth?


Salespeople – what’s your biggest fear in your role? Missing quota. And you’re feeling that fear tenfold now as your in-person sales channels have disappeared and your market has all but dried up. But fear, desperation, and greed are the 3 things people never want to partner with. So, even now, increase your activities so you’re adding more to your pipeline daily. Think of your quota as an average, and if you aim to smash it out of the water you won’t end up behind.

The fear of missing quota tricks us into thinking that every conversation we have is a qualified opportunity. But those people you’re talking to aren’t prospects, they’re suspects. Here’s how Bill weeds them out:

Q – Questions: You have to be able to ask your suspect difficult questions to understand their needs and desires, their hopes and dreams, their relationship with their current provider, and everything in between.

U – Understanding: You need to understand their process. How they buy, their biggest fear, and where you sit in relation to that. If a buyer fears discomfort and uncertainty, they’re more likely to stay with assured mediocrity than they are to risk everything for assumed brilliance.

A – Answer questions: Be an expert in your space, and that of your client, and provide value.

L – Listen: You need to connect with your suspect on a human level, not treat them like a formula. 

I – (we’ll come back to this)

F – Follow up: Do this obsessively. Stay top of mind and continue to provide value. 

Y – You sell: If you follow this entire process you will be able to predict your closes with 90% accuracy. That 10% of uncertainty is a result of the integrity of the buyer, something you can never qualify.


If you scare your prospect off with your fear, desperation, or greed, the space at their table won’t be open for very long. So lighten up a little. Relax, change the inflection of your voice and infuse your conversations with a little humour. Use the line “I know you get a hundred of these calls a day and you probably don’t want to take this one” when introducing yourself to a new prospect.

Get out there and keep making calls to stay top of mind without trying to sell anything. Work incrementally toward yes rather than going for that one call close. And put the power in their hands – tell your prospect that if they don’t find value in a conversation with you, you’ll take them off your list for good. And don’t fear rejection, that’s just a part of this game.


Sales leaders – you are up against a lot of challenges right now. Tighter budgets, smaller margins, tougher targets, managing virtually for the first time and being the last line of defense between the company and bankruptcy are just a few things that could be inspiring fear. And while these fears may not be unfounded, they are certainly being picked up by your team and, in turn, contributing to their fears as well.

The first thing Bill suggests you do is let everyone know they’re safe. Then, set expectations. Once the team is confident that their jobs aren’t on the line, they can continue with the task at hand. You need to be proactive in your strategy here, because you can rest assured that if you aren’t calling new prospects, your competitors are.

If you’re not maintaining your relationships with your clients, someone else will swoop in. And at all times, be honest. In Bill’s words, “don’t bullshit your people”. Tell them the limits of what you know right now. 


There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. Prospects aren’t answering emails, trade shows that were your biggest source of new business have been cancelled, and you’re suddenly having to manage and coach a team of 50 reps over zoom. A lot of people are fearful at this time, and for good reason. Bill Wooditch shares solid tactics for salespeople and sales leaders alike to determine first whether their fear is real or imagined, and then to stomp it out.


From Aaron, on combating fear: learn from my 10-year painful lesson

More on psychology: Understanding buyer psychology and how it fits into the sales process with Outreach’s Max Altschuler

Selling Through Crisis: 4 Ways Your Cancelled Events Can Still Generate You B2B Leads and Sales

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