Fear Less - Sell More

Everything that we do - and why the psychology of sales is so important - is an extension of who we are, where we've been, and how we've succeeded and failed. ARPEDIO had a chat with Tom Stern, President at Stern Executive and author of “Fear Less. Sell more”, who has developed a methodology that increases confidence based on the psychology behind selling. Tom explained how by overcoming your fears, you can actually have more success in sales and overall career satisfaction, and we have gathered all the highlights for you right here.

How to frame your communication

So what is the key for success in communication? It starts on the most primitive level: the need to connect. Anybody in sales or in life ideally wants to connect.

Communication narrows everything and you might hyper track people’s responses by theorizing and coming up with paranoid notions about “this person doesn’t like me”. Instead, try to ask yourself “how do we move forward with a positive intention”. Really try to connect and be empathetic; this is a reciprocal process – take cues from the other person so communication becomes a process that starts on the inside.

If you give scripts to 100 sales people and they all go out with that same script, how come only 20 of them hit the ball hard? It’s because of the desire those 20 people had to convey that information and their need to connect with the other person. That’s the fundamental driver for influencing and selling. Everyone is influencing, everyone is selling, because everyone needs to make a connection because all of business is collaborative and you have to be willing to look at yourself.

So how do you frame your communication to make other people comfortable? Tom always attempts to frame his communication when he’s selling by saying “OK, I’m going to sell to you now”, because even that can create comfort. This is how we access the parts of ourselves that affect drive and improve all the things that allow us to connect, from our eyes, to our ears, to our voice, to our body, to our imagination – the key is wanting to connect by behaving in a way that enhances that connection and maximizing it.

tom stern

Tom Stern – President at Stern Executive and author of “Fear Less. Sell more”
Tom has been active in the recruiting industry since 1989 and founded Stern Executive Search in 1993. Tom’s career has spanned the realms of both business and the arts. After earning a BA in psychology at Sarah Lawrence College, Tom spent the next ten years in the entertainment industry, developing comedy material and managing talent.

Tom has conducted hundreds of successful searches for a wide array of clients including American Express, Bain, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Consulting, Ernst&Young, Sutherland Global Services, Sony Studios and Universal to name a few.

Fear in sales

Everyone can achieve success in sales and realize their ambitions by overcoming their fear. The idea that fear has to be extreme for you to address it is a misnomer. You should be proactive by first of all identifying what you’re afraid of and how you’re expressing that fear, or even how that fear is limiting you in your professional life.

The entire idea of ‘Fear less – sell more’ is not to obsess about fear but simply to recognize that it’s a part of who we are. We are biologically built to experience fear. Our amygdala, which is part of the metabolic chain and in the reptilian part of your brain, is a command center that sends all the information down into the adrenal glands that produce cortisol in a fight or flight scenario, and that activates the system. It’s a biological anatomical reality that we need for survival.

Fear never sleeps and I always like to say, if that's true, I believe we can get fear to take a nap.
Tom Stern
President at Stern Executive and author of “Fear Less. Sell more”

The need or desire of control can lead people to have a lot of anxiety or experience anxiety at certain moments. In sales, people are always seeking to create control, but it’s so hard with all the variables; the clients, the competition, the various trends that you have to keep up with, and so forth. You can only really influence so much, and that’s where the power of sales expression can come to the forefront. You will only truly discover what is possible if fear recedes and personal talents are allowed to emerge.

If you take a good look at yourself and try to consider if you’re perhaps too extroverted, too needy, too much of a people pleaser – how does that come through in your voice and in your words? Has the fear taken all the life blood out of you? Then you need to stop and make that commitment to looking at yourself, say out loud: “I’m going to look at myself”. Just by doing so, you’ve already taken your mind off your fear and you’ve taken control – you’re no longer a victim of your fear because you just took a positive action to take control of what you can manage, and that one decision already should reduce fear. Then you break it into its parts, you digest it, and then you eliminate it.

Sales as a performance art

Everything we do is influenced by our perception of our own character and then even further to our perception of other people’s perception of us. That is why performing is crucial in sales, and with the right tools, you can even use it to become more successful.

Taking chances and exploring the art of sales as a performance art allows you to focus on just that and thus takes your mind off of fear. That’s how you get fear to take a nap by truly understanding it and seeing its roots.

When going into a meeting, try to focus on how you’re going to use your voice and how you’re going to express yourself; ask yourself what words you will choose and how much empathy you’re capable of. That focus will bring you into the moment and enable you to perform and be artistic, creative and expressive.

Sales can be such an adventure – you’re not managed in the same way as in other professions. You’re kind of let loose into the marketplace and you live one conversation at a time, one interaction at a time, and you get to shape the scripts that you use. You get to adapt and improvise, and that’s exactly what makes sales a performance art; anytime you’re involved in something that has an artistic component, a nuance, an expression, it’s almost limitless what you can learn. You can explore, change, and grow, and it’s all about playing with your persona. There are a lot of exercises that you can do: study broadcasters, look at the ones you like and don’t like, who are they, how do they convey who they are immediately, what is their vocal tone, their choice of language, and so forth. Tom’s advice is to go ahead and watch a bunch of them in order to get that deeply rooted understanding of sales as a performance art.

Sales expressions

But how can sales leaders become more successful by being aware of sales expressions? First of all, it’s important to understand that we’re all making choices all the time, whether we realize it or not. If you practice enough and work actively with sales expressions, you can get to a point where it comes naturally to a fault to speak at a certain pace and with a certain intonation.

For instance, if you’re talking to a CEO who’s under tremendous pressure and just wants the facts, you need the ability to pivot how you project yourself by making choices that make him view you as credible and someone he can rely on. Once you make those choices, your intentions and objectives are all the language of the actor you then put into play.

Imagine yourself with an inner corporation. What you do is you take the pieces of yourself and create an infrastructure so you’re organized, in the same way you would organize your desk or your computer. Imagine the way documents are filed, emails are red flagged, and then you create the CEO: the vision. Then you create the part that is the ensemble: all the different characters and parts of yourself that you can perform. Now you have the socially conscious part of yourself: the chief consciousness officer, the marketing department, etc., and all of these are interacting on some level. After a period of time you can do it without thinking – you can literally write those parts out and make decisions and dialogues between the parts of the self before you go into a meeting or while you’re managing a process.

Ready to start taking advantage of sales enablement technologies like account-based selling? Ramp up with ARPEDIO’s account-based selling platform. 


There’s a lot to be said for promoting yourself – one thing is for sure: there’s an art to it, and you have to do it in a way that fits your personality. Having a sense of humor about yourself and having empathy for yourself is very critical in overcoming fear – you can’t shame yourself. Developing personal relationships and getting the trust of that individual is key. Let them know you care, and in return they will allow you as the sales leader to really know them. And once you know the person you’re leading, you are able to understand what they need in order to get them focused on the mutual goal, so you can fear less – and sell more.

A huge thanks to Tom for engaging in our LinkedIn Live in a thought-provoking and entertaining way, while sharing his knowledge and experiences. If you’re interested in watching or re-watching the session, you can find it here:

 Maximilian Opp, Head of Sales International

Maximilian Opp, Head of Sales International

+45 53 50 78 33
[email protected]

Follow us on LinkedIn to get all the newest perspectives and insights around strategic relationship management and sales innovation.

 Maximilian Opp, Head of Sales International

Maximilian Opp, Head of Sales International

+45 53 50 78 33
[email protected]

Follow us on LinkedIn to get all the newest perspectives and insights around strategic relationship management and sales innovation.

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