How Self-Doubt Can Limit Your Potential in Sales

It’s common that the biggest challenge a sales person has is with themselves. Often our biggest demons don’t sit on the outside, they lie within. Our nemesis isn’t the prospect on the other side of the phone or the meeting table. Our nemesis is our own self-doubt. It’s that nagging voice in the back of your mind which tells you that you’re not good enough, or you’re going to make a mistake or you’re out of your depth and soon you’ll be found out. Self-doubt can spread inside our mind in the same way as rot does on untreated wood, if left to fester in ones mind it can become debilitating.


We have seen this within every single business we have worked with. Some individuals suffer worse than others, but in most cases, every person has at some time had some form of self-doubt. I can recall working with a salesman recently and his mind was riddled with self-doubt. So much so that it crippled him from doing his job effectively. He was overpowered with a negative outlook on both his abilities and ambition, all due to self-doubt. This encouraged me to write this article, as I’m certain there are many others out there suffering from the exact same.

We have seen that there are two main causes of Self-doubt, those being:

  1. Weaknesses – the individual lacks skill sets in certain areas and consequentially has a low level of confidence.
  2. Bad experiences – often someone has been hurt by something and in true fight or flight fashion they want to avoiding repeating that experience.


Commonly a bad experience stems from an inherent weakness in an individual. It’s very rare that someone has a bad experience from something which is their strength that causes them to have self-doubt.


So the point we really need to address is weaknesses. The truth of the matter is that we all have weaknesses and we all have strengths. Now wherever possible we should be leveraging those strengths. But if you find that your success is limited by your weaknesses then you must make a decision. Either you face your weaknesses head on, or you accept mediocrity.


What’s important to remember is that nobody ever became an expert at anything instantly, every single person walking on this planet has made mistakes or had wrong turns in pursuit of their goals. Think of Thomas Edison and his famous quote:


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison


Lionel Messi didn’t became a world class footballer overnight, Richard Branson wasn’t born a serial entrepreneur, Robert De Niro wasn’t an Oscar winning actor without practice. The story is the same for every living soul on this earth, if we want to be an expert at anything we have to invest the time.


One of my favourite books of all time is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers where he explains how it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything and we believe that to be the gospel truth too. So if you have any areas of weakness, the truth is that you haven’t yet put in the work to turn that weakness into a strength.


We are avid believers that success is made in the shadows. The small victories behind closed doors. The little things that accumulate over time bit by bit which fill you with more confidence and self-esteem.


Cold calling is the best example in sales where we commonly see self-doubt. Most sales people categorically say “I’m no good at it!” Well experience will help you grow those skills and change that feeling of self-doubt. Every failure, rejection or fob off is a learning experience. The more exposure we have to anything the better we become at it, whether that be sports, learning a language, music or sales interactions.


Slowly we’ll notice a conversation that goes down well, then a couple of calls, then days or weeks of successful cold calling. Consistent exposure matched with a desire to improve transforms a weakness into a strength. Stretching yourself to venture into those areas which are uncomfortable or the unknown and investing your time in conscious improvement of your acumen in said area.


So what’s our advice when it comes to self-doubt? Go to the route cause, find the weakness which is causing the self-doubt. Just remember that we all have weaknesses and we all have to start from somewhere. That which differentiates those whom will be average and those whom will be successful is acting upon their weakness and striving to turn them into their strengths. Recognising that their skill sets in a certain area are bringing them down and consequentially aspiring to improve in that area.


The fear is that self-doubt, if left to fester can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We tell ourselves that we are bad at something so we openly avoid doing it or we justify our self-doubt with past bad experiences to back up that self-doubt. Don’t let this be the case. If you do anything after reading this article it should be:

  • Identify your weaknesses
  • Attack them head on with regular exposure
  • Focus on improving our acumen and convert those weaknesses into strengths


Most of all, believe in your abilities!

Remember that

  • Consistent exposure matched with a desire to improve transforms a weakness into a strength


If you need any further help on this or any other topic then please do get in touch with me directly on LinkedIn. 

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