I’ll admit it, I’m afraid of heights. I’m one of those people who can become paralyzed at a certain height, but I’m also convinced that I could overcome this phobia. In college, I ran my own painting company in the summer to help cover school expenses. Back then, I’d climb 40-foot ladders and stretch well beyond that last rung, but now…not so much.

Ironically, if you place an eight-foot 2 x 4 on the floor you could easily balance and walk across it. But if that same 2 x 4 is suspended 200 feet in the air, what happens? Can you still walk across it or are you paralyzed?

The skills you need to walk across a ground-laying 2 x 4 are the same it takes to walk across the same board at 200 feet. The difference is your comfort zone. Comfort zones involve contemplating an action and assessing the risk associated with that action. Your ability to walk across the 2 x 4 hasn’t changed, but your risk perception has changed.

I see a lot of this in sales. Last year, the level of decision-maker you called on, the questions you asked, and the consistency of your sales process represent walking the ground-laying 2 x 4. This year, you want better sales results, but you’re only used to walking the 2 x 4 on the ground. To compete in the marketplace, you’ll need to walk the 2 x 4 at 200 feet. The abilities and skills that you need to compete are the same ones that you already possess, but you might have to reach outside your comfort zone – call a little higher in the decision-making ladder, or ask tougher, more provoking questions. Which option will you focus on, and what is the risk in taking this new action or in the potential new results you’ll create?

For most of us, moving from walking that 2 x 4 on ground level to 200 feet is too overwhelming and would just paralyze us. But the solution is simple. If you raise the beam gradually and continue higher and higher with comfort, you will eventually make progress.

Two Questions to Shift Your Focus Away from Self-Doubt

The following questions will act as a catalyst for using your existing skill set to take new action in this changing business environment.

  1. You never doubt your weakness, so why do you always doubt your strengths
    1. “I’ve never called on that level of decision-maker before. I’ve never asked that question – what if I don’t ask it the right way or don’t know how to follow up?”
    2.  “I’ve never said that to a decision-maker – what if I upset him or her?
    3.  Stop focusing more on what you haven’t done, don’t do or have convinced yourself that you can’t do. Focus on the skill of walking across the 2 x 4 at 200 feet, and not on the “what if” of falling.
  2. How many times have you preemptively grappled with outcomes and circumstances that don’t yet exist?
    1. “What if they say ‘No’?”
    2. “What if I make a fool of myself?”
    3. “What if it doesn’t work?”

These questions are the equivalent of asking yourself “What if I fall?” In sales, staring at the phone, hesitating to approach someone at a networking event, or not asking important questions in a prospect meeting and later kicking yourself for it in the parking lot, are all examples of negativity and self-doubt. I know you do these things to protect yourself. It’s your protective default. I can understand it at 200 feet, but in terms of learning and applying sales skills, the only one holding you back is you.

In sales, when you apply new skills that push you outside your comfort zone, you take that critical, important step forward. When you stop allowing situations outside your comfort zone to control your mind and make you doubt your strengths and abilities, you’ll be ready to make that 200-foot walk and generate the sales results you want.