Bill Hellkamp: Finding Your Spark of Courage

bill hellkampProfessional Sales Association Presentation on December 2, 2016

Take Aways
“Practice is the number-one thing that most sales people don’t do.”

“You can’t do something you fear every once in a while. You must make a plan to do it every day until it becomes easy to do.”

“Start small to gain confidence.”

“You will become like the people you associate with.”

“Professionals use coaches and you should, too. You cannot see the mistakes you are making. You are blinded by misconceptions about yourself and what it takes to be successful.”

“Salespeople understand it’s a numbers game. Whatever the numbers are for you, you need to know that every failure gets you closer to a success, and every ‘no’ gets you closer to a ‘yes.’”

Quotes by Others

“Fear defeats more than any other one thing in the world.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”—Jack Canfield

“The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” Buddha

Recommended Reading

“As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen

“How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” by Frank Bettger

“How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie


It was the spring of 1994 and I had left my job at a nationally known training organization to strike out on my own as an independent consultant. I was excited about what I had to offer to the marketplace because I knew it was an effective approach. I was confident in my abilities to deliver the material and to customize the information to meet their specific needs.

Anyway, I got a referral from a friend to call a sales director at a company in St. Paul. I knew it was a good opportunity, but boy was I scared. You see, I used to hate to make prospecting calls (I could have really used Steve’s help back then!). I can remember putting that lead aside about a hundred times, always for the stupidest reasons. You know what I mean: “It’s too early in the day,” or “It’s too close to lunch,” or “I shouldn’t call on a Monday (or a Friday, or a Wednesday!)” And the longer I waited the staler the lead got. It got so stale that I think it actually started to stink up my office! I tried to hide it under other paperwork but it kept working its way to the top of the pile – almost like it was alive and purposely trying to haunt me. And you wouldn’t believe what my self-talk sounded like (well I bet some of you have done this to yourselves). “Why would he talk to you? You’re a nobody!” “Why did you think you could ever get a business off the ground?” “I bet he gets calls all day long from REAL training companies – and he blows them off too.” “I bet he’s a no-good SOB and he’ll yell at me. Maybe I should call him tomorrow!” And back the note would go under the pile of papers.

I was able to put off calling for a few weeks until I was speaking with the friend who had given me the referral and he asked me if I had gotten hold of the guy yet. I had to admit I hadn’t. My friend said, “What’s wrong with you? Give the guy a call. He’s a great guy and I know he will talk to you. Make the call!” Well that did it. As soon as I hung up with my friend, I grabbed the phone and dialed. I didn’t think about it, I didn’t rationalize; I just called him. After a couple of rings, he picked up the phone. Then I had a whole new set of fears because I wasn’t quite sure I knew what I wanted to say….

Have any of you had to deal with that kind of fear? The kind that keeps you from accomplishing things that are important to you and to your future?

Why Haven’t We Outgrown Some of the Fears We Grew Up With?

  • Been able to avoid facing them
  • Don’t know how to overcome them
  • Haven’t really tried to deal with them
  • Gotten used to having them
  • Fear of failure

What Are We Afraid Of? What Are the Top Five Fears in the Room?

  • RejectionEmbarrassment
  • Failure
  • Success
  • Criticism

According to Listverse, these are the top-ten fears, ranked from 10 to 1:

Loss of freedom, the unknown, pain, disappointment, misery, ridicule, loneliness, rejection, death, failure

Why Are We Afraid?
It’s in our nature to be afraid.

  • Self-Preservation – Humans survived by being fearful about their surroundings. They learned what they could eat and what would eat them. They were afraid of the dark and things that go bump in the night, animals bigger than them or ones that were aggressive. Many of the fears we now have come from a desire to protect ourselves.
  • Nature – Then there are those of us who by our very nature are more timid. Sometimes this has been modified or overcome by adulthood.
  • Family – In normal situations, our families want us to succeed in life, but sometimes in their concern for our well-being, they can lead us into more fear. One thing my wife and I have noticed is how it seems more difficult to engage people in conversation. This seems especially true with those from age 35 and younger. It’s not just the phone thing; it seems to be an inability to make eye contact. Could it be because so many have been told, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Now, even as adults, younger people are fearful of other people. Or I even dislike the admonition to, “Be careful!” Are we still so careful that we avoid dealing with difficult situations?
  • School and Friends – I heard a speaker talking about our school system and he said, “For the first five years of our lives we’re told to walk, walk, walk and talk, talk, talk. Then for the next 12 years we are told to sit down and shut up!” We also learn not to make a mistake or it will go on our permanent record. We are encouraged to memorize and regurgitate rather than to think.

When we’re in high school, our friends aren’t known for encouraging us to be different. It’s safer to run with the pack. At work, the level of fear can really depend on who your boss is. Does he or she help you to be more courageous—or more fearful? Are you warned not to rock the boat, or told, “That’s not the way we do things here!”? When you can’t afford to lose a job, it’s hard to be courageous.

A Fearful Mindset

  • Cautious – Took our Mom’s advice to heart and won’t try new things.
  • Worried – Always looking at the worst possible result. Example: Eeyore, the character in the children’s book “Winnie the Pooh.”
  • Churning – Remembering every negative thing that ever happened and are influenced by it.
  • Maintaining (not losing) – To attempt something is to risk losing even more than is gained. Example: Karl Wallenda, the famous German-American high-wire artist. It is said that his wife knew something would go wrong on her husband’s last walk because he talked about not falling instead of talking about successfully crossing the wire stretched 121 feet above the pavement. Wallenda did fall to his death at age 73 in 1978 while attempting a crossing between two towers of a ten-story hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • Judgmental – Toward others and their attempts to prosper or develop. “You can’t do that!”
  • “Me” Focused – Every decision, every event is thought of in terms of how it will affect me.

Courageous Mindset

  • Optimistic – Believe that things are destined to go well.
  • Trusting – Of other people and the world.
  • Forgetful – Bad events and outcomes. Learn from them and move on.
  • Growing – Always looking to learn, personal development, big library.
  • Encouraging – They wish others to enjoy success and so encourage them to try.
  • Other Focused – Thinking about how others might benefit from our support.

It’s All in Your Mind

To control fear you must control your mind – the six inches between your ears.

James Allen, author of “As a Man Thinketh.” “A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed-seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

Cycle of Self Development

The Cycle of Development is in the center of four factors: attitude, knowledge, practice, and skills. Of those, practice is the number-one thing that most sales people don’t do! Through practice, our skills improve, thus improving our attitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Fear defeats more than any other one thing in the world.”

What Are Salespeople Afraid Of?

Attendees at each table discussed the five activities sales people fear doing, coming up with this list: cold calling, following up, asking for the sale, overcoming objections, talking about pricing, rejection, silence, reaching decision makers, criticism, networking, dealing with difficult people, paperwork, losing control.

“Fear defeats more than any other one thing in the world.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Practical Ways to Develop Courage

Practice in a Safe Environment

  • We need a safe place where we can try new ideas and techniques without getting damaged and with the help of someone who is knowledgeable and experienced.
  • Example: My client worked at heights so I took training and wore a harness in order to experience my client’s environment and build trust and respect with my client.

Be Consistent in Your Execution

  • You can’t do something you fear every once in a while. You must make a plan to do it every day until it becomes easy to do. Example: Making phone calls. Do it every day. Warm up for making cold calls by calling a client.

Example: Actor and martial artist Bruce Lee once remarked that the man he feared most was the one who practiced one kick 10,000 times, not the one who practiced 10,000 kicks once.

Start Small to Gain Confidence

  • Don’t start with contacting the president of General Mills. Practice on smaller opportunities to flush out the jitters. Once you feel more confident, move up the difficulty scale.

Associate with Courageous People

  • You will become like the people you associate with. It is one of the most powerful indicators of achievement. If you spend time with fearful-minded people, you will become fearful. As parents, aren’t you concerned about who your child is hanging with? Why? Because you know how they can be affected by bad associations. So take control of your own life the same way!

I acknowledge that I have learned a lot by associating with the competent members of Professional Sales Association and the Society of Marketing Executives.

Have a Coach or Mentor

  • Jason Day, sixth-ranked golfer in the world and earning over $8 million in 2016, credits his coach Colin Swatton for his success. Swatton has been with Day since age 12 when Day’s father died of cancer. Swatton is Day’s encourager and disciplinarian, friend, teacher, and father figure. Day says, “He’s been there for me since I was twelve and a half years old. I mean, he’s taken me from a kid that was getting in fights at home and getting drunk at 12 and not heading in the right direction, to being a major champion. And there’s not many coaches that can say that in many sports. So, he means the world to me. I love him to death.”
  • Professionals use coaches and you should, too. You cannot see the mistakes you are making. You are blinded by misconceptions about yourself and what it takes to be successful. And for most of us, we lie to ourselves about what we are accomplishing and how consistent our work habits are.
  • Your boss is not always a great coach. You will lie to him or her even more than you will lie to yourself – because your job is at stake! Plus your sales manager has their own pressures and issues. For one thing, they are spending most of their time with the bottom 60% of their sales team, trying to make them successful.

The Mental Game – Remember the Vision

  • Think about why you are doing what you are doing. For me, it was my family. I didn’t want to be gone all the time. Having my own company would allow me to work from home and be available for them.
  • Why are you going to push through the walls of fear that you face? It could be lifestyle or security, a cabin up north or private school for your kids. Focus on that result when you face fear.

Jack Canfield said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

Understand the Numbers

  • Salespeople understand it’s a numbers game. Talk to x amount of prospects to have y appointments to close z deals. Whatever those numbers are for you, you need to know that every failure gets you closer to a success, and every “no” gets you closer to a “yes.”
  • In the book “I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling,” Frank Bettger talks about how important this concept was for him. “I had made 1,849 calls. Out of these calls, I had interviewed 828 people, closed 65 sales, and my commission amounted to $4,251.82. How much was each call worth? I figured it out. Each call I made netted me $2.30. Think of it! One year previously I had been so discouraged that I resigned. Now, every call I made, regardless of whether I saw the man or not, put $2.30 down in my pocket.”

Dwell on the Successes

  • Remember the Fearful vs. the Courageous Mind? Well the fearful mind likes to chew on failures and problems. The courageous mind learns and moves on. But it will also continue to replay the past successes rather than past failures.
  • Your mind is like a DVR, recording every event in your life for later playback. But you get to choose which videos you watch and which ones get pushed to the back.

“The fears we don’t face are our limitations.” – Robin Sharma

Rationalize the Fear

  • In the book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” Dale Carnegie advises us to “Ask yourself, what is the worst that can happen?” So if we look at our fears of things like rejection and negativity, ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen?”
  • When your prospect says “no,” it is not, “No, and I hate your face!” It’s just “No, I’m not interested.” Or, “No, I’m too busy now.”
  • But we build it up like a huge thing. What is more important, never taking a bad NO or giving your family a great life? If you think about it rationally, your family and success is much more important.

“It does not bother the wolf how many sheep there are.” Virgil


Guard the Input

  • Earlier we talked about association. This is an important and powerful way to guard the input. We can be influenced by those around us, both to do right or to do wrong. As you are trying to do new and challenging things, you might find that you have to avoid people – even people who love you – if they are tearing you down.
  • My father-in-law was a great man who had worked his whole career for Caterpillar Tractor, and had done very well for himself. Well, in 10 years of marriage I had four different jobs. Based on his career, he saw me as someone who couldn’t hold a job. I remember when I first started my training business, he was not happy about this new venture when I had two young children and a wife who was working full time. Needless to say, he was not very supportive of this decision and was somewhat vocal about how dumb it was. Because our future was important to us, Kathy and I made a decision not to visit him for a few years until my business was better established. As much as I liked Jack, I just couldn’t afford to deal with his negative input if I was going to have the success I needed.
  • Avoid getting SNIOPed – Susceptible to the Negative Influence of Other People

Believe in the Value

  • If you cannot believe in the value of what you are selling, of what you are bringing to the marketplace, you will not be able to overcome the fears that are keeping you down.
  • Conversely, if you truly believe that you are bringing a unique and important value to the people you are talking to, then you MUST overcome any personal fears, because the objective is too important.

Identify Fears – Make a Plan

What are your fears? What are you losing due to those fears? What strategies would help overcome your fears? Make a two-week plan to get started.

What fears others admitted to having: selling to an unfamiliar industry, losing the sale, losing the client, staying relevant, fear of the second call, not being liked, avoiding being introspective, trying to be perfect, not living up to their potential.

“All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise you something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee

Content supplied by Bill Hellkamp


Edited by Sue Filbin, Smiling Dog Design

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