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  • Writer's pictureBrett Zalaski

What Brett Zalaski Has Feared

Over 800 people have wrote in to That's crazy. What's been even more powerful than the numbers is how open so many of those have been about what holds them back in sales. And while there have been so many different questions...the vast majority of them cover up one major challenge; fear.

On Thursday we'll cover what some of those fears are. But if we're going to be talking about the fears of #sportsbiz sales's important that I come clean with all of you about the things I've feared in my life and my career...and hopefully you can see yourself in some of these. And you can use these words to push yourself through them.

As a Young Professional - The fear of doing I try to do everything...and end up doing nothing: The first job I had out of college was as the Director of National Sportsmanship Day for the Institute for International Sport. To say I was in over my head was an understatement. I didn't know how to be a professional, much less actually run anything. So I spent every day killing myself to try and accomplish everything at once. And I accomplished absolutely nothing in the process. I learned that I needed to make priorities. Focus on what was the most important and let the chips fall from there. Learning prioritization and efficiency here would become critical to my future sales success.

As a Young Salesperson - The fear of rejection: Let's be honest...I sucked in my first 3-4 months in sales. Like, if there were 700 people doing my job at CEB, I was like 694th after that time bad. I wasn't working hard enough period, and I certainly wasn't working hard on my sales game. I was blaming everything else but myself...and all that manifested out of one place. I was absolutely fucking terrified of hearing someone say 'no' to me. So I used it as a reason to not make phone calls. To not try to get better. To blame everything else. Etc. etc. etc. Once I hit rock bottom at CEB, and I realized there was no way out of my horrible results except getting more 'no's', it was amazing how everything fell into place. I worked harder. I made myself a better salesperson. I accepted responsibility for my actions. Etc. etc. etc. I still didn't like getting a 'no'...but I came to understand it as part of my process.

As a Mature Salesperson - The fear of impossible expectations: After those first few months at CEB, I kicked ass. Then I got promoted to traveling around the country selling the CEB research. And, in my first month, I tore it up. I led the company in meetings scheduled and attended, and I hit my first quarter goal in my first month. Expectations on me were through the roof. And then my success absolutely FROZE me. What if I couldn't keep up that pace? How would people respond if I didn't do this every month? What if I wasn't this good? I've been very open about my challenges with anxiety, and this is one place I know that they absolutely overtook me. I was frozen...for months...and negative results followed. The one thing I learned from this is the importance of consistent action in sales. It's hard to get caught up in results when you're constantly moving. It's hard to be anxious if you don't give yourself time to be anxious. Activity produces sales and minimizes anxiety. Standing around and only thinking doesn't produce shit and makes anyone's anxiety levels go through the roof. Activity mitigates all.

As a Sales Manager - The fear of letting people down: One of my major flaws as a young sales manager (at the Boston Blazers) was that I was so scared that everyone I hired wouldn't work out that I tried to turn them all into mini-Brett's. Big Brett (I'm 5'7" so I've never actually been called that) was pretty good at sales, so I just needed to make everyone else like that. Flawless logic, right? Needless to say that worked...poorly. And while I watched our sales results stagnate, my first thought was that I was letting all of the reps I had hired down. And I was was absolutely my fault. But not in the way I was thinking. First off, it's critical to understand that some people are just going to suck at sales. And no matter how much people who are good at sales like the people who are bad as sales as humans, they don't want to work alongside them, too. So I needed to stop trying to save everyone...I just needed to spend my time with those who deserved it. Second, every human is different. So assuming all people sell the same way is idiotic. Everyone has an individual sales style that works for my job was to help them identify what that style was, and work to pull it out of them. We increased our sales every game from game #2, on...and ended the year with the best non-leveraged start in the history of the league at the time. Imagined if I had learned that earlier?

As a Senior Executive - The fear of asking for help: When I got to the Houston Dynamo I was coming off successive successes with the Columbus Crew and starting my own business. And I was in my first senior executive role. And the hope was that I would be able to ignite an attendance growth. And from the minute I stepped into the doors, I put the burden of those expectations (whether they were real or not) on MY shoulders. Learning to be collaborative while at the Crew had been a huge key to our success. And, while there were tremendous gains I was very proud of at the Dynamo, I spent WAY too much time trying to solve everything myself. I didn't want to seem indecisive or not I didn't ask for help. My pride got in the way of understanding I was a first time senior executive, and I needed the resources around me to help my sales team...and, more importantly, the organization, be successful.

These are a few examples of many fears I've had...and hopefully those who can see themselves in those places can use this as a starting point to pick themselves out of it. We'll tackle many other fears on Thursday, but the quote on the right is critical to understand why fear is so devastating.

Fear keeps you from fighting your way out of your struggles. Fear keeps you from flying to the successes you deserve. It is the mindset that crushes more salespeople than anything else. Anyone can be good at sales. Fear of a million different things is why not everyone is. You will have a ton of different things you fear, but you're ability to see them, attack them, and push past them will allows help you lead yourself to extreme success. So let's spend this week helping you get there!

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