The Importance of Breaking Down Barriers in Sales

Ask the Experts

While recently speaking with members of a women’s business association, I was asked about ways to break down the barriers faced by female sales professionals. My answer: Regardless of gender, a critical step is recognizing that how we perceive ourselves before, during and after sales conversations always will have the most dramatic impact on our ability to break down barriers.

Here are three you may have encountered.

Barrier 1: You

An enormous barrier to success is our lack of confidence—the continuous internal questioning of our ability to deal effectively with people and situations. While everyone’s confidence ebbs and flows over time, its absence often stops us from taking risks and diminishes our personal presence and sales success.

Why does this happen? Our lack of confidence has many contributors, including what we were told was right or wrong as a child, and what was reinforced through social norms and messages. We carry certain unhelpful assumptions into our sales cal. For instance, we think “accommodating the buyer” means “being good,” and we believe it is important to be considered “good” because that is what parents and/or society have been telling us to be: “good” meaning “compliant.”

Our lack of confidence in ourselves shows up in our voice, posture and body signals, and in our behavior and choices during the sales call.

The solution to these problems? Get rid of your head trash. Yes, that is a lifelong process but in sales (as in most areas of your life), the battle for your attitude is fought between your ears.

Barrier 2: No selling system or process

Many sales professionals lose simply because they don’t follow a proven, repeatable process for meetings. Specifically, they lack a process for establishing relationships, qualifying and closing. Instead of focusing on what is proved to work in these areas, they focus on “relationship building” (i.e., free consulting), then hope and pray someone will want to buy. They schedule meetings, but their purpose and content are unclear. They leave thinking they had a great meeting but are perplexed about what’s next. When it’s time to close the deal, they hear “We need to think it over.” Forever.

Yes, relationship-building is important; we won’t get far without it. However, if we are to be taken seriously and demonstrate we really do mean business, we need to have a selling process that helps us move from rapport-building to close. It must be the foundation of all selling conversations. If it is, the process shortens our selling cycle, increases average deal size, and—as if that weren’t enough—works wonders in building confidence.

Barrier 3: Going it alone

Sales can be a lonely profession, and a lot of days can be spent “flying solo.” Also, many self-perceived sales virtuosos are reluctant to admit vulnerability to others. Add it up, and you can find yourself looking at a pretty stressful career path. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The most successful sales professionals recognize what can be gained by sharing how they feel, their fears and what they’ve been going through. By creating a network of like-minded, noncompetitive sales professionals, many have discovered that they are not alone. They have a coach, a support group and people who will listen, challenge and encourage them. They might also become mentors to others who are less experienced or confident. These professionals often come to realize that they have great wisdom and experiences to share, and a deep sense of fulfillment comes from having a positive impact on another young professional’s life.

With a confident attitude, a strong selling system that plays to our strengths, and an environment of support, you really can break through the barriers and beat the odds by assuming your rightful place as a professional, with no apologies offered or needed.

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or

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