06 June 2019

A zero. A failure.

That was the result of my first pilot run. The launch of my company. After spending few months building an “order on your phone” solution and closing a customer, we had our big day, of getting the product in front of customers. On the first day where our product would be in front users, we got a grand total of zero orders.

When the day was over, I had this sinking feeling, of a big failure. What am I doing, am I wasting my time with this? I’m definitely doing it wrong.

“Well, did you talk to the users in the line?” the questions came. “Uh, no”, I replied. Guilty. See… I’ve observed the users to learn from them, but didn’t bother to ASK them.

I’ve been a nerd. A math nerd and computer programmer, and approaching people was scary for me. It made me feel awkward. And this awkwardness is a problem if I’m trying to “sell” the product I’m building.

I realized I have “sales anxiety” - it’s like social anxiety, but for approaching strangers with a request - in this case, it’s a request to try our product. I myself have been suspicious of people approaching me with deals or promotions or offers. Most of the time it’s not worth it. Sometimes there is a catch. Sometimes I feel slightly annoyed when someone disrupts me, and try to “sell” me something.

So having found myself on the other side, as the approacher, I felt guilt. I didn’t want to see myself as someone who disrupts others for their shitty promotion. Even though, on the other hand, I felt that my product is beneficial and relevant, and it is OK to approach people with relevant recommendations, I couldn’t disentangle the two feelings. Hence the anxiety.

But once it become so clear that I’m failing at talking to customers, I realized I have a problem. I named the problem “sales anxiety”. Thus, by naming it I had built a tool to overcome it. On our next pilot runs I again felt that uneasiness when approaching users. But then I thought “Hey, it’s the sales anxiety, it’s OK, relax.” And I felt braver. And that allowed me to go on talk to them, understand what they liked and what they didn’t like about the product, and change it.

Giving my feeling a name didn’t make it less scary, yet it made it more approachable.

And while I still feel sales anxiety, as it would take a long time to rewire the inner workings of my mind, I can now soothe myself by pointing to it, and distancing myself from it - hey, it’s just the sales anxiety, it’s OK, now go talk to that customer.

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