Part 1 of 4 of Embracing My Failures: The Fear of Selling


The theme of this month’s blog posts are centered around embracing my failures in running a business. This is something we don’t talk enough about openly, and my hope is that in sharing some of my own failures, it will help you have more room to acknowledge and share your own, so that we can all continue to learn and grow from each other’s experiences. 

Failure gets a bad rap. So often, I have made it mean that I am permanently flawed and that it’s something I need to hide. Oh - and I’m the only one that does it. Yet from my own experience in running a business and also in life, my failures have taught me more about myself than anything else. I’ve grown over time when I can embrace my failures and see the lessons and support that’s available to me.

I started my first business as a psychotherapist in private practice after having worked with several agencies. I was excited to branch out on my own, create my own brand and to really see if I could make it. I looked presentable, printed out my brochures, and gave a few out, waiting for the phone to start ringing off the hook.

Nothing happened. For months. 

I was discouraged and was easily spending more money than I was making, hoping that people would find out about me because I did good work. 

And I’ll never forget what one of my mentors said to me, “Rick, do you know how conceited it is to think you can just hang up your shingle and expect everyone to come knocking on your door?”

I looked at him with big eyes as I wasn’t feeling conceited. I just had no clue what to do. And as I let his question land in me, I got his point. 

We dug deeper and found that my failure to grow a practice had to do with my fear of selling. I told him that I didn’t want to be salesy and hawk my services. And underneath this, I was just uncomfortable as no one ever showed me how to talk about myself and my services in an effective way.

One of the blind spots of most graduate programs, whether you are a doctor, lawyer, therapist, architect, etc. is that they don’t teach you how to run the business of your occupation. They prepare you for the technical craft, but not how to run a business that does that technical craft. And my experience was the same.  

My mentor gave me a reframe that changed my life. He said, “It’s not about selling yourself. It’s about making yourself visible to the community. And it’s arrogant if you just think you can sit back and expect people to simply knock on your door because you are here.”

This was the message that I needed to hear. I didn’t realize that I had some sort of entitlement going on, which really just covered over my fear of talking about myself, my services, and how I could help people. 

That changed how I thought about sales in-general and I realized I needed to make myself more visible to my target market so that they could at least choose whether to work with me or not. 

Embracing my fears around selling and marketing my services changed everything and soon after, my practice grew and I became profitable for the first time. This lesson still stays with me today as I have learned that sales is about building relationships, and there is no failure in learning how to get better at that each day.

Stay tuned for the rest of our series as we’ll explore embracing failures. In the meantime, you can view part one of the series via my Facebook. For more information on how to turn your biggest breakdowns into breakthroughs, contact us at [email protected].