2 Challenges to Sales Success That Are Actually Emotional Barriers

BY Jessica Helinski
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When discussing challenges to sales success, advice often focuses on pivoting to uncover reasons why the buyer rejected the solution. But, what if the buyer isn’t in the proper state of mind to pivot efficiently? That’s the question J.C. McKisssen introduces in an article for LinkedIn

What if challenges to sales success are emotional barriers?

Most sales advice assumes the seller is mentally prepared for the hard parts of the job and that overcoming objections and rejection is simply a matter of shifting tactics,” McKissen writes. “However, mental and emotional tendencies that serve as barriers to our success can make working in sales a lot harder than it looks – and it already looks pretty hard.”

It’s easy, especially in sales, to get wrapped up in your own head. This impedes the ability to overcome obstacles and be resilient. McKissen shares a few very common “barriers” that can limit sellers and prevent them from readjusting their sails after a setback. His advice focuses on how sellers can identify these challenges and adapt.

Identifying the wrong benchmark

Even though we know we shouldn’t, comparing ourselves to others is easy to do. One of the biggest challenges to sales success involves identifying and comparing oneself to a human benchmark. But this other person may not be viewed through a realistic lens, which causes the seller to lose perspective. McKissen cites the “Halo Effect,” which describes the tendency to conflate a positive trait with another. In other words, it can lead a seller to believe if a fellow rep lands a big deal, then their sales strategy is the only way to succeed and must be emulated exactly. 

But this is faulty thinking and as McKissen notes, creates a major emotional barrier. “The seller you’re placing a halo on may have been in the right place at the right time, have a prior professional relationship with their buyer, or could be the beneficiary of a host of factors that aren’t clear to anyone on the outside of the deal they just signed,” he writes. By comparing yourself to someone in this way, you create an unhealthy, and often unattainable, expectation. 

Instead, look to yourself as a benchmark. He suggests looking at your past self, as well as imagining your future self. What were some of your biggest wins and accomplishments? What do you hope to be your future successes? Rather than looking to others, use these as your benchmark for how you want to sell. 


Another challenge to sales success is being a people pleaser, which can be tricky to avoid as a seller. Reps want to make others happy, whether it’s a prospect, a current client, a manager, or a fellow team member. There’s a fine line between providing satisfaction and having an emotional need to please others at all times. 

It can also be hard to tell when you cross that line. According to Salesman​.com, the following are common people-​pleasing behaviors:

  • Staying late to finish up a project their superior should have been handling themselves.
  • Sticking around with bad clients because they’re afraid of cutting them loose.
  • Avoiding conflict (both with buyers and colleagues).
  • Being willing to pass on potential clients to other sales reps.
  • Not having healthy boundaries. 

Also, as McKissen points out, you lose sight of what selling should be about: providing value. “When sellers focus on making people happy, they lose focus on what really gets a deal done: showing value,” he explains. And buyers need sellers, which, he notes, is sometimes “all about telling the buyer what they need to hear, rather than focusing on pleasing them.”

To overcome this common barrier, listen to this CredTalk minicast from SalesFuel. It discusses how sellers can walk that line between offering value and boosting others’ happiness and avoiding overdoing it. 

While we often get advice for overcoming challenges to sales success, rarely does it tackle the emotional barriers that sellers sometimes face. Consider if any of these resonate, and if they do, it’s time to focus inward. You’ll be a stronger seller, both mentally and emotionally, and you’ll be more resilient and adaptable.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio