Working in sales can be rewarding. Sales professionals enjoy high potential salaries, opportunities for personal growth, and the chance to develop in-demand business skills. However, most sales professionals struggle with emotional challenges daily despite a great career outlook. Imposter syndrome in sales is one of the many challenges that can lead salespeople to doubt their skills.
If you have worked in sales, you might have felt under-confident about your skills even after successfully closing a deal. Imposter syndrome can hamper your productivity and prevent you from progressing in your career. Keep reading this article to know more about this phenomenon and learn how to excel in your career by overcoming imposter syndrome in sales. But first, what is imposter syndrome?
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome, also known as the impostor phenomenon, is loosely defined as feelings of self-doubt and poor-self confidence. People who suffer from it experience a prolonged sense that they are a fraud. Many also believe that luck is the primary driver behind their success and that their skills played no role in it. Time Magazine reports that these feelings are common in high-performing individuals who struggle to accept their achievements.
Anyone can suffer from imposter syndrome, from doctors and marketing executives to sales professionals. Even those with highly lucrative careers may feel like they’re an imposter. It can happen at any time. These feelings can affect all aspects of life, prevent you from taking advantage of awesome opportunities, and even lead to anxiety and depression.
Is Imposter Syndrome Common in Sales?
Yes, imposter syndrome is common in sales. It is a human phenomenon that can affect anybody. It is common among sales professionals who market high-end products or work in highly-competitive fields, regardless of their sales success. When imposter syndrome plague salespeople, they may feel unworthy of their job.
There’s no specific research on imposter syndrome in sales. However, the International Journal of Behavioral Science estimates 70 percent of people in the US suffer from it. They feel like they’re stealing their wages at some point in life. It often brings a sense of inadequacy or not being up to the mark.
How Imposter Syndrome Affects a Salesperson
Chronic Self-Doubt and Low Self-Esteem
People suffering from imposter syndrome can suffer from chronic self-doubt and low-self esteem. Salespeople can develop a sense of intellectual fraudulence that does not let them celebrate their success. The effects of imposter syndrome on their confidence can hinder their performance, only making the problem worse.
They may question whether or not they’re capable of making a great sale due to a lack of confidence. Furthermore, sales professionals may also refrain from taking on new challenges to avoid criticism and embarrassment.
Sales professionals experiencing imposter syndrome often procrastinate in their work instead of actually doing it. Some sales professionals may leave a proposal for the last minute, while others may not make a call to follow up on their proposed deals. This cycle of procrastination, avoidance of tasks, and stress can become chronic and affect a person’s mental health, as well as their job performance.
Imposter syndrome can lead to analysis paralysis, where people over-analyze or overthink a situation and never make a concrete decision. If sales professionals are selling a product, they may over-think their strategy, which may derail them from their sales target. All aspects of the sales process require careful decision-making, which is difficult for someone struggling with confidence.
Analysis paralysis happens because imposter syndrome reinforces the feeling of incompetence and clouds one’s judgment ability. Sales professionals fear that they may ruin the whole project if they don’t do it perfectly. In addition, they stress about the outcome, which can result in anxiety or depression.
What Causes Imposter Syndrome?
Controlling and overprotective parenting styles, such as pressure to get good grades or lack of approval, can trigger imposter syndrome. Furthermore, early childhood memories of stressful or recurring conflicts and low family support are also major causes of imposter syndrome.
Personality traits play a significant role in triggering imposter syndrome. People with social anxiety, under or over-confidence, and neuroticism are more vulnerable to imposter syndrome. Moreover, an underlying mental illness can also lead to this type of chronic self-doubt and lack of confidence.
Major transitions, such as taking on a new job or being promoted can often make people feel overwhelmed with new responsibilities. New joiners might end up feeling like it was luck that helped them get that job. Experienced sales professionals may attribute their promotion mainly to coincidence or sheer luck. Eventually, the self-doubt creeps in and slowly hampers performance.
What Imposter Syndrome Looks Like in the Workplace
Toxic workplace environments can trigger, sustain, and worsen imposter syndrome in sales reps. Often, those in leadership roles and business owners encourage overwork and perfectionism to get the most out of their employees. However, this can result in unhealthy competition, employee burnout, and imposter syndrome.
Sales leaders, in particular, are infamous for setting unreasonable targets to achieve sales goals. Sales professionals are under immense pressure to achieve these targets and often experience imposter syndrome. Other practices such as institutionalized discrimination, negative criticism, or constantly changing performance metrics can also trigger the syndrome.
Can Imposter Syndrome Be Cured?
No, imposter syndrome doesn’t have a clinical cure, as it is not recognized as a mental illness. However, it is possible to overcome imposter syndrome by changing how you see yourself. The Harvard Business Review suggests taking multiple steps, such as seeking support and visualizing success, to mitigate imposter syndrome. Read on to understand what steps you can take to overcome imposter syndrome.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in Sales
Become Aware of Your Feelings
The first step you should take to overcome the syndrome and grow your sales career is to recognize and accept how you feel. An excellent way to do so is by celebrating every win and making it a habit to write each one down. This way, when you feel bad or have a doubt about your skills, you can look at your journal and get motivated.
Seek Support From Your Senior
You can also talk to your sales leader or someone in the leadership team. Your seniors have more experience, and they can help you overcome imposter syndrome by giving you actionable sales advice. Talking to a sales trainer can also help you break the imposter cycle.
Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
You will have to let go of perfectionism to get rid of imposter syndrome. Try turning the feeling of being a failure into an opportunity to learn and set realistic goals that can motivate you to excel in each part of the sales cycle. Small, achievable goals can help you gain a sense of accomplishment and overcome imposter syndrome.
The last and the most crucial step is to upskill regularly and discover new opportunities to grow further. Upskilling will help you boost confidence and reduce anxiety issues. Not just that, you can learn the most in-demand skills and increase your earning potential. One of the best ways to upskill is to enroll in a coding bootcamp.
How a Coding Bootcamp Can Help You Get Over Imposter Syndrome
Coding bootcamps offer plenty of opportunities for sales professionals looking for a job in tech sales. You can also become a sales engineer, tech sales lead, or digital marketer. These programs can help break the vicious imposter cycle and push people to accomplish their goals.
Can Imposter Syndrome Be a Good Thing?
Yes, imposter syndrome can also benefit you in many ways. While it can shake your confidence, it can also help you grow personally. Keep reading to understand the pros and cons of imposter syndrome.
Why Imposter Syndrome Is Good
- It pushes you to self-assess. Imposter syndrome pushes you to assess your strengths and your weaknesses and drastically change your perspective about your own personality.
- It motivates you to work harder. When you decide to overcome imposter syndrome, you’re actually motivating yourself to get back on your feet and work harder.
- It offers great learning opportunities. It encourages you to constantly upskill yourself and learn the most in-demand skills. You also get a chance to learn specific sales skills that you need to be successful.
Why Imposter Syndrome Is Bad
- It can derail your career trajectory. It can demotivate you enough to hamper your productivity and make you want to quit your job.
- It can shake your confidence. The feeling of self-doubt and low self-esteem can shake your confidence and cloud your decision-making abilities.
- It leads to a negative mindset. When you have imposter syndrome, you either underestimate or overestimate yourself, either of which can negatively affect your productivity.
Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Hold You Back
If you have imposter syndrome, you’re not alone. Around one-third of young people suffer from it. That said, overcoming imposter syndrome can leave you with many life lessons that will also help you grow later in your career. Don’t let imposter syndrome stop you from achieving your dreams. You’ve already taken the first step. You can and will win this battle.
Imposter Syndrome in Sales FAQ
No, imposter syndrome is not yet recognized as a mental illness. However, it can happen to someone who’s suffering from mental illness. Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which a person may feel like a fraud. If left unchecked, it can lead to depression and anxiety.
You can reassure them that they can overcome it. Sometimes talking to your colleagues and appreciating their work can boost their confidence. Furthermore, you can suggest they find a mentor. You can also recommend upskilling through bootcamps or working on sales projects to sharpen their skills.
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The first step is to acknowledge your feelings. You’ve already taken a giant leap once you recognize your emotions. The next step is to find a mentor who can guide you and help you overcome imposter syndrome. Mentors can be anyone you trust in your company, such as your senior, or a professional therapist.
Imposter syndrome in sales can result from multiple factors such as troubled childhood, controlled parenting, perfectionism, and sometimes personality traits. It is most common in skilled people who are good at doing their job. However, anyone in sales can suffer from imposter syndrome at some point in their career.
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