I work as an engineer for a very small company (4 people including me). Since the workload for this week and the next one is low, I've been asked if I could go around businesses and leave flyers promoting our company. All of that while being paid my standard hourly rate and mileage compensation. You might think "well, you're getting paid for it, so why not", but I've got two serious issues here: I can't deal with people that I don't know and I'm so bad at selling that I won't be able to sell heaters in Alaska.

Let me be clear: as an engineer, it is part of my job dealing with clients and I've got no problems there; I get there, I report to the client, I do my job and I get out. Absolutely fine with me. But here we're talking about promoting the company to potential clients. I am basically scared to death to do that. I don't know why, social anxiety or whatever; I never had to deal with it since I've always avoided sales jobs due to this problem.

Now, I've been asked by my boss to do it and I said yes, thinking that it might have been fun, or at least useful for the company. But I now sit on the couch, afraid of leaving home having to deal with people that I don't know and, for most of them, they don't want to deal with me anyway.

We don't sell any sketchy services. We do genuine technical maintenance (I can't disclose which kind for fear of getting recognized by my boss).

Long story short: I love my engineering job and I can do it without any problem whatsoever, but I'm scared to death about going out there and deal with people that aren't expecting me.

How do I deal with it? Do I try to talk to my boss about it (yes, he is very easy to speak with)? Or do I just man up and try to deal with it myself?

EDIT: just to clarify, I tried doing it a few days ago. I managed to hand flyers to two businesses before I panicked and drove back home. Someone suggested just to leave it in the post box or the receptionist, but I'm afraid of the post box, let alone a receptionist. I'm not afraid of post boxes per se, of course, I'm afraid of having to use one to leave AD flyers.

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    Man up... And talk to your boss. Tormenting yourself about a job you are obviously not made for seems not the optimal thing to do. Maybe your boss still has something else to do for you during the downtime. You will never know if you dont talk to the man. – Daniel M. Mar 30 '17 at 12:40
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    You may find its nowhere near as bad as you think, and handing flyers to a receptionist / posting them through a mailbox may be good step to greater social confidence. – majjam Mar 30 '17 at 13:21
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    It sounds like you have a deeper issue here. I think you'll need to seek some professional help in dealing with your anxiety issues. – user44108 Mar 30 '17 at 14:15
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    Social anxiety is treatable. Go get help. – HLGEM Mar 30 '17 at 15:33
  • You haven't specified a location, but in the US it's illegal for anyone other than the postman or the resident(s) of the location its for to put something in a mailbox. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Mar 31 '17 at 0:10

Just do one of two things:

1) Put a flyer in the letter-box
2) Hand a flyer into reception if there's no letter-box

People are very used to agency staff being used to distribute flyers so there won't be any expectation of you attempting to sell your business.

You don't actually have to interact with people unless explicitly told to by your boss.

Don't worry about it, just enjoy the day out of the office.

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Use this as a opportunity to get past your fear.

You may not think so now, but this is the best thing that could have happened to you. The ability to make small talk and sell is so important to your career as and engineer. This is a great opportunity for you, don't blow it.

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I used to feel the same as you do but to be honest the more comfortable you are "selling" what you know the less weird it will feel. Just don't bother with people who don't want to listen and explain how things work and what your company can bring to the table for these people.

This is a good opportunity for you to explore the way people react to stuff presented to them and in most cases people will either be eager to hear you (cause it relieves them from their own work, without being seen as "not working") or indifferent and you shouldn't meet many "rude" people.

Anyway, just be nice to people, understand if they say "no" and enjoy the days you've been given. It seems like it will be more helpful for you than the company actually :)

Get out there and relax, building relationships with people is just as important as the technical side of work. The first few times will be awkward but you'll get used to it and it will be easier because you know exactly what you're selling.

Imagine selling something you didn't know the purpose of.. now that would be hard.

Best advice I can give you is relax and remember you're helping yourself and the company and the customer if they choose to work with you :)

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Practice, practice, practice. Seems the real issue is in speaking with people. You're not going to get better unless you work on it. You may have an inherent fear that you'll mess up whatever you have to say. Why not write yourself a script? Practice in front of people you trust, who can give you supportive feedback.

You might consider educating yourself more as a salesperson vs as a techie. A good book to start with is Sales Dogs, wherein the author helps you to identify what type of salesperson you are, and how to use it to your advantage.

And -- a precaution. If you're in the U.S., placing items in a mailbox is against the law. https://about.usps.com/news/state-releases/tx/2010/tx_2010_0909.htm

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I have a similar issue to yours. If you ask me to sit down with a client and design a system to keep track of their invoices and sales, and I'm totally in my element. But ask me to do cold calls...that's the sort of thing that decorates my nightmares.

One summer in the eighties when I was unable to find any summer job on short notice other than a door to door selling job, one thing I found that helped me to get through an entire month of the job (I surprised myself by lasting that long) was creating a flowchart to follow each day.

Your list might look something like this (Mine was a chart with boxes and logic branches, hard to represent here, I'm using more of a coding structure below).

Find a place to park
Lock car
Repeat for each street you select
   Repeat for each building on the street
      Is this a commercial business or a private residence?
         If private, skip to next iteration of building
            (Note: if you are selling to private individuals there would be more branches here)
         If commerical, go to (Inside The Building)

Inside the Building:
   Is there a receptionist or manager?
      If yes, go talk to her (go to Talk To Prospective Customer)
      If no, identify a person who looks like an employee
         If you find an employee, ask them if there is a manager or receptionist who you can speak with
    If you are referred to one, go to Talk To Prospective Customer
 If you don't find an employee, look for a mailbox or front counter to leave your flier
    If you find one, leave your flier

Talk To Prospective Customer:
   Is the person male or female?
      If female, smile and briefly introduce yourself and your product
      If male, smile and offer to shake hands and briefly introduce yourself and your product

And so on....

To anyone without social anxiety issues, this might seem like a lot of pointless effort, but I honestly found that it reduced the anxiety once I had reduced my task to a series of finite, concrete steps. I knew what I had to do, and I knew when I had accomplished what I needed to do. The uncertainty factor was decreased.

Revise the list as you go along, to account for situations which you run into.

Give yourself permission to do only those things on the list (you can do more if you are motivated, but you don't have to.) If you run into an unexpected situation, have a default Exit Strategy. This is important.

Represent yourself as you are. You are an engineer, not a salesman. You aren't there to sell anything, you are just there to hand out fliers and give people the opportunity to ask questions, if they have any. Adjust their expectations to match who you are and you'll be more likely to be met with technical questions than with suspicion.

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