The Importance of Confidence in Sales

 In Articles

Photo by hiva sharifi on Unsplash

Normally, I’m not a fan of taking life advice from a meme, but every once in a while, you see one that is actually hugely impactful. 

For me, this one that I saw in a sales group really hit home:

Seeing this for the first time gave me a jaw-dropping moment for a couple of reasons.

  1. Where the hell was this when I was 14 and looking at confidence as anything other than this.
  2. This is what most people are missing when they are thinking about sales. 

Talking about building confidence in teenagers is not in my wheelhouse, so I’ll leave that to the experts. But confidence in sales, that I know a lot about.

Most salespeople gain confidence over time if they do it long enough and see enough success. But how long does that take? What happens when there’s never enough success? Or what about when you’re brand new and haven’t had time to cross those imaginary lines yet?

The inexperienced or unsure salesperson probably all do these same things (I know I did):

  • Try to pitch services to everyone who will listen
  • Feels crushed when people don’t want to talk with you
  • Chasing prospects all over the place to “just check-in”
  • Feels like a pest or too salesy

Once you turn the corner though, these things go away almost naturally. You build a level of confidence that makes it so that you don’t have to “always be closing,” or chase people down begging for their business. 

When you’re a confident salesperson, that gives you so much more freedom in your role. 

This is especially important because if you own or work in a small business (10 or fewer employees) or you’re a freelancer, you don’t have access to the number of resources that big companies have. So if you lack confidence, you’ll almost kill yourself trying to make every conversation work, every deal close. And you’ll end up taking on clients that are not qualified, you’ll stretch yourself too thin trying to do everything for every client you have so they stay. You’ll be miserable, and the pressure never stops. 

This is like playing every hand in poker, both good and bad, and being mad when you’ve lost tons of money at the end of the night.

You should’ve folded more hands. And you should’ve turned away more clients.

You could have been confident in the idea that there are more than enough clients for you to make the money you want. There are 200 million businesses established on the planet in b2b alone.

There are 7.8 billion people on the planet.

How many of them do you need to close to make the money you want to make? If the answer is anything less than “all of them,” then you can stop trying to close everyone you talk to. 

Now, we can talk about putting “no” in your conversations, from both sides.

When you’re confident about your ability to do your job well and close enough deals to hit your goals, you can prioritize the right things. 

A lot of unsure salespeople end up prioritizing the prospect and not their team. So they don’t qualify well and bring on bad clients, which ends up hurting everybody.

Newer entrepreneurs are particularly prone to this danger. It’s hard enough splitting your time between various roles and hiring the right people to fill the gaps. But because you’re trying to run a business that you’re hoping will flourish and grow, not taking on every client who’s willing is extremely difficult. 

But what can happen is that all of those unqualified, badly fitting clients will run off good team members because they make their lives harder than it needs to be. And trust me, hiring good people is a lot harder than closing deals!

The confident salesperson or entrepreneur, however, will ask the right questions to make sure every prospect is a good fit before advancing the conversation. And that self-assuredness allows them to ask harder questions that more timid salespeople try to avoid because they don’t want to be seen as unlikeable. 

On top of all that, confident salespeople, and people in general, do not need to be liked. We all want it, of course. But the confident ones understand that:

  1. They’re not going to please everybody.
  2. Setting your standards is an important aspect of a healthy mind and business.
  3. Stating your standards and turning people down isn’t going to diminish your likability, and if they’re mad about it, that’s on them. 

I was coaching a closer the other day who had had a rough sales conversation. They were having a really hard time convincing their prospect to look at a demo. The closer felt that if the prospect saw the demo, they would realize that it wasn’t a good fit and that would be the end of the relationship.

So I asked why they didn’t just tell them that instead of try to force them into another call, taking up more of their time, his time, and the owner’s time. He said that he felt uncomfortable telling them that he believed they weren’t a good fit because it would hurt his “likability quotient.” 

This is where the I’s in the DISC spectrum really struggle. 

Then I asked, “would you prefer the prospect to like you or the owner and team you’re working with to like you.”

He admitted that he’d much rather the owner and team, and that’s when he realized the mistake. Bringing on a painful or exhausting client would hurt his likability quotient with the people who really matter a lot more than one prospect who he’d probably never talk to again.

Here’s what could have happened if he didn’t realize this.

  • He sends over the demo and the prospect is still convinced it’s a good choice for them.
  • This small company takes on a client who expects things they cannot or do.
  • Over time, more resources are dedicated to this one client than the others who were better qualified. 
  • The team is angry, some of them even quit.
  • Eventually, this client’s needs and expectations are unmet, and they end up angry and leave anyway.

Do you see the trail of horror left by one bad client?

It’s all avoidable when you gain the ability and confidence to ask the right questions and say no. 

While that level of competent confidence doesn’t happen overnight, there is a way to sort of fake it until it does happen. It’s called process.

You build these questions into your process, and then you practice asking them until it no longer feels wrong. The more times you say something, even to another salesperson in a roleplay group, the more natural and ‘okay’ it feels. 

It’s just like building up any other muscle. It sucks and it’s hard at first, but eventually, you’ll learn to say “I’m not sure that we’re a good fit for you” without being scared of their reaction. 

At the end of the day, being liked is great. But it’s all about priorities. Who do you want to like you more, the impossible client that nobody wants to deal with, or the team members and coworkers you see every day?

Build the kind of confidence that makes that an easy and obvious choice. Until you do, fake it as well as you can.

PS If you’re looking for a place to practice your sales conversations so that you can build confidence in qualifying prospects and digging into their pain and needs, check out my Sales Practice Lab by clicking here.

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