Billy was a tall, charismatic American politics major with a pronounced, cleft chin and a small gap between his two front teeth. That didn’t take away from his smile, or his dazzling blue eyes. I sat next to him in an international relations class at university, where he was by far the most enthusiastic of all the students; I’m quite sure he must have received an A+ for class participation, raising his hand at every opportunity to answer our professor’s questions.
While I admit that I would watch Billy because I had a crush on him, I noticed that he had a tendency at times to change his demeanor when participating in class discussions: On these occasions, he would speak loudly, and didn’t show the slightest hesitation in his voice whatsoever. I began to listen closely when this would happen — paying attention to the content of his arguments and the detail of his examples to back them up. And that’s when I realized; he had no idea what he was talking about!
I decided to confront him about it one day after class. To my surprise, he admitted that when he didn’t know the answer to the professor’s question, he would speak louder than usual. At the time, this struck me as being highly unusual and quite frankly stupid; why speak up at all if you weren’t sure of your response? But over the years it dawned on me that he got away with it because of his undeniable self-confidence. He was first in the class because of it, and was able to access privileged job positions later in life because he could convince others of his worth by his strong belief in himself.
Having confidence in oneself is of utmost importance if you want a career in sales. Being able to reorient the conversation to reiterate your key selling points (without disturbing the listener), and delivering your message in a positive, straight-to-the-point way, can make a huge difference when dealing with prospects. Moreover, prospects are more likely to trust a confident sales-person, and ultimately go through with a purchase.
So, how can you build confidence to be successful at sales? Here are some tips to get your confidence up when phoning:
Sit up straight
Slouching compresses your lungs, which naturally inhibits deep breathing (which you need in order to feel relaxed). Not only will it help you feel better physically, it will also make you feel more professional mentally. It’s a natural confidence booster and it takes no effort to carry out whatsoever! So that you don’t forget, you can use post-in notes in your workspace to remind yourself to sit up straight and take a deep breath before making your next call.
Practice your power-poses
Those of you who regularly read my blog posts know that I’m a huge fan of Amy Cuddy. Her study of the effects of power-posing can be beneficial to those who believe in their effects. Some people refute that power-poses actually have a direct impact on confidence, but whether you believe in them or not, it can’t hurt to stretch, move around, roll your shoulders back, stand up and mentally prepare yourself to get calling. Regular exercise and good hygiene (eating well balanced meals for example) can also help you feel better in general, and thus contribute to an increase in the positive endorphin needed to help build confidence.
Fake it until you become it
Ok, so it’s Amy Cuddy again. But it’s true in my experience (and Billy’s too) that you can fake confidence until it becomes a part of who you are. It’s a bit like acting — you put yourself into your desired role, and play the part to the best of your ability until you become the character himself. When done right, this technique really works and can surprise you (in a good way).
If you rush to finish your sentences, your listener is going to have a hard time understanding what you’re saying. Speaking slowly and clearly will help you better express your ideas and will help your listener fully understand the message you are looking to deliver. Again, deep breathing prior to calling will help you relax. It’s a sure-fire way of helping you ease tension, and feel less nervous.
Only sell the things you believe in
I used to know a sales guy who could sell anything, but most people don’t have that kind of ability. Unless you have a natural knack for sales, it’s easier to sell products or services you truly believe in. If you think the product you represent is the best, it’s natural to stand behind it. Loving what you’re selling will make you better at selling it.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to sales, so don’t hesitate to speak to your entourage and even pitch them (if they are willing participants). Taking care of yourself (through regular exercise, relaxation techniques and good hygiene) is the best way to start building self-confidence and a successful career in sales.
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy
Ted Talk: Your body language may shape who you are
Fake it ’til you become it: Amy Cuddy’s power poses, visualized
Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance