Sales tips: how to appear super-confident (even if you’re not)

18 August 2015 Kieron Johnson

The number one tool in a salesperson’s toolbox is confidence – whether it’s actual or perceived. But what if being confident doesn’t come naturally to you? The good news is there are plenty of ways you can exude confidence, even if you’re running on empty. Time to fake it ‘til you make it.

In sales, it doesn’t matter if you feel confident, just as long as you look confident. The aim is to seem confident to your customers and prospects, even if you’re not, and there are several ways you can achieve the ‘confidence effect.’

Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist (he was a busy man), had this to say on the subject of confidence:

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice-defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.”

So it was in Cicero’s time, so it is today. As someone lacking confidence in the fiercely competitive world of sales, it’s a double whammy. You’re not only self-defeating, but you’re also easy prey in shark-infested waters.

If you weren’t hardwired with confidence from birth, we have a bag of tricks you can use to make yourself appear as though you were.

Follow these seven golden rules and you can be confident that you’ll ace your next big sales meeting without even breaking a sweat.

Confidence is key (whether it’s actual or perceived)

While some salespeople are overconfident, many are plagued by self-doubt.

Confidence is key, particularly when meeting customers and prospects. When you appear confident, people will attribute other positive traits to you. You’ll more than likely be perceived as responsible, competent, intelligent and trustworthy. Conversely, if you exude low self-confidence, people will attribute negative characteristics to you.

Seven golden rules for confidence-building

If you’re the shy and retiring type, appearing confident isn’t easy, but here’s a few things you can do to send a signal to your brain that it’s time to take a chill pill.

1.Walk the talk

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Your mother was right. Few things command a vote of ‘no confidence’ faster than slouching.

Stand tall by keeping your shoulders back and spine straight. You’ll not only be doing your spine a favour, you’ll also make it easier for you to breathe. A healthy supply of oxygen to your brain will give your mind greater clarity, making it easier for you to communicate more assertively.

2.Strike a (power) pose

We’re not recommending that you ‘go all Madonna’ on us, but we are saying that ‘power poses’ have their place in instilling confidence.

A Harvard Business School study has shown that people who adopt specific power poses achieve better evaluations when delivering a speech.

Before meeting with a customer or prospect, find yourself a quite space to compose yourself. Spend a few minutes in an open posture.

Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, recommends these power poses:

  • Pride: lift your arms overhead in a large V-shape, raising your chin slightly.
  • Wonder Woman: set your hands on your hips with elbows pointed out.
  • Loomer: stand, leaning forward over a table with your hands resting on its surface.

Unless you plan on getting sectioned, it’s probably best to give these poses a shot as a pre-meeting ritual.

3.Sit pretty

If you’re having a sit down with a customer or prospect, try to sit up straight, keep your head up, pull your shoulders back and push your chest out.

Research carried out by San Francisco State University shows that people who sit up straight have more energy and experience more positive thoughts. The opposite is true, too.

4.Eyeball ‘em

Making (and maintaining) eye contact is crucial for building trust.

You should do this whether you’re talking to an individual or a group – just alternate between its different members.

Be sure not to stare though. The zoned-out serial killer look isn’t a good one.

5.Silence is golden (sometimes)

Worry not about any so-called ‘awkward’ silences. There’s power in your pause.

Inject them into your presentation or meeting to add a touch of drama. Take a breath between points to let them sink in and marinade. Silence also shows you have consideration for what others may want to add or ask.

6.Hands at the ready

You may have noticed that some politicians clasp their hands together when making public speeches.

Well, one reason for this may be that, when you’re feeling nervous or apprehensive, you’re more likely to fiddle with your fingers. This sends out a subliminal message that you don’t have confidence in what you’re saying. Clasping your fingers prevents this from happening.

Don’t feel as though you need to have your fingers glued together throughout. Free them whenever you’re making particularly salient points.

So, that’s at least one thing you can be grateful to politicians for.

7.Visualise victory

Any celebrated sportsperson – from the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, to former Wimbledon tennis champ, Andy Murray – will tell you that visualisation plays (or played) a large part of their sporting success.

Sports psychologist, Dr. Steve Bull, says:

“There is a huge crossover between the demands of sport and business. For example, if you visualise a big business presentation in real detail, you will prepare for everything from your best posture and body language, and how you will handle any feelings of anxiety, to the awkward questions that might be asked and how you will respond to them. By the time you walk in there, you will feel much more confident.”

We’ve only handpicked a few confidence-building tactics, but there are lots of others, such as:

  • Dress for success (look the part).
  • Be your own cheerleader (positive self-talk).
  • Lower the tone (of your voice, that is – like a newsreader).
  • Relax, don’t do it (fidget).

It’s fitting to conclude with the famed words of ‘The Greatest’ boxer of all time:

“To be a great champion, you must believe you are the best. If not, pretend you are.” Muhammad Ali

The thing about pretending to be confident is that, eventually, you’ll fool yourself into believing that you are confident. And with this newfound bounty of confidence, you’ll be able to speak more persuasively, command a more attentive and appreciative audience and gain the trust and respect of your customers and prospects alike.

With confidence, selling becomes a cinch.