Teddy Roosevelt had the right idea. Our 26th president once said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”
Confidence is crucial for a career in sales. No one wants to get a sales pitch from a nervous, shaky-voiced wallflower. At the same time, you don’t want to turn into an arrogant know-it-all (think Tom Cruise in Top Gun).
Dr. Katharine Brooks is the author of You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path From Chaos to Career, and the director of liberal arts career services at the University of Texas. In an interview with Forbes, Brooks said that self-awareness is required to balance feelings of confidence.
“In the same way that you don’t want to lack confidence, you also don’t want to be over-confident,” she said. “Over-confidence can make you take on projects that are beyond your capability, and you might not be able to complete them.”
Here are a few ways to approach a sales job with confidence:
- Preparation is everything: No matter how polished you appear to be, you must be prepared or it will show. A sales pitch should be pitch perfect, and that means more than just getting through it without stumbling over words and numbers. It requires knowing the information backward and forward and anticipating questions. Having a solid answer is much more professional than an “Um, I don’t know.” Absorb the material. Practice your talking points. Test them out on a friend (the kind who won’t make fun of you for a fake sales call).
- Think positive: Sounds obvious, right? But turning negative notions around can make a big difference. Geoffrey James of CBS Money Watch recommends writing out how you feel about your sales skills, then rewriting them in a more positive way. Example: James turns a self-doubting statement like “I am not sure what I’m doing right or wrong,” into “I am a fast learner and will figure out how to make this work.”
- Look the part: Though many offices are fine with business-casual attire, a good salesperson should always dress in a professional way. Showing up in anything less can make you look like a disheveled mess. Here’s what the Consulting Sales Institute recommends: “For women, a professional outfit — a pant suit, nice blouse and skirt or some other type of appropriate business outfit. Think about what would be appropriate for a business meeting with a Fortune 500 CEO. The same goes for men. Wear a nice suit and tie or, at a minimum, a coat and tie.”
- What’s in a name? A lot. As Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Do enough digging around beforehand to know the right person to call on, and then remember that name. Calling a business and asking for an owner or manager won’t impress anyone. Calling and asking for a specific name shows that you’ve at least done your homework.
- See yourself as becoming an expert: There are believers and detractors of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule — the theory that it requires that much time to be an expert in something — but what’s clear is that experience helps. Those new to a sales career don’t have that foundation of knowledge and history to lean on, but that’s OK. Everyone has to start somewhere. Know that you’re building something, and make sure to follow the previous four points. With more experience comes more expertise, and that will increase your confidence in sales calls.