Build & Protect Your Sales Confidence

by Shamus Brown


I can remember the first time that I had to get new customers from a cold start. I was a sales rep at IBM. I had only been selling for a short while since graduating from college, and I didn't really know what to do.

When I started working for IBM, I was given extensive sales training. My sales training period took me 9 months, which you may be surprised to learn was considered fast back in 1987! IBM wanted its salespeople to be well prepared to sell any of its products to any business that wanted them.

So you'd think that I would've been well prepared to prospect and cold call with all that sales training.

I wasn't.

Our sales training did not give me any advice on sales prospecting or lead generation.

IBM's sales training was very good, excellent even, but I started out being groomed for large account sales. After my first year of working on a large account, I was moved into IBM's new business group. Even though I was excited about this new challenge, it was not what I had been trained for.

Fortunately, I had a great sales manager who knew how to create new business. One of the things he suggested was that I get my year off to a quick start by running a seminar for the medical groups and hospitals in my territory.

If he had not suggested this to me, I might have gotten intimidated or frustrated at the idea of making cold calls to generate all of my new business.

I ran the seminar, and it turned out to be a big success generating many sales leads. My year was off to a fast start, and I was feeling pretty confident about my sales abilities.

I tell you this story, because sales confidence is in many ways a fragile thing. Success builds on itself. Unfortunately, so too does failure.

Too many salespeople are thrown out there with a sink or swim attitude by their management. If I hadn't had the help of a great team of people around me at IBM, I probably would have been frustrated and hated cold calling and prospecting. And, I most likely wouldn't have had the stellar year that 1989 turned out to be for me.

Confidence is Created in Your Mind

Confidence is often created through positive experiences. However, what do you do when you have little experience in something like generating new business or making cold calls?

You find confidence, by looking for a way to do something that you personally believe you can actually do. The key is belief. You must believe that you personally can actually do it.

One of my clients who wanted to grow his business felt unwilling or unable to make cold calls. Why? Because he hated being the target of cold calls himself. You know the kind. The telephone rings, and after the long pause from the autodialer, some telemarketer comes on the line and asks for you by mispronouncing your name. And then they try to keep you on the line as long as they can, interrupting your dinner time.

The thought of making such a call on a business was very demeaning to my client, as I am sure it is to many of us.

Bad selling by masses of poorly trained telemarketers makes it difficult for many of us to sell well. When we experience cold calls such as these we don't want to appear like this ourselves. It makes us ashamed to be in sales, even fearful of making cold calls.

As a result, many people hate the thought of making cold calls. It doesn't fit into their self-image as "professionals". A loathing starts to creep in at the thought of making a cold call. It builds to the point where one can't, or won't, make any calls.

Set Yourself Up to Win

So how do you get past fear and into a state of confidence?

Reframe your circumstances.

In my client's case, I explained that true cold calls are the ones made to people who have never heard of you or been exposed to your message before in anyway. Not only are these kinds of calls difficult, they are less productive precisely because they have never heard your message.

So I made the simple recommendation that he warm-up these calls by preparing a sales letter to send to his target market first. Now my client found something that he believed that he could do and was able to reframe the situation in his mind to fit his image of being a respected professional.

His prospects would receive a letter in advance with his sales message. This would result in him getting not only some hot leads calling him because of the letter, but also a feeling of confidence about making calls to the remaining warmed up prospects.

So what's important to learn here?

Make sure you plan for success. Build your confidence by choosing a strategy that is proven to work by others. By doing this, you will have the confidence to persist with your strategy if at first it does not work as perfectly as you had hoped.

Once you have a success, protect and build on this confidence by celebrating your success. And remember to tell yourself that because your proved that you could do this well, you will be able to do your next challenging task well too.

Sometimes it's the small steps that matter most on the way to greater sales success.


Originally published in the EGOPOWER sales newsletter.