“Without a sense of confidence I’m convinced that there’s just too much pressure to take”

– From the song “Crawling” by Linkin Park

In last weeks blog post, I wrote about how the wrong kind of thinking can limit your success in general, and your pipeline specifically. I postulated that the core variable that guides thinking within the range of productive and unproductive thinking is self-confidence.

So that’s all great, but what can be done to improve confidence in learning endeavors to allow growth? Let’s talk about that this week – here are some concepts to keep in mind as you work from unconscious incompetence through conscious incompetence and onto higher levels of competence – the goal of most learning exercises.

1) Work on one variable at a time
During college, I worked in an office with a copy machine that was as big as my car. I was told that if it stopped working, it was imperative to try to test one prospective solution at a time – otherwise, it was impossible to know what the source of the problem was. If three things were adjusted before the machine was retried, and the machine worked, it couldn’t be known which of the three attempted solutions solved the problem.

When learning new skills, don’t try to create a whole new game plan – there are things you do well, otherwise you would already have another job. Try to find your weakest skill, or the skill you think might have the biggest impact, or the one you are inspired to work on and try some new things there, and only there. You might get weaker at first, but the other things you know well will carry you through as you improve the new skill, and when the new skill is improved, your overall performance will improve. Then you can move onto the next skill. Iteratively, you can experience constant growth with minimum pain and discomfort.

2) Get the right perspective
Being wrong, or making a mistake is not a big deal, and you probably don’t look as foolish as you feel, unless you make a big deal about it.

I was watching a bike race on TV last week, and on the winners podium, one of the riders lost his balance and leaned back, knocking over the sponsors graphic wall behind the winners. All three competitors laughed and stumbled and went to pick it up together – and it was no big deal.

On the other hand, have you ever seen someone make a small gaff of some kind and respond by being so uptight and flustered that the whole character of the moment gets changed? To err is human, and we are all human. When you err, in front of a customer or otherwise, try to laugh it off and keep moving – everything will probably be just fine, unless you freak out, in which case the entire situation will just become even more uncomfortable for everyone involved.

3) Realize what is really on the line
Many salespeople take rejection personally. This is a huge burden to carry. If the health of your ego is on the line with every cold call, you will burn out very fast, and be pretty unhappy along the way. Remember that a prospect can say no to your offer without rejecting you as a person. This sounds trivial, but take an honest look inside – if you take offer rejection as some kind of a barometer of your personal worth, stop it. There are always methods for improving the yes/no ratio in your sales efforts, but not if you are so devastated by the normal ratio of yes and no answers that you become paralyzed.

4) Learn to embrace failure
Anyone who tells you that you can learn to love failure is either an idiot or a masochist, but you can learn to embrace failure as a natural part of the learning process. Most people know that Thomas Edison tried a whole lot of materials for the filament of his light bulb before finding the right one. His famous perspective? Each one that failed meant that there was one less thing to try on the quest for a solution. Pain is indeed painful, but pain can be a good teacher. Stop rationalizing away the causes of your pain (with your thinking brain) and see what you can learn. That’s why sports teams watch game films of the plays gone wrong – you can learn more from them than by watching the things that went right.

Confidence comes from success, and success comes from trying things and improving with each attempt – no matter how wrong they were. Don’t let yourself get paralyzed by head games that keep you from learning from the experience you are getting every day. Embrace it, and it will be valuable for you. Rationalize it, and you won’t learn from it – and you will suffer the same fate again and again until you figure out how to learn the lesson. It doesn’t have to be hard – it is up to you. It might be painful, but take the right perspective, and it’s no big deal – just learn, try again, and grow.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David