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Sales Confidence: It smells & it's contagious.

· confidence,transparency

A key function of the role of a leader or as a salesperson is the “transfer of confidence”.

  • Leaders transfer confidence to sellers.
  • Sellers transfer confidence to their potential clients.

In other words, confidence is everything - and sales enablement plays a vital role in building sales organizational confidence. But what does that really mean?

“Confidence” is such an interesting and important concept. To have it is vital to your success. But you have to have the right amount, right? Having too little confidence is a performance killer. Having too much confidence may actually be even worse!

So, shockingly, I went nerdy on it.

To start, the word “confidence” has two primary definitions:

  1. A feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities
  2. The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust

Confidence is a feeling; one you possess within yourself in the first definition. One that is recognized by others in the second definition, which also finishes with “firm trust”.

In a sales capacity, the primary focus of the role is to sherpa a buyer through their buying journey, aiding them in their prediction of what their experience is going to be using our solution. Essentially, we’re decision making consultants helping buyers make confident decisions.

It’s why transparency works - buyers are configuring their “expectations of success” - through you, though your competitors, through their own research, through their internal buying teams, through their peers, and through third-party research. They’re reading reviews. They’re in full listening mode.

And how do they file all that homework in their brains? Well, you may want to write these down: According to a University of Sussex research study (Journal of Neuroscience - Jan 17), researchers determined that expectations of success could be influenced by three key elements:

(1) personal experience,

(2) learning what the majority people believe and, most importantly,

(3) learning what confident people believe.

We may be able to influence personal experience - but that ship may have sailed before we’ve engaged. However, expectations of success based on what the majority of others believe, while also whoever is most confident believes? That’s an interesting challenge…

Unfortunately, you can’t “learn” how to appear confident. You can’t fake it. (although scientists are working on it). If you’ve seen the highly watched TEDTalk from 2012 claiming that you can practice body language and “power poses” to improve perceptions of self-confidence, that has been debunked as well.

You’ve probably heard that animals can “smell fear”. Humans can smell fear, too. While our noses aren’t as powerful as animals, it turns out humans can smell confidence as well. In a crazy collection of studies, the conclusion is that smell based on the emotional state is contagious.

What does that mean? Well, when we smell an emotion, the region of our brain associated with that emotion lights up - and we experience an element of that emotion. Crazy, right? But it is a contributing factor to how we assess the confidence in others. We can smell it!

Side note: Turns out that it’s a myth that bears sense fear and are wired to capitalize on it. Studies have shown that their likelihood of attack are unchanged by a human’s emotional state.

There are two main areas where you can start:

  1. Go wide and deep with learning; The more comfortable you are in your areas of strength as a seller, the more confidence you will have. Sales enablement plays a key role here - ensuring sellers build confidence through the three key areas their role requires: (1) selling skills, (2) product knowledge, and (3) industry acumen - for the industries you’re selling to, and empathy for the individuals you are selling to.
  2. Foster a culture of positivity and celebration: As leaders, maximizing the amount of positive reinforcement a seller receives is key to building confidence. Celebrating successes - even the small ones - builds confidence. Celebrate failures, too. When an opportunity is lost, instead of playing the blame game, celebrate the effort and the learnings that come from those losses. If you’re not losing, you’re not trying hard enough.

What do you think? Am I crazy? Wait - don't answer that.

As always, please feel free to reach out if you are looking for a speaker or workshop for your organization in 2020, or just want to nerd out on some of this stuff. Email to, or you can just reach out or follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter, too.

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