All research, on what makes an individual successful in direct sales, always points in the same fundamental direction. Confidence more than any other trait is the single most important indicator of success.
The importance of confidence is not only true in sales but in almost any profession. There are many great quotes about the importance of confidence. My favorite is from Samuel Johnson, “Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.”
I refer to the Rule of 24 when talking to salespeople and sales managers about the importance of confidence
The Rule of 24
I discovered the Rule of 24 working with 9th grade basketball players. At a timeout during a close game, I asked my players which of the opposing players did we not really need to guard. Who on the opposing team would least likely score many baskets if we literally did not guard him?
They all agreed it was number 24. It was interesting that they all sensed that number 24 lacked confidence. Interestingly, it became obvious as the game progressed that his team members also lacked confidence in number 24. Their feeling had nothing to do with talent. It had everything to do with confidence. We won the game.
Confidence means, not arrogance, but a persistent balanced belief in oneself. Many great sales people have high self-esteem but it alone is not enough. Confidence grows and matures as a result of hard work, preparation, deep knowledge and experience. Interestingly, we have seen individuals who may not have tremendous confidence in their personal lives but exude confidence in their professional interactions.
How the Rule of 24 Applies to Salespeople
Sales success begins with confidence. Having received sales training is important but not enough. We have all seen even tenured reps not be able to generate new business when presenting new ideas or programs. Salespeople can blow obvious opportunities because of a lack of confidence in themselves, their companies or what they are selling. Customers will not turn over high impact business to a salesperson with low confidence.
When hiring new entry level salespeople, we always look for evidence of confidence and self-esteem. When hiring experienced people, we look for evidence of professional confidence built on deep business knowledge, demonstrated successes and sales skills.