Most people will tell you that being overconfident is a bad thing.
In fact the definition of overconfident is: “more confident than it is sensible to be, often in a way that is annoying”.
But that’s not always the case.
In scientific research published in 2012 it was found that being overconfident helped people to gain social status (when otherwise they would not have).
And the research – which in fact was comprised of 6 different studies, each with its own findings – also found that overconfident people were often the most beloved, and were not seen as being narcissistic or annoying.
How can that be the case? Don’t we all find overconfident people to be arrogant?
Well… actually the answer is no, we don’t.
The findings can also explain why at work the incompetent are so often promoted over their more competent peers.
People are easily swayed by others’ confidence
Professor Cameron Anderson, one of the authors of the study, says:
In organizations, people are very easily swayed by others’ confidence even when that confidence is unjustified. Displays of confidence are given an inordinate amount of weight.
This is a really valuable piece of evidence that can be used by sellers to bolster their own sense of value – and confidence – when approaching clients (or prospects).
In a sales scenario clients will be positively influenced by the seller appearing very confident
So, how should a seller act to portray a high degree of self-confidence (even if they don’t really feel like that deep down).
Another experiment in the same research program revealed that overconfident individuals tended to:
- Speak more often
- Use a confident tone
- Give more information and answers
- Act relaxed and calm
Importantly, being confident doesn’t mean you need to openly brag about yourself or act in an obnoxious way.
Prof Anderson said:
These big participators didn’t say, ‘I’m really good at this.’ Instead, their behavior was much more subtle. They simply participated more and exhibited more comfort with the task — even though they were no more competent than anyone else.
Subtle and proactive participation makes the biggest impact
I have often said that “clients want to be led”, meaning that clients want to believe you have a valuable ‘solution’ for them and they want to follow your guidance or recommendations.
This research identifies key factors that contribute to the clients willingness to follow what is recommended by a particular seller.
From a professional sellers perspective it is important to always portray yourself as being confident. And sometimes appearing overconfident is the right thing to do as it will positively influence your prospect. They will interpret your overconfidence as a sign of competence in doing the task (providing your service etc).
6 techniques to appear (over) confident:
- Be proactive by speaking more often. Look for opportunities to speak up without aggressively cutting off the other person.
- Be prepared to give more information. Even though its always important to ask the right questions it is always advisable to balance the conversation by providing extra information (I refer to it as ‘demonstrating your expertise’). When asked a question don’t be too brief with your answers – make sure you have something to say!
- Focus on the way you say what you say. Lower the tone of your voice. Use pauses to add emphasis and gravity to the points you share. Try to avoid speaking too quickly or too slowly, as each of those makes you appear less trustworthy.
- Stay relaxed (even though you may be squirming inside). Use breathing exercises or visualisation to keep yourself calm. Focus on the other person, not your own feelings. Don’t over-react or get over-excited about what is happening. Act like ‘this is just the usual’.
- Be confident that your confidence will show. Remember you don’t need to have all the answers all the time. Assure yourself that by acting more/over confident you will be perceived in a positive manner.
- Have the drive to want more. The research found that “the status motive promotes overconfidence”. That means when an individual is motivated to increase their status (that is, they want to be held in higher regard) they are more likely to act overconfident, which in turn means they will be granted a higher social status (a self-reinforcing cycle, as shown in these studies). In a sales setting this means the client/prospect is more likely to believe in you and follow your recommendations when you act in a very confident manner. That is, if you have the drive to want more they’ll want to work with you.
Sales managers and sales leaders can use these techniques in sales training or in-field sales coaching activities to develop appropriate behaviours for their sales team, with the goal of presenting themselves more confidently.
If you would like to discuss how this could be implemented in your team you are welcome to get in touch for a no-fuss complimentary evaluation.