by Jeff Davidson

“I find it useful to remember that everybody lives
by selling something”

is the famous Robert Louis Stevenson quote
from more than 100 years ago.

A newborn baby lives by selling something:
love, affection, family unity.

A nun lives by selling something:
love of God, reverence, tradition, loyalty.

Nelson Mandela lives by selling something:
freedom, equality, development of the infrastructure.

The late, great Paul Newman sold in many ways. He sold us as an actor, he sold for great charitable causes, he had political views, he was a great salesman all the way around.

Do we believe it?

What are you selling?
Believe it; you are selling in many, many ways. You sell!

Husbands and wives sell to each other, in this case, primarily influence. Should we go to vacation point A or vacation point B. Siblings sell, bargain, negotiate, influence each other all day long. Teachers and students, clients and vendors, politicians and constituents, advertisers and consumers, authors and readers, audio program producers and listeners, bosses and employees — everyone sells all day long.

The first thing to remember in selling anything to anybody is that the sale, as so many great salespeople over the years have said, starts in your own mind. The sale starts in your mind. Once you're firmly committed to the idea of what it is you want to pass on to others, the actual work of passing it on to others will go easier and more quickly.

The great Earl Nightingale, among many, many others, convinced me of that at an early age.

In Personal Selling, Confidence Is So Vital.

Confidence readily conveys to others and even makes you more attractive. Most people think you have to be born with an abundance of self-confidence in order to project confidence to others. Not so. You can actually build self-confidence.

As a matter of fact, if you had known me before I ever gave my first speech, you would say there was no way that this guy should ever be speaking. He lacks the confidence. But, in fact, there are many, many ways that you can build your confidence, most of which I used and continue to use.

For example, you can read about confidence. There are books available that actually discuss how to increase your confidence, and there are some excellent tips in these books.

You can observe confidence in others. If you were to make out a list right now, who are the four or five people whom you know, whether they're at work or in your personal life, who routinely display confidence on a daily basis? What is it about them that is attractive? What is it about them that conveys this sense of assurance? I'll bet if you were to write it down, you'd start to see three or four common denominators appear.

How else can you build confidence? Hang around others who have it. Put yourself in position to observe them firsthand. No better clues than right up front.

Now, when you hang around others who have it, initially, it may seem hopeless. You might say to yourself, “Oh, no. I could never be like that.” But, little by little, you begin to realize that the traits and mannerisms that they display are not outside of your capabilities and, in fact, well within them. And, as you get to know people who display oodles of self-confidence, you'll see that there are moments and periods of time when they, too, have their shortcomings. Nobody is self-confident around the clock, in every situation, all the time. That's key for you to remember. The quest is to display confidence, to have confidence when you want to and need to.

So, some more on what else you can do to build your self-confidence. One is to practice it. Yes, you can practice in front of a mirror. You can start to develop different looks. You can raise your hand in a certain way. You can gesture in a certain way. You can throw your shoulders back. All manner of practice in front of the mirror is helpful. It gives you at least some idea of how you're coming across to others.

Another is to begin to sound confident, act the part. Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay cosmetics, is fond of saying:

“Fake it 'til you make it.”

Which is not bad advice, assuming you do intend to make it!

Now, you don't have to start dropping your voice several octaves and speaking in stentorian tones and so forth, but the confident person often sounds confident to others. So, begin to speak into a recorder and listen to yourself. Record phone conversations if you have the equipment, or record conversations with a friend who's just sitting with you at the kitchen table. Then play it back later. By all means, record yourself whenever you're speaking to a group. The feedback you give yourself is very important. Make a list and write it down, the things you want to improve upon.

Also, I want you to notice when your confidence is high. In what situations do you naturally display high self-confidence? Some people are naturally self-confident in a business interview but have lower confidence when interacting with members of the opposite sex. Some people are confident when interacting with peers but display much lower confidence when interacting with people they consider to be senior to them.

Do you know that you can relatively display the same amount of confidence in all settings? It's just a matter of having it start from within. So, notice when yours is high, because you want to capture those feelings and emotions and begin to use them again in other situations when you're somewhat less confident.

Look For Small Victories

Were you able to do something today that you're not usually able to do? Were you able to stand up in a group meeting and speak for a couple of minutes extemporaneously? That will boost your confidence. From these small victories, look for increasingly larger and larger self-confidence victories. Look for opportunities to stick your neck out just a little more past that arena that feels comfortable for you, and soon the arena in which you do feel comfortable gets larger.

Sam Horn, a wonderful trainer and instructor in Maui, Hawaii, says that you want to reward yourself when you act with confidence. Build in a system of stimulus and response. Make it small rewards, but frequent, so that you begin to develop behavior that automatically sends out a message of confidence to others.

And, of course, learn from your mistakes. You're going to have situations when you, perhaps, bite off more than you can chew, when you stand up to say something, and you end up garbling your words. That'll happen. OK, move on from there.

Three Final Elements

I want you to begin to engage in more planning, which actually boosts your confidence. In other words, if you're going to be going into a meeting, rather than walking right into the meeting and shooting from the hip, sit down for 10 or 20 minutes and think about what's going to be said, what will transpire, when you probably should bring up your points, how you'd liked everyone to feel, how you'd like the meeting to conclude. When you have a mental game plan of how a situation is going to go, you're much more confident. It doesn't have to necessarily be a meeting, but that's as good a place as any to get practice.

Also, would like you to experiment with roles? Just for one evening, try something else. At one meeting, speak louder than you normally do. At another meeting, speak softer than you normally do. Faster, slower, etcetera.

And last, I want you to have fun as you proceed down this path toward greater self-confidence. Having confidence, again, is not about taking on a full-time job. Look for opportunities here and there where you can practice your newly found skills and make it fun, and it'll all work out just fine.

Remember that no one notices your imperfections as you do. No one's holding you up to a microscope. That, in fact, most people are truly their own worst critics in terms of how they act, behave, dress, and look.

Abraham Lincoln once said,

“People are about as happy with themselves as they make their minds up to be.”

That is right on.

Also, occasionally think of this. Everyone wakes up with morning drool. All right? Even the most confident man or woman in the world, on occasion, will wake up in the morning with a little wet spot on the pillow. I mean, I want you to think about this because people are people and you're a person, too. You can't be what others are not. People have faults and foibles. That doesn't need to get in the way of your self-confidence.

Now, finally, if you're really having a hard time interacting with another person who is, for whatever reason, intimidating you, pretend that other person owes you $10,000. Very hard not to feel confident around someone who owes you a fortune, or at least a small fortune.

So, to quickly recap, there are many, many things you can do to up your confidence. You can, of course, read about it. You can observe it in others. You can hang around others with it. You can practice. You can begin to sound confident. You can notice when your confidence is high and then emulate those elements in other situations.

We all have to speak in front of groups from time to time. Whether your boss asks you to make a presentation to the board of directors, you’re asked to speak to your church group about getting funds for special needs, or you simply need to talk to your family about this year’s vacation, you can easily build the skills and confidence to get your message across clearly and with confidence. Once you get these victories under your belt, it’s smoother and smoother sailing every time.

And be sure to look for small victories. You can reward yourself when you are self-confident. You can, of course, learn from your mistakes. You can engage in more planning, which always boosts self-confidence. You can experiment with roles. And, all the while, you can have fun while you're doing it.

Article by Jeff Davidson
Originally Published by AdvantEdge for Nightingale-Conant Corporation © 2008

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