The Key to Developing Self-Confidence in Selling

By John R. Aberle | Relationship Selling

Sep 14
Picture: Self-Confidence Meme with logo

Frank Robertson made his first clumsy efforts at sales while still in the air force. He wanted extra money to invest in real estate without putting any hardship on his family. That was when he discovered that belief in what you are selling is vital to approaching the right prospects and getting them interested in the sacrifices necessary to hold down a full-time job while doing multilevel marketing on the side. Because he harbored doubt about the long-term ability of someone to build the sales organization necessary to make lots of money with network marketing, he lacked self-confidence and he failed to approach and convince the right types of people.

It was later when he got into microcomputer sales that Frank began to see significant results. He loved the ease of writing with a word processing compared to the frustrations of using a typewriter. And that enthusiasm carried him through many sales successes.

If you are in sales yourself, you know how challenging the job is and how vital self-confidence is to your success. As Frank experienced, people pick up on your belief in what you are selling. If you don’t believe in it, they won’t either. Moreover, you probably will be reluctant to even approach the right kinds of people to sell to, i.e. those with the need, the ability to buy and the money to make the purchase, so you condemn yourself to failure.

The key greater self-confidence

While you need self-confidence to succeed in sales, there is one vital key to developing your self-confidence, which is seldom talked about: focusing on the prospect perceived needs and wants and on the benefits of your products and services to your prospects. By doing so, you remove the focus from yourself and place it on your prospect where it will yield the greatest returns in relationship selling.

Michael Pedone of EyesOnSales had a similar awakening to what Frank had,

“So I attacked the problem in order to understand why I was getting lots of rejection and little sales. Turns out, what I was saying after “Hello, my name is…” was causing the negative responses / reactions from my prospects. Once I realized that, I changed my opener to a more compelling reason for the sales call that created interest and reduced resistance. Next thing you know, I started having more prospects wanting to engage in a conversation which made it a lot easier to move to the next step of the sales cycle.” (Boldface and highlight mine – John R. Aberle)

Pedone, Michael. "How To Reduce Sales Anxiety?" EyesOnSales.  Apr 22, 2013

The source of anxiety and lower self-confidence on sales calls

There are many articles and tips on the Internet and in books about how to develop self-confidence. But, except for A-type personalities who thrive on being in control, for most of us, the nervousness comes from focusing too much on ourselves. Dr. Carl H. Shubs, PhD. described the clinical issue with self-confidence of one of his patients.

Enter your The third source of anxiety is the interpersonal domain. This concerns how you imagine and expect others to respond to you if the realities of your fears of incompetence and inability to manage your feelings are actually realized. It expresses itself in questions like, “What will they (he, she, the group of them) think of me? How will they feel about me? Will they change how they think and feel about me? Will they still love/like me? Will they have some kind of feeling about me that I don’t want them to have? Will they be hurt, disappointed, ashamed, or angry with me?” (Highlights Mine – JRA)

Shubs, Carl H., Ph.D. "3 Sources of Anxiety"

Even with just the normal human levels of nervousness and concern about self-confidence, you will likely relate to the questions mentioned by Dr. Shubs. Notice that this interpersonal source of anxiety are questions that all centered around “me” – “what will others think of me?”

Steps to develop self-confidence

  • Serve first – put your attention on your prospect, not yourself

Look for ways to serve your prospects. Put your attention on them, their concerns, their problems, their perceived needs and wants, their motivations. By taking your concentration off what they think of you, you will find it easier to be more confident.

To be able to focus your attention on your prospects, though, you will need to put in effort before you meet.

  • Learn how your products and services work

You must understand enough about your products and services to comfortable talk about them and how they work before you look for the benefits to prospects. You don’t normally need to be a technician, but you do need to be comfortable as an operator. This knowledge and basic skill level will reinforce your self-esteem when talking with customers – even though, normally, you should avoid getting technical with most prospects.

  • Look for candidates that match our ideal customer profile

Accept in advance that not everyone is a prospect for your products and services at this moment, no matter how well they match your ideal customer profile. But when you make the effort to know your ideal customer profile and then seek those prospects who closely match it, you will find a much higher percentage of true prospects and then customers.

  • Ask your satisfied customers what benefits they find from your products and services

To know what the benefits will be for your prospects, look at your present customers who match your ideal customer profile and find out why they bought, what they love about your products and services, and what issues you fixed for them. Then, as Michael Pedone did, you can change your “opener to a more compelling reason for the sales call that creates interest and reduces resistance.” If they match the same profile as your existing satisfied customers, they will most likely have the same problems or desires as your customers and so find the same benefits.

  • Ask questions, probe deeper

Understanding the benefits your customers find will tell you what their problems were. This information will enable you to sound knowledgeable about the prospect’s business, industry, and potential problems. Usually, this will get you an appointment to talk further. However, you must treat prospects as individuals. Ask questions to confirm whether or not they have the same problems. Dig deeper with questions to expand upon their answers. Show you care.

  • Most sales happen after the 5th no

Avoid rushing in to close too soon. You must find what the problem is that causes your prospect enough anxiety that he or she wants it fixed now. With your questions, you are mapping the lay of the land, finding out where the dry wells are and looking for the one that is a gusher. Some of your potential problems will not be an issue for this particular prospect so you will get a no. As long as she will answer questions, keep probing further. Even when you get a yes, ask more about it because not all problems are important enough to want them fixed right now. If you have to come back another time, use these answers to better prepare for the next call. Most sales people give up long before the 5th no so miss the sales that persistence brings the best sales people.

  • Enthusiasm sells: “Sales is about accomplishing a transfer of confidence”

Enthusiasm creates excitement. Enthusiasm is contagious. Knowledge of the benefits to this prospect makes it easier to be excited and enthusiastic.

Steli Efti, of, put it this way, “Your job as a sales rep is to transfer the confidence you have in your offer over to them so that they believe in your confidence more than they believe in their doubts.”

Efti, Steli. "The secret to unbreakable confidence in sales (and life)," (Guessing from Comments this was posted approximately May, 2017)

Both your technical product knowledge and your awareness of the benefits to your customers will give you that confidence and enable you to be enthusiastic.

  • You won’t have every answer

Nobody knows everything. If you are in sales long enough, even as an expert in your products and services, someone will eventually stump you with a question you don’t have an answer for. Provided it is a sincere question, and not one just meant to get rid of you, find out how important the answer is then promise to get back to them with the answer. You’ll learn something, and you will gain their respect and strengthen their trust in you for not winging it and for not making up something. This does presume that you have demonstrated solid knowledge on the rest of the call.

  • View failure as a learning experience

In society today, nobody likes to fail. Nevertheless, we all fail, especially as part of learning. In major league baseball, a good batting average is .300 which means that the batter failed to hit 70% of the time. When you fail, review what you did and what you could have done better then use that to improve next time.

  • Empathize with your prospects situation

Your prospects are under a lot of pressure. You can be a partner in solving their problems and in fulfilling their desires, or you can be an irritant. Go into your sales calls with some empathy for them and understand what they might be feeling. Again, you are focusing on them and on being of service so you are moving your attention away from yourself where it would cause anxiety.

Understand how the prospect thinks and feels:

  • Afraid to waste his/his company’s money
  • Afraid to look stupid for trusting you
  • Afraid of failing to solve his problem when your solution doesn’t work
  • Afraid of making a mistake that costs him a loss of prestige and even his job for making a bad decision
  • Afraid to waste time on talking to you when maybe he could be making more progress on his own
  • Wants to look good and wise for investing in your product or service
  • Wants to be congratulated by his superiors and be the envy of his peers
  • Wants to solve his problem to be viewed as contributing to the success of his company
  • Want to get rid of the problem that is causing him stress and possibly sleepless nights
  • Wants to be promoted for being a problem solver
  • Wants to save his company money
  • Wants to make a profit for his company


While there are many things you can do to build more self-confidence, the one most often forgotten or not understood is to shift your focus from yourself to your prospect. You will reduce a lot of anxiety because you have stopped thinking about how you look and instead are looking to serve your prospect to the best of your ability.


Frank Robertson learned that customers can sense how much you believe in your products and services. Your confidence in what you are selling affects your self-confidence too. But once you have the product knowledge and are enthusiastic about them, move your attention off yourself. Focus on how you can serve your customer, on their perceived needs and wants, on their desires, on their challenges. With this shift, you will eliminate anxiety and increase your self-confidence.

Open your heart in selling,

John's signature in Rage Italic script

John R. Aberle

Aberle Enterprises

Image of How Relationship Selling Rewards Small Businesses book cover for 12 Types of Content Marketing’s #12 Books


Do you love taking care of your customers and prospects? If you yearn to build more long-term business connections with your customers, get your copy of the Amazon Kindle eBook: 

How Relationship Selling Rewards Small Businesses


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About the Author

I have a strong love for small businesses, especially brick and mortar companies. After an 18-year career in sales and marketing, I started my own service company, which I grew in both sales and profits for the first five years. In my sixth year, the bottom dropped out of the printer market such that it made more sense to sell my assets and return to Southern California. There I went to work for an international small business consulting company. I spent over three years on the road with them helping small businesses to become more profitable and better managed. I then started my own company specializing in sales and marketing consulting, coaching and training. My emphasis is on heart-centered, relationship selling that empowers prospects to make their own choices.