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The Paradox of Confidence

2 min readAugust 9, 2021

In the fairy tale we all heard as kids, Goldilocks famously found the balance between her porridge being too hot or too cold.

Sellers are similarly challenged to strike the right balance between being less than confident and overconfident.

Failing to find this balance can lead to unpleasant encounters with the Three Bears of sales: buyers, competitors and your own limitations.

Researchers have found that being overconfident has its benefits. They’ve also found that the downsides of overconfidence can lead you to the same endpoint as being unconfident.

Being overconfident can sometimes increase your productivity. Studies have found that just appearing to have outsized confidence can provide you with a competitive edge. It can spell the difference between winning that big deal or coming in a distant second.

Similarly, overconfidence can help you to be perceived as a leader by your buyers, peers and managers. Which can lead, in turn, to receiving promotions instead of more deserving, but humble, sellers that achieved better sales results. (Has this happened to you? On either side of the equation?)

Overconfidence makes you feel powerful. Which is where it becomes problematic. Overconfidence leads to hubris and denial.

Overconfident people exhibit a marked decrease in empathy. They question the legitimacy of those who don’t see things as they do. Objections and concerns are ignored.

Equally as important, overconfident sellers embody the symptoms of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Which means they overestimate their capabilities and lack the emotional intelligence to recognize their shortcomings and correct them.

In other words, chronically overconfident sellers stop learning and improving. After all, what’s your motivation to invest in learning and acquiring knowledge if you believe you already have all the answers?

As a seller or sales leader the key to your success is to locate the confident middle ground between defeatism and hubris. To become a confident seller requires having an open mind that is leavened with humility.

Confident sellers have a high “internal locus of control.” Meaning that you believe you are in control of, and responsible for, your own success.

This acceptance of responsibility for your own success translates into the ability to pragmatically assess your shortcomings. It also translates into the willingness to invest in developing the skills, behaviors and habits to address them.

Confident sellers have a high tolerance of ambiguity (unlike overconfident sellers who need to believe that they are in control.)

Instead of being a hammer that sees everything as a nail, confident sellers are agile, creative and responsive problem solvers.

They take measured risks to achieve consistently greater returns.

They bet on themselves because they have a realistic vision of what they need to do to win.

Find the balance of confidence that’s just right for you. Avoid the bears.

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