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The Goldilocks Paradox

2 min readMarch 29, 2021

Remember Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Goldilocks found the balance between her porridge being too hot and too cold.

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

Researchers have found that being overconfident has its benefits. It also has downsides that can leave you in the same place as being unconfident.

Being overconfident can sometimes increase your productivity. When you’re on a roll you want to take advantage of it. Studies show that appearing to have a lot of confidence can provide you with a competitive edge. It can spell the difference winning that big deal or coming in a distant second.

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

However, overconfidence can also lead to hubris and denial. Overconfident people exhibit a marked decrease in empathy. They overlook those who don’t see things as they do. Objections and concerns are ignored.

Equally as important, overconfident sellers become close minded. Meaning they overestimate their capabilities and lack the emotional intelligence to recognize their shortcomings and correct them. In other words, 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 boss, the key is to locate the middle ground between hubris and defeatism.

Confidence requires an open mind leavened with humility.

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

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

Confident sellers also 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 every problem as a nail, confident sellers are agile, creative and responsive problem solvers.

They bet on themselves because they have a realistic vision of what they need to do to win. As a result, they have the confidence to take measured risks to achieve greater returns.

No two people are the same. Work to find the balance of confidence that’s right for you.

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