Sales coaching: the manager’s role in building confidence

nicolas caron Published by Nicolas Caron

It’s the start of the year, so many managers are getting ready to present their action plan and mobilize their troops, to boost energy and reach their performance targets.

Many managers put care into fostering motivation and skill development. That’s a great start. It’s rarer to come across managers who naturally make a concerted effort to focus on building confidence. It’s something that is common in the world of sports but remains relatively noteworthy in business.  That makes sense—it’s a topic that can be personal and not always easy to open up about.

We have noticed in our seminars that when the subject is broached, managers pay very close attention because they all want to know the same thing. Which methods work? How do you go about it? How far should you go?  Their interest is warranted and valid. Like sports coaches, managers can wipe out or boost self-confidence with just a few words.

Before we give you tips on how to boost confidence, let’s come back to the three factors that influence self-confidence.

The foundations of self-confidence

Self-confidence mainly depends on three factors: self-image, awareness of one’s abilities, and awareness of one’s ability to improve.

Self-image

Self-image is awareness of one’s value as a human being. Take a six-month-old baby. It doesn’t know how to walk or talk, let alone read, write or ride a bike. It hasn’t yet had the chance to proudly bring a notebook to school. It has yet to develop any sort of ability apart from sleeping, eating, crying, smiling and growing. It’s hasn’t produced anything, and yet, no one can take away or contest its value as a human. That’s the gift bestowed upon every human being at birth. And it’s a gift that lasts one’s entire lifetime. It’s an absolute value.

The education we receive has a very significant influence on the development of our positive self-image or, unfortunately, the opposite. There’s no connection between education and level of training. Every single combination exists. Some highly qualified people doubt themselves while others who are self-taught are full of confidence, and vice versa.

A good way to alter one’s self-image is to closely tie what we are doing at a given moment to who we are as a person. For example, if I sign a sought-after contract, I’m a god, if I miss out on a deal I’m a piece of…

Maintaining one’s self-image calls for the opposite: distancing who we are as human beings from our short-term results. This distance is what enables us to accept results, whatever they may be. And if we’re not afraid of the results, self-confidence is close behind.

Awareness of one’s abilities

It’s important to look objectively at the abilities we have acquired over the years, without growing arrogant. The word “confidence” contains the Latin prefix “con” and “fidence” from the Latin “fido”, meaning to trust. Having self-confidence simply means that we trust ourselves. I have confidence in myself and the abilities I have developed. When that is not the case, we start to distrust ourselves. This lack of trust in one’s self opens the door to doubt and closes the door to confidence. To gain confidence in ourselves and give ourselves credit, we need to feel capable of handling the demands of our job.

For an athlete,

  • that entails developing technical, tactical and physical abilities prior to a competition. For example, a golfer spends hours practicing their swing, fine-tuning their technique, incorporating expert advice from a pro, fitting their clubs, and then finding lines, visualizing their tactical choices, becoming more advanced in the information they take into account before playing a hole, etc. All that does a great deal to build a player’s confidence.
  • For their part, salespeople seeking to build confidence and believe they can be successful will review their product ranges regularly (maintenance techniques, product pitches, information on the competition, advance research on prospects, etc.).

Awareness of one’s ability to make progress

This third component reflects confidence in one’s own potential, a sort of confidence before the fact. Human beings have a phenomenal ability to learn and improve on a continual basis. In terms of self-esteem, there is a huge difference between considering an error or failure as a definitive lack of ability, proof of an innate ineptitude, or as opportunity to learn and progress. Those who are constantly on the move and take something from every experience develop greater self-esteem and more self-confidence. Every individual has potential value.

Three methods for fostering group confidence

Convey your beliefs

You’re well are that ever since you were appointed manager, everything you do, say and undertake is observed, interpreted and construed.  You’re always communicating, even when you don’t have impression or intention to do so.

What does your staff see when they look at you? What do they hear when you’re have a discussion with them?

  • Defeatism, pain, difficulty, pessimism, anxiety?
  • Energy, optimism, a carefree attitude, calmness, assuredness, humor, enjoyment?

Emotions are conveyed extremely quickly. Experiments are frequently conducted that prove this. The impact of your communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, is near-instantaneous.

One way to convey confidence is to regularly respond to queries, doubts and questions with the mantras and positive beliefs that shape you and guide your own success.

For example:

  • We sell with a smile!
  • You win some, you lose some. You just have to win more than you lose!
  • We lose 100% of deals we don’t try to make.
  • What will we think about it in five years?
  • …/…

In 10 years, when one of your salespeople mentions you and quotes one of the sayings you would often tell them, what will they say? 

Fostering group pride

Group pride is knowing that the team you manage stands out from the rest.  Group pride is telling everyone often that the team has what it takes to achieve something exceptional and different. Group pride is also conveying the expected level of ambition and standards.

In 10 years, when one of your salespeople mentions you and says that you instilled them with team spirit, what will they say? 

Building a close-knit team

Budget restrictions have put a significant damper on annual (or better yet, twice-yearly) seminars in recent years. The crisis is impacting results, the results are impacting budgets, and so we are doing away with things that aren’t deemed indispensable. The question to ask the budget decision-makers is what makes something indispensable or not. It’s clear that from the CFO’s office, setting aside funds for a sales team to party for two days is not necessarily a priority.  And yet, these periods of crisis may be when seminars are the most useful, because they offer a unique opportunity to forge closer ties and, of course, foster group confidence.

It should be a yearly tradition to spend two days outside the city and really have a relaxing time together, see each other in another light, have fun, drink a few beers and chat the night away.

These types of moments also enable us to become aware—fully aware—of what we have learned and achieved. We’re so inundated with messages every day that we lose our sense of perspective. The latest bit of news supplants the last and the same goes for progress, key actions, initiatives and other success stories. Don’t take umbrage. Don’t blame your staff. It’s perfectly normal.  However, do take advantage of your seminars to review all the key actions completed, all the projects seen through, all the progress accomplished.   That’s how your staff will truly realize what they have put into their work and the quality environment they work in.  Regular reminders of this journey boost both confidence and motivation. Taking a look back to see that we have made progress is a clear signal that we’re not wasting our time in the team!

This seems like a good place to wrap up today.

We could add a few methods for boosting personal confidence, but you will have to keep up your motivation to read the rest in the book from which this article was excerpted.


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