I can still smell the wet rubber and feel the chill of the 37-degree air and the sound of Coach Tom Norton's feet banging on the wooden bench. Oh, the memories of playing Peewee hockey. Other than my dad, Coach Tom Norton was my most memorable coach.
Mr. Norton was a raspy, silver-haired man who always wore a tie when he coached. Coach Tom stood about 5 feet 7 inches, but in our eyes, he was a giant. He commanded attention, he demanded respect and he insisted that you be decisive in your actions even if you were wrong. “Do it with passion and gusto – even if you’re wrong!” he yelled.
During one of our practices, I was racing to center ice for a puck but then thought another defenseman was getting it, so I stopped . . . so did the other defenseman, thinking apparently that I was going to get it. Coach Norton blew the whistle and screamed my name, “Schmidt, which one are you, Alphonse or Gaston?” I had no clue what he was talking about, and he could see it in my eyes. Then he started making erratic flailing gestures with his hands and body and muttering, “After you, my dear Alphonse. No, after you, Mr. Gaston.” Coach Norton looked quite silly in this display, but I didn’t dare laugh. He said, “If you don’t understand, look it up when you get home, son.”
Turns out Alphonse and Gaston are a comic strip; the 1906 creation of Frederick Burr Opper. The bumbling pair had a humorous repartee with being overly polite to each other. They were so polite that they never got anywhere because they were always waiting for the other to make the move first. How the heck Coach Norton expected a 13-year-old to know about an ancient comic strip is beyond me.
Coach Norton was making an excellent point. Confidence means the difference between getting the job, the prize, the sale, and the puck . . . or not. A sale is simply the transference of confidence. If you have enough confidence in your product and solution, the prospect will share that confidence and make a buying decision. Confidence breeds confidence.
Dr. Amy J.C. Cuddy is an associate professor at Harvard Business School. She has done some groundbreaking research on the issue of confidence. The research is called Power Posing: Fake It Till You Make It. Here is what Amy suggests:
"We are influenced, and influence others through very unconscious and implicit processes," she says. "People tend to spend too much energy focusing on the words they're saying—perfectly crafting the content of the message—when in many cases that matters much less than how it's being communicated. People often are more influenced by how they feel about you than by what you're saying. It's not about the content of the message, but how you're communicating it.”
In my experience, the closing ratio between a “confident seller” and a seller lacking in confidence is dramatic; the confident seller closes 90% more than the nonconfident seller. Harsher is the fact that sellers who lack confidence don’t survive long in sales.
So today, if Coach Norton would yell, “Schmidt, which one are you – Alphonse or Gaston?” I would puff out my chest, look him square in the eye, and say, “Neither, Coach. I’m the one with the puck.”
The old saying is “knowledge is power.” I’m adding to that: “knowledge is power, power is confidence, and confidence gets sales results!