Chapter Two: Recipe for Success—1 Part Self-Confidence and 1 Part Humility
I live by the phrase, “You have to believe to succeed”. That starts with a belief in yourself and ends with a profound belief in your product. Remember that there might be times where you are the only person in the room who believes in yourself, but that’s all you need. Use these times as an opportunity to show everyone else why they are wrong and to show them what you have. You need to believe so intently in your product that you know the customer needs the product so much, it is a fiduciary responsibility that they use it.
Self-confidence stems from many places. As you capitalize upon your skill set, your knowledge, and you continually learn about your products, you naturally gain confidence.
Many people joke that nothing tastes as good as looking good, but realistically, nothing boosts self-confidence like looking good. Looking good, being attractive, fit, and healthy might be written off as ‘superficial’, but the roots are embedded in science. According to a study at Harvard University, if you care for your health and your outward appearance, people are more likely to perceive you are likeable and trustworthy.
In all honesty, being a nice looking guy who was young certainly didn’t hurt me in this industry. But remember, the people I was selling to, were experienced, gray headed people. I had to sell them on new technology they knew nothing about. They had to listen to this young guy. I am not telling you I sold to sheep. The global 1000 have plenty of smart guys. Lets just say you had to not only convince the chairman, but the finance guys, and the smartest guys in the company who were normally very respected fellows in their field (and often PHD’s). It’s not easy, and can take a year with many meetings and a great evaluation process.
If I can do it, you can do it.
As a fitness competitor, I have competed in the Ronnie Coleman Classic, the Southwest USA Competition, the Kuclo Classic National Qualifier, and the Better Bodies National Qualifier. I hold over 11 NPC national qualifications and have four 1st place championships, seven 2nd place championships, and six 3rd place championships under my belt—no pun intended. I push myself in the gym every day, maintain a strict diet of healthy foods, and make sure that I balance my physical fitness with my family and my business. Why do I mention all this? Because those achievements require the same discipline, dedication, and self-confidence as learning about a product. In order to achieve your max potential, there has to be a point of dedication and determination in every area of your life.
It is imperative that you take care of yourself. Carve out time during the week to exercise. Exercise gives you endorphins, and a film once touted, “endorphins make you happy”. But more importantly, exercise keeps you healthy and helps you to look good. By looking good, you can command a room and get ahead in the workplace. Good looking people are more persuasive because they cultivate important personality traits like strong social skills and intellect. This naturally makes people more effective at communication.
Having confidence and being more polished in your appearance is something you practice day in and day out. Remember: practice makes perfect. Beyond the physical practice, you need mental practice. You have to be able to know your pitch in your sleep with every objection rehearsed over and over. That comes with practice and experience, giving presentations in front of large and small audiences. Master it.
Equally paramount is humility. Your increased confidence should naturally breed humility. You know where your strengths lie, but you know more intimately your weaknesses, and you aren’t afraid to have them exposed.
I once stood in a room as a young, 20-something-year-old district manager, surrounded by steel industry buyers who had a combined experience of 100+ years. I made a bold claim that they should reduce their hot-mill to 80% production, and reserve 20% for quick change orders at a higher profit. Yes, I walked in with my head held high, my confidence, my expensive suit and matching shoes. They looked me up and down and sent me right back home. I was lectured that day about how a young buck like myself with all my fancy wears wouldn’t know a thing about their industry and shouldn’t presume to tell them how to run their business.
And that was ok. That happens. I humbly accepted their comments and left, still confident we had something to offer them.
Six months later, they reached out to me and asked for our products; they realized I was right. My humility and my respect for their initial wishes landed me long term business with them.
That wasn’t the first time I was mocked for being so young, made fun of for staying late, working too hard, or told off for having nice clothes, shoes, or cars. And it wouldn’t be the last.
The key to good business success is being able to laugh at yourself, being able to accept the criticism or mockery of others when you are the butt of the joke. Being the butt of the joke while still being focused on the prize is critical. The less you are bothered by scrutiny and the more emotionally stable you are, the more you can focus on the facts. This leaves your audience with an uncanny feeling that you just might have something, something they want.
I came from nothing. I had nothing. And as often is the case, when I finally came into money I wanted something, a lot of somethings. When you don’t have anything, you jump at the chance to finally show off that you have things, and I was well aware of my success. But I also knew that showing off my achievements would entice others, demonstrate my financial success, and make sure everyone knew that I had made it. If they wanted to live like me, wear clothes like me, and drive cars like I drove, they would have to work like I worked.
This was acceptable at home or in front of my employees, but not in front of customers. I was extremely humble. I dressed to match who I was dealing with. No flash, just substance and polish. Clean-cut and knowledgeable. Don’t make the mistake of trying to show off wealth and success when you are pitching a sale. Know your audience and read the room. I was calling on Walmart one time and a flashy exec just landed a big deal with Walmart and bought a new home nextdoor to the CFO in Arkansas. Not too long after, the CFO asked the company to not deal with the exec and had him removed from the account. Too bad he bought a multimillion-dollar home in Arkansas that he could not sell. Ouch!
Humility though also extends to different cultural levels. When you work on an international basis, being cognizant of other cultures is key. Learning from mistakes can help set you up for success later in life. I, for example, made the mistake once of placing a Mormon employee in charge of an office in Japan. It didn’t take long to realize that his abstinence from alcohol was seen as a rude gesture by the Asian customers he was trying to bring on board.
Relationships and bonding over things like drinks were very important culturally, and this man wasn’t partaking. We didn’t build a lot of business as a result. But since that time, I have learned to be more conscientious of cultural propriety. With Asian clients, my humility comes in the form of verbalizing gratitude. Gratitude for meetings, for business, and every part of the process. It is imperative that international companies use self-confidence and humility appropriately. Fine tuning every aspect for the intended audience. Asian culture always taught me to underestimate and over achieve.