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Confidence Vs Arrogance in Sales

I spent today interviewing candidates for a sales vacancy that we are recruiting for. The role requires among other things, an “over-achieving Sales Manager with a ‘hands on’ and confident approach to sales and sales management.”

As suspected we have been bombarded with a fair amount of high quality talent and extremely well matched industry experience from the second we put out the ad and made the relevant people on our database aware of it. Selecting who really is right for the position in sales recruitment is however another matter; Every applicant claims to be ‘perfect for the role’ and it is our job to decipher whether that really is the case. Yes they have worked in the industry, yes they are ‘over-achievers’ but do they really have exactly what the client are looking for?

...Our client is particularly keen to speak to sales candidates who are extremely confident with this quality listed as their most important ‘soft skill’;

So what is confidence?

Most of us immediately know when we come across a confident person but we all have different ideas about what constitutes this;

To me confidence in everyday life can be quite subtle; really confident people don’t need to make big displays of ‘confidence’ to prove how confident they are. But that is me...sales is often different; People want to really see how confident you are in your product and often this requires the confidence to step out of your normal ‘chit chat’ mode and step into something a bit more engaging.  The biggest pitfall of this however is a tendency to unwittingly (or wittingly) fall into the trap of arrogance...

Arrogance can be seen as brash, dismissive behaviour that appears to show you putting yourself on a pedestal over whoever else you are talking to. It’s a kind of overbearing pride that in most cases alienates you from the people around you.

The importance of Confidence in a sales interviews

Without self confidence there is limited sales success, confidence is also the key to a successful interview. Confidence is highly valued in the interview room but remember so is humbleness and respect. Humbleness is not the opposite of confidence- think of it more as the opposite to arrogance. Humbleness and confidence can be complementary to each other when executed properly.

When appearing arrogant some hiring managers may believe that you are not a team player, whether this is true or not. Being arrogance gives rise to a whole host of other possible traits that you may or may not possess. It doesn’t really matter if you do possess these or not, if the interviewer thinks you do, then that’s all that matters. The art of confidence is being able to boast about you and your accomplishments without demonstrating egotism.

The art of confidence

Confidence really does come from within so if you do need to work on your confidence in order to avoid being seen as arrogant there are a number of courses, books and audio books that can help you with this to avoid you falling into the arrogance trap and assist you in gaining your next sales job. There are, however, a number of things you can do in an interview to ensure your confidence is not mistaken for arrogance:

Make small talk: It’s difficult to appear arrogant and aloof if you make a genuine effort to chat, be friendly and chat to everyone you meet in an interview. Be friendly with anyone from car park attendants, reception staff and other members of staff in the building chat freely and present yourself as a friend to everyone you meet. You never know when the interviewer might ask the opinion of other members of staff in order to make their decision.

Share credit and blame: The good confident sales professionals are often separated from the bad, arrogant ones when they do not take any responsibility for their company’s shortcomings and worse, push blame onto others. A good interviewee will channel this into a more positive direction and talk of how much they learned from the experience. An employer will respect honesty and see that you have taken something from it (provided it is nothing too major!). Praising staff that you worked with will go down well too. Hogging all the limelight for a project well done is likely to get you tarred with the arrogant brush.

Tell stories about your experience

In interviews people often try to directly match their skills and experience to the job description by literally repeating what was in it. Taking this approach can come across as arrogant. To avoid this you can instead describe stories that make it obvious that you have the required skills without you having to say it in an overtly arrogant manner. Short stories are a perfect way of showing your credentials. For example if a role requires that you are “able to work to strict deadlines and under pressure” it is quite simple to recall a story in which you had to use these skills. The interviewer will be searching for clues as to your suitability; if you can make it obvious for them then you will find you have some level of control over the interview itself.

Summary

Even the shrinking violets amongst sales people (which generally are rare in sales) need to step up at interview and prove they have the confidence to convey why they are right for the role. If they are not able to do this it is unlikely that the hiring manager will believe that the candidate will be able to convince their prospects to buy either. Just beware...there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and the latter can cause others to to view you as superficial and at worst annoying. Be yourself but be self assured- real confidence is likely to get you through any tough questions.

Date published: 26th Feb 2024

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
 
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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