I watched the McGregor-Mayweather fight on Saturday. I am not an MMA fan but it was fun to watch such a hyped event with a group. Even though the national anthems played and McGregor was draped in the Irish Tricolor, I don’t think national pride came into it for the Americans – it certainly didn’t feel like US versus Ireland from the people that I talked to. I wondered if that is because McGregor, with all his swagger and confidence, almost seems more American than Irish and maybe, therefore, is viewed partially as one of their own, albeit one of their own with an Irish-theme – much like an Irish character in the WWE. Anyway, it got me thinking about confidence and all the bragging and promises McGregor made in the months coming up to fight, how that helped him, and some parallels in the sales recruiting space

Although I think Mayweather had a game plan to tire McGregor out from the start, there were definitely a few times in those first 4 rounds where he must have doubted himself and feared that McGregor could disrupt his plan. This was backed up by a few actual hard punches from McGregor but that doubt would have been accentuated by all the bragging in the months prior to the fight. Every punch that McGregor landed probably had Mayweather thinking “Wow, what if he does knock me flat by Round 2 like he said he was going to do?!”. Confidence in boxing really does breed fear and doubt in the opponent and that is why the press events before were crucial for McGregor to assert himself. It may not have been enough for McGregor to beat Mayweather in this particular mismatch, but that confidence probably was the difference between the bout lasting 10 rounds instead lasting 2.

There is a good parallel in a sales interview situation. Now hopefully the intention is not to beat up the person on the opposite side of the table (!), but a very confident candidate can turn what sometimes appears to be an adversarial situation into one where both candidate and hiring manager’s interests are aligned. In sales, recruiting hiring managers genuinely want to believe that you can be an impact player that can make a difference to their team and your confidence in an interview situation can help them get you on their side.

In the days leading up to the fight, I met with one such candidate. He is a young b2b sales professional in that goldilocks zone “up and comer “ category – loads of potential but not yet too expensive. He was well paid for his experience but had been promoted so rapidly he was still growing into his new comp levels. For a variety of reasons, he needed to move on before he can turn his promised OTE comp into real W2 comp but he wanted to use that higher comp level as a baseline in negotiating for his next position.

In most cases, hiring managers would have a hard time with that stance, but what struck me early on about this candidate was how supremely confident he was without being cocky. He was so sure of his own abilities and, despite being relatively young, had a distinctive career plan that he was executing against. In the space of 30 minutes, I went from slight doubt to being totally behind him. He had some impressive sales achievements but was still looking for a stretch assignment in this next move both in terms of enterprise sales and a higher comp level. He didn’t need to exaggerate what he had achieved to bridge the gap – it was his confidence in selling his abilities that made the difference. As a hiring manager, I would have hired him on the spot and probably given him the benefit of the doubt on the ability to grow into his comp levels. As a recruiter, I now want to get him into my best clients – even if some of them aren’t actively hiring right now! That’s what confidence can do for you. 

I am not totally that confidence sure it can be taught – in the US seems to be ingrained in the psyche early. I witness that through my kids and think probably starts early as Kindergarten with things like Show-and-Tell. However, even amongst all the American Sales and Sales Management candidates that I see, there are massive differences in confidence levels and that is why candidates like the one above still can stand out. You still need all the basics – Real achievement, real results, probably also tenure to facilitate the first two and good momentum in your career – but confidence in your own abilities can help you achieve great things in interview situations and win over the hiring manager especially in stretch situations be they assignment or comp based. People really do want to believe in your sales abilities in interviews and you need to work that, leveraging achievements backed up by confidence to help them get there and you to reap the rewards.

Just don’t wear that suit to the interview! 

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