Do you suffer from confident incompetence?

Do you suffer from Confident Incompetence?

“The least competent people are usually the most confident in their abilities.”

That’s from “Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think” by Dr Tasha Eurich, an expert on self-awareness.

These least competent people suffer from what I call Confident Incompetence.

Unfortunately, it runs rampant in sales.

Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger Effect? It’s a well-known phenomenon named after the social psychologists who first documented it. (That would be Prof Dunning and Prof Kruger from Cornell.)

The first part of the Dunning-Kruger effect states, to put it in selling terms, that those sales people who are under-performers, are less likely to recognize their weaknesses or deficiencies.

In practice what this means is most under-performing sellers actually over-estimate their capabilities (despite evidence to the contrary.)

And these sellers lack the emotional intelligence to recognize their deficiencies. In short, they are over-confident.

The second part of the Dunning-Kruger Effect observes that since these over-confident under-performers truly believe they are more capable than they actually are, they are closed off to learning new things. They are less likely to proactively seek out new knowledge that will help them learn how to improve.

In other words, they are close-minded.

Close-minded, over-confident, under-performers who believe they have nothing to learn.

That’s Confident Incompetence.

Your confidence has outstripped your competence. And your performance.

You’re telling yourself “I’ve got this” when, in fact, you don’t.

And, you’ve stopped learning. Which creates a huge barrier to your success.

How do you cure your Confident Incompetence?

It starts with a little intellectual humility.

It means having the guts to pragmatically assess exactly who you are, what you don’t know and what you need to learn.

That requires reorienting your approach to sales situations by combining a dose of humility with a dose of “I don’t think I know this. However, I’m sure I can learn how to figure it out” confidence.

One simple and easy way to keep yourself humble is to create a personal learning journal and keep a detailed record of what you’re learning. Track what you read, listen to and watch every day.

Then, at least once per week, take one of the new things you’ve learned and consciously put it into practice in your selling.

Experiment with it. Test it out. See how it helps. Fine tune it. Record the results. Then, only after you’ve become proficient at this new thing, add another new thing.

Even after decades as a seller, I don’t pretend that I know everything about sales. I try to stay open-minded and actively learn something new about selling every single day. Something I can use in my own selling.

For instance, I’ve had to good fortune to host 1,200 episodes of my podcasts (The Win Rate Podcast and, before that, the Sales Enablement Podcast) and talk with the best and brightest minds in the entire world about sales, marketing, mindset and leadership.

And, after each discussion with my guests, I’m reminded that no matter how smart I think I am, there’s still a ton I have to learn.