Who has swagger? Johnny Depp, Muhammad Ali, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump?
They all do of course. In fact you could say that almost every successful person has it.
When you pause to think about it, however, “Swagger” is a somewhat indefinable characteristic. Google defines it as “To behave in a very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive way”. I agree with that, but it’s important to recognize how people’s swagger differs. That’s because the word “typically” is key to our perception of these people.
Johnny Depp and Muhammad Ali each have or had a different kind of swagger. Johnny’s is a pretty laid back confidence, maybe a touch of arrogance creeps in there but it doesn’t come across as unappealing. In fact, if you speak to Johnny’s fans it’s quite the opposite. Ali’s swagger was 100% arrogance and aggressiveness, but for all that, it was both extremely appealing as well as polarizing.
Leaving aside any political views, both Presidential candidates have oodles of swagger. They are also supremely confident in their abilities, which is a key ingredient to them being in a position for one of them to become the leader of the free world next month.
But what draws people to them? Is it what they’re saying? I don’t believe it is entirely. 93% of communication is nonverbal. Our conscious minds (not to mention the media) focus on all the ‘he said she said’ outrageous rhetoric coming from them. But our subconscious minds react at a more emotional level and play a far greater role in how we feel about people than we may care to admit.
What is it that we find appealing about them? How did they get this far? Notwithstanding the vast political machines and money behind them, a great deal of their appeal comes from their confidence in their ability and their excitement to take on the job. That’s swagger in action.
Trump and Clinton both have swagger and it has certainly helped them to rise above the others in the political universe and allowed them to run for the top job in American politics. But what does any of this have to do with the world of sales? Everything! I’d put it to you that, at its heart, what Donald and Hillary are doing is selling...with every ounce of effort they possess. Salespeople should take these examples to heart and develop their own swagger.
The ones that do it well are some of the most successful salespeople out there. We’ve all met them. They all seem to have that combination of confidence and excitement, which definitely attracts others. It makes people want to do business with them, and helps them establish trust. “If he’s so successful, others must like and trust him, thus so will I.”
There is an obvious cautionary note here. The wrong type of swagger can easily have a negative effect on sales success. There are those two words in our definition that need to be recognized and, to a degree, avoided. Arrogance and aggressiveness. Arrogance especially is a most unattractive quality. In sales nothing can put your efforts at risk faster than arrogance. Do you want a prospect thinking “who does this guy think he is talking to me like that?” Don’t forget, ego’s are always in play.
Aggressiveness is little more nuanced in that it is an appealing trait to a certain personality type (Drivers), but to the majority of people (Amiable, Analytical, Expressive personality types) it will make them recoil or close down. You may hear the right words from them, but most likely they are just trying to get rid of you.
As discussed earlier, I believe the right combination of qualities for swagger is confidence and excitement. If you are excited about what you have to offer and exude confidence, you will get buy in and sell more.
This brings up another question: Can swagger be learned or is it just something you are born with? I believe wholeheartedly that it is something that can be taught and practiced. It is a mindset more than anything which governs how you act and react to any situation.
Here’s a brief story from my own experience. Early in my career I worked for a systems integration company and I had a prospect who wanted a website built. I had only been at the company a few weeks, having come from a company who built websites, and I was very keen to get a sale and show my worth, thus my excitement level was very high. I built a quote and took it to my manager for approval only to be told that he didn’t want the business. What?! He told me to go back to this guy, look him in the eye, and respectfully tell him that we were too busy to work on such a small project, which is exactly what I did. The next words out of my prospects mouth blew me away. “How much more do I have to pay to have you guys build this for me?” One brief conversation with my manager later and I closed the deal for just over double the initial quote.
I know that what sold it was that I had the confidence to say that we didn’t want his business. Kinda like in the dating world, being told no by a girl just makes you want her more.
That experience taught me that you can act with swagger even if you don’t at first feel it. The more you act the part, the more natural and authentic it becomes until finally it is just how you are. Once you have it, the challenge becomes guarding against that arrogance. But which of us couldn’t benefit from a bit of self critique?
Swagger: The marriage of confidence and excitement! Hillary has it. Donald has it. Good sales people have it. Do you have it? I would love to hear your opinions on and examples of swagger, so please let me know.