What I Learnt About Sales Confidence from a Car Boot Sale

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‘It Seems That Way Margaret’. The Two Old Ladies at the Pitch Next to Us Were Telling Each Other That There Weren’t Many People That Day, So They Didn’t Sell Much.

Sales Confidence was what they were discussing. You wouldn’t expect two old ladies to sell much and nor would I. They probably enjoyed their day out, sitting on their deck chairs, in the sunshine sipping tea and watching the world go by. I imagine that Margaret and Sheila’s objective was not to sell but a nice day out. Tick.

In stark contrast was the man selling meat from a van and a similar man selling fruit & veg. ‘Come on Ladies, strawberries now only two paund-a-punnet’. Non-stop, all morning long. Sell, sell, sell.

Then, there were the average car boot sellers, their wears laid out on decorating tables, on pieces of plastic on the floor, hoping to make a few quid from stuff they no longer needed, yet hoped someone else might.

So, what’s the difference in their sales confidence?

A lot.

Let’s Explore 6 Differences in Sales Confidence

1. The Why?

The big one. Why are you there? To sell. Well, not for everyone. Not for Sheila & Margaret and of course, that’s ok. Maybe not even asking that question of the average car boot seller, but I bet the meat and the fruit & veg men had thought something like, ‘I’d like to do £500 today’.

When I was a buyer at Head Office I remember sitting in a senior manager’s buying meeting at Sainsbury’s. I was deputising because my boss was on holiday. Eight older men, and I in my early thirties, were in a meeting room one early Tuesday morning eating bacon sandwiches and discussing P&L performance for the previous week.

It took me about 20-minutes to realise that about 8 months when they were agreeing the budgets, they hadn’t agreed on how they would achieve the last 1.5%, so they called this ‘The Monkey Line’. Referring to a row at the bottom of a large P&L dashboard. Called so, because it was like having a ‘monkey on their back’. A problem with a difficult solution.

They discussed the monkey line of about £30 million with no accountability. It had almost become a tenth man in the room. Someone to blame. Everyone avoided the elephant monkey in the room and it was accepted as an ongoing problem with no way forward. They had resigned themselves to the fact that their sales confidence in achieving the target was very low.

Action #1: Lead Your Team

The Director, the leader of the senior managers should have led. Called out the problem, owned it and asked how they were to deal with it, and then done so. Leaders face into problems. They are courageous. They don’t hide.

Single red leader figure next to row of white follower figures
Great leaders stand out when problems occur


Action #2: Hold Your Breath Together – A Great Team Exercise:
  1. Everyone is asked to hold their breath, and as people cannot any longer, the time is taken. E.g. Bob held it for 45 seconds, Katie for 50 seconds, etc. Calculate an average.
  2. Then, ask the team what target they’d like to achieve. Agree on a target as an average. For example, 20 seconds longer than the first time.
  3. The team hold their breath again watching the seconds tick passed.
  4. What’s the result? The team achieved much more with a target because it was a target agreed by the whole team.
Action #3: KPI’s and KRA’s

A Key Performance indicator (KPI) is a target held by the team. For example, to achieve £10m of sales this year. A Key Result Area (KRA) is a target held by each individual. For example, if there are 10 people they might need to achieve £1m each, adding up to the £10 team target. Or if there is a difference in experience, larger accounts, etc. then the target by be different for each person. Still adding up to the team target of £10m.

The point is that the sum of the individual’s’ targets equals the total target. The team aren’t allocated the team target with no individual accounts slitty. Each person knows what they need to achieve and the team knows what they need to achieve. Often, there is a team sales target with no individual target and so no individual accountability – These ‘team only targets’ fail because when the team fails they just blame each other causing them to distrust each other and the team falls apart. Find out more about KPI’s and KRA’s.

2. Nervous? Part One.

To sell you need to be confident because if you are not confident, your customers won’t be confident enough to buy from you.

Action: Watch this Ted Talk form Amy Cuddy about Wonder Woman.

3. ‘How Much?’

This is the question you get asked most at a car boot sale. Some sellers price everything. Most don’t. Most just add a note on their big ticket items, if they have them. The protocol is that the buyers are expected to hold something up, or point, and ask, ‘How much?’. It is the seller’s reply that is the most important part and it’s not even the price you respond with. Instead, it is how you respond. This is where you need to be sales confident. Have sales confidence. Sellers that responded did so in one of 2 ways:

Stacks of gold and silver coins represents cost
What’s their reaction to the dollar sign question?



They hesitated and then said the price. If you were buying a secondhand car from a dealer and that same thing happened – a brief pause – you would immediately think, ‘Hold on, I bet he’d sell that for less’. This is because when the seller pauses it seems like they are searching for an answer. You then think that if they are searching for an answer then who’s to say that they landed on the right answer first time. By you suggesting an alternative answer (price) it might well be accepted.

In responding to a hesitant answer about half of the buyers quickly replied with, ‘Would you take <a lower number>?’. And largely the seller did.

Action: Don’t hesitate.

An Unsure Tone

‘How much is this vase?’, says the middle-aged man on the other side of the decorating table holding up the vase whilst drawing on a cigarette with the other hand. The seller, a larger lady in her fifties, says with a tone of <I have no real idea> – ‘…Eight…pounds, please’. Her tone was unsure. Not confident. Certainly not sales confident. The response? ‘Would you take £4?’ said the smoking man.

There is a link between the insecurity of the tone and the offer that comes back. The more insecure the tone, the more the buyer tries their luck.

Action: Use a confident tone.

4. It’s the Little Words that Give Us Away

As a professional negotiation skills trainer, we see even the best negotiators give away their position. ‘It’s about £8.10 per case’. How did they give away their position when the negotiation was so tough, so demanding and they were so close? ABOUT. Yes, she said the word ‘About’. Without even being aware of what she said. The other party weren’t even consciously aware of why they knew she’d take less, but they replied with an offer that was less than £8.10 per case. They had heard that single word and acted upon it.

In our negotiation skills training, we teach people to be aware of the little words they use and to be aware of the little words others use. By doing so they can stop using the little words that give away their position and act upon the words they hear that give away other’s positions.

Action: Become aware of the little words you use; About, little, just, around, etc.

5. Nervous? Part Two.

Businesswoman looking nervous about a sales negotiation while biting nails
There are many ways to reduce your nervousness


Selling can be nerve-wracking.

Action: Try this simple brain hack to turn your nervous into your excited.

6. Your Body Language

So much has been written about the topic of body language that it is such a big and foggy topic that most people are repelled by it. They don’t want to learn it because they don’t know where to start.

You may have heard of Albert Mehrabian’s principles of body language? He said that only 7% of personal communication relies on verbal communication, with 38% being the tone and 55% the body language. Often misunderstood, what he was actually saying was that we look for consistency in the words, tone and body language when we are not sure whether what we are hearing and seeing is genuine. In essence, people watch for whether the words, tone and body match and especially when they are unsure of what is being said.

So, to be sales confident when we answer questions like ‘How much?’ our words, tone and body language need to show confidence. Imagine if you replied to this question without hesitation, and in a confident tone, yet your body was side-on to the person, like a Karate fighter ready to begin. The buyer would think that you were trying to hide something. They’d probably be right.

Action: All 3 parts; words, tone and body. must be showing confidence and ‘saying’ the same thing.


Home sale clothe items on the paved ground outdoors
Apply these sales tips to your garage sale and make some wins!

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