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The Doberman Principle - People will sniff out if you doubt yourself

01/09/2013 01:12 BST | Updated 29/10/2013 09:12 GMT

Years ago I worked with the Post Office. It's well known amongst people delivering the mail that it's the same postie who will get bitten over again while delivering mail - regardless of if you shift them to a different route with different dogs. Sound strange? It's called 'The Doberman Principle'.

Dogs are expert at reading fear. If you are nervous or unsure around a trained guard dog, like a Doberman, they will become extra alert to you and your movements. They may even bark or growl to show you who's boss!

And so it is in business. In a sales situation a savvy buyer will sense whether or not you believe in your product, your company, and most importantly yourself. For example, whether you ask for £600 or £1600 per day, if you believe it is more than you're worth, I guarantee the potential customer will say "that's very expensive. We were thinking about paying a lot less."

But we all know people who charge astronomical rates and wonder how they do it (even if we think they're not very good). Those people genuinely believe they are worth every penny and are less likely to be queried on price. In short, your level of self-belief plays a key part in persuading people how much to pay you.

So how do we build our self-confidence and change our attitudes if we believe we aren't as good as others, or we don't deserve to be fairly paid for what we do?

1. Act As If: Most people say our attitude determines our behaviour and actions, but, in fact, Cognitive Behaviour Theory has shown that our behaviours and actions shape our feelings and beliefs. To change your belief system start with a new belief and simply 'act as if' it were true until it eventually becomes true. Look at your actions and behaviour, your body language, your tonality, your choice of words, your dress etc and match them to your new belief. Taking our previous example, act as if your day rate is £600 or £1600 - someone will agree you are worth that and then you will start to believe it eventually.

2. Use Affirmations: You don't have to stare in the mirror fist-punching the air and repeating "I am a winner" but say something you can believe is true about yourself. Like "I am the best consultant in this field [and therefore worth every penny]". One of my clients would say "I don't get out of bed for less than £1000 a day" (referencing the famous supermodel slogan of the 90s). Whatever you say, it should be in the first person, in the present tense, positive, strong and describe the person you want to be. Positive affirmations alone will not get you to 100% but combined with 'act as if' behaviours, they are a powerful way to reinforce a new belief.