Saturday, April 28, 2007

Beyond Self-Promotion: Why Good People Should Sell Themselves

If you work for yourself, and are perhaps a teeny weeny bit resistant to selling, this wake up call is for you. It is possible that "learning to sell" -- as opposed to learning how to promote yourself -- is not on your priority list. But, if you truly care about your customers, self promotion deserves your attention.

Maybe you feel that it is inappropriate to promote yourself in any way, especially when you meet new people. Have you ever you met someone who asked about what you do, and watched their look of confusion when you gave them a barely adequate answer, all because you didn't want to seem pushy or self-interested?

I imagine you have the most sincere motives for avoiding self promotion, but may I also suggest that you may be confusing modesty with self-protection? It's natural to want to protect yourself against anything short of drooling adulation that you might receive in response to a sales pitch. (By the way, how does that phrase "sales pitch" land with you?) It's natural, but it isn't modest.
It also isn't kind to the other person. There they are, carrying on a friendly conversation, and suddenly you classify them as a threat to your self-esteem. How likely are they to benefit from the interaction?

Until quite recently I thought that the reason I lit up in some sales situations while hanging back in others, was that I was highly sensitive. (I hear this from my clients a lot. Highly sensitive people keep a lot of coaches employed.)

One day I realized that I wasn't avoiding self promotion out of sensitivity, but out of fear. And it wasn't even fear of a particularly elevated kind. It was the venal fear of not getting what I wanted when I wanted it and as I wanted it. In other words, when I felt confident of getting the result I wanted, I'd reach out. If I thought somewhat might question what I wanted or say, "No," I'd hang back.

Notice that the fear of being denied what you want is not the same as the fear of rejection. Being told "no" in response to a sales pitch does not signal the end of a relationship. It doesn't have anything to do with accepting or rejecting you as a human being. It doesn't even have anything to do with increasing or decreasing your perceived worthiness. All it means is "No. I do not want what you are offering." (Hey, you want a glass of water while I'm up? No. You see?)
You are perhaps a better person than I. But even if your reluctance to self-promote or sell is rooted in the soil of modesty, isn't it time to distinguish modesty from playing small?
Cloaking self-seeking in the garment of selflessness is not a mortal sin (believe me, I would know), but it's awfully unattractive and it's an abysmally ineffective strategy for staying employed when you work for yourself.

So what's a person to do? Ask your internal monitor to nudge you when you move away from instead of toward selling or self-promotion. Don't try to change anything yet, just notice. Jot down some of the flickering of thoughtlets that run through your mind at these moments.
"Just noticing" will allow you to experience how your current attitudes toward selling and self promotion keep you from being a clear and open channel for your best work. As you become more aware of how avoiding sales or promotion keeps you from authentic engagement with your best clients and customers, your reluctance to sell or self-promote will shift into curiosity about how to reach and support the people you serve.

About the Author:
Molly Gordon, MCC, is a leading figure in business coaching and an acknowledged specialist in small business marketing. Don't miss her article about writing elevator speech at Join 12,000 readers of her ezine and receive a free 31-page guide on effective self promotion:

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