We’re continuing our focus on personal branding this week, having looked first at why it’s important, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a freelancer or even a full-time employee, and then, last week, how to find the story you want to tell. But the truth is that a lot of us still find it pretty uncomfortable to talk about ourselves, to promote and publicise how great we are and, ultimately, to “sell”. So how can you get more comfortable with selling… well, yourself?!
Why this aversion to selling?
It’s interesting to explore first why “sales” is such a dirty word. (Not to everyone, I grant you – there are superstars who love selling and like nothing better than to talk about what they do, or negotiate hard on pricing!)
Part of it, I think, is cultural. The basic association a lot of us have when we think of sales is that stereotypical sleazy used car salesman, “buy one get one free!” offers on TV or in stores, or those unsolicited spammy emails that fill our inboxes.
In northern Europe, at least, there’s this idea that we shouldn’t think ourselves better than others, we shouldn’t “blow our own trumpet” and, in Sweden especially, we should all be treated equal. In the UK, I find this often leads to a sense of false modesty, where even though we know that we are good at some particular thing, we play it down. In the US, there’s now the idea of the “humble brag”.
Another reason why it feels uncomfortable to sell ourselves is that we’ve never had to do it before. As a full-time employee in a big corporation, we have (a) an established brand and company with a history and heritage, which we can tap into; (b) a whole function dedicated to sales, so that we can focus on marketing / finance / whatever our own role; and (c) a boss or manager who (hopefully!) supports us and recommends us when it comes to salary increases and promotions.
Running your own business, however, you’re going to need to get comfortable with doing all this yourself.
Why is it important to learn to sell?
Here’s the thing: you have to sell, you have to have clients, in order to have a business – otherwise, it’s just a hobby, or a charity. Yes, you may love what you do, but you won’t be able to afford to continue if you’re not generating an income.
On a personal level, it’s sales – the clients, and the money – that’s ultimately going to allow you precisely that freedom, flexibility and fulfilment and anything else you’ve dreamed of when it comes to the life you want to lead. As much as there is so much more to success than money, the money is an important means to an end.
And, finally, and this is important, you can’t help people get the result they want unless they actually work with you – which means, they buy from you and that means you are selling! I can give you all sorts of free blog posts and videos and resources but that will never get you the quality of support and the kind of progress that you can expect to get if you actually joined me in one of my one-on-one or group programmes.
Changing how you think about selling
That final point on helping people is important to bear in mind when it comes to changing how you think about selling. Selling is really just that: helping people, servingthem. You have to understand that it’s by selling effectively to people who urgently need what you have to offer that you’re going to be able to help them get that result.
So it’s important to understand your bigger ‘why’ or mission that’s behind the business (and we talked about this last week in finding your story). What are you trying to achieve? How are you looking to help people? Why should people care?
And, next, understand your personal ‘why’: what would selling more mean for you and your family? If you got 5 more clients or earned £10,000 more, what would that look like? If you charged a higher rate, could you work fewer hours and free up time to spend with your young family? Could you take more holidays? Could you stop stressing about money and worrying about maybe having to go back to a full-time job (which you don’t want to do)? Could you start saying “no” to the wrong clients and only work with the ones who are a pleasure to work with?
Re-framing how you think about selling and understanding how important it is to you and your business will help you get more comfortable with the idea and become more interested in learning how you can get better.
How to get comfortable selling
Okay, so let’s say you believe me: selling is important, and you’re beginning to see that it can be meaningful to you both personally and professionally. Maybe you still feel a little reluctant and uncomfortable with the idea, and you wonder how you can go about it in an authentic and non-sleazy way?
Well, the first thing to realise is that you don’t have to do what other people are doing, you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not, and you certainly don’t have to be unethical! It’s completely up to you to find which approach, which techniques, feel right to you – and to your clients – and which ones you think will work. So you don’t have to lie and pretend there are limited spaces available when actually you can have as many as you want, or create a false sense of urgency when really there is no deadline.
The good news is that people buy from people now and by being yourself – by communicating your mission, your values, your strengths– you will attract the right clients for you, that is, the clients who will be interested and respect you for who you are and want to work with you because of that.
No, really: how do I sell?
Okay, so aside from changing your mindset and the way you think about selling, the other thing to do is get clear on your strategy – and, then, practise and refine as you go! Get super clear on who you are, what you do and how you can help; start creating content and putting yourself out there; have conversations and build relationships with people.
It’s only by getting out there and trying to sell that you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll evolve and refine your message and approach as you go.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be getting more concrete as to how you can assess where you are today when it comes to your personal brand, how you can start crafting the new story that you want to tell, and, ultimately, how you can integrate selling into your daily activities so that it becomes second nature.