How do you feel about selling yourself? It’s not hard to guess your response. Because very few of us, the truly narcissistic excepted, actually feel good about selling ourselves.
And yet, we all need to do it, all the time. Even more so when we’re business owners. Because then we’re not just selling ourselves and our ideas to a potential boss, but to investors, potential customers, employees, and even our business partners.
The problem is that disconnect – the one between what we think we need to do and what we should actually do.
This is What We Should Do
I recently heard someone use the phrase ‘show up and throw up’, a rather crass way to describe what seems to overcome many people in sales situations, but most of all when they’re selling themselves. It’s not a pretty picture, is it?
We somehow feel compelled to share everything we think we’ve ever done right, regardless of what our intended audience actually wants to hear. I suspect this happens to many trained salespeople too – for some reason we’re unable to use our questioning skills and deep listening when we are selling ourselves.
The Questions, Always the Questions
Granted, selling yourself or pitching your business is not exactly the same as having a sales conversation that you control. But why shouldn’t you be pitching to the needs you should have uncovered? You’ve most likely done your homework prior to your ‘sales’ situation. At least I hope you have. What you need to do now is cleverly and subtly confirm what you think you’ve learned through skillful questions. That would be those compelling questions, the ones that make your prospect think in terms of their needs but answer in terms of your needs. I wrote about them in this post.
You need to know yourself and have prepared well enough to then be able to ‘sell’ whichever aspects of your personality, experience and education help solve the problems you’ve identified. It’s still a sales conversation, emphasis on conversation. There has to be some exchange between you and the party you are selling to.
What About Pitching?
But what to do when that is just impossible, say in a pitch competition or something similar? Make your best guess as to what the issues are likely to be, walk a little way in your audience’s shoes, and think about what you would want to hear in that situation. Chances are you won’t be too far off.
Don't Forget to Breathe
Oh yes, and don’t forget to breathe. This is important for a whole lot of reasons:
1. It calms and centers you.
2. It slows down your thoughts and your verbal delivery.
3. It literally gives you ‘breathing room’ to think and respond thoughtfully.
4. It helps give your voice the clarity and volume you need to command attention.
But probably most importantly, believe in yourself. Yes, you do have something to offer. And no, it won’t be for everybody. Your job as a ‘salesperson’ is to make the connections between what you have to offer and what your prospect needs. Not so different than a sales conversation, right?