One thing I’ve found when I talk to people is the stigma around selling, in particular selling our skills. Whether I’m out networking, talking to clients or to friends and family there will be, more often than not, a sense of taboo, a hesitant aura around the subject of selling.
I see this when I’m talking to people in full time employment going for promotions, individuals changing careers and entrepreneurs out there selling their product or service. What is it about selling that people detest so much? It crushes my soul to know that there are amazing, talented people out there that want to exercise that talent, the world needs their talent, but the idea of ‘putting themselves out there’ is something that they can’t stand.
We have in our head the image of that salesman with the script, pinstripe suit, slicked back hair and offers that are too good to be true. Feeling that we’re being conned into buying something that we don’t want, don’t need or something that will break in the first 5 uses. We have linked the buying experience to an ordeal that should be avoided, we shuffle into the shop and avoid the store staff that we think are lurking in the corners, stalking us like a pack of velociraptors, lying in wait for the moment to pounce on us. Even if they get us exactly what we asked for we are suspicious of all the hidden fees that might be waiting for us down the line, the rise in contracts and the ‘shady’ insurance deals on products. There is no trust anymore. We would rather defect to the internet and trust strangers than the professionals that are selling those products to us.
No wonder when people come to selling their skills to a potential employer or create a product or service that the world needs there is an undertone of resentment. How many of you have filled out an application or written a cover letter where you have to answer the following question:
‘Why would you be good fit for this role?’
Ugggghhhhhhh! Am I right? We hate this question, because now we feel we have to justify ourselves to our potential employer. How many of us interpret that question like this?
‘Why should we even bother considering you?’
‘You’re punching way above your weight. What makes you think you’re good enough to work for a company like ours anyway?’
Writing applications are a drawn out process that a lot of people can achieve impressive levels of anxiety over. That notion that ‘someone is judging me’ mixed with the idealistic view that ‘everyone should like me’ winds a lot of us up. We tie our self esteem to whether we get a response back from one person in the world, then we generalise that the entire world thinks the same thing and we beat ourselves up about it. We don’t want to be seen as that shady salesman that knocks door to door selling life insurance. It’s a recipe for stress and anxiety that leaves us feeling crap about ourselves.
Not surprising then that the majority of people I talk to aren’t that fond of selling and they hate the idea of it. That view people have of anyone that sells a product or service certainly isn’t a positive one and they don’t want to become someone with that label. Well what if I told you that you didn’t have to be a shady salesman and join the cult of ‘con artists’ or stalk clients like prey? What if you could look after your clients and sell your skills without tricking people out of their money? What if I told you that people had a choice if they buy something from you or not?
Which brings us to the present. We are in a completely different era from when these stereotypes of sales and selling were formed. With the internet evolving more each day, businesses and people are forced to be more authentic and are caught out far more easily if they are pushing dicey products. Now we can pull out our phone and search the product or service to see if we can get it cheaper somewhere else, how good it actually is, how they treat their clients and if what they claim is true, is actually true. This is working both ways as well. Employers are searching social media to screen potential employees and if there is an initial façade it is easy to see the cracks in and see their true colours.
The internet, social media, live streaming – with all these channels to go through now it’s so easy to see if there isn’t a consistent image being portrayed and whether a person or a brand isn’t telling you the whole story. In turn this has bred the age of authenticity and collaboration where brands are endorsing each other, referrals are carrying even more weight than they were before and the worthiness of our character is directly tied to the worthiness of our products.
In a nutshell, if you’re not authentic in what you’re selling then it shows. If you say your product does ‘blue’ and 100 people has used it and saying it does ‘red’ then it does ‘red’. So why should all this reduce your anxiety around selling whether you’re fully employed or an entrepreneur?
You don’t have to put on a mask that you are someone that you are not. People want to see who you are! People want to know the real you and have a human conversation, no scripts read in monotone voices. When people get to know you, get to know your product, get to know your service then people know what you’re about. They understand what you stand for, your values and how you can help people. They have the information to make the decision of if you can help them and how to look for people that might be interested in your service/product. If they turn around and say ‘hey, I’d like some blue. Do you know where I can get some?’ then you can do that because you sell ‘blue’.
The problem comes when people say ‘hey, I’d like some rabbits. Do you know where I can get some?’ and then you try to sell them ‘blue’! You don’t sell ‘rabbits’! You sell ‘blue’, so don’t pretend you sell ‘rabbits’ and try to sell them something that they don’t want.
Believe it or not people will also expect you to have flaws! It’s one of those things that builds a connection with people, them knowing that you’re not perfect. Flaws are part of who you are and being able to accept these shows self-awareness and a sense of perspective. So, I invite you to utilise your flaws and turn them into a way to create a real connection with someone.
As you’ve probably noticed throughout this article it’s not about knowing the perfect line to say or pretending you know all the answers when you don’t. It’s about being you, being authentic and knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Understand that making a connection with someone is your primary objective and then it will become apparent if they are looking for what you have to offer. If they want what you have then you have made a sale. If they don’t then refrain from pushing a sale on someone. You come across desperate and that isn’t an attractive trait.
For me, selling is an exchange of services and products where money is usually at one end of the exchange. It’s a mutually beneficial process and both parties have a need for what the other has. So get out there and start exchanging products and services! People need what you have, somewhere.
Find them and make selling a win-win scenario.
Catch up on our last blog focusing on eliminating stress here.