We were sitting at a local cafe, watching the sun set over the city skyline and sipping our drinks as a young and talented musician strummed away on her guitar and serenaded us with her dulcet tones. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
I ended up talking to the father-in-law of the singer, a fairly successful local businessman, and after we talked about his latest exciting business venture he looked me in the eye and said "And what do you do Zac?". I mumbled a wishy-washy answer and he tried to be interested but I could tell I had lost him. It was then that I realised that I needed to work on selling myself.
Why You Have To Sell Yourself
I used to resist the concept of "selling" myself because I thought people would respect humility and honesty more than gimmicky self-promotion tricks. I wasn't exactly wrong but I definitely was not right.
Selling yourself is not about being smarmy, arrogant, pushy, or over-the-top. It is about marketing yourself, your skills, your goals, your products, in the best possible way at all times. And I mean at all times.
The world is one giant series of markets. Everything we do is an exchange of resources (time, money, energy, love etc). Obvious examples of markets are shops where we generally exchange money for goods or services. But this concept applies to everything in our life.
In relationships we exchange our time and love in order to satisfy our needs for human connection and our desire to be loved. In work we exchange our time and skills for money, recognition and experience. It goes on.
Everything in life can be viewed as a market and if you dream of greater success then you need to start selling yourself.
Confidence Is Everything
Confidence is everything when you are selling.
If you are not confident in what you are doing then everyone else will be able to sense that. And are people likely to "buy" from someone who is not confident in their product? Hell no! Imagine if you were talking to a car salesman and he started saying things like "It's not a great car but its OK…It has a few performance problems but maybe you'd like anyway?" You would not be interested.
The same happens when you are talking about yourself. If you are not confident explaining what you do, what you are about, or why your ideas are great then people will have a hard time connecting with you.
I find generating this confidence can be extremely hard especially when it is something I am new to. For example, when I started this website it was hard for me to be confident and say things "I am a personal development and motivational writer." I doubted myself because it was a new venture whereas in reality I had demonstrated all the necessary skills previously which showed that I was more than capable.
So just because you have taken the plunge and jumped into something new that is no excuse for lacking confidence. I am sure that if you delved into your past you would find many similar examples and transferable skills that you can draw on to find your confidence. Draw on them and be confident. Tell everyone exactly how good you are. Remember no-one else is going to do it for you.
Love Yourself And Everything You Do
This is closely linked to confidence but I felt it deserved a separate section because it is an important part of becoming your ultimate salesperson: You've got to love yourself!
When you look in the mirror you should see someone that you love, someone that you are proud of, someone that makes you smile. Negative thoughts are not welcome here. You must truly love everything about yourself and want to show everyone just how great you are. If you want some tips on how to get started read my article: Learn To Love Yourself
If you are not able to talk yourself up and be proud of your achievements then you will always undersell yourself. And the result of underselling? Mediocrity and missed opportunities.
Find Your Passion
Finding confidence and the ability to love yourself is not easy if you do not like what you're doing. If you have any negative emotions (be it stress, anxiety, hate, resentment) about your current position these will filter through to your attitude. They will bubble to the surface and hinder your self-confidence.
Ask yourself this simple question: "Am I doing something that makes me truly happy?" For most people the answer is no.
Too often people are not following their dreams but instead following a plan imposed by someone else. It can come from parents who want you to work a certain job, peer pressure to seem like the most valuable employee, or societal pressure and ideas about what you "should" do with your life.
But guess what? There is no should in life. Your life is about you being happy. It is about doing what you want to and not what others think you should do. So if you aren't confident in selling yourself to others, or you find it hard to love yourself, it might be time to stop and think about what you want from life. Get out there and find your passion.
The beauty of finding something that you love doing is that not only do you love every second of your life, but you will be operating at such high level of happiness, productivity and confidence that you will naturally attract greater success. People love working with passionate, happy and energetic people, so find your passion and make people enjoy working with you.
Shame is the enemy of the salesperson. Shame does not make a sale. Shame does not lead to success.
That may be an over simplification but the point is that in the area of self-promotion shamelessness is the critical. If you feel ashamed to promote yourself, talk up your good qualities, or recommended yourself to others than no-one will be interested in you. Why would people want to find out more about someone who is ashamed to talk about themselves?
Consider an example from Tim Ferriss, author of two #1 best selling books (in different genres) who in 2008 was voted as WIRED's "Greatest Self Promoter of All Time". He has done a lot of things right to go from a nobody to a very popular somebody, assisted by his awesome (and shameless) self-promotion.
If you are need to learn how to become a shameless self-promoter then I recommended reading the "Tim Ferriss' Guide to Self Promotion" article on BNET.
Refine Your Elevator Pitch
The elevator pitch is one of the basic skills a good salesperson has. The concept is that if you meet a potential client in a time-limited environment (i.e. when riding an elevator) you need to be able to clarify what you do, why you do it, and why others want it, all in about 30 seconds. Can you do that?
I can't, but I am working on it.
For a long time I held off on honing this skill because I thought it sound a bit…wanky. I didn't want to believe that the world was just a mass of markets and everyone was always selling. I thought that was a cynical view of the world and I didn't believe it so I tried to keep myself out of the process altogether. I was wrong.
The elevator pitch is crucial in our life. It does not have to be in an elevator, and it does not have to be just for you to get a job or promote a business. It can be for anything!
Written a book and trying to get a publisher? You've got one paragraph of your cover letter to explain your book in a way that gets them hooked. Working on your first album? You'd better be able to explain it to those busy music producers in 30 seconds or they wont be interested. And so on. No matter what you do, you need to be able to "sell" it to someone else, and get them interested, with just a few sentences.
Compare what I used to say when I was asked the inevitable (and confusing) question about what I do. I do a lot of things but my response was something like this:
Ummm…well I am Consultant at the moment….I also started my own IT business on the side….and I have my own personal website where I write stuff.
What the hell is that? Firstly I put what I cared about least at the start and then talked down my two other ventures as side projects, as if they barely matter. That surely does not inspire confidence and it definitely does not generate interest in what I want people to be interested in. So I've changed it:
I help people make positive changes in their life through my personal development website and I also am the founder of a software development company that builds websites and iPhone apps.
Which sounds better? :P
The second one is miles ahead. It has a wow factor to it. It summarises what I do and delivers it in a quick one-two style that leaves people asking questions. People will ask for my website address, or they will ask about my software clients, or they will ask something completely different. The point is that they are asking questions. It gets them interested in me and that is the goal of the elevator pitch.
Fake It Until You Make It
By now, if I have done my job well, you have recognised the importance of becoming your number one salesperson and hopefully you have a list of areas you can work on to get there. So my final advice is to fake it until you make it which is basically the same as saying "practice, practice, practice".
Having trouble loving yourself? Stand in front of the mirror and practice. Tell yourself how great you are and force yourself to smile and nod in agreement. I promise that it will become second nature to smile at yourself and the love will start to come naturally.
Struggling with confidence? Do a little role-play in your mind where you turn the situation around and imagine yourself with confidence. As an example, when I used to attend interviews I would pretend that I owned the building I was being interviewed in. I practiced this thought until I walked in with my head high an full of confidence. After all, they were in MY building so they would need to give me respect wouldn't they? It sounds odd but it works.
No matter what area you think you need to improve you can achieve it by practicing success. The key is that you must practice success and not failure or sub-standard performance. You are your number one salesperson already so start thinking like it.
Believe in yourself, believe in your "product", and start convincing others just how important you are. If you do it right they will always want to hear more.