How to learn to sell yourself – in spite of yourself!

5 Tips to Get You Into Sales Mode

“I can sell anything but when it comes to selling myself, I am hopeless!”  Ever heard anyone say that, or even said it yourself?

Arguably the most important thing we might ever sell is our own skills, expertise, professional services, etc.  Looking for a new job, contract, outlet for selling your services or products – how much of that is really about selling yourself?

I believe people buy what you are selling not because of what it is, but because of who you are and why you are selling it.

I have been selling something most of my life.  As a child, I was recruited by my horse dealer Dad to sell horses to everyone from the young teenage girl who showed up with her parents and their cheque book, to rough and tumble loggers from Quebec who came to buy draft horses with large trucks ready to load them up.

As a newspaper reporter and then communications person, I either flogged the idea of a story to a potential subject, or cajoled a media outlet to interview the actors and athletes who were my clients.  In the Olympic and major event world, I sold multi-million dollar sponsorships and broadcast rights – sometimes with little more than a promise that we would pull off this outrageous idea and they would get their money’s worth.

When I moved on to selling my own services as an executive coach, CEO advisor, workshop leader – you got it, more sales!  Does that make me good at selling myself?  Not always, but I have picked up a few tips over the years about how to make a good sale – one in which I don’t feel like I am a snake oil salesman and that it is truly a win-win for me and the buyer.

Here are my tips:

1.    Believe in it, or don’t sell it – the times when my sales efforts have fallen completely flat are when I really didn’t believe in what I was selling.  I have tried, on occasion, to convince myself that since everyone else seems to believe in an idea it must be just me, therefore I can get out there and sell it.  Nope, does not work.  People will see through that in a nana second.  Same holds true when you are selling yourself – believe in yourself and your ability to do the job and project that.

2.    It is not about what you are selling, it is about what the buyer is buying!  Ever been in the room when someone was trying to sell something so hard, but it was obvious that it was not what the buyer wanted to buy?  As brilliant as you might be at extolling the virtues of you, your services or your product, if you are not thinking about what the buyer is actually looking for, you are unlikely to make the sale.

As an example, in the Olympic world, we learned that we could talk about the benefits of an Olympic sponsorship until the cows come home, but if we could establish an emotional connection between the executives of a company and the idea of supporting the commitments and accomplishments of the world’s athletes, we were much more likely to make the sale.

This does not mean that you necessarily adapt yourself to what a potential employer or client is looking for, but it does mean that you interrogate yourself as to your “fit” with what the buyer wants.  Do they truly just want someone to take orders and not initiate – and that’s not you – then maybe you are not selling what they want to buy.

3.    The buyer is buying you – that is not crass, it is a fact: people buy from people.  You could try just riding on your CV and your credentials but in the end the person across the desk wants to know what kind of person you are and whether you can work together.  Let that person shine, in your authentic manner.

One of my best jobs resulted from being hired by a fabulous woman who tops my best mentors ever list.  When she hired me she said:  “Apart from the fact that I think you will do the job well, I also think we will get along.  Every day I face opposition from external politics, outside competitors, you name it.  I want to work with someone I can get along with.”

4.    Remember to close the deal! – many potential deals have never seen the light of day because someone did not close the deal.  You may have a terrific conversation with a potential buyer but if it is not clear where things go next or how the loop is closed, you may end up without the job or contract.  Is that only up to the person doing the hiring?  Nope!  As the seller you have a role to play according to what is appropriate in the situation.  If it is not clear what will happen next, some questions you might ask: “I would love to understand the next steps in our discussion please?  What can I do to advance this discussion to the next level?  Can I give you a call at the end of the week to find out where you are at?”  (And then don’t leave the room without establishing a time in both your schedules.)

5.    It isn’t over until it’s over – even if you think you have effectively closed the deal, things can drag on.  No confirmation phone call, no contract flowing into your Inbox, silence at the other end.  What to do?  Create a call to action, without sounding desperate or that you are panicking that there is no deal. “I haven’t heard from you and I want to ensure I hold the time in my calendar to do the work” or “I haven’t heard from you and I am wondering if there is any additional information, references etc that I can provide to help with your decision?”

A question that frequently comes up is: when do I give up?  It may have been days, weeks or months since you heard from the prospective employer/client, but when do you call it quits?  My suggestion is that you don’t call it quits until the person on the other side actually says its over.  Their silence or non-response may be an indication that they think it is over, but for whatever reason they are not communicating that to you (highly unprofessional but it happens).  Or it may simply be that the person is mired in other priorities or waiting for a third person to make a decision.  Back to point 5 above: create a call to action, preferably with a deadline.  I would really like to hear from you by October 31 so that I can make appropriate plans.

There are great books, programs and tools on selling techniques – take advantage of them by all means.  But remember: YOU are a big part of the selling equation!

Happy selling!