Taking the “ick” factor out of self-promotion
By Lisa Mcleod
“What’s it gonna take to get you in this car today?” Somebody with a little bit better communication skills than you, big boy!
There’s nothing grosser than buying a car. It’s not the money and the endless option choices that make it so miserable, it’s the salesmen. Those manipulative, smooth-talking, say-anything-to-get-the-sale pretty boys might reel in mega commissions on extended warranties, fancy running boards and invisible undercoating, but they leave me feeling like I need to take a shower.
In a highly scientific survey conducted by the producers of the game show “Family Feud,” 100 people were asked “What profession is best suited for liars?” And the No. 1 answer is (survey says!) sales, narrowly beating politicians and lawyers.
I’ve been in sales my whole life. Prior to becoming a writer, I made my living teaching sales people how to close more deals, and I can promise you, not everybody is Herb Tarlick. But the smooth-talking radio advertising sales rep from WKRP in Cincinnati is exactly the image most people have of sales.
We think if we have to “sell” somebody on something, it’s somehow dishonest. I mean, if you have to talk it up, it must mean there’s something wrong with it, right? Only people with no conscience would go out and sell something. And, if we have to promote ourselves? Well, that’s just downright icky.
Women are especially weird about tooting our own horns. We shouldn’t have to sell people on how wonderful we are–they should notice right? If you’ve got a great product or business, they’ll want to show up on your doorstep. And if you’re bucking for a promotion, hard work alone should get you there.
It almost feels like cheating if we try to position ourselves more positively. Guess what? The world isn’t paying as much attention to you as you might think. You may be the best thing since sliced bread, but you’re going to have to tell somebody if you want noticed. And the only way to get their attention is to make your story as compelling as possible.
It’s no coincidence that the book “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul™” (Harper-Collins) was written by a woman, Susan Harrow. It’s women who get all wigged out and turn self-promotion into a moral issue. We’ll go on and on about our kids, but when it comes to talking about ourselves, our businesses, or even our churches, we don’t want to appear too braggy.
But Harrow’s approach to “promoting your cause, your company, or yourself with integrity and spirit” demonstrates that you don’t have to slick your hair back to sell something. And publicizing your accomplishments isn’t sucking up, it’s simply passing along information.
I can’t tell you how many women I’ve known have been passed over for promotions simply because they spent all their time working and not enough time telling people about it. Or volunteers who never got people excited about their cause because they didn’t learn how to properly spin it.
It would be nice if everybody could see the value of what we’re doing and agree with our ideas immediately upon hearing them. But the world doesn’t work that way. It’s not dishonest to present something that’s important to you in a favorable light. It’s common sense. And it’s not manipulative to tailor your words in a way that gets other people excited or spurns them to action. It’s intelligent.
Nobody would have known Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream unless he had told someone about it. And if you think that wasn’t inspiring salesmanship, consider how tough some of his customers were.
The bozo on the car lot isn’t annoying because he’s trying to sell you something. He’s annoying because he’s doing it badly. Sales doesn’t have to mean sleaze. And you don’t have to put on a plaid jacket to talk somebody into something. If you’ve got something important to say, do the honest thing and sell it, baby, sell it.
Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Satisfaction in the Life You’ve Already Got and the YOU You Already Are.” She has been a regular columnist for Lifetime magazine and featured in Glamour, Real Simple and The New York Times. Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.