Guest Columnist: Connie Kadansky, PCC, Sales Call Reluctance Coach …
You may be exceptional at what you do, but if nobody knows it outside your normal network, exciting new opportunities will elude you. Salespeople are not the only people who need to market themselves to win more visibility in their industry. Sales Call Reluctance can neutralize any career.
Sales Call Reluctance is
the emotional hesitation to
prospect and self-promote.
If you’re reluctant to self-promote, here’s how you get past it.
Chip is five years into his career. He works for a small but powerful niche-market company. While he works long hours, Chip is not positioning himself as a player in his industry. He complains that he is largely unknown and that his firm ? though credible ? is not a household name like the big institutions in his industry that advertise heavily. He considers these major disadvantages when networking within his industry for opportunities to position himself as a credible authority. He knows that if he could be chosen to be a speaker at an industry conference or trade show, it would give him the platform he needs for higher visibility. However, he feels awkward when he even thinks about promoting himself.
Working with a French interpreter training the Women in Parliament in Rwanda
If you are largely unknown, what can you do to make yourself known? If the key to success in real estate is location, location, location, then in business, you need visibility, visibility, visibility. What are you doing to make yourself visible within your industry? How are you promoting yourself internally, nationally, or even internationally?
Performance alone no longer determines success. In their book, The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, pioneering researchers George W. Dudley and Shannon L. Goodson discovered something more important than performance: it is self-promotion. Some of the most highly paid and powerful professionals they interviewed did not attain their positions by being the most technically competent. They did it through purposeful self-promotion.
Some people are natural promoters. They were born with the instinct to self-promote. For others ? often the most loyal, motivated, and deserving ? self-promotion is emotionally difficult. They are rendered invisible by a spirit-crushing condition Dudley and Goodson call the ‘fear of self-promotion.’
Research shows that in our culture the highest rewards don’t go to the hardest working, most intelligent, or even the best prepared. The highest rewards go to the people who are most willing to self-promote. Self-promoters know that they must knock on doors, make the phone calls, and do whatever else is ethically necessary to attract attention. If they are unwilling to do so, the opportunities will simply pass them by. If your colleagues and upper management don’t know what you bring to the table, what you can add to the conversation and contribute to the solution? How can they possibly refer you and call on you for opportunities?
Self-promotion isn’t all bad.
When I say “self-promotion,” what immediately comes to mind? Do you think of that slick guy down the hall who is loud and always telling everyone how great he is? Or that old boss of yours who was totally incompetent but had somehow convinced someone that he knew what he was doing? It is important to ponder this. Are you not effectively promoting yourself because you don’t want to be perceived like these obnoxious people? If so, you’re blocking yourself by identifying self-promotion as a negative. These people have nothing to do with effective self-promotion.
The good news is that you don’t have to become a loudmouth to be effective at self-promotion. You don’t have to be boisterous or obnoxious or even an extrovert. But you do have to develop confidence and learn to take the lead when it’s appropriate. People who promote themselves do not hang back. They are always professional, and they do what they need to do to make themselves visible:
- They position themselves and make sure they get noticed. They fully utilize their existing contacts and networks and are always developing new ones. Not only do they get noticed, they make sure they are remembered. They do something distinctive to get remembered.
- They have style. What’s unique about you? Your style? Background? Hobbies? Experience? Hair? Your golf handicap? Neckties? Eyeglasses? Sincere approach? Follow-up? Sense of humor? Volunteerism? The fact that you are known to serve your clients and not yourself? Is there anything about your style that is not serving you? Are you following up? Staying in touch? Keeping your word? Adding value?
- They demonstrate consistency. This is probably the most important attribute of the three. Natural self-promoters never leave self-promotion to chance. They know that a lost opportunity will go to one of their competitors. They repeatedly show up even if they are not in the mood! In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says that the “signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
When it comes to self-promotion, most people fight an emotional battle between the desire to promote themselves to colleagues and the fear of appearing immodest. Any time you are in fear, you shrink. And when you are in fear just notice who you are thinking about at that moment. Surprise! I’ll bet you’re focused on yourself. Here are three ways to manage your fear and let colleagues know how you can help them:
- Become aware that you are hesitating. Hiding, denying, and rationalizing your fear is detrimental and gets you nowhere. You must pinpoint your fear exactly. Are you thinking: “My colleagues may think I’m seeking the limelight.” Or: “I don’t want them to think that I’m tooting my own horn.” You cannot work through obstacles unless and until you identify them. The fear of self-promotion is nothing to be embarrassed about, but needlessly living with it is.
- Assess current attitudes and behaviors. Take some time to do an inventory on how you stack up when it comes to self-promotion. It’s often helpful to have an outside opinion when doing this kind of assessment, since it’s difficult to see our own weaknesses. A coach may be able to offer an objective assessment that pinpoints your self-promotion issues.
- Take action in the areas where you are uncomfortable. The final step is to apply proven techniques to overcome your particular fears. Again, a coach can be helpful in changing your behaviors.
Overcome your fear of self-promotion.
One strategy to overcome your fear of self-promotion is powerful and simple: Recognize your unique value and let it empower you.
The only way you are going to eliminate your fear is to become convinced of your value. Then you will prospect with a sense of entitlement. No, I didn’t say a sense of arrogance. A sense of entitlement means that you are worthy of consideration because of your education, experience, expertise, credentials, etc. You can work on this at two levels.
First, take an inventory of what you have to offer as a qualified professional. Ground yourself by building an awareness of the benefits your colleagues and upper management get from working with an experienced professional. If you don’t know your value, you cannot sell your value.
Second, get personal. Answer this question: What is your unique contribution? List the qualities that make you worthy. Why you? Dig deep. Spend some time soul searching. List the benefits of your expertise. Keeping your personal strengths in front of you will give you a new perspective on you. Once you are convinced that you are valuable, the process of self-promotion is much easier because now you are sold on you. You will not feel like an unwanted interruption. You must be sold on your own value before you can ever begin to sell someone else! You must be able to articulate your value. This takes introspection and practice. It is possible!
Remember, if you don’t toot your own horn, there will be no music!