I spend a lot of time helping independent professionals, who work with clients, make their businesses better.
For some, self-image is a huge issue. For others, figuring out how to effectively articulate their value is the biggest challenge. Still others have no strategy in place to generate qualified leads who might become clients.
The most serious obstacle, however, is something far worse. When you’re in the business of working one-on-one with clients, you pretty much live and die by your ability to sell yourself.
Now at its core, I don’t believe selling has changed all that much over the years. What’s changed, with the growth of the internet and the “free content” craze, is the way selling looks from the outside.
And this is where the trouble can begin.
Selling Yourself With Free
From the outside looking in, it might seem that giving away a lot of valuable free information is all you need to position yourself as an expert and get the clients calling.
After all, once you prove you know what you’re doing, then that will clear the way to getting hired by the right people. Right?
If you’ve ever tried that approach for any length of time, like I have, then you already know it’s a great way to go broke and be miserable all at once.
Giving away free information isn’t selling, it’s simply a way to let people know that you’re alive. But free information does very little to overcome the inertia keeping your client’s money in his pocket instead of moving it to yours.
The Unique Challenges When You’re Selling YOU
When you’re selling products, things are a bit different. With a product, it’s a whole lot easier to distance yourself from the product and sell it in a more objective way.
When you’re selling YOU, things are murkier. You’ve got your personality, your likes, dislikes, life story, insecurities, fears, limiting beliefs, desires and more all swimming around. Those things can be great assets, or they can mess with your head.
The other unique challenge to selling yourself is that we tend to attach a story to everything that happens to us in the process. “The prospect isn’t on time to the appointment, does that mean she’s not coming? Did I do something wrong?”
“I’m not sure what he meant by that last phrase before we hung up. Was he saying he didn’t believe me? Did I screw up the whole thing at the end?”
It’s not hard to imagine how all of this can work against you in a big way. And things can get pretty messy if you let them.
The Secret to Selling Yourself
So how do you overcome all of these things and sell yourself with confidence? What does “selling yourself” even mean in today’s “free content” world?
When you’re selling you, pretty much everything comes down to attraction. Yes, you can hunt for clients, but I’ve discovered that you lose certain benefits by doing that. For me, what I lose isn’t worth the benefits (mainly speed) I get in exchange–it’s just not my preferred model.
If attraction is priority one, that means what you do and how well you do it take a back seat to how strong your field of attraction is.
So you can stop focusing so hard on your “art” and start focusing more on the marketing of your art.
This is not a new idea, but it is one that is easily forgotten.
The “artist” in me, the part of me that says good work should sell itself (as if), fought this idea for a while. Like it or not, that seems to be the way it is.
You develop attraction by demonstrating what you know, by demonstrating who you know, by demonstrating what you are doing.
People are attracted to people who “have things going on” and to people who “know people.”
Think back to the popular kids in high school. They might have been jerks, but there was something about them that people found attractive. Study that. Figure out what “that” was. Now ask yourself how you apply that principle to what you’re doing.
If it’s not obvious to you, the dynamics of how things worked in high school are still present today in business. We’re still in high school basically. Fight it, or use it.
How to Develop Your Field of Attraction
First of all, most people need to readjust their idea of just how much action is required to produce a client.
This is what I underestimated for a very long time.
You have to talk to a lot of people… a lot of the right people. A lot more than you think is necessary.
That’s what free content is for… it’s a tool to increase the power of your attraction field to thousands and thousands of potential prospects.
Since a lot of online media are basically ignored (how many emails did you delete just today without reading them?), you want to branch out into multiple types of media. This is what I’ve found to be effective.
But that’s just the very beginning. The step that comes after free content is where it starts to get real.
Selling is about engineering situations that prompt decisions. You don’t care what the decision is as much as that one is made.
That means you need to setup “gates” in your “field of attraction” that require a decision.
For me, one of those gates is the “free consultation.” I no longer offer them. I have enough free content, free articles, free publications (in print and online, and the number is growing all the time) that by the time someone shows up at my website, they are presented with a simple decision:
Do they pay for access to me or not?
And the process grows from there. Developing a field of attraction around you and your business is a long process. So if you’re not in this for the long haul, you should probably try a different approach.
Selling Yourself Without Appearing Needy
For a long time, I had this idea that actively selling yourself might make you appear needy. So I stuck with spewing free information all over the place and waited.
Eventually, I realized that understanding was a big mistake.
In today’s age of free content, with Twitter, Facebook and other places you can talk without having anyone actually listen, it’s easy to get brainwashed that the way to sell things is to give everything away, lay down in the street and then HOPE that someone comes to buy something.
I’ve gone through periods where that Kool-Aid has been poured down my gullet. I’m not perfect (gasp!), so sometimes I actually swallow it.
I get indigestion and eventually I realize the mistake.
In the past, I’ve thought, “The best way to sell yourself is to not sell anything!” While that’s 100% true on one level, in my experience, it’s not the whole story.
You see, the point isn’t to stop selling, the point is to stop appearing (and being) NEEDY.
Neediness is a turn off, especially when you’re selling yourself.
It’s a turnoff in grade school, high school, college and real life.
But you can sell your heart out without being needy. That’s because neediness is a state of mind, not a set of circumstances.
The truth is, we’re all selling something, all the time. It’s just that some people don’t get it or are REALLY bad at it. So understand this:
The secret isn’t NOT to sell, it’s to make sure they know you don’t need them to buy!
WOW, it only took me 35 years to articulate that. But that’s really the game, set and match right there.
If your clients treat you like garbage, then the reason is that they understand you need THEM more than they need you. And the worst part is, you taught ‘em to believe it!
You’re messin’ with their heads! So fix it.
Now go sell your heart out. The world needs what you have.
[Ed. Note. Jason Leister is a direct response copywriter, internet entrepreneur and editor of the daily e-letter, The Client Letter, where he empowers independent professionals who work with clients. He has six kids and lives and works in the mountains of Arizona.]The Truth About Selling Yourself,