Promoting Your New Business without Feeling Sleazy
I want you to mentally complete the following sentence without thinking about it too hard or censoring your gut reaction. If you can, complete the sentence out loud using the very first word that comes to your mind.
Are you ready?
Selling is _______.
I’m guessing if you are reading this post, you completed the sentence with a negative word. Fan favorites include: sleazy, pushy, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, awkward, fake, phony, and downright ICKY.
If you’ve started your own business but don’t have a background in business or sales, it’s normal to feel this way about promoting your new business. Even if you start out with a negative outlook toward sales, it is a mistake to think you can build your business without changing your perspective.
Too many creatives are permanently hindering their business growth because they refuse to get comfortable with sales and marketing. Whether you like it or not, sales IS business: if you have no sales, you have no business.
Furthermore, people less talented than you will surpass you in business just because they were willing to learn how to market themselves effectively. Maybe you can think of a person right now who’s creative talents are off the charts, but they have never translated that to business growth. Conversely, maybe you can think of someone who you consider to be creatively mediocre, but whose business is growing and thriving.
The Secret to Authentic Selling
Here’s the good news: marketing and selling is a skill that you can learn like any other skill, and it isn’t reserved for extraverts, schmoozers, or people with magnetic personalities. And, it IS possible to sell in a way that feels authentic to who you are; you don’t have to adopt a different persona, aggressive tactics, or unfamiliar language.
So, how do we transform from feeling icky and uncomfortable with sales to effectively and confidently marketing a business? If you want to make this transformation, the first step is to get out of your own way and address the beliefs and fears that are keeping you from selling. The second step is to start building your practical sales skills and find methods that work for you to connect with your ideal client.
Transforming Your Beliefs About Selling
The first thing keeping you from authentically selling is what you believe about selling. If you believe that selling is inherently sleazy and morally wrong, you will either avoid marketing your business OR do it anyway and feel icky about it. That’s a lose-lose situation.
First, you must believe that it is possible to sell in an ethical, genuine, and natural way. Examples are incredibly helpful here. Can you think of three examples of businesses or personal brands, whether small or large, that you think market themselves both authentically AND effectively? Keep these examples in mind as you transform what you think about selling.
Secondly, you need to recognize that selling is the only way you get to serve anyone in your business. At the end of the day, most of us are in business because we want to use our gifts to help other people. Making sales is the only way we get to do that. As Daniel Pink puts it in his book To Sell is Human:
“To sell well is to convince someone else to part with resources—not to deprive that person, but to leave him better off in the end.”
Some helpful (and true) alternative beliefs that you can adopt about selling are:
Selling is serving.
Selling is connecting.
Selling is neutral – not good or bad.
Overcoming Your Fears About Selling
If you transform your beliefs and accept that there isn’t anything wrong, bad, or unethical about selling, you may face another obstacle: fear. Promoting a business can unearth many latent fears.
Fear of being judged by others.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of being found out (also known as imposter syndrome).
Fear of failure.
Feeling afraid is a natural human response to doing anything new. The fears involved with entrepreneurship are well documented and often discussed. If marketing and selling your business is new for you, you can expect that fear will show up and create some resistance.
The key to overcoming fear is recognizing and acknowledging that you are afraid while committing to moving forward anyway. At the risk of trivializing a hero for the sake of business inspiration and advice, the late Nelson Mandela has a helpful perspective on courage:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Building Your Practical Skills at Selling
Once you have removed the beliefs and fears that prevent you from selling, you can start to build your practical marketing and sales skills. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to market a business authentically and effectively; ANY method can be authentic, from cold-calling to content marketing. The key is to find the methods that work best for your unique business.
Here are some tips for you to figure out the strategies that will help you sell authentically and effectively.
Start with your ideal client in mind. You must keep your ideal client at the front and center of your mind when you are exploring potential marketing and sales strategies. This applies to both your marketing style and the specific channels that you choose. If you are trying to reach millennial creatives (like me) Instagram is a helpful channel. If you are trying to reach baby boomers, more traditional methods may be more effective.
Play to your strengths. When you are marketing your business, use your strengths to your advantage! Are you really fun and quirky? Do Instagram stories that show your personality. Are you highly professional? Create a sleek and polished monthly newsletter for your email subscribers. Are you great with people one-on-one? Incorporate video calls into your sales process.
Keep it simple. You don’t need 20 marketing strategies to grow your business; you just need one or two that work consistently. Choose one or two marketing methods that you think are a good fit for you (based on the criteria above) and invest the time and energy that is required to make them work for you. This will take time and consistency, but it will be worth the effort.