THE BLOG
09/22/2015 03:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Do You Appear Salesy or Committed? A Self-Promoters Dilemma

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We can expect some pretty dynamic changes in American marketing techniques to evolve in The New Renaissance -- my term for this burgeoning new era we've recently entered--a time when business will be conducted by masses of creative entrepreneurs, "solopreneurs" and small businesses offering products, professional services and artistic creations based on an individual's talents. A recent report by Intuit predicts that by 2020, 40% of the American workforce will be freelancers. That's 60 million enterprising individuals who will need to figure out how best to sell their products and services without the benefit of a marketing department. In other words, there will be a tremendous number of people marketing and promoting "themselves."

They will be their own brand, and their talents and skills will be their "product." Most people who find themselves in this situation will tell you how incredibly uncomfortable it is to "sell yourself." And do you know what the greatest fear for the average would-be- self-promoter is? Being too "salesy"-- you know, the kind of approach that instantly conjures up all sorts of negative feelings: aggressive salespeople, shoddy snake oil salesmen and inauthentic online marketers. The thought of being anything even remotely like this is so repellent to many individuals that they remain drastically understated in their marketing, which as a result ends up being ineffective--or in the worst-case, they may even avoid self-promotion altogether.

Now, let's switch roles for a moment: instead of looking at the self-marketing challenge from the solopreneur's point of view, let's consider how it feels as a consumer. Thinking back on your own various encounters with someone trying to interest you in buying something, can you recall an occasion when you felt a salesperson was honest, someone you could trust--and that what was being offered could genuinely serve you? Perhaps there have even been times when it felt like a privilege to participate in the proposed business transaction?

What was the difference between someone who came across as salesy as opposed to one who came across as sincere? In the latter case, it's likely how genuinely committed you felt they were to the belief that what they had to offer would fulfill your needs: they were committed.

Does this concern about "salesy versus sincere" sound familiar? If that's you, the question is: in your efforts at self-promotion, to what degree is the fear of appearing salesy holding you back? Can you find a comfortable marketing approach that's effective in getting the word out about the great work you're doing without coming across as salesy?

It's a very fine line-- one that every successful self-promoting entrepreneur has had to figure out - how to find the delicate balance point where you can achieve the buy-in without being pushy. To learn not to "scream," but at the same time realize that playing it too quietly doesn't even get you noticed.

The fact of the matter is that most self-marketers, especially creative types, stay so far from the "too salesy" boundary that they barely show up at all. If that's you,
the good news is, you can fix it.

Once you recognize the need to jumpstart your sluggish self-marketing effort, look to find your own comfortable spot somewhere along the line that stretches from barely showing up at one end to salesy at the other end. You may want to actually hit the boundary of being too salesy, even just once, in order to know what your own "authentically showing up committed to serving others" approach looks and feels like. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most aggressive, you might be a comfortable 5 or a 7.

The important thing to know, though, is that the success you see will be in direct relationship to the balance you strike. I personally look for sustainable success and alignment with who I am. For me, that's around a 7. I see plenty of 10's and I have to say, at times I'm envious of their immediate success. But after 30+ years of business success, I don't believe that level of aggressiveness in sales lasts.

On the other hand, I also know that playing it too small, being a 2 or even a 4, isn't going to create a sustainable business. That level, unfortunately, is exactly where many people trying to market their own skills and talents are currently languishing. And when you find yourself stuck there, what do you do? You give up. Business is too hard. It's the economy's fault. Nobody "got you" (literally). Then the world loses out on what you have to offer.

So, take the time to figure out your comfortable spot on the salesy vs committed scale.
If you're committed to your service or how your product can benefit people's lives, then say that. There's a huge difference in tone, energy and intention when you are focused on your commitment to creating value for others rather than focused on the sale.
Don't "sort of" care. Care fully and deliver your message of how you can be of service with commitment and passion.

Care that deeply. Be that passionate. Show up that committed.