A few posts ago, I mentioned how I dread self-promotion. I’d rather eat creamed corn than walk into a business-to-business conference or a networking mixer. I’ll save you from the details of why this comparison is such a big deal.
Whenever I broach this topic with a friend or acquaintance, I often get the following response: “But you have so much talent. You have so much to offer. You just have to believe in yourself. You just have to put yourself out there. It’ll get easier.”
Yes, I know. I hear you. I got it.
But my inner critic hears all that and says, “Nope, not true.” All the positive thinking in the world will not change the fact that I have a serious dislike of social gatherings and networking, primarily because I doubt I have the ability to make a successful sale.
Aside from the fact that I should spend years in therapy to solve my issues with self-deprecation, I don’t believe I am the only entrepreneur who shrinks from self-promoting.
The tendency to shy away from pitching one’s products or services, which (let’s face it) is an essential component to marketing one’s business, often stems from the fear of rejection. But it can go much deeper. When a potential client goes somewhere else or doesn’t see the need for what we offer, we can quickly wonder if what we have to offer is actually worth offering. As Malachi Thompson explains in a recent article, “We often ascribe rejection to something wrong with us. Start-ups and solopreneurs are particularly vulnerable to thinking rejection means they are not good enough.”
If you’ve been there (I certainly have), we first should remember that our service or product is valuable…we just have to find the right people to serve. Second, before we even consider pitching to a potential client or customer, we should develop a plan for how we’ll face rejection. “Always have a rejection-processing protocol in place,” Thompson states. “You will feel a greater sense of control knowing what may lie ahead and knowing you’ve got processes in place to handle it.”
Third, we should start thinking differently about what pitching actually means. For some time, I thought that to pitch my services, I had to become someone I’m not. I thought I had to develop a showy presentation, exaggerate on my service’s ROI, and implement all the other sleazy sales ploys that don’t leave lasting impressions. But, as Bernadette Jiwa notes in a recent post, pitching can simply be a conversation with clients. “Start with how you got to this moment and how your journey to it has equipped you to help them,” Jiwa states. “Tell your customers how you’re going to help and why it matters that you do. Then show them how their lives will be better because of what you created.”
When pitching becomes more about inviting someone to consider your product or service and less about making a direct sale, the process of self-promoting, while still daunting (i.e., terrifying), can become more approachable. And rejection may not feel so devastating. The client may not need your service or product today, but he or she may need it later. The impression you leave is what will draw that client back to you, not the showiness of your sales pitch.
I’d like to say that I’m ready to pound the pavement this very instant. Well, not quite yet. But as I practice more with self-promoting, I hope you will as well. We each have something special to offer, and as Thompson explains, “no other individual can copy [us] or [our] reasons for being in business.”
That is where the value of what we have to offer lies.