Entrepreneur Challenge: Selling Yourself

Are you starting up a private practice or small business based largely around your own expertise? Let me guess: you’re hesitant about selling yourself. Don’t worry; this is not at all unusual. In fact, after getting past the mental and emotional hurdles involved in launching a business and figuring out the plethora of practical details like funding, location, legalities, licensing, and paperwork, the most agonizing challenge faced by any entrepreneur is often the prospect of selling yourself.

And yet I’m guessing you have no trouble recommending other people’s products and services once you’ve had a good experience with them. Isn’t that interesting? It’s one thing to talk passionately and authentically about a product or service or person you believe in. It’s quite another to promote yourself in that same way. Why is this?

Often our hesitation comes down to two things: (1) We don’t want to annoy people or push something on them that they don’t want – especially when that thing is us (can you say “possibility of rejection?”); and (2) we don’t actually believe we’re that great.

As Susannah Breslin observed in her Forbes article How to Sell Yourself, “One of the biggest challenges for those who are selling-themselves challenged is an inability to separate who they truly are from who they are as a product.”

Thinking of yourself as a product, how would you answer the following questions?

  • What is your unique value proposition (your strengths, passions, talents, habits, and goals)?
  • What are you good at in the eyes of others?
  • Why are you doing what you’re doing (offering this product or service to the world)? What drives you? Where does your passion for doing this come from?
  • Who are you trying to reach and serve? How will their lives be better for knowing or working with you?
  • What experience do you want your clients to have when working with you and your company? (This is the basis for your personal brand and marketing message.)
  • How do your clothing style, personal grooming, body language, and behavior support or detract from your personal brand and marketing message? What can you do to bring these into alignment?
  • Is this ideal client experience consistent across all the various platforms where your clients interact with you – whether internet or in person?

Once you have the answers to these questions, then it’s time to tackle the dual challenges of (1) not wanting to annoy people and (2) feeling insecure about how great you truly are. Both of these are going to involve a unique mix of beliefs, thoughts, emotions, past experiences, and insecurities in each of us – which are rich fodder for a coaching conversation (yes, I had to put the plug in!). I’ll also explore these in more detail in my upcoming entrepreneurial articles Embracing Your Inner Salesperson and How Great Are You?