Imagine, please, you are a cave person. Paleolithic woman or man. You
make a cave painting – a horse, some hunting, a stag. Do you:
1) Yell to everyone in your village ‘Come and see what I’ve done, folks… it’s brilliant!’
2) Or selectively target individuals in your immediate vicinity,
particularly if they are carrying body parts of recently-killed bison,
and say ‘I’ll swop you a gander at my fabulous painting for some of that
succulent bison shank you’ve got under your elbow, there, mate’
(No need to read on if you chose 2)
Many of us constantly underestimate, I reckon, how closely interlinked our urge to create and to trade is.
Human beings make stuff to get approval and endorsement from others –
and that often comes via cash. Yet many of us have a real problem with
the idea of selling ourselves, our expertise and what we create.
Here are some tricks of thinking that may make your requirement to sell, easier:
to sell involves finding parallels
You have something to offer and you want to find people with a need.
That finding may involve deep research and exploring different niches.
It involves close monitoring of how people react and analysis of their
feedback. People are often highly receptive and helpful to ‘we’re trying
to find who would want this idea/product/service. What’s your view?’.
Tell it like it is.
and illustrating those parallels
An art dealer once talked about a client ‘ Her work is especially
popular with women writers, you know , Fay Weldon, people like that’.
Now I couldn’t afford this artist’s work at the time, and still can’t –
but every time I see her name mentioned I think ‘ that is the art I should be buying’.
We want to hear stories when we buy – evidence, vividness, proof that this is what people like us have.
Selling, like screenwriting, works best through show not tell.
to sell involves relationship-building
On twitter, some people have remarkably high numbers of followers,
creating multiple ‘weak-tie’ relationships. Very weak tie. And not
necessarily the type of relationship that leads to any exchange or
Because selling involves asking, listening, establishing need and
then trust-building. We give space to the other person to reveal where
Now some of you may think I’ve gone weird here, but an especially
satisfactory sale if not exactly erotic, gets the neck goosebumps going.
You know, that type of French assistant who meticulously packs what you
are buying as if of great value, and who makes you feel you are
deserving of the utmost attention in life.
It’s about an exchange of appreciation.
and about being an expert
In business like John Lewis, partners often sell with a quiet
expertise, but an expertise that is always forthcoming and easily
discovered. Customers have to know where that expertise is to access it.
And today with clamour for attention all around, we have to convey our
expertise through several different channels.
‘OK. But what if I still feel I’m being required to get one over on people?’
What are you selling? Is your integrity and heart in it? If not –
sell something else. Life’s too short to compromise your standards. And
once compromised, they can become impossible to recalibrate.
You may have been set unrealistic targets. The pacing of selling is
often vital. Often we need to be fast and promiscuous about establishing
where we can most helpfully sell – then change pace dramatically as we
go about researching our customers. To ease out of them how what we
offer can help them in the future.
Remember it’s not you who is being rejected. It is more
likely to feel like that if what you are offering has no tangibles. In
which case, make tangibles. They provide evidence.
Think about the role possibilites within selling : detective,
analyst, illustrator, communicator, teacher, advisor, problem-solver,
friend. And you can probably think of some more yourself.
May happy and goosebumpy exchange lie ahead.