giftThe #1 challenge many of my clients face is “selling themselves.” Somehow, those words have come to mean being pushy, self-centered, egotistic, and even WEIRD!  BUT if we’re business owners, service providers, or solo-preneurs, selling ourselves is what lets us keep doing the thing we love to do.

It’s an impossible dilemma: We have to sell ourselves, but doing so can feel frightening and even creepy.  What we need is a…

What if selling ourselves were simply “Offering our gift to others in the spirit of service.”  Let’s break it down:

  • Offering” is not pushing. It’s extending a generous hand, one that others can choose whether or not to take.
  • Our gift” is a talent we’ve been given, so that we can offer it to others. It comes from Whoever or Whatever put us together. We are just its representative—its sales rep, if you will. Each of us has gifts, and we are not meant to hoard them. We’re meant to take them out into the world so that they can help others.
  • In the spirit of service” means that we’re not blowing our own horn, or insisting that others see how wonderful we are. It simply means that we’re offering our gift in order to make life easier or better for other people.

When we “sell ourselves” from this point of view, it’s a lot easier, a lot more fun, and a lot more productive.

People tell me that the Kleenex Box Method story helps them see selling themselves from this new perspective. In seminars, I ask an audience member—let’s call him Bob—to come up front with me. We stand face-to-face, almost like two football teams lining up against one another at the line of scrimmage.

If my job is to “sell myself” to him, then from some far-off corner of my mind, I may hear a faint whisper along the lines of, “He’s either going to buy or not. If he buys, I win. If he doesn’t buy, I lose.” And he’s not just “not buying.” He’s “not buying” me! How humiliating! I scramble to cajole him into buying–and suddenly, I’m right where I don’t want to be. I am that sleazy used car salesperson I always feared I’d become!

A Better Way
In this demo, I then turn Bob so that we are standing side-by-side, both facing the audience. I put my arm around his shoulder. Now we are on the same team, equals, looking out together from the same position. I take a handy object, usually the Kleenex box they always put on podiums, and hold it out at arm’s length so that Bob and I are both looking at it.

This is the key. Imagine that the Kleenex box is the gift you offer people. The gift is not you. It’s way out there at the end of your arm, outside you. You and Bob are looking at it together. He’s not looking at you; the two of you are looking together at the Kleenex box–at your gift.

Present Your Gift
What does Bob need to know about your gift in order to make a good choice? Probably, this conversation includes the features, benefits, and cost of what you offer. Because you’re talking about your gift, and not about you, it’s okay to tell Bob how terrific that Kleenex box is, and how excited you are about it.

You don’t have to worry about “bragging” on it. This gift is something you’ve been given to put out into the world. You are only its agent; it’s okay for you to say nice things about it and to talk about what it means to you.

Be the Coach
Your only job right now is to be Bob’s coach, to help him decide whether or not this particular Kleenex box is right for him, right now. It’s not your job to manipulate, cajole, charm, or bully him into buying. It’s not your job to be so good that he can’t resist. It’s not your job to sell. Does your gift have a specific value to him, right now? What would he want to get out it, if he were to buy it? What are his concerns?

Hear what he wants, and what his objections are, in a neutral way that honors him. Maybe Bob thinks the box is too expensive. Your job is just to hear him out, and to help him compare the cost with the value he wants to get from having the Kleenex box. You are only there to serve him. Buying is okay. Not buying is okay. Either way, you continue to bring your best self, and to honor, respect, and appreciate both Bob and your gift.

When you don’t an investment in the outcome, you can relax. “Selling” becomes like coaching–like helping your niece choose between the red dress and the blue dress, or helping your nephew decide between chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Because you’re just there to help him, this is not a stressful conversation. It’s actually enjoyable, so you can have it as many times as necessary to produce the sales result you want!

Selling yourself is the life’s blood of any business or service. When you can do it as a service both to your gift and to your clients, everybody wins—and you have a lot more fun.



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