A few years back, when I began sending newsletter subscribers occasional messages offering a class, book, or program, a few readers complained. One asked if it were possible to receive the newsletters but not the offers.
As I read that, my heart sped up, the bubble machine in my chest began to blow bubbles of free-floating anxiety, and my mind raced in self-defense, justification, and fear.
In principle, I know that any feedback is valuable and that when someone takes the time to write they are giving me a gift. So why did I go on red alert?
Because I was coming out of the closet and it was scary.
What had I been keeping in the closet?
In spite of the fact that for 15 years I had been coaching and teaching self-employed folks that it’s okay—even essential—to make money, I had been treating my own money-making motives like a shameful secret. So I would market my heart out, but when it came to actually selling, I would retreat.
Look Ma, No white shoes!
The used car salesman* in white shoes and belt with a loud plaid jacket is the archetype of selling as sleaze. As a result, you may—like me—have tended to keep your money motives in the closet, avoiding any appearance of overtly selling so that people won’t think you are just after their money.
But what happens, really, when you offer value day in and day out without asking for reciprocity? What are the real consequences of writing newsletters, blogging, offer complimentary sessions or other benefits to prospective clients but backing away from selling?
When you give without inviting others to reciprocate, when you don’t issue clear, open, and regular invitations to do business with you, you slip into financial anorexia.
A person suffering from anorexia has a distorted body image. When this image rules their choices, they can languish and can even die from starvation, all the while convinced that they are fat. What’s more, they are convinced that being fat is a fate worse than death (literally).
Do you have a distorted image of what it would mean to profit from serving others? Would it be okay with you if people saw your business thriving? Or do you cling to the money story that somehow starvation is a more artistic or enlightened path? Heaven forfend that your clients or customers would think you are in business for the money!
Of course you aren’t in business for the money, any more than a healthy adult lives to eat. Yet, you need to make a profit. Your business needs money just as certainly as you need food, and the more up front, clear, and effective you are about that, the healthier your business and your relationships with your customers will be.
Sounds good in principle, but how do you sell effectively without pressuring your customers and alienating your audience? Keep reading.
Selling to serve
Your customers and clients—like you—have a lot more on their minds than whether or not your work can help them. They could be crying out for what you offer, but distracted by slings and arrows of everyday fortune: leaky plumbing, aging parents, boomerang kids—the list goes on and on.
In order to help them and keep the flow of money going, you’ll need to open your mind to selling. But how do you keep selling from co-opting your values and your vision? The answer is to build service into sales and vice versa.
The first key to selling that serves: Begin with the end in mind
Begin with the end in mind. Stephen Covey had this one exactly right. (If you haven’t read his classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it’s well worth your time.) Before you sell anything to anyone, remember why you are going to do it: How you intend to serve them.
This first key is the most important. If it is missing, you will run out of steam before you even begin the sales process.
So why does anyone ever skip it?
Because when money is in the closet, everything related to selling is in there, too. You need to take money out of the closet so you can look clearly at all of your motives for selling.
Remember the archetype of the white-shoed car salesman*? It runs deep, and unless you consciously establish the service foundation for selling every time you write copy or tell someone about your work, you risk getting blind-sided by shame. And guess what? As soon as shame starts to burble up in you, your customers pick up on it. Yuck!
Give people what they need to buy
Walk a mile in their shoes. What do your just-right clients need to know in order to make a decision? What could get in the way? What are the stakes if they fail to act?
How many couples would not be together today if one partner hadn’t been willing to hang in there when the other hesitated? If the course of true love doesn’t run smooth, why would the course of deciding to buy something that’s a good fit?
When you stand in your just-right customer’s shoes for a while, you’ll see what steppingstones they might need in order to buy something that will truly serve them.
Are those steppingstones for everyone? Of course not. Is that a problem? No, and to find out why not, keep reading.
Dance with no as well as yes
When you are clear about who you are serving and how, open your heart even wider so that people who don’t need what you offer, or who are not ready to buy, are free to decline. Rather than arming yourself against someone’s decision not to buy, open yourself to it.
Imagine a prospective client or customer considering and then deciding against your offer. Watch them closely in your mind’s eye without pretending to know what they are thinking. Just watch.
When you let go of what you think that they think about you, what do you see? Do you notice that they are simply taking care of themselves as best they know how? Good. Now notice how your heart eases as you unhook your self-esteem from their choices.
This heart’s ease completes the circuit from intention to serve to decision to sell to blessing all of your prospects whether or not they decide to buy. Selling becomes a conversation in which you advocate for those folks who want and can benefit from your work so that they can notice, consider, and decide.
When you bring money motives out of the closet, everyone wins
A healthy business needs to make a profit to be healthy just as your body needs food. Not only is there no shame in wanting to nourish your business or yourself, doing so is a prerequisite for helping others.
So bring those money motives out of the closet. It will be good for everyone.
*By the way, I love my car salesman, DJ Dougherty, from Peninsula Subaru here on the Kitsap Peninsula. Why? Because he served me in every step of the sales process. Nearly six years after buying “Blanche” from him, I still tell everyone I know about DJ. How would it be if your customers told their friends about you because they loved the way you sold to them?
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