Selling Yourself Is Not Optional

Last week I met “Kathy” a brilliant thinker and compelling speaker wrestling with where to take her still-young business. When she first left her big kahuna job to start her consulting firm, she was a whirling dervish—speaking (for free) on every industry panel she could talk her way onto, intent on setting herself up for lucrative consulting assignments.

The feedback from her speeches was always stellar—her comments were tweeted and retweeted, her sessions were highly ranked and she was consistently invited to present again (and even scored a few referrals to speak at other events).

And yet, after six months, not even a nibble to discuss consulting, much less an actual assignment. She KNEW she nailed her content and was highly respected in the industry. She couldn’t understand why her phone wasn’t ringing.

Determined to change this, she found herself a damned good speaking coach. The verdict? Kathy was so focused on creating compelling content that she forgot to sell herself along with it.

So she refined her message—infusing her industry remarks with subtle sales cues and punching up her speeches with a touch of personal storytelling. Her new presentations weren’t just a collection of industry trends, but about taking a journey with her audience. She showed them what it would feel like to work with her—she turned up the emotional volume.

Literally overnight, consulting requests began trickling in. She sat back in awe at the sudden transformation until it clicked: selling yourself is not optional.

Kathy isn’t alone. Few of us went into business to be salespeople—it’s the work we love. We want to do as much of it (with appreciative clients) as we possibly can.

The not-so-dirty-little-secret is that selling yourself is essential if you want to pick and choose the work you love to do. Sometimes this is hard for experts in particular to wrap their minds around. “What do you mean I have to sell myself? My work speaks for me.”

Uh, not really.

Unless you’re already the nationally recognized brain surgeon of your specialty, you still have to put some effort into selling yourself.

We’re not talking the obnoxious, fast-talking sales caricature, but modern, professional selling. Selling where you are exquisitely clear on your value and use that knowledge to pinpoint your audience and continually delight them.

You build relationships by giving first and taking the long view with your future clients and buyers. You sell through clarity, confidence and integrity; and sometimes a little courage when the very act of selling yourself feels risky and vulnerable.

We all have a choice. We can whine about the less talented who have built bigger platforms by taking risks we haven’t embraced. Or we can do a Kathy and make selling a normal part of our day.

Like what you see here? Head on up to that orange bar to sign up pronto and I’ll deliver my weekly insights directly to your in-box.


  • So I mportant to infuse and relate your work to the content. People need to know they NEED you. It’s not about how great you are but about how great they can be with you in their corner. Do that; it builds your brand and enhances you among your colleagues in your profession or trade.
    I am looking at tweaks to my website to better express that (even if some judge it effective at such a conveyance).

  • There is an old expression I first heard from the late Zig Ziglar: “People do not care about how much you know until they know how much you care” or something like it. Kathy’s story reminds me of that. We can all get lost in how much we know and how important what we know is to someone else (in our minds). But we are not brain surgeons where what we know and how we perform is critical to life and death.
    Our prospective clients need to know the human side of us and how we and that relates to them and their issues. Once our personal side is revealed and accepted it is easier to accept our professional side. Becoming a “friend” in their mind as well as ours makes what we do more relevant. The journey to success becomes a trip you both take together.

  • Rochelle

    You nailed it Ed. I think that’s one of the things master salespeople really understand and do well with, but it often bypasses the deep “experts”. I was really impressed that Kathy figured it out and made a course correction before she got too far in. Not everyone is so wise 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.