The art of selling
By Lorraine Blackley
I wish I could get through life without selling. I’m an introvert at heart and I hate it. I wish someone else could do the selling bit for me. Anyone else out there share my feelings?
By selling I mean engaging others to join me, adopt my world view or buy from me. I’m talking about business but equally it could be a club, a movement or a not for private profit organisation.
Whatever you are involved in, whether it is selling for a profit or making a volunteer event successful, there is no way around it, you have to sell.
Even after 24 years in self-employment I, still, have to psych myself up, every time I have to sell and I know I’m not alone. Why?
I know for me, I have beliefs on board telling me that it is not in my nature. I am a creative, I need an agent to do the selling. I do my work for the creative and cultural value and when I make it about the money, I lose integrity. I have judgements about stereotypical sales people like car salesmen and telemarketers, all plying me with their well-rehearsed sales lines. There is no authenticity, I don’t trust them and I don’t want to be like them. I don’t want people to judge me like I judge them.
Having worked in professional development in the creative sector since 2000, I know others share these thoughts and feelings. Taking time to work through the exercise I designed to go with this article can help take the stranglehold out of beliefs of this nature because they can be debilitating on the selling front. I find they often show up in the form of procrastination.
Selling is a self-worth issue
Let’s cut to the chase and get to the very centre of this dislike of selling. I believe it is a lack of self-worth that lies at the bottom of the fear of selling. In selling somehow we risk exposure on the self-worth front. We make ourselves vulnerable. Often we have put so much of ourselves into the work that a simple “no thank you” feels like a rejection of us. As a sensitive creative we may have grown up taking blows to our self-esteem, feeling misunderstood when trying to fit into mainstream education and ways of life.
Now be brutally honest with yourself because what I know about making change is that when you are able to acknowledge the core issue, things can change. If you don’t and choose to remain in denial or focus on the problem being a societal one, rather than a personal one, you end up working hard to do things differently, but at the end of the day nothing actually changes.
Lessons from a car sale
The first lesson I ever had in selling was when I was selling a little red Ford Escort that I had owned for four years. I was out on the street washing it. Passersby would stop to talk and I would tell them I was selling the car and go on to say it leaked on the passenger side and whatever else I perceived to be wrong with it at the time. Given that I wasn’t at the car fair I didn’t think it mattered. Finally someone said ‘don’t tell people what is wrong with it’.
I took their advice and decided to practise for the car fair. The next person I told about all the good points of the car and how good it had been for me. That person bought the car. I then told them about the leak but they didn’t mind. They didn’t want or expect a perfect car for the price I was selling.
At first I was speaking out of my own self-doubt, it was entirely unconscious. Even in less obvious examples, our lack of belief in ourselves and what we are promoting comes through in our words, tone and body language. If you have a discomfort around selling the first thing to do is acknowledge this core place of self-worth.
Again I suggest you visit the exercise, as it can help you to do this. Just reading through it won’t change things but taking the time to work through it can bring a shift, similar to the shift that occurred, within me, when my change in dialogue sold the car.
The second clever thing I did, unwittingly, when selling the car was I communicated the story and experience I had over my time with the car. I spoke about what having a red car meant for me, how it always got me safely to my destination and had never broken down etc. What sold the car was the emotional feeling of owning such a car, not the condition or details of the car.
It’s all about the story and experience
People don’t buy facts they buy how the story makes them feel. If you are a visual artist with a piece for sale, don’t leave the viewer to silently observe it. Approach them and tell them your experience creating the work. This adds a story to the piece and if the viewer likes the way that story makes them feel they will be more likely to buy. Write your story to accompany exhibition pieces. Don’t use academic words to describe it being a post-modern conceptual piece reflecting themes of nature. Rather say, ‘It was holidaying in the Cook Islands that inspired both the colours and composition. I hope I have captured the feeling of being surrounded by those tropical colours in what seemed like a moment in paradise’. (Now I would like a touch of that on my wall.)
This also applies if you are selling an event - communicate the experience and feeling people are going to have.
I find I can tell stories quite comfortably. As long as I am congruent with my story, the selling takes care of itself. Telling authentic stories is where the world is at, in terms of how they want to buy.
Find or make up the story in what you are doing that others want to have, belong to, be a part of and buy. You are not asking them to buy something they don’t want but creating an experience they want to be a part of. You are putting a situation in front of them and letting the buyer make the choice.
A personal development journey
My journey in successfully selling and keeping myself afloat in self-employment for 24 years has been one of personal development and self-empowerment. Selling for me is believing in myself. Selling ideas that uplift others lives, having others believe in me, creating attraction through my own self-belief and sharing stories that bring value and interest to the landscape of life.
I watched one young visual artist make a personal development shift of this nature. When I first met him he said his work was not for sale (yet he wanted to make a living from his art). If I mentioned the M word (money) he would literally jerk backwards in his chair. After about a year I met him in the street and he was very pleased with himself as he announced that he had just sold one of his paintings for $1000. There is a line, it is hard to cross and no one else can take you across it.