How to Sell Yourself

You Selling You to You

Your first customer is you and the first product you sell is YOU!  Maybe a tongue twister, but true.

This is not your standard run of the mill, “Fake it till you make it” message.  I want you to understand that in the beginning and maybe even later in your career, you are going to harbor a lot of self-doubt in sales.  Some of the reasons I feel this happens is due to the nature of the job.  We have to know a lot about our products, our company, our customer’s industry, our competition’s products, the current market forces, and our suppliers.  Secondly, no matter how good we are at all of that, most of our customers can leave us for our competition at a moment’s notice.

While selling, any one of these factors can creep up on us and attack our confidence.  To successfully guard against that, I have some thoughts and ideas for you to consider.  Most of these are from my personal experience and the thousands of salespeople and hundreds of Ag sales organizations I worked with in the last 32 years:

  • All salespeople and teams have some great strengths.  And all of them have some epic failures.  So, get over trying to be perfect.  Just get out there and make a few mistakes.  Learn from those mistakes so you don’t repeat them and get frustrated.  But perfection is a myth when it comes to the complexity of selling, working with people, etc.  You are never going to know everything about every product you sell or about every prospect/customer in your market.  Solution:  Lead with curiosity:  You know enough about farming or livestock production to ask great questions.  Focus on the skill of asking good questions.  Focus on developing curiosity.
  • Often, the highest-performing salespeople are holding onto a lot of self-doubts.  They know it took a lot of work to get to the top of the sales charts.  They also struggle with how they will ever repeat that climb again.  If you are out there thinking you’re all alone in your self-doubt or imposter syndrome, then think again.  Everyone else at the sales meeting is feeling the same way.  No matter how brave they appear or the mask they are wearing, they are worried about it as well.  It will be part of your sales experience for some time before you learn to adapt to it.  Solution:  Study the Imposter Syndrome:  Here are a few articles I have written on the subject: 

  • Building your inner sales confidence:  If “Fake it till you make it” helps you, then great.  Keep using it.  However, most of the time when I run into a salesperson who employs this tactic, they just appear phony.  They are trying to convince me or customers that they are smarter than they really are.  Or that they are better at selling than they really are.  They avoid true learning as they don’t want to show their lack of skills or knowledge.  As soon as I start to dig into the details of their expertise, I find little substance to it.  Again, if this technique makes you feel better, then great.  However, make sure you are continuously backing it up with actually achieving that ability.  Here are a few steps to do that:
    • Find a respected, experienced mentor.  Seek out a relationship of teacher/apprentice. 
    • Small progressive steps toward a goal.  This is a career-long event.  It’s a marathon.  It will take time.  Just keep making easily attainable progress toward the goal of becoming confident in your ability to help customers.  Important note:  don’t compare your first day to those at the top of their career.  If successful, they have some very smooth processes and skills to run their business.  Just remember it took them many years to develop.  Learn from them so you can speed up your learning, but it’s not going to happen instantly.  Most importantly, don’t get discouraged that they are so far ahead of you that the journey seems impossible.
    • Reward:  Along the way towards sales excellence, be sure to stop once in a while and see how far you have come.  This is a mountain climbing technique.  The journey to the summit can seem daunting.  Once in a while, the climber has to turn around and look back on how far they have already gone.  Then, they turn back around and keep climbing with their new appreciation for their progress.  Same for you in your selling journey.  Pull out your results once in a while to see how much you have accomplished.  After, turn back towards your goal and continue. 
    • Evaluate yourself…Have your manager evaluate you as well.  After you both do this independently, sit down and compare notes.  The areas to evaluate are technical product knowledge, selling skills, and territory management skills.
    • Reevaluate One last thought, reevaluate where you are going on your sales journey.  You may have set out to learn how to sell to 500-acre cow-calf producers and capture 20% market share in Carol County, but realize that’s not going to get you to the top.  Or maybe you thought you knew how to handle objections and negotiate.  Yet these activities keep slowing your progress. 

Selling you to you is not as easy as you think.  You can tell me and others that you have done it.  You might even convince us that you are more than confident in your sales knowledge and skills.  But remember, we aren’t the customer in this sale.  You are!  So, don’t tell us about it.  We are just bystanders on your climb to the top.  Tell yourself, first!

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