We’ve all been at events where there’s that one person that seems to command the room. They’re telling the best stories and they’ve got their audience eating out the palm of their hand. It looks effortless. It also looks casual, but the truth is that they’re selling. And I don’t mean in a direct, product-focused way – so what are you selling? Hint: you sell yourself when you share your personality and authenticity.
You can sell yourself in any scenario. It’s about becoming someone that offers something valuable to that situation.
You don’t have to be the loudest or the best schmoozer and you don’t have to completely change your personality to sell yourself (unless you’re a bit douchey, but hey, that’s another story). What you do need to do is to think outside of the box, network yourself to the right people and use intelligent storytelling to connect with others.
So, how do you do it?
1. First things first, create value
You can be talking and marketing yourself til you’re blue in the face, but if you’re not saying anything worthwhile, then it’s pointless.
Research your industry – what are the big movers and shakers saying? Find solutions to common problems or new, inventive perspectives that you’re not hearing from anyone else. Lead and offer a new direction by creating insightful content. Innovation is one of the best ways to show you can add value.
Let’s take a massive example. Look at Lego. The global toy company started out with tiny wooden bricks and they’ve consistently created new value to literally and figuratively build an empire of opportunities. From collaborations with other brands, toys, film studios and video games, they’ve harnessed the power of storytelling and continue to reach out, forge partnerships and grow.
Build your skills and back-up your claims. Make sure you measure results and communicate the tangible value you can bring.
2. Give long before you get or ask for something
Building relationships with people is about being trustworthy, personable and authentic. If you start being bullish and networking with certain people just because you want something – you’ll look needy and it will be picked up on. No-one likes being around someone that’s just after what they can get.
Relationships are a long game and you have to be on a certain wavelength before you can reach out for help.
Don’t be creepy, but come close. And by that I mean, don’t go hanging out at someone’s lunch-spot every day, waiting to pounce and ask if they’ll feature in a live-video. Keep things casual and check out social media channels to see which of your contacts are going to the same event and ask if you can link up. Sharing mutual interests and schedules keeps things non-creepy, because you’ve both got a reason to be meeting up.
Jumping into things and putting a timeframe on a networking relationship isn’t cool either, just connect with people and see what happens. If they can help you out professionally then great, that’s a bonus – if you don’t get much out of it then so what, you networked and made a useful contact that could help you in the future.
3. Do something unique
I don’t mean that you have to ride in to your next event on a unicycle, juggling fire, but doing something unique can make you stand out.
We live in a world full of bland, boring beige-ness; there’s a lot of the same, ol average content out there. Why not have a go at presenting an idea in a different way or turning a conversation around on its head? What’s the worst that could happen – apart from a fire-related juggling accident.
There’s plenty of people who try and sell themselves as ‘creative’, ‘innovative’ and that they ‘think outside of the box’, but don’t hide behind platitudes – prove them.
There’s a great example from a couple of years ago involving a young, London graduate who was struggling to get a job after university. He decided to take fate into his own hands and stand in Waterloo Tube Station during rush-hour, with a sign detailing his degree and to ‘ask for a CV’. It worked and he secured lots of interviews and he went viral. He did something unique and it paid off.
4. Check your ego at the door
Remember that loud, arrogant dude who you worked with once? He was always piping up with ideas and talking a lot. Well, the truth is, not everyone’s into that. Turning up at a function and launching into a monologue about how fabulous you are and how this year, is ‘TOTALLY my year guys’ can get old. It pretty much only works when loads of loud, arrogant people are in a group together…and how they get anything done is beyond me. Egos everywhere.
At a basic level, people like to feel listened to. The best communicators are not the best talkers, they’re the best listeners. And to be a listener, you need to leave your ego at the door.
Think of the last time you bumped into an old friend. ‘How did you get on with your trip last Fall?’ they ask. Hey, that’s nice. They remembered something about you. They listened and took the time to think about you. It feels good.
Listening is such a simple and super effective way to bond with people. Take the time to really think about what they’re saying, ask perceptive questions and keep the conversation flowing.
When you follow up with someone, you can make references to your chat and they’ll know you were interested in what they had to say.
5. Understanding their needs first
Thinking about another person’s needs feeds into the power of listening too. When brands are customer-focused, they’re prioritising the customer journey and experience above everything else. And it shows.
So, when you’re selling yourself you need to get right into the shoes of your audience. What can you say that will show you’re thinking about solutions and customers, instead of droning on about your vast experience.
And it works – companies with a customer centric approach are 60% more profitable.
By focusing on your customers, you’ll be selling your commitment. So, ask lots of questions – learn as much as you can about what keeps customers and brands up at night. What are their worries? Their goals? How can you offer a solution?
6. You’re Valuable
Everyone has something worthwhile and valuable about themselves to sell. You have to focus on your most marketable assets and use them to your advantage if you want to make an impact in any situation. Work out your strengths, build them, nurture them and work out the best ways to promote them and you’ll find selling yourself will be a more confident, successful experience.