Today, let’s talk about a common mistake that can stop your business from flourishing and make you feel pretty bad about yourself. It’s:
Apologising for selling until all your customers run away.
I could write a book about this mistake.
Maybe I will. I’ll call it “The Three Worst Words: How To Poison Your Success And Make Your Customers Flee As If From A Bog Troll In Six Easy Syllables.”
Wanna know what those syllables are?
Shameless. Self. Promotion.
As in “Sorry for the shameless self promotion, just never thought I’d be featured in Mollie magazine!”
Or “Some brief self promotion – my new collection is available. Normal service now resumed.”
Or “Shameless self promotion! Shipping is free till Friday!”
Whether you use those three specific words or not, saying sorry for selling your work in any way is accepting the idea that having things to sell is shameful. And that selling is dirty, sleazy, wrong, pushy, manipulative, painful and icky. Not something that a nice, creative person like you should get involved in.
That’s HOOEY. Actually, let me be more specific. That’s COMPLETELY OUT-DATED, INACCURATE, BUSINESS-KILLING HOOEY.
Look, once upon a time, sellers had all the power.
If you wanted to buy something, say a mule to carry your barrels of mead home from the market, you were almost completely dependent on the seller for information about the purchase.
Quite reasonably, that made you rather suspicious.
The seller has a vested interest in shifting that mule, so maybe they wouldn’t tell you about its trick knee, selective deafness and deeply-held belief that everything on two legs should be viciously kicked through the stable wall.
No need to share all those little details, right?
Much better to give that mule a bit of a hosing down (from a first floor window,) a sprucing up (using a brush with a very long handle) and drag it to the the town square. Then all the seller has to do is hang a sign saying “One Careful Owner” around its neck and get ready to count his doubloons.
When the seller has all the information, the buyer has every reason to be wary.
But that’s not the world we’re living in now.
Thanks to a little thing called the internet, buyers have access to as much, if not more, information as the seller. Now, when little old ladies need a new hoover they go into John Lewis and grill the sales assistant about carbon fibre filaments and articulated hose cuffs.
The distribution of knowledge has equalised. But that’s not all. As well as knowing much more about the products we purchase, we also know more about the people who sell them to us.
How many times have you glanced through your timeline and noticed someone publicly calling out a store or company for poor customer service? Or browsed through reviews on Tripadvisor before booking a hotel room?
Roughly a million times, right?
Today, that dodgy mule-seller would be shamed on social media before he knocked the foam off his pint.
He’d be mercilessly reviewed on Yelp and flamed by disgruntled customers on Twitter. His business would collapse. And the mule would have his own facebook group and Just Giving page before the sun went down.
The point is that buyers have power now too.
It used to be that the person making the purchase had to watch their step in order to avoid being hoodwinked or deceived. Now it’s sellers who have to tread carefully if they want to stay in business.
So what does this mean for you?
Well, a couple of things. First, you need to get yourself up to date.
Those bad associations with selling don’t apply any more. They’re an antiquated early warning system – the equivalent of a tripwire and an arthritic guard dog. These days buyers have much more sophisticated and effective protection.
Which, wonderfully, means you can let all that worry about coming across as even remotely sleazy just melt away.
No-one needs you to apologise all the time just for selling something. It’s patronising to your customers and makes them roll their eyes.
Instead, just get on with telling them about your lovely thing. That’s what they want to hear, after all.
And you don’t have to apologise to yourself any more, either.
You know that little pinch of shame you feel when you say “Sorry everyone, shameless self promotion coming up”?
It hurts a little bit, doesn’t it? Like you’re doing something you know you shouldn’t, but you have to anyway.
And if that’s the case, well, how desperate does that make you?
No-one needs you to feel any of that. Selling your stuff doesn’t have to fill you with dread. Why?
Because if a prospective customer has landed at your door, it’s certainly not because you’re the only option – there are billions of other options out there.
It’s because, out of that endless sea of sellers, YOU grabbed her attention.
She’s interested. Something about what you do speaks to her. If you’re smart about it, you can turn that interest into a lovely thing for her and a sustainable income for you.
It all depends on what you say next.
Please don’t make it “sorry.”
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