Self promotion doesn’t have to be shameless

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Self promotion doesn't have to remind you of a smarmy used car salesman.

Self promotion doesn’t have to remind you of a smarmy used car salesman.

When you say the phrase “self promotion,” do you almost feel obliged to add “shameless” in front of it?

I recently had a consulting session with an entrepreneur who candidly admitted, “Self promotion in general makes me uncomfortable.”

One of the endorsements from my marketing class this spring said of my co-presenter and me, “They are not only experts with beautifully complimentary teaching styles, they’re also genuine, friendly, and totally get that many of us who run our own businesses kind of hate promoting ourselves.”

I do totally get it. And I also totally believe that doesn’t have to be the case.

When you picture “salesman,” what comes to mind?

Is it a smarmy guy in an ugly sportcoat trying to con you into driving a lemon off a used car lot? Is it foul mouthed, abrasive Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross?

I would love to begin changing our cultural stereotype of sales.

I’m grateful when I walk into my local wine shop and get knowledgeable help finding a delicious bottle in my price range that suits the occasion.

I loved when I was looking for a digital video camera and the salesman talked me out of the more expensive model I was considering because the features of the simpler version would serve my amateur needs.

If I have a want or need and you help me, you are doing me a service. Yes, my wallet will likely be lighter, but I assume going in you aren’t doing this for free.

This spring, I took my bike to the shop. A different bike shop had told me the frame was bent beyond repair but before shopping for a replacement, I wanted a second opinion. The new mechanic apologized that he’d have to charge me $20, but for that fee, he could true up the frame to close to straight. Do you think I resented paying him 20 bucks when I thought I was going to be spending a lot more on a new bike?

All of these were sales experiences. Someone took my money in exchange for goods or services. I didn’t feel tricked or manipulated, instead I felt I got real value for the money I spent.

Can we make it proud self promotion?

Do you believe you’re good at what you do? Are your customers generally satisfied when they do business with you?

Why wouldn’t you want to help more people? Would you rather let someone else serve them or maybe let their needs go unmet?

I absolutely recognize there are pushy, skeevy, manipulative salespeople and marketers out there trying to trick you. But there are also unscrupulous doctors, lawyers, priests, teachers — that doesn’t mean everyone in those fields is bad news, so let’s not paint everyone selling with the same brush.

Sales and marketing are not the same, but they’re related functions that both aim to connect a buyer and a seller. So even though I’m not a sales expert, I feel passionately that there’s no reason to apologize for finding someone who needs what you’ve got and making that match.

How about if you promote yourself from a place of pride in what you do and a recognition that while you’re not a fit for everyone, you can leave some people happier than you found them?

If you don’t want to sound like you’re bragging, then don’t. You can modestly let potential clients know what you do and how you can help them.

But if you want to shout from the rooftops, “I kick ass at what I do,” I don’t think there’s any shame in that, as long as you can back it up.

Colleen Newvine is a solopreneur marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. She primarily works with small and mid-sized organizations, and enjoys helping clients connect their business goals with marketing strategy.

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