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Does the Idea of Selling Yourself Make You Sick?

SellingYourselfI get extremely motion sick. Literally, in anything that moves. Bus, boat, airplane, New York City cabs, regular cars (sometimes when I’m driving), and yes, even the train, that gentle old aunty of land travel. Some people take lip balm with them when they leave for the day; I pocket a few loose Dramamine. In fact, I need to take one sometimes just to plan my travel.

And yet, I go places anyway. I’ve taken a bus around rickety hairpin turns in Israel, a leisurely riverboat cruise through the Netherlands, and even a cruise through the Greek Islands (though I almost lost it all at the blackjack table, and I don’t just mean my chips).

I know plenty of people who get the same head-spinning, gut-churning nausea at the very notion of promoting themselves. It’s true.

Guess what? Doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. Any more than I can get somewhere in real life without moving. I find ways to make it palatable, even enjoyable (yay drugs!). If I said, hmm. I’d like to avoid nausea at all costs, so I guess I won’t leave my house, well, I wouldn’t have much of a life.

And you can’t have much of a business, brand, or career without being able to tell people why YOU—why someone should listen to you, bet on you, invest in you, choose you.

Here are the three things people say to get out of selling themselves:

“But…testimonials! Can’t other people say it for me?”

Testimonials have their place. We all want third-party reassurance. But that doesn’t mean you get to go mum about who you are and what you offer.

“But…my work/reputation/experience speaks for itself!”

It stands for something, no doubt. It’s incredibly valuable. Your brand is in part what you’ve done, but also what you say about what you’ve done. It’s also your brand PROMISE—what you will do, deliver, create for the person who invests in you. Do you know what this? (Sorry, “great service” doesn’t count.)

“But…I don’t want to be salesy. It’s not who I am.”

The words “salesy” and “sleezy” sound suspiciously similar. It’s a shame that a few bad salespeople and sales tactics have spoiled the lot. Fact is, anyone who’s not in sales tends to, well, hate sales. Or think they hate sales. (Even some of the people who make their LIVING in sales think that.)

So, forget sales. Think of it as something you have no problem being: A better, clearer, more compelling communicator. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

There’s one surefire cure to alleviate the nauseating effect of trying to put yourself “out there”:

Know what makes you different, and worth knowing, and share it from a place of giving, not getting.

Simon Sinek has famously said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Yes–100 percent.

But you also need to know how to explain to someone why they should choose you, based on who, what, and how you can help them, make their lives easier or better than they were before.

Do you think a first-grade teacher is worried the kids in her class will think she’s trying to “sell” them on reading? Of course not! You better believe she has to sell it. She has to make it appealing and fun and worth doing, to reward them for it, because it will change their lives.

That’s what you have to do. Get outside of your head, your ego, your fear, and focus on That One Thing that you know you can deliver, something the other person cares about (not just you).

Put THAT into words. And you’ll never loathe the “Why you” question again.

I’m about to launch my first-ever virtual workshop on JUST THIS TOPIC. It’s called the Why You Workshop, and it’s running for three consecutive Wednesday evenings: 8/10, 8/17 & 8/24 @ 7:00 p.m. ET. It will be held via phone (low tech!), and the calls are recorded (so you don’t have to be live on the call).

 

….Now, do I feel nauseous about the fact that I just asked you to check out something that I’m selling? That I just promoted a thing to you? Meh. Mild, tummy rumbling, but that’s ok. We should always have that inner gut check. After all, I had to get over this fear myself!

But I’ll tell you this: This work, helping people figure out their thing, which I’ve previously only done 1:1 with my clients, has been so rewarding and helpful, for me and them, that who am I NOT to tell you about it? It’s what I do, and I do it well. What am I going to do? Sit on it and hope you ask me about it? You won’t! I have to say it.

So I just did. And you can do the same thing in your business.

If this strikes a chord in you, seriously, sign up now—the calls include live Q&A and on-the-spot laser coaching and walk you through this process to land the right positioning. You’ll not only feel more confident every time you explain what you do…you’re less likely to lose your lunch or suffer fits of dizziness, loss of vision, you know. The usual.

Join me and get yourself a hot seats while they’re…still hot!

 

Your Job is to Be a Magician (Like This Guy, Kind of)

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net

It’s not every day you have your mind blown.

I was in Vegas last week giving a talk to a group of (very) sober HR execs about why HR needs a serious brand overhaul (admit it, it does).

And at the cocktail party they had this magician who blew my fucking mind. None other than the Amazing Shimshi, a handsome young Israeli who pulled some shit I can still not get over.

But I’ll just tell you this one thing he did, as I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE TWO FEET FROM HIM, not out in the audience somewhere. He took my friend Megan’s wedding ring in his left hand, made a fist, and then with his right hand, waved a lighter under his hand—without flinching, which is crazy enough.

Then he opened his hand—and the ring was gone.

I know magicians distract and deflect, but he didn’t stop to do a hat trick or say “What’s that over there?” He just took the ring, lit his hand, and then POOF. GONE.

I half expected him to pull it out from behind some girl’s ear like my dad used to do with quarters. But no.

He says, There it is.

We all look down–and it’s tied in a knot IN HIS SHOELACE ON HIS OWN DAMN SHOE.

I have two theories. He:

1. Had an identical ring made before the party and had already tied to his shoe when he walked in that night before ever meeting Megan; or

2. Froze time, like the girl does in that Discovery card commercial, rendering us all unconscious for a few moments while he bent down and tied it to his shoe.

#1 is clearly impossible. I’m going with #2. I think the Amazing Shimshi has some crazy secret power that he’s wasting at the Wynn when he should be using to stop Trump and save our nation from extinction.

(Watch as he does this trick on video, on some other chick.)

I’ve now watched this video a bunch, and have developed a third theory which takes me 75% of the way there (he quickly pockets the ring when reaching for his lighter or when returning the lighter to his pocket). But the remaining 25% of my theory requires that there be a tiny Shimshi in his pocket who climbs down his leg and ties it to his shoe at astonishing speed.

What does this have to do with anything?

Now. I have made nothing disappear in my own life except money and socks. But you and I both have SOME kind of magic, something you do that no one else does. Ok, maybe it doesn’t make people do spit takes or go into shock, but there is SOMETHING you do that someone else can’t even imagine.

That, my friend, is your business. Your brand. Your thing. Your bit of magic, if you will. And helping you find it happens to be my specialty.

I call it magic because you do it so well, so effortlessly, so flawlessly, that it impresses others, who say they could never do that. And so in that way, it kind of is.

If you don’t have enough money or clients or business or growth, I don’t believe it’s because you’re not “good” enough at one thing, or there isn’t enough opportunity out there. I call bullshit. It’s a sign that you haven’t landed it yet, or conveyed it powerfully to others.

Which means you’ve got a little branding problem yourself.

Spend some time thinking about that this week: Either what that magic is, or how you can better communicate it. What is that thing that makes people go, Wow! When you know what problem that solves for them, it practically sells itself.

(And if you want help figuring that out, why, that’s what I do!)

Meantime, I’m going to go make some snack food disappear.

 

3 Wrong-Headed Ideas You Have About Your Brand Voice

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 9.19.28 AMYour real-life voice is distinctly you: I know it’s you because of how you sound when you walk into a room, answer the phone, laugh. I know your sense of humor, tone, volume. Your voice is who you are with my eyes closed. You have a way of speaking and interacting in the world that no one else does. That’s why we love comedic impressionists—because of how absolutely uncanny it is for someone to nail someone else’s cadence, tone, and sound. Your voice is that unique.

Your brand voice is the same thing—it mirrors you, and should extend the “you” of your brand out beyond you the person or you the individual members of your team. It’s a tricky thing—hit the wrong note, and you can miss your mark completely, turn people off, or just confuse them. When we talk about voice, we’re not just talking about topic or tone—it’s both. It’s what you say, and how you say it. Just ask my mother, who on more than one occasion during my adolescence reminded me that it wasn’t what I said, but my tone that was the problem.

Because it’s a complex and essentially living thing (and you know this because the lousy ones sound canned)—in order for it to land with a client or customer, it has to “sound” like you, but also be a voice they want to listen to. In short, there must be a connection, and the companies who nail it do it in a way that sounds simple, natural, like regular conversation.

That said, here are three of the most wrong-headed notions about brand voice that are, quite frankly, keeping you from communicating with your customers, clients, prospects, and readers in a real way—which can be costing you fans, followers, and business.

Wrong idea #1: They know what I’m talking about.

Oh boy. Now, I know where this comes from—and it’s from a good place. You know your customers, who they are, and what they need…but assumptions you make about what they know about you or what you offer in particular are a problem.

Put it this way: When have assumptions ever not been a problem? They always are! Ask anyone who’s been married for more than eight days. Usually when you hear “assume” it’s part of a rationale for why there was a screw up (“Oh, honey…I just assumed you knew”).

Rather, I want you to presume. To presume means your thought or idea is based on what you already KNOW to be true, and assume is what you’re guessing based on no information whatsoever.

Look at your website, your communications, newsletter, tweets—whatever it is you’re using to touch your customers and audience. Where are you making assumptions, and thus making them jump to a conclusion or worse, guess, about what you can do or can’t do? It’s your job to fill in the blanks and close the gap between you and the reader so that it’s very clear what you want them to do.

Wrong idea #2: My copywriter handles that.

Writers are wonderful people to have around and on your team, especially the ones who bear some institutional knowledge and know what you’re trying to do. Look, as a seasoned writer myself, I know how valuable this skill is, and I wield it deftly and differently, depending on who I’m speaking to and writing for. But if you think you can hire a copywriter to just “write up” what’s most important to you, you’re gravely mistaken.

Copywriters aren’t wizards; they’re only as good and helpful to you as the direction you give. So that means you have to have a direction and an idea of how you want to come across to the reader. WHO are you in the conversation with your client/audience? Are you the older sister who knows just a touch more than they do? Perhaps you want to strike a more formal note, one that inspires respect and a little bit more distance. Until you know the relationship, you can’t nail the voice.

There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing to a copywriter, by the way—but you don’t leave the voice to them; co-create it with them. Yes, they are the masters of the written realm, but there needs to be plenty of discussion and trial and error and exploring of language and tone before you can just throw something out there into the world.

Wrong-headed idea #3: My brand voice is determined by SEO

(Pardon me while I reach for the Advil.)

I know that you’re obsessed with SEO and being at the top of the Google search and all of that. Really, I do. But if you write to SEO? Look, no one’s doing that anymore. There are subtler, better ways to do it, and if I were an SEO expert, I would tell you and this would be a different article altogether. But there are ways to incorporate best SEO practice without having your brand voice shackled by lousy syntax and its resulting awkwardness.

So while I don’t claim to be an SEO expert, God help you if you’re just using words you think the customer is searching for. That’s only part of it. Brand voice isn’t a collection of words that someone might type into Google, any more than a personal and intimate conversation you might have with your significant other is plucked out of a screenplay.

Think of SEO as the address on the envelope, the details that get your message to the people who need it—they enable them to find you, yes. But. Once they’re there, you have to have more to say. Once the digital envelope connects you via the magic of the interwebs, they click on: Your website, email, profile, whatever—and out comes the letter. You’ve got to have something to say. What is it? Because that’s the most important thing of all.

Like this? Join my FREE weekly webinar, #PowerLunch, a bite-size business & branding webinar for professionals who want to learn but still want time to eat.

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3 Signs Your Brand Is Having an Identity Crisis

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Not sure quite who you are? Let’s chat about it over lunch. Click here to learn more about #powerlunch

Your struggle with branding yourself or your business comes from two conflicting fears:

  • You don’t know who you are;
  • You don’t want to ruin what you already did/created/have

This places you at the crossroads between ignorance and fear. A lousy place to be (and we’ve all been there). As a result, you are hesitant to put a foot forward, in any direction, because of where you’ve been and where you fear to tread.

By the way, this is true for everyone I’ve ever worked with who had a brand to create, build, or promote.

You can feel attached to an old idea of who you are, an idea you think others have of you, and limiting ideas about what you CAN do. And my very favorite thing in the world is to kick those ideas over like tables in a kung fu movie.

Here are the clear markers of a brand in distress:

You’re getting a lot of business you don’t want. This is what happens when you try to serve “more” people at the expense of a more focused approach. The fear of course is that if you limit or focus, you will exclude some people and “lose” business. Don’t think about it as losing biz, but as qualifying the business you get.

You’re doing what feels safe, instead of what’s compelling. Once you develop a comfort zone with your brand or business, it’s easy to stay there. This is big trouble in little China. Because you will convince yourself that you’re “fine the way it is.” Is it, though? I’m not saying you have to go out on a limb and do crazy, off-brand stuff. But where are you pushing the envelope?

You’re striving to be competitive rather than different. Sally Hogshead (one of my faves) says in her book, How the World Sees You, that someone will always be better at this or that. If you try to be “better” than everyone, you will lose. How do you know? You’re mimicking what other brands are doing, and then trying to be the same but cheaper. And you’re more concerned with if you’re as good as, rather than leveraging what makes you memorable.

The drive to be competitive is the drive to keep up. The drive to be different is the drive to stand out—which, let’s face it, goes against everything you’re encultured to think. It’s human nature to worry whether you’re good enough, whether you fit in, whether you can be taken seriously. But if you continue to make efforts to make your brand like the others, you will be like the others, an also-ran. That ain’t no place to be.

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Stop Searching for Your Passion (Do This Instead)

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There’s tremendous pressure to “find your passion” lately. Too much pressure, if you ask me. It’s also misleading: If I tell you to “find your passion,” we must presume that it’s been lost, like a set of keys or that coupon for a free burrito at Chipotle.

Not only is it lost, it’s now a job requirement: Unhappy in your work? Well, are you not living in or aligned with your passion? Are you not doing the work of your dreams? If you’re not absolutely compelled and swooning over our work, we’re told, you’re doing something wrong. We use passion as the barometer and measure of everything. And it’s a mistake.

Go ahead—call up any life-slash-business coach for an initial consult (I’ll wait), and in that first conversation, I guarantee you’ll be asked, “What are you passionate about?”

The pressure so many of us feel to “find your passion” is the pits. It can become little more than a self-indulgent navel gaze, and until you put rubber to road, it doesn’t amount to much. It also presumes you’re supposed to know something you don’t. I can’t tell you how many people, including myself, have thought, “Jesus. I don’t know what I’m passionate about. Why don’t I know? It must be because I’m devoid of drive and substance, and a complete waste of space.” This is not the kind of thinking that fuels great success.

I’m passionate about lots of things. But this notion that you must have some secret, singular passion does you and your work a disservice.

(WATCH: My two-minute talk on why passion isn’t the answer to everything.)

 

“I want to help people!”

You know what everyone tells me their passion is? Helping people. Yawn.

That’s not a passion; that’s a prosocial instinct that we’re born with to keep us from (completely) annihilating each other and isolating ourselves. It makes you human and not a monster. Saying your passion is helping people is no different than saying you’re busy. Everyone is. And to say either thing as a way of distinguishing yourself is to assume the other person isn’t, and it just never lands right. (I’m busy AND passionate, too, thank you very much!)

Passion is an emotion, and emotions are fickle and transient and will trip you up every chance they get. You push beyond them by doing, acting, responding, and using the tools and talents you have to create, make, or offer a thing that’s useful and valuable to other people. And if it’s not useful, than tweaking it and trying again.

That’s why I want to move the conversation past what your True Passion. Because who cares, really? My motto is that it’s one thing to have passion; it’s another to be compelling. And no one will buy your yogurt or hire you to do their taxes or donate to your cause just because YOU happen to be passionate about doing it. You have to do it very well, and you have to make what you do compelling to me. That’s the job.

 

Passion Follows Success

One of my favorite columns ever is this piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams that ran in the Wall Street Journal years ago. In it, he argues that passion isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: “It’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion,” he writes. But when things go down the drain, the passion can drain, too.

“In hindsight, it looks as if the projects that I was most passionate about were also the ones that worked,” he writes. “But objectively, my passion level moved with my success. Success caused passion more than passion caused success.”

I’ll tell you how I’ve been able to grow my own business, and it’s not by waxing poetic about my passion, but by doing—coaching, writing, speaking, connecting. Doing it, sometimes well, sometimes not well, every day. That’s how my real sweet spot emerged: I have knack and  honed skill for getting people to bust through their hangups, biases, and blind spots so they can see what they do in a whole new way.

This is particularly relevant as I gear up to run a half-day workshop on Friday, July 10th  in New York City for entrepreneurs, visionaries, brand managers, and freelancers who are having trouble finding their sweet spot (wanna come? Seats are still available!) They feel stuck and aren’t sure why. They’re wondering where passion has failed them. They question who they are and how to communicate what they do in ways that compel other people. And on July 10th, we’re going to bust through all of that together.

(Register now and receive a free 30-min coaching session with me.)

When you have a clearer, crisper sense of what you DO, not just what you’re “passionate about,” the wheels click into gear, and start to turn. You gain momentum. It feels amazing.

It feels….well, like passion.
(The event, btw, is called “Nail Your Brand & Revitalize Your Business” and it’s happening FRI 7/10 from 9am – 12pm at Wix Lounge in Manhattan—space is limited. If you register before July 4th, you’ll also get a free 30-min coaching session with me, and I promise not to ask you what your passion is.)