This Is the One Skill You Need If You Want to Work for Yourself
Thanks to popular media and the glamorous success of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, and even Mark Cuban, the idea of entrepreneurship is all the rage these days.
A 2012 study showed that 54% of millenials want to start a business, despite only 8% actually running a business at the time of the survey. When we think of entrepreneurship, words like "freedom," "wealth," "passion," or "fame" might come to mind. We love the idea of being our own boss and the sole beneficiary of our own labor. (See also: Starting a Dream Business Is Easier Than You Think)
Few, however, understand what entrepreneurship really is. At its core, being an entrepreneur comes down to your ability to make one key sale.
You're the Product
Think of a sales pitch. The presenters walk in, introduce themselves, and pitch their product. Each of you have a product to sell, and the product is... wait for it... you!
Regardless of profession, we are all required to sell ourselves in some capacity. In the context of our lives, we are our own most valuable product.
For entrepreneurs, the ability to sell themselves is their single most important skill. At no point do entrepreneurs stop selling.
- Product pitch? Selling
- Investor meeting? Selling
- Top talent hiring? Selling
- Customer acquisition? Selling
If you've ever attempted to acquire a small business loan, you know your business plan is only half the story. The bank wants to know if YOU are a good investment. Ever watch Shark Tank? Those investors will laugh at a product and then fork over $100k, simply because the entrepreneur was able to sell him or herself well.
The truth is you cannot be a successful entrepreneur without the ability sell your most valuable product — you.
How to Sell Your Most Valuable Product
So what does it look like to "sell" yourself like a product? How can you influence people to buy into you?
1. Identify Your Value Proposition
Your "value proposition" is a fancy way of describing your selling point. What makes you uniquely valuable? What specifically do you have to offer? What makes you irreplaceable?
If you think you don't have a value proposition, you're wrong! No one else on Earth has the exact same combination of experiences and talents as you. You might need to spend some time investing in yourself (acquiring education, skills, and experience), but you have something to offer. Identify it! And then offer it!
2. Fall in Love With Yourself
The best sales people truly believe in their product. They know it inside and out and can't stop talking about it. Once you've identified your unique selling point, it's time to fall in love with yourself. It's time to get excited about you!
If you don't believe in yourself, there's a better than average chance no one else will, either. Don't limit this idea to the positive thinking routine. When I'm confident in myself, I impart that confidence to others. People around me get a gut feeling that I have what it takes. Confidence and passion are infectious.
Don't sell yourself short. Get excited about you!
3. Get Out There and Sell
Success in sales is all about playing the numbers.
Entrepreneurs know the more people they pitch their product to, the more customers they'll acquire. You'll never accomplish your dreams from the couch.
Selling requires action. You have go put yourself out there. You always have to risk a "no" if you want a shot at getting a "yes." In five years, you probably won't regret "wasting" a day on failed interviews. You might not feel the same way about those daily six hours of television.
4. Always Be Closing
This old sales adage is a classic for a reason. Every successful salesman and entrepreneur knows you can't make a sale without closing. The close is the point in your pitch where you bring your audience to a point of decision. This is of the utmost importance. You have to bring people to a decision. You have to request them to take an actionable step.
Without the close, the presentation was nothing more than an informational experience. Your audience now knows about one more thing they'll never buy. But the close changes everything. As you convince others to buy into you, bring them to a point of action. Require a response.
I've witnessed firsthand the power of this technique. At the beginning of my career, I’d send informative emails out to prospective clients, detailing my experience and inquiring about their needs. I’d hear back from 1 in 15... maybe.
The entire goal of my emails wasn’t to get hired. It was simply to achieve a response. I realized that describing my qualifications just offered another sheet of information for the recipient to glance at and move on. I wasn't closing in my copy.
So I changed my approach. I started using wording that forced the reader to form an opinion and influenced a response. Sometimes it was a direct pitch, other times a suggestion, question, or offer. Each target requires a slightly different approach, but the point is, I’m attempting to close the target within my email.
This change in approach has increased my response rate to 1 in 5. For segments where I’ve discerned a trending problem I can fix, it's as high as 1 in 2.
The point is, if you want to be successful, you must be willing and able to sell yourself like a luxury product. The sales process can be applied to virtually any business relationship (I'd advise you to leave it out of your personal ones). You are your own most valuable product, and you’ll never stop selling.
Are you considering starting your own business? Have you thought about how you are going to sell yourself?