Don’t Sell, Tell


I used to own a small IT company. It was populated with engineers who were great at their work, but equated selling with prostitution. It was that dirty. They didn’t even want to tell clients about software upgrades that would be in the clients’ best interests, because it would involve the clients’ spending money.

This used to irritate me, and I blamed them for being naive about what made businesses stay in business (SALES! REVENUE, DANG IT!).

Instead of getting angry, I should have tried to help them make their beliefs conscious, as I am doing now, ten years later.


I used to have a full time job selling computer hardware. When I first got that job, I thought selling meant I had to talk fast and hard about my products, overwhelming my customer with information and reasons to buy so they wouldn’t have a choice. They’d fall prey to my logic, give in and sign the contract.

I was quickly disabused of this idea. The company training certainly helped, but just being out in the field talking to customers, I realized that people don’t buy things because someone talks them into it. I believed in the used-car selling model–talk a lot, be really convincing and don’t take no for an answer. (I don’t think this method  works for cars, either, by the way). My belief about selling was wrong.

What Does Work?

Okay, some companies do manipulate their clients into buying. They prey on our desires to belong, to be admired, to be part-of (and we cooperate–it’s a two-way street).

But most small businesses don’t need to do that.

Most of us make or do things that our clients really need; that make a real difference in their clients’ lives. I took an informal survey of my clients, and every one of them does or makes something their clients really need and want; and that make a profound difference in clients’ lives.

So “all they have to do” (simple, but not easy), is to make sure they tell their people about their businesses, so it’s easy for their people to find them.This, by the way, is the definition of marketing–telling the people who need you, about you, in a place they’re expecting to look, so they can find you easily. Then selling is simple. The people who find you are already ready to buy. No need to talk anyone into anything, even if you thought you could.

Trust Me, This Works

And here’s how. Do your great work, then make it easy for people to find you. Ask Havi Brooks, Chris Brogan, Michelle Schubnel,  or Seth Godin if this works, They’ll say yes. And you don’t need to be famous (even “internet famous”) to make it work. These people’s measure of fame actually came from doing their work and making it easy for people to find them.

Ready to try this?

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