Writing your eulogy and planning your own funeral is preferable to most people than selling. Yes, even people in business. Sales, promotions and other ‘hustle’ is seen as inauthentic, distasteful, gross.
‘Sell without selling’ is the latest popular empty promise, designed to soothe our aversion to selling. Among sensitive people, whether working in health and wellbeing, not-for-profit and social enterprises, or another sector whose primary motivation is not maximum profit, a lot of time, effort and thought often goes into the process of acquiring new paying clients and stakeholders while avoiding the actual pitch, sell or hustle.
An idealised circumstance is imagined, whereby a trusted individual recommends your business to a stakeholder, who makes a quick inquiry and quickly becomes a new client without so much as a discussion on money.
Hustle is sales without sleaze
Sales is almost synonymous with ‘sleazy.’ We’ve swallowed whole the belief that misleading people, being dishonest and being pushy is what sales is all about. Sometimes this is based on past experience with an unpleasant sales person putting unwelcome pressure on you to buy. Understandably, you’re keen to avoid doing this yourself.
And so you write countless blog posts, prepare carefully-worded email newsletters, tinker and tweak your website, and go to countless events in the vain hope that you’ll stumble upon a person who will ask you what you do, you’ll graciously and articulate answer, only to find that this person is actively seeking your particular skillset, right now, and ready to sign you up on the spot.
The principled or idealistic entrepreneur spends a lot of time warming up leads while avoiding asking for the sale. When asks are made, they can be unclear, hemmed with caveats, and come across as unconfident or nervous, which doesn’t engender confidence in the recipient.
Hustle helps you get over yourself
The first, necessary step is to get over the idea that you will be rejected. The process of sales is the process of asking smart questions, listening closely, proposing clearly and hearing no. You will hear no, with enough pitches.
And so the process of sales is – again and again – the process of getting over your own ego. Done well, you are secure in the belief that your offerings have real value, are relevant to the other person’s needs and will bring real relief from whatever discomfort, inconvenience or issue they have. You are serving them through selling.
Done poorly, you are unconfident and unclear about the value of your offering. You’re unclear on the exact situation of the other person and what they’re looking for. Your offering may or may not be relevant to the other person – you don’t know because you haven’t asked the right questions. Your insecurity presents to the other person as nervousness, which makes them feel nervous, or you appear pushy and grasping, which makes them feel distrustful. You aren’t serving anyone through selling.
Hustle helps you recognise opportunities
The starting point for selling is to recognise opportunities – this is far easier than accosting strangers on the street (virtual or otherwise). Recognising opportunities may be as simple as dropping a name into conversation where relevant and letting the person you mentioned know about it afterwards, or as grand as pitching yourself as a speaker to a conference organiser because you heard on the grapevine that the conference was seeking a speaking to talk about your area of expertise.
Recognising opportunities is equal parts open-mindedness and imagination. This is one of the reasons why entrepreneurship is so often tied to creativity: we need to think creatively to create, recognise and seize opportunities.
The necessary extension of creativity is discrimination. The artist doesn’t indulge every whim and neither should the entrepreneur. If I seized every opportunity that I recognised, I would be insane, sleepless and, likely, broke. Learning to discriminate and make smart decisions quickly is a necessary skill for us to cultivate. We need to say ‘no’ to the less-than-ideal opportunities in order to say ‘yes’ to the best ones.
Looking fear in the face
The main obstacle to hustling is fear – that we’re over-charging, that we’re not as good as the next person or, worse, that we’re a fraud. Selling is something that the business owner or entrepreneur is keen to discharge so that they can focus on delivering the services or products, with perhaps some light customer service thrown in for good measure.
But the hustle is vital in business and essential to being self-employed. It’s noble because it directly results in you putting food on the table. It’s a privilege because not everyone gets to chose the way in which they hustle, who they’re hustling to, and for, and what they’re hustling. And it should be a joy, not a source of shame, anger or confusions.
Hustle with heart is a powerful combination – it rewards ethics, principles and passion. It just requires you to get over yourself, to ask smart questions, listen closely, recognise opportunities and discern which are most relevant to your business, and be clear with the ask.
Are you ready to dump the self-consciousness and learn how to better sell, naturally and authentically? Time for the Hustle & Heart program.