Confessions of a Sellout Marketer

I am a sellout.

Let me explain: As Daniel Pink notes in his latest book, To Sell Is Human, selling has become a dirty word. Think used-car salesman. What he argues is that despite the traditional notion of a salesperson, we sell every day in some form or another, even if we’re not given that job title. You negotiate with your boss, you colleagues, your partner, your kids, the customer service rep. In a sense, we’re selling ideas all the time.

If this is the case, call me a ‘sellout.’ No, I’m not giving away my soul for money; by contrast, I choose to embrace my values fully. In life in general, I understand that in order to convince others to believe in something, I need to believe it myself first. Therefore, my beliefs and actions should be consistent. I should have clear ideas and the conviction to stand behind them. In fact, all marketers should be proud to sell their ideas. If you’re not—or you don’t sell ideas—what exactly are you doing as a marketer? Why not acknowledge reality and embrace the ethos?

If you’re not already excited, why should you be excited to be a marketer/seller? Because it’s your job to be as good as possible at convincing people of the virtue of your ideas. The better you are at doing this, the better off you’re going to fare in the world-at-large. Think about it: If you can convince complete strangers to buy your product or service, why couldn’t you then be more likely to convince people you know to buy into your ideas? Assuming you’re always striving to get better, evolution dictates that you will, over time, win more than you lose.

OK, but it’s not always black-and-white, you say. I get it: Let’s talk non-zero sum and get beyond a simple winner/loser dichotomy. Both parties can benefit when you’re buying a car … or professional services. I can give away knowledge to a prospective customer, and though that person may not ultimately buy from me today, she might recommend me to a friend or eventually need/want what I have. The seller/marketer looks good when helping, and the prospective customer benefits from the knowledge. This might sound all Pollyanna, but stay with me.

By sharing knowledge freely, you establish authority and gain respect. Also, as I learned in Latin class back in the day (thanks, Seneca the Younger),  “One learns by teaching.” The more you teach, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you evolve … not in the Darwinian sense, but in the positive, progressive sense.

So, marketers, embrace your inner sellout. Stand tall and share some knowledge. Let it all out there, and those that are impressionable—i.e., amiable to your ideas—will buy from you.

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