Think You Know What Selling Is? Think Again.


As certain as life precludes death and taxes, so does the ability to sell preclude success in business.

And success in business means we get to keep doing our good work for the people who need it. But what happens if we can’t master the art of selling? What if, no matter how hard we work at it, we suck at closing business? Then what? Must we give up the entrepreneurial dream?

It’s a question I’ve wrestled with myself over the years, because–in the traditional sense of the word–I hate selling. I’m an introvert by nature. I’d rather talk shop or hear about your kids than sell you something.

And truth be told, I’d rather get a root canal than attempt to deliver the perfect elevator speech. Yet here I am, a professional copywriter, spending most of my working days helping people just like you sell more of your stuff online.

So what allows me to keep working in “sales” even though I (thought I) hate sales? Maybe there’s more to this selling thing than meets the eye.

But before we explore what selling really is, let’s get clear about what selling is not:

  • Selling is not about the perfectly honed pitch or “killer copy.”
  • Selling is not about companies trying to meet revenue targets.
  • Selling is not hand shaking and deal making.
  • Selling is not about finding the emotional trigger that will make someone buy despite their better judgment.
  • Selling is not about converting as many people as possible at any cost, human or financial.
  • Selling is not even about the almighty click.

So, what is selling then?

Despite what we’ve been taught by the texts, selling is not one aspect of marketing strategy. It IS the marketing strategy.

Sure, on paper, it’s one of the 4 Ps (Promotion, Place, Price and Product). But on the ground and in the trenches of business, selling is so much more–and so much less–than what we’ve made it out to be.

Selling, at its heart, is only about conversation, and that’s why it challenges us so. Who among us has ever truly matered the art and science of conversation?

Conversation is messy and difficult to contain. It’s human. It’s real. It’s raw. We cannot perfect selling; we can only practice it.

We also can’t always know precisely when selling begins or ends. And no matter how hard we try, we cannot unhinge our humanity from the conversation that ultimately sells a value promise.

This is not to say that selling amounts to a “sales conversation” either, because that would indicate that selling happens inside a finite moment in time, that it’s a single exchange between two people and nothing more. Not to mention the intense pressure this puts on the seller and the buyer to get it right or go home.

Selling requires dialog, often ongoing dialog. There is sharing. There is dynamism and there is mess. Every single moment that leads up to the willing and (hopefully) joyous exchange of money for value requires a touch point. Touch points happen by way of all the things we do in our business we call “marketing.”

Touch points also include the encounters we have with folks when we forget about marketing completely.

And so selling is a series of encounters and exchanges that happen over time between two people, whatever the offer, however big the stakes, whomever is involved. In this way, selling feels okay. It feels better than okay.

It feels like an extension of our good work. This requires courage and that’s a good thing because the point of entrepreneurship is growth.

So selling is about conversations that help us grow as human beings.

I’m okay with that. I am proud to help others do that.

It’s not slick or simple or sexy, but it’s the way I roll. And I think you probably do too.


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