Most people find it hard to sell themselves. How often have we come across people (including ourselves) who say ‘I can sell someone/something else, but when it comes to selling myself I can’t do it’. When the spotlight is forced on them by themselves, they’re riddled with self-doubt and lack confidence in themselves and their abilities. It’s interesting to notice what kind of people do find it easy to sell themselves compared with those who don’t, and what it is about themselves that they are actually able to promote.
So why is this and what can we do about it?
In my experience, the main category of people who struggle to sell themselves are the many different types of artists: painters, musicians, designers, dancers, performers and writers, and the thing they struggle selling is their art.
The main category of people who are able to sell themselves don’t have a particular name so let’s call them ‘salespeople’. They have in common a projectable self-belief that is not connected to any product, artifact or art that they have made, but is linked to confidence in something external and/or their ability to deliver a potential service in the future.
So now we can see a clearer difference. The ‘artists’ judge themselves and their self-worth on what they have created in the past, their ‘art’, which as time goes on, has less and less value in their eyes. They then project this lack of self worth, index linked to their fading glories or past failures, into the future. This pressure lowers self confidence in their abilities so much that they fail to be able to communicate the value of their work and fail to sell (or even pick up the phone or knock on the door).
The ‘salesperson’ does not really care about the past. They communicate with people in the present about the future. Their self-belief is index linked to an ideal service they may deliver in the future. This creates an unlimited potential in the future which builds confidence, enabling the person to sell their services.
So in part it’s a difference between products and services. A product already exists and can be judged, but a service has yet to be delivered so might well be perfect.
But there’s something more than that. The product that the artist is talking back is intrinsically linked to them. The salesperson may be able to easily sell someone else’s product precisely because it exists and is tangible. It exists to the salesperson in isolation and therefore can be linked to their own confidence about their own ability to communicate its benefits as a service.
The artist who created the product can’t do this because the product is too close to them, it is still part of them. The very fact that they are an artist means that their own feelings and emotions went into the creation of the art. This is unlike a bricklayer creating a wall to a set plan, possibly laid down by someone else. They might put their all into the construction, and may even be able to describe themselves as a highly skilled artisan or craftsperson, but when finished, the wall is not art and not linked to the individual in the same way as art. Instead, it’s the product of a service rendered.
So for the artist to sell themselves and their art they have a few stark choices. One is to portray their art as a future service. This is how successful designers learn to think. The other way is to portray their art as products. This is how successful painters learn to think.
But there is another thing to consider and that is the power of a team mind. Obviously it’s easier to sell your product or service when you have a real physical team of people supporting and working with you. But when you’re on your own there is a secret way of being a team too.
Our consciousness gives us the benefit of an internal voice, the voice in our head. It lets us weigh up options and figure things out. It works as a stream of a conversation in which we are both the speaker and the listener. Many people have tried to investigate how and why this works. It’s related to the fact that we actually have two brains, two hemispheres. We often call them ‘right’ and ‘left’ and relation them to the different world views of abstract visual emotional concepts (right side) and logical sequential verbal mechanics (left side).
Another model that takes these basic concepts further is to think of one of our brains (the active dogmatic left side) as the Apprentice or Emissary and the other as the master (the unconscious holistic right side). The conversations we have, happen between these two beings, the Master and the Emissary.
A route to self confidence can begin by accepting this model and listening to the voice of the Master, who always has your best interests at heart, and allowing him/her to guide you to the best decisions. Now you’re working as a team. You’re also creating your art as a team, having internal conversations as a team. Many artists describe the creative process as a collaboration between a part of them carrying out the physical art and another part giving the instruction, often externalised, sometimes described as divine instruction, coming to them. John Lennon described his songwriting process as him as an antenna, picking up signals from a higher source.
If we, as artists, accept this model we may well just find that our internal team will also support us in the selling of our products and services, which, now, are not only our sole and lonely creation. Plus, safe in the knowledge that our Master will not let us down, we can rely on him/her in the future too, so can base our self confidence on that certainty.
This, I believe, is the secret to the curse that stops us selling ourselves and our art. This is the secret to the eradication of doubt.
For more on these ideas, read this excellent book: The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist.
Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.
Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.
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