If you're a woman entrepreneur, chances are you have a great idea. You might even have an entire set of them waiting to spring to life. However, even the brightest ideas are useless if you can't do one thing: sell them. Until you develop that skill, you'll be forever stalled on your road to success.
For many women, "selling" is a dirty word, and the idea of asking for what you want seems distasteful. These impressions date back to the antediluvian convention instilled in our mothers and then transmitted to us: Girls who are feminine do not display social traits revealing financial ambition. The implications of pushiness, deceit and unflattering maleness overwhelm and defeat us before we begin. They make successful selling seem unladylike at best and immoral at worst.
Society's attitudes have changed, but many of us are stuck in outmoded ideas about selling being somehow dishonest or unfair. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you're an ethical person involved in selling, by nature your concentration will be on ethical behavior: filling someone else's need, providing real benefits or services, or doing something useful by helping your customers. There is nothing dirty about that.
Let Go of Your Fears
For most women, the inability to sell comes down to one thing: fear. Fear is the reason people avoid success--fear of what success will do to their lives, fear of not being able to succeed, fear of too much success, fear of that tiny word "no"--or just fear in general. The nice thing about fear, though, is that it's universal. Everyone has fears.
Women in particular have fears that are deeply rooted in childhood and societal programming. Some of us have fought so hard to make a legitimate space for ourselves in the workplace that any failure makes us feel as though we are losing ground. Others worry that if we are too successful, people will see us as cold or too aggressive. Still other women view rejection of their skill sets or proposals as a rejection of themselves.
Some avoid making changes that would lead to greater success because it would require a drastic reimagining of the self. And almost all of us worry about how too much success will affect our relationships with friends and significant others.
You're Already the Ideal Salesperson
The reality is this: There is nothing to fear because, though you may not realize it, you are already selling beautifully. The essence of selling is finding out what someone needs and providing it. Women have been trained from birth to be givers and providers in a world of users. Think of your day-to-day interactions with those close to you. How many times this week have you anticipated and fulfilled a need?
Let me put it another way. If you were to write your autobiography and replace what I call emotional words with business terminology, you would discover that you sell to the people in your circle of influence almost every single day. You offer your willingness to provide information, service, support and even a variety of products (food and other essentials) to everyone in your circle who may have a use for it. You employ various systems of asking and receiving with your significant other, children, co-workers and friends. You are already the ideal salesperson.
Here is the simplest truth: To sell successfully is to use the life skills you are already well-versed in. You must simply transfer your skills from one environment to another.
Humanist Stuart Emery said, "The world is divided into two kinds of people: the people who are fearful and can't move ahead, and the people who are fearful and take their fear with them and do it anyway." We all have a choice. We can act, or not act. We can ask for what we want, or we can wait for someone else to guess what it is and offer it. We can go out of our safe little environment and create opportunities, or we can stay in a little world with only our family and friends. You will not perish in the business world. You already have the know-how.
Clearly, selling is a woman's game. When are you going to start playing it in your career?
This article is based on the book The Woman's New Selling Game: How to Sell Yourself--and Anything Else by Carole Hyatt. Hyatt, of Hyatt Associates Inc., has written six books on women in the workplace. She is also an international motivational speaker and an expert on career development and women's corporate programs.