Getting the work is part of the work. How do you keep up the momentum and keep selling in what can be an exhausting and dispiriting process?
Founders, entrepreneurs and small business owners come in all shapes and sizes but, ultimately, they have one thing in common – a sharp sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. Without it, they couldn’t manage the pendulum swings or the inevitable loneliness that comes with entrepreneurship. That autonomy often stands them in good stead but there’s one area where it can fail all of us at times. Sales. However much you believe in your product or service, it can be hard work trying to find clients and customers or raising funds especially if you’re not a natural salesperson.
In most jobs (although there are exceptions), if you don’t perform/ get the results, you’ll eventually lose your job. But in most work, there’s a period of grace. Maybe there’s time for training built in, maybe you can bluff your way through for a while, maybe others in your team might pick up your slack for a time. In some work, performing means working on projects, products and deals which others bring in.
Not so for the person running their own business. Ultimately, working for yourself means eating what you kill, spending what you raise. If you don’t kill it or raise it, there’s no business. If you’re an entrepreneur, getting the work becomes part of the work. Whether or not you’re a “salesperson”, sales is now part of what you do. Whether or not you have “a background in marketing”, you need to master and leverage your brand and narrative and keep doing that. I say it to myself dozens of times a day and it should be engraved above the desk of every founder, owner and self-employed person. Getting the work is part of the work.
As you get going, and provided you do a good job, getting the work becomes a bit easier through word of mouth as customers and clients do some of that sales and marketing for you, although it never completely goes away. But, at the start, it can come as a rude shock especially if these things aren’t in your background or part of your skill set.
It’s no good saying, “But I’m a hairdresser, baker, consultant, inventor, plumber, web designer, introvert,” or “But, I hate/ suck at selling…”. If you want to keep cutting the hair, baking the bread, coding the software and to make a living from that on your own terms rather than an employer’s, you need to find the people who want to pay you for it and to help them find you.
Recently, I came across an interview with an actress talking about a particularly miserable period of her career when she had 55 auditions over a period of four months. She complained about this to her mother and, in response, her mum, who wasn’t in show business, said, “But surely that’s your job.” Those five words completely reframed everything for this actress. Thanks to her mum’s comment, auditioning was no longer a soul-sapping but necessary inconvenience which got in the way of her real work, acting. No; rather auditioning was the job. Getting up every morning and going to yet another audition was as much part of the job as stepping out on stage or in front of the camera.
Getting the work is part of the work. Not only can that reframing of perspective change the process of selling/ marketing/ pitching for business or funding but the resulting attitude makes it more likely that the other sort of work (the sort you naturally like and actually get paid for) will result. After her mum’s reframing comment, that actress got a great part in an excellent, critically acclaimed television drama. Getting the work is part of the work. Say it, believe it, do it and reap the benefits in your life and in your business.
Image: Mack Fox (MusicFox)