How to Sell, Even if You Hate Selling

January 21, 2011

Most people hate the idea of “selling” themselves, whether a job seeker vying for a new corporate role or an independent consultant looking to develop business for his or her services. It’s not comfortable. Doesn’t seem natural. Most of us aren’t good at it (if we were, we’d be highly compensated professional sales people instead of managers, marketers, PR practitioners, designers, writers, or whatever). We’re much more comfortable doing than selling.

New Rules of Selling Consulting ServicesUnfortunately, to be kept profitably busy, some selling is necessary. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be learned, and one great resource to help get started (or improve) in that area is The New Rules of Selling Consulting Services in 2011, a free report from It’s written for independent consultants, though much of the guidance applies to those “selling” their talents and ideas within an organization as well. As the authors of the report note:

In the old days…

  • • Repeat business and referrals were the rule of the day. For many consulting firms, it was plenty enough to drive the growth they desired.
  • • LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, webinars, podcasts, blogs…didn’t even exist.
  • • Providing great service and results led to more business and new business.
  • • Buyers came to consultants with needs. Consultants followed a traditional consultative selling approach (after all, they are consultants). Consultants asked questions, prospects shared needs, consultants proposed a solution, and off they went together to new engagement honeymoon bliss.
  • • ‘Sales’ was a dirty word. Consultants didn’t need to do much selling to win clients. Indeed, consultants didn’t think selling was a part of their job. Or they didn’t admit it.
  • • Practices were packed with business. It wasn’t uncommon for a buyer to have to wait a while for a consultant to free up resources to work with them, or for the buyer to check with several firms and get the “we’re not accepting new clients right now” message.

Then things changed. The recession dampened demand, while at the same time the emergence of social networking and changes in the buying and hiring processes forever altered the playing field. Many talented people were laid off. Competition for a dwindling number of new corporate positions was intense. Limited corporate opportunities swelled the ranks of consultants, increasing competition among independent service providers. Changes in demand and technology rendered the old “rules” of selling consulting services obsolete.

The report then outlines eight “new rules” for selling services. My favorite is new rule #7, Embrace your sales role:

Much of what makes a good consultant makes a good sales person. Think about how you deliver your services to your clients. You ask questions, extend expert opinions, are accessible when the client needs you, bring forth creative solutions to tough problems, and deliver what you say you’re going to. This is exactly what you need to do to become successful in sales. It’s not about persuading someone to buy something they don’t need. It’s about helping them find solutions when they realize they don’t have the expertise, experience, or team to get something done that they need to get done. Your prospects and clients actually want you to sell to them.

In other words, don’t think about “selling,” but rather about “helping.” You’re probably much more comfortable helping than selling, and your prospects are certainly much more open to being helped than they are to being sold to.

There’s much more, so check out The New Rules of Selling Consulting Services in 2011.

Required FTC disclosure: I’m very selective with endorsements, but do occasionally participate in affiliate programs with due to longstanding relationships with the principals and confidence in the integrity of this organization.

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3 Responses

  1. I think it is now easy to sell on the internet, with the used of Facebook, twitter, Linkedin and other social media. The only thing is you have to know how to this tools to your advantage.

  2. The most important skills of a good consultant are also the most important skills in selling it’s just that most people don’t realise this. These day’s there is no shame in being a powerful rainmaker.

  3. Tom 

    So true Peter, it’s about communication, empathy and knowledge.

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