Self-Promotion Sucks

We’re all trying to grow our businesses and advance our careers. Growth can be hard. A common struggle is to feel like we’re inherently good at the work itself but inherently bad at doing the self-promotion required to get more work to do. It’s the sales-y stuff – the showcasing of success, the awkward networking, the forced referral asks – these are the things many of us would just as soon do without. Yet, we know somewhere in their core, these activities are essential. How do we find a balance that we feel good about working with? 

Tim Grahl, author and book marketer extraordinaire, says:

Self-promotion shows up only when someone is concerned about themselves over other people… However, self-promotion disappears when you focus on your “why” and how you’re trying to change the world.

Feel free to substitute “change the world” out for anything less intimidating, but this is a very, very important point. The good that our work does should be the focus of what we are promoting. Not ourselves, not the product, not the service – the outcome, the benefits, the feeling of relief in the client’s mind knowing they’ve got a solution. These are the ultimate reasons people say “yes.”

Whether we’re looking for our next new client or trying to get a promotion, we want to squarely place the focus on the impact to the greater good. The benefit to ourselves doesn’t have to be off of the table, but it should be transparent. Smart clients, managers, and prospects will want us to be aware of what’s in it for us – incentives are real – but the “why” behind what we’re doing is what will actually do the persuading.

Our stories of success are ways our clients are succeeding. Our networking is understanding how people are helping others and the ways we might be able to help too. Our referrals are based on helping people understand how we helped them so they might be able to communicate it to others. Making self-promotion disappear is about knowing how to talk about the benefits of our help with someone else as the hero of the story

Growth still requires work, but it’s on us to make sure it’s the right kind of work. We’re not professional box-checkers or widget salespeople, we’re professional difference-makers. Don’t self-promote, promote selflessly.

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