how do you sell yourself, if you hate selling yourself?

I was talking to a friend the other day. Ok. We were talking about someone we know. It’s this really great guy, who is incredibly good at his job and has true understanding and vision in his field. But his immediate managers cannot see what he sees. And he finds himself periodically wanting to change jobs because he hits the same deaf wall again and again. Lack of understanding, lack of vision, lack of support. Part of the reason is that to know he’s truly good at what he does, you need to spend time with him. And he isn’t even sure if others like him can see what he sees.

Let’s pretend he’s growing tomatoes for a living. And let’s call him Tom. (Tom the tomato man)

If he spends all his day tending to the tomatoes in his own terrain, they will grow well. He will harvest them, sell them, and plant a new round next year. Maybe he will experiment with a new technique and get a superb crop. He now has discovered something that can make better tomatoes. What does he do with that information?

Let’s pretend that instead of keeping it to himself, he walks over to the neighbouring farm, and talks to the farmer there about growing tomatoes. Maybe the other farmer likes him, asks him about how he grows tomatoes, and our friend tells him. The neighbour tries the new technique too, and it works. Maybe the season after, he tells some of his farmer friends at the pub. They try it too and it works for them as well. Who will get credit for the idea? Will anyone even remember Tom?

What if Tom had written a letter to the farmer’s society, telling them about his way of growing delicious tomatoes. Maybe they would publish the letter. The society’s members and all their readers would acknowledge Tom as an authority on growing tomatoes. Next time someone wants to grow exceptional tomatoes, they’ll refer that person to Tom. Did Tom sell himself? No. He shared knowledge he discovered so that others could benefit.

Now could you imagine if Tom was writing every day, or every week, about his new experiments with tomatoes? Maybe it could be online. A blog about tomatoes. I’ve seen odder things. Would he be selling himself then? Or would he be sharing stories, experiments, just a simple log of his life and how the tomatoes are doing. Just documenting. A blog, and any form of written material, allows the reader to get to know the author personally.

We know what Jeremy Clarkson sounds like and writes like, what he thinks, what he likes and dislikes. Does he know us? Not a clue we’re alive. And yet we feel we know him almost like we know a friend. Why? Because he expresses himself publicly and freely. He allows people to glimpse into his mind through his presentations on tv and his writing in the Sunday Times. Exposing yourself and your life to the world gives them the chance to get to know you and like you (or hate you) before they meet you.

With social media and technology today, it is really easy to set up a profile and share your thoughts, discoveries, and other trivia. You can blog, establish when you thought of something, and encourage others to ponder it too. You can put slides on your linked in profile to document part of the history of your discipline, or to illustrate a process. Technology makes it easy for us. And a public demonstration of us caring about something is valuable. It’s like we’re selling ourselves… Except we’re not. We haven’t called anyone, knocked on any doors, sent out any flyers. We have quietly added information and ponderings to the world. We have given people a chance to share with us too.

Sometimes you need to find an audience, speak at a conference organised by a specialist association, to make sure your ideas are heard by the right people and in the right context. In the meantime, you can also be cultivating your own little garden of tomatoes, with an up to date profile on linked in, some slides on topics you care about, or blog posts about topics that made you think. Your audience will find you, if you give them a chance.

If you have a great new way of growing tomatoes or a great new vision for the future of a company or discipline, you have got to tell someone, you have got to share. Give them the chance to be able to find you, to listen, to pick your brain. Or you will be like the tree falling in the wood that nobody can hear, because they’re not there.

Comment and leave a link for me to look at if you have a blog!