June 15, 2009

You're always selling something



I read this comment, submitted by a teacher, on a public speaking article today:

"I understand the importance of not being boring, but I am not selling anything, and most of the tips in this article on public speaking seem aimed at holding an audience captive so you can sell them something."

Guess what: We're all selling something.

Do you work for a nonprofit, giving presentations about homelessness, domestic violence, the value of arts education or how to prevent childhood obesity?

Are you a teacher, persuading your students of the value to their lives of American history, English, chemistry, French or Life Skills (formerly known as sex ed)?

Do you sit in long meetings with your colleagues, discussing policy changes, event planning, equipment failure, financial spreadsheets or overtime?

Any time you're persuading someone to come around to your way of thinking, that's selling. Any time you're trying to get someone to take up your cause, that's selling. Any time you're attempting to change attitudes and behaviors, that's selling.

The action of selling may literally involve someone giving money for a product or service (although I would argue that that's "buying"), but in order to get to that point, you have to build a relationship with that customer. You have to build trust and respect with that customer. If these things don't happen, the customer isn't going to hand over the cash.

It's the same way with speaking. In order to get someone to do what you want, you could just yell at them, give orders and be demanding. But that doesn't work for most of us.

To get people to buy into your idea or your cause, you must be persuasive. You must:

1. Make a connection

2. Give facts that support your emotional argument

3. Know the audience so you can understand what appeals to and moves them

4. Give them the information that allows them to decide for themselves.

"Selling" is not a bad word. Sell an idea, sell a product, sell yourself. It's all about persuasion and relationship building, not bad things at all.

If you think you're not selling, you're wrong. And if you're not selling, you might be doing something wrong!

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6 comments. Please add yours! :

The BIKE Lady said...

Since the lady in question was referring to the article, maybe it was the content of said article that persuaded her to question the author's motives.

Just saying.

Jackie Dishner

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Just to clarify, it was a typical article on engaging the audience and keeping their attention. Nothing in the article indicated that this was a person trying to sell something. I just think the commenter had a hard time making the leap from "audience" to "classroom."

Marcus said...

It is unfortunate that people view the word "sell" with such a negative connotation.

I agree with you 100%...persuasion = selling.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for sharing, Marcus!

Stephanie A. Adams said...

Great article! Was a major epiphany for me when I realized I was selling
as a counselor...selling the idea of hope for a better future. First I
felt super-manipulative then I gained perspective and realized it was
cool to have this opportunity. Thanks for sharing this idea!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for sharing, Stephanie. The sooner we all learn this, the better we'll be at transforming people's lives!

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