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The 4-word phrase that makes self-promotion work for you

John Graham

We’ll get to the four-word phrase promised in the headline in a minute. But first, a little context.

Making a name for yourself – becoming well known – is an obvious key to success in insurance sales. Whether it’s finding and impressing prospects, keeping current customers, or moving ahead in a career, volunteering has long been the platform for gaining visibility. For some, it’s serving on company committees and taking on extra assignments, or having a reputation as the “get it done” person.

In the community, self-promotion ranges from sponsoring or coaching youth sports teams, working charity fund-raisers, belonging to a service club or fraternal organization, serving on non-profit boards, chairing special events or helping with alumni and civic projects.

Awards and commendations help, too, along with photos in local, business, alumni and online publications. For added visibility, pursuing elected local office (city council, school board, recreation district board, etc.) and moving up from there raises the bar even higher, while Facebook, LinkedIn and other the social media can ratchet up the “getting well-known” possibilities.

It boils down to getting as much consistent “exposure” as possible, and hoping there will be a worthwhile payoff. But, that takes work — lots of it. And there’s no guarantee that the payback (beyond doing good for your community), if any, will justify the investment of energy and time.

While this may seem like a bleak picture, fraught with too many hurdles and not enough assurances, there’s another way to look at it — a different perspective that acknowledges “being known” is an essential component in achieving success.

At the same time, trying to get there can be like driving at night without headlights. Because of this, many who attempt to become “well known” make a fatal mistake.They assume that getting as much visibility as possible is what will get them there. Unfortunately, others find such behavior off-putting and negative.

Yet, “being known” can have immense value by letting the spotlight shine on what you do, not who you are, and that means always asking (here comes our four-word phrase) one question: “How can I help?”

In other words, with the proper focus, marketing or selling yourself can lead to success without going on an endless ego trip that alienates others.

And here’s how to do it. Pushing aside the absurd “self-made man” myth and currently popular “bootstrapping,” the unavoidable fact is that we all need help in reaching our goals. Think about it. Whether it’s getting a latte on the way to work, choosing what to wear for a special event, deciding on a dream home, doing a better job managing money, having career mentors, or simply figuring out a home improvement project, we need help.

What we don’t want is hype. In fact, we reject it. The immense success of online peer recommendations makes it clear that we trust our friends, associates and neighbors far more than we do “sponsored” endorsements or the slick and senseless words of clever copywriters.

It goes even further — much further. We reject anyone who tries to “sell” us, including those who try to “sell” themselves. We refuse to be told how to think, what to buy or how to live.

And our clients and prospects want exactly what we want: they want helpers, even if they don’t come across them very often. Yet, they know them when we see them. They respond to those who are skilled at identifying problems and crafting workable solutions. And they’re more than willing to plunk down their dollars for what makes sense to them.

If there were ever “magic words” in business that express exactly what clients are waiting to hear, they are, “How can I help?” They totally change the agenda by announcing that someone is willing to listen, learn and share, not just get.

When “How can I help?” becomes the mantra, something remarkable happens. It makes people comfortable so they are more open, rather than wary and doubtful. They’re also more willing to tell others about their experience.

After Condé Nast Traveler named XV Beacon in Boston the No. 1 hotel in the country, The Boston Globeinterviewed several guests. One said, “Everyone knows me by name, everyone understands my preferences. I don’t have to even ask for things. They just magically appear.” This is why 50% of the guests are repeat customers. It’s not magic. The hotel staff gets it. They have been trained to help and understand the value. They love to help.

Serving and helping are the way to get referrals and recommendations. People become your ambassadors and are eager to talk about how you have helped them, rather than what you sold them.

It’s helping that attracts and keeps clients. Here are some suggestions for engaging clients and prospects in a helping way:

  1. Focus intently on what the client or prospect wants. Note the little, seemingly insignificant, things that make them smile. These can make the difference, so keep track of them.
  2. In the same way, keep a record of dislikes, the bothersome things that can add up fast and create discontent.
  3. Put yourself to the test by asking if a proposed solution will really help your customer or prospect reach their goal. If there’s doubt, reject it.
  4. Express appreciation. Say thank you for the opportunity to help.
  5. Keep clients and prospects top of mind by always being alert for helpful ideas to share with them.
  6. Respond promptly to all messages, not just the ones you think are important. People want to know you received the message they sent. It’s a unique way to help.

Nothing contributes more to success than helping. It sends a clear message that you know what has value to your client base.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategist-consultant and business writer. He publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales.” Contact him at [email protected], 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.



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