The Art of Talking Yourself Up

Even though the video is pitch black, the audio confirms life exists beyond my domicile. With all of the creaking, chirping, and squeaking going on outside my window you’d think wildlife is in need of an oil can. This is fairly common for a Summer’s night in the fields, though, and it’s quite welcome. The alternative is disheartening. I’m strongly adverse to another winter here, but where would I go? Who really wants an outsider? Having the experience of more than one out-of-state relocation, I can tell you few.

At this time of night (4 A.M.), my brain would be faltering and sleep would consume most of my thoughts. This is not the case tonight, as I really put the nose to the grindstone yesterday morning and invested 5 hours of sweat equity into the house with an additional 4 hours of life maintenance (e.g. mowing the lawn, doing laundry, etc.). At least I have a new chandelier, new ceiling fan, mowed lawn, and clean clothes to show for it. It’s a pretty basic work and reward situation. Writing, on the other hand, is a little less straightforward.

I’ve got professional writer’s block right now, but it hasn’t to do with any of my stories. I was going to dedicate a few hours yesterday evening for writing a profile for the family business, but instead fell asleep for 8 hours. Now, I’m wide awake playing personal schedule catch up. While adhering to a schedule is not my idea of fun, there are times when I know I need to move the ball down the field. That’s the mark of an effective person: identifying priorities.

You see, we’re sending in a proposal on Thursday to work on a project with the state of Ohio. The government is making its usual feel-good laundry list of demands and the owners, my parents, have realized they can’t complete it all themselves. Being the good-natured son and dutiful employee I am, I’ve finished some components of the request to speed things up. Coming from a small public accounting firm background, this is another day at the office: a client needs to be done in five days and there’s not even a draft on the partner’s desk… HAUL ASS, PEOPLE!

The biggest block to this profile I have is a crossover… a holdover from the personal realm. Company profiles are tethered to advertising and advertising is indelibly linked to sales. In sales, the concept of “talking up” the product or service rears its oft-deceitful head. Ever hear the expression “could sell freezers to Eskimos” attributed to a phenomenal salesman? Yeah. Deceit brings in money, and this isn’t even speaking on a fraud level. This is everyday business.

I’ve struggled with this concept for decades. My personality is one to reject boasting or otherwise hustling anyone in business. My ethics bind me to a position of letting the quality speak for itself. For years, I thought if my work proved itself strong, it would be self-evident to others. They would naturally choose to work with me. As good and right and egalitarian and logical and ethical and solid as that was on paper, it didn’t translate well in the trenches. Often the client has little idea of what is quality and what isn’t. This is hard for me to accept, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t the truth.

Who do they pick? They pick the lesser quality work with a company that dazzled. Even if the client eventually figures out the work is sub par, I’ve noticed clients will work with a lower-functioning business if they feel comfortable with the team. It blows my mind; I, personally, look for results. If someone isn’t performing, I put in the energy to find someone who does. That’s how I do business.

Now it’s my turn with sales. Even though I know it isn’t shuck and jive, it still feels like braggadocio. It’s hard for me to refrain from erasing the sentence I’ve written several times before. I’m getting in the way of myself. I’d love to instantly come up with lines that are comfortable to me and effective with my audience, but I don’t know if that common ground exists. This is absolutely why I didn’t go into sales or do well at the record label. My ethics are just too strong.

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7 thoughts on “The Art of Talking Yourself Up

  1. This isn’t about ethics, Nate. Not really. You work at this business. It belongs to your family. Obviously, there are things about it that are worth something, or you wouldn’t invest time there.

    This is more a discomfort with talking yourself up (and I use the collective yourself as the business). I know how hard it is to do, because I’ve owned my own consulting firm for more than a decade.

    Here’s what I suggest (if you have time): ask some of your clients why they work with you. Use the fodder from those answers to build your sales pitch. It will feel more sincere to you, because you’re working with actual people who’ve said actual nice things. They believe those things are true, so why shouldn’t you?

    • I invest time for my parents as my parents primarily. There is a paycheck in it for me, true, but it’s nothing to crow about. This is so they have a job after retirement and don’t end up broke as a joke. There are family politics for the reason I say that, but won’t go into detail. Also, this was the best I could do after the Charlotte incident and the tanked economy. The HR departments at several business were downright disgusting after the bust. I only got five rejection letters out of the hundreds of applications I sent. Not one interview. Disgusting.

      I could survey my clients, I suppose. Being they’re are students I’m not sure what kind of quality I’ll get in response, but there may be a questionnaire available from our accrediting agency. It’ll have to be discussed with my parents after this project is settled though.

      • If it’s any help, one of my clients paid me to interview and survey recents grads a couple of years ago, and most of the responses were really thoughtful and well-reasoned. We did think about who we would approach in advance, though.

  2. kerbey says:

    I’m with you; no sales, no pitches, no hustling. The more you get used to sugarcoating or tweaking the truth, the more you become a person without a soul, like lawyers.

  3. rockettattoo says:

    I just left a very large (name retracted) corporation. It was a great ride while it lasted, but they were starting to loose focus on what is really important by micromanagement. They will never get any disagreement from me that (I do call center work) scripting, terms and conditions is important because it can impact their clients financially. What I take issue with is giving minutia like: “Is there any thing else I can help you with?” the same weight as the former mentioned terms and conditions. A good practice yes, highly advisable yes, good engagement client relationship piece yes, but no it has no business viewed even remotely under the same umbrella. I warned them they would loose good people by making small things like a “thing” that could possibly involve HR and they did wind up loosing someone valuable: Me. I made last Thursday my last day there after getting a offer from another company. I literally bet the house on red with a bold move. When the guy interviewing me for the new position asked me if I had any questions I had I asked him why he liked working there. Needless to say I liked his answer and saw something you rarely see in the work a day/corporate world while he was telling his story: Hope. I knew then I wanted to hitch my wagon to it.

    • The way I read that, it sounded like they were harping on follow-up questions. If that’s the case, then it’s a disagreement between form and substance. When I engage with customer service centers, it’s fairly obvious that I got what I came for. There has never been a time when I said, “oh, wait, yes there’s something else I needed,” because I’ve already written down what needs to be done. Once that’s done, I really need to move on to the next task. It’s their loss for for tightly controlling employee action. Cheers on the new job!

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