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Television producer Barbara Cordray terms it "showmanship." Leadership writer Warren Bennis defines it as being “always on.” I call it "sales" and the product is you.

Smart once ruled the world. You toddled, prepped and earned the diploma at the marquee school. Your future was set. You could do anything and go anywhere.


It’s not like that anymore.

Today everyone is smart. If you have internet access and some curiosity, you’re brilliant. Technical know-how (like good looks) can dazzle but it will only get you so far. You need something more. The big opportunities come to those who can sell themselves.

In a cutthroat environment (NYC will lose 120,000 jobs this summer), there’s no time to waste. You need to figure out what makes you exceptional, write the narrative and go out and sell it. No hemming and hawing – this is high stakes sales which requires fully-deployed showmanship:

Start the day convinced you’re going to close every deal. The little tape inside your head should be looping the most flattering and motivating messages day and night. Delete messages that undermine your sense of worth and confidence (leave that to your frenemies).

Show up for work looking like a million bucks. When you’re expecting success, you get it.

Talk up your product. We’re listening – intrigue us with a story or an anecdote that makes us root for you.

Old-fashioned good manners are the cornerstone of the most luxurious stores. Return your phone calls, update people on the viability of their proposals, keep us posted so we can plan our calendars accordingly.

Strong word-of-mouth is how great products catch fire so nourish your horizontal relationships (peers, colleagues, friends, cohorts). (Do I really need to remind you that no one gets to the top of Everest without a Sherpa?)

Smarts, savvy, competence – all good. Top it off with (nearly) childlike exuberance and passion and I’m signing on the dotted line.

Wear chain mail and face rejection with equanimity. Don’t be afraid to ask for the job/the introduction/the meeting/the email address. The golden rules of sales are first, believe in your product and then, ask for the order.

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© Copyright 2008 Ellen Lubin-Sherman


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