Be a red crayon, not a salesman

By Sandy Schussel

Sandy Schussel, LLC


As a coach, I work with many successful people looking who are looking to bring their careers — and lives — to the next level. Most are selling professional services of one kind or another, and much of the time, they are doing so as part of an independent business or practice. To them, reaching the next level means getting more clients, getting better clients, or simply turning the clients they already have into fiercely loyal advocates who will keep working with them for years to come.

Many of my clients come to me with an idea — a paradigm — that the only way they can grow is to do something they dread: marketing, prospecting or, horror of horrors, "selling."

"But I'm an advisor," my client Bob protested a few years ago, "not a salesman." The picture Bob had in his mind of someone who "sells" was the pushy salesman on the used car lot with the loud plaid sports jacket, the phony smile and the bad toupee. Who wants to be that guy?

Like most professionals who are not precisely where they want to be, Bob couldn't fill his day with quality clients for two reasons. For one, he didn't know how to attract more business. Two, he was apprehensive about cold calling, making presentations and other "salesy" things he was sure I'd make him do.

"What if, instead of worrying about marketing, prospecting and selling, you just positioned yourself to attract the clients you want?" I asked Bob.

"I don't know what you mean," he responded, "but that sounds a lot better than selling."

If you're just another financial advisor, insurance producer or attorney, you're faced with competition from dozens — or hundreds — of people doing the same work that you are. You're just another "white crayon." You will get business, but your ability to get more and better clients will be limited. Sending out mailings and refrigerator magnets, making cold calls and other marketing and sales activities might pull in the occasional new client, but what will work faster and better is having a way to distinguish yourself from all of the other white crayons.
Instead of struggling to sell your services, position yourself as a provider who can fulfill a specific need for a specific type of client. Every day, I speak with people who are telling their prospects they are brokers, consultants, coaches, entrepreneurs or service providers, without differentiating themselves from all of the other people who do the same thing. The point they're missing is that clients are more attracted to experts and specialists — to someone unique — than to general practitioners who look like all the other general practitioners in any field. Don't just be a white crayon amidst white crayons. Your prospective clients are looking for the red crayon.

Start attracting them by giving them what they're looking for. When I explained this to Bob, he protested that he couldn't be a red crayon. He was "just another financial advisor." When I connected with him on social media, however, I found several posts he had written about putting four of his kids through college. His expertise on this subject was a way he could attract clients. As we spoke, he mentioned how he had also put himself through college, because his own parents couldn't afford to help him.

These were two powerful personal stories that made Bob a red crayon, which would, if properly displayed, attract many more new clients than any "sales" effort ever could. Why wasn't his practice already as full as he would have liked it to be? Like many of us, on some level, he was afraid to stand out as an individual in order to have the kind of success he deserved.