Marketing as Performance Art

I happen to believe that unless you work for the government, you’re in sales. And that means that you can’t ever stop being a salesperson because you never know who your next client will be, or more important, who referred you. You can’t really ever stop selling.

Does this mean that you always have to be on? Yes, I think you do. You want to command respect and inspire confidence. You want to be perceived as someone who has integrity and accountability. On top of that, you need to be creative, pragmatic and solutions oriented. This is your brand and it needs to be lovingly nurtured.

Lately, I’ve been a victim of people who don’t return phone calls, are consistently late, stand me up for meetings and always seem to have some lame excuse for not meeting a deadline. The message is loud and clear that my time is not as important as theirs. Would I ever refer these people to a friend or colleague? Are you kidding? A few examples:

  • I recently worked on a website project where the designer completely disappeared for two months. She finally surfaced with some lame excuse about being in crisis. I was raised to not have a crisis; rather, to deal with it. With her eventual reappearance, I had hoped that we could create a working relationship, but it continued to be a source of frustration and anxiety for me. If I wanted to talk with her, I began a week ahead of time, hoping that a consistent barrage of emails, voicemails and texts would raise her. We did finally launch the website, but it was four months late.
  • A colleague in my networking group agreed to arrive early one morning to set up the projector. Not only did he not get there early, he never showed up at all.
  • I drove from Berkeley to Danville to meet with a client, and my phone rang as I pulled into the parking lot. It was she, wondering if we could just do our meeting over the phone.

These people are all small business owners, and I don’t care how brilliant they are, I would never refer anyone to them. This is a tough economy, and you need to be conscious of the impression you are making all of the time, because you just never know whom your next client will be.

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