Why Is It So Hard to Market and Sell Yourself?Featured

My journey to open up and align my actions with my company's missionI’m a great salesperson. When I believe in what I’m selling I’m passionate about it and can highlight all the amazing things one would need to know to deeply appreciate and in many cases even fall in love with the thing I’m sharing. I have this passion for free thinkers like artists, craftspeople, designers and kick ass founders. In fact, the mission of my company, Bellvine is to help artists, craftspeople and designers to be discovered, celebrated and valued.As a founder, I fit the above description yet I’ve avoided almost every opportunity to share my story and founder journey. Why have I turned down the opportunity to let others discover, celebrate and value me? After a focused and successful effort reaching a goal, I’m proud of myself but there is no need to publicly seek praise. Isn’t that just vanity? In addition there is no need to disclose the possibly harrowing journey it took to get there stoking sympathy, highlight differences between myself and others or exposing uncouth hustle. Why brag or foster pity? I did a good job, end of story. Or is it?I jog about 3 miles almost every day. The first half of my route is a gradual uphill with a steep climb in the middle that levels off and slopes downhill back home. One evening after a fresh rain I was jogging up the soft incline and just about to reach the steep part of my route when a guy on a bike passed me and said while laughing “Want to race?”. I watched him zip past me and up the block, then his phone rang in his pocket and his peddling skipped a beat. I quickly assessed the distance, the probability of him slowing even more after answering the call, the distance to the top of the hill and my belief in how fast I could run full speed and for how long. I silently started striding and as soon as my footsteps reached his back tire, I sprinted. As I zipped past him, he fumbled with his phone yelling “Aww Hell NO!” and attempted to regain his lead. But it was too late, the hill was too steep and he had lost too much momentum. My assessment, timing and effort was perfectly executed. I was up the hill and down a long block before he caught up to me wearing a rye smile reflecting both his shock and respect.I share this story with you because it is an example of how I have approached and achieved a number seemingly impossible tasks. By observing a situation, analyzing the data, moving forward with determination while pivoting to maximize shifting opportunities and avoid pitfalls, I have repeatedly and quietly summited life's challenges to arrive where I have desired to be. For example, I attended a top University, was a nationally ranked rower with over 35 1st place wins and was invited to be a board member of an elite arts organization for the San Francisco Museum of Art alongside rockstar women from CEO’s to page 6 philanthropists. But I never shared the effort it took to achieve those goals like multiple jobs to pay for school, extra workouts to perfect my rowing and later bartending on weekends to buy tickets to museum fundraising events. By not sharing where I started and what it took to get there, many people in my network have no perspective of my passion and accomplishments, what I’m truly capable of and ultimately who I am. If the guy on the bike only saw me at the top of the hill, on flat ground, he would have barely noticed me as he peddled by but because he watched me smoke him on a steep hill and win a race he thought was impossible, he took notice and had a lot of respect for me. For the past several years, while founding a startup company, I’ve been working my way up some of the biggest hills of my life. I’ve accomplished amazing goals with extremely limited resources alongside challenges that seriously threatened the wellbeing of the ones closest to me. To build Bellvine, I’ve used the same techniques as before doubling and tripling down on effort and strategy without sharing my journey. Although I’ve sent out quarterly company newsletters highlighting product milestones and customer development, I have largely excluded the underlying effort. So while the newsletter has been helpful to let people know my company is moving forward, it is similar to only being seen jogging down the street on top of a hill. By sharing the milestones reached and not the journey, my network hasn’t seen, nor can they relate to, the size of the hills and the effort it has taken to reach the summit. To build the great company I envision, which includes successfully raising capital, attracting top talent along with passionate customers and users, it is imperative that people understand who I am and what I’m capable of achieving in order for them to support me. How can I possibly expect investors, future employees, customers and users to discover, celebrate and value Bellvine if as the founder, I don’t allow them to discover, celebrate and value me?I’m still pondering what held me back from being open about where I’ve come from and the effort it has taken. Maybe it is the fear of judgement or not being accepted. Maybe there is some bias that has imprinted on my subconscious twisting the value of my achievement with some hidden shame keeping me from wanting to be discovered and celebrated. I can’t say what the reason is for sure, but I do know that even though it scares me, I must allow others in, share my ups and downs and provide the opportunity for all involved to celebrate me and my journey. If I consider how I feel and react learning about the efforts of great founders or creators, I know that sharing my journey isn’t vanity or bragging and letting people know what I’m doing and going through allows them to support and help. There is no shame in where one starts and the innovation and hustle used provides inspiration and a path for others to follow. By sharing my entrepreneurial journey I align my actions with the mission of Bellvine because as it turns out, the desire to help others be discovered, celebrated and valued is not only the passion that drove me to build a marketplace platform for the bespoke interior design industry but is what I need and want for myself.I'm an interior design industry expert with over 20 years experience. My desire to help artists, craftspeople and designers be discovered, celebrated and valued led me found Bellvine in 2018. Bellvine is an online B2B marketplace helping manufacturers of luxury furnishings capture online sales while interior designers discover, buy and track products faster.
Thank you for sharing your story, Heather. I can only make a guess as to why it’s so hard for anyone to sell themselves, but I think you’ve smashed it out of the park. You frame your successes in light of your personality and interests, and that makes you very authentic and sincere.I hope you know you’re a beautiful storyteller.I think learning to sell yourself starts with learning to tell stories. I find it extremely difficult. In Australia’s work culture, ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ is rife (cut down the tall Poppy’s). We’re all better off for openness and honesty. Thank you.- A fellow former rower, although not quite to your ability level
Thank you Riannah for your support! My goal is to be more open and wholistic throughout my life and sharing my whole self rather than compartmentalizing what I share with each "part" of my life. Your encouragement is much appreciated and I wish you all the best!
Echo this insight @riannah — sharing our stories is how we as humans understand and make meaning of our experiences (and learn through others as @HeatherSawtelle so beautifully modeled). Why is it so hard to share our stories... sometimes we just don’t have a handle on how to frame them or what all the things that have happened to us mean and we DEFINITELY don’t understand how they benefit those that hear them. Instead we worry about the people who will judge us for sharing. I hope you receive a lot of great feedback on this! Keep up the “self promotion,” you’re good at it!
So true! Putting your feelings into words, particularly when fear has enforced a habit of hiding them is not easy! Thank you Alex, I really appreciate your encouragement and support!
I loved reading your story, Heather! Thank you for sharing. When you only ever see people succeed around you and you are hustling to make it, it makes you feel like you don't belong or are doing it wrong. I had a similar experience of telling a class I was teaching about finishing my MBA, moving to London and working at a chronically closing down Christmas store while I looked for work. To me it was embarrassing that I didn't make it right away but my students thanked me for sharing - I had no idea the impact being that vulnerable could have. Thank you again for sharing your story! It means a lot!
Yes!- "I must be doing it wrong" certainly comes up for me. It' seems we have lots of compassion for others but don't extend it to ourselves enough. Instead of sharing the struggles that make us who we are we hide them and act like everything is fine. In reality sharing our journey's ups and downs connects us much more. Thank you for your support and sharing a bit of your story too!
I can so relate to this! Thank you for sharing. I think the fear of feeling like you're bragging or trying to foster pity really nails it for me as to why I find it hard to share my own story. But you're right that ultimately to be a leader, people need to know you, and sharing yourself is a part of that. It's not about trying to seek praise or validation, but to share and commiserate with others. To connect. So I'm really excited to have just found this platform where I can feel able to openly share and connect to other women who are doing hard things, pushing themselves past their comfort zones, faltering and succeeding in equal parts. It feels very liberating to just be able to talk about it openly.
Thank you for sharing your story! I am going through a similar transition but I know that I am still holding back. I think I am consistently battling what I have achieved vs. the work yet to be done. I realized that the faster I own who I am, the more confident I feel in sharing. Did you have anything like that in your process?
Hi Erayna,I think everyone has the days they feel invincible and like you can take on the world and others that make you feel the exact opposite and left wondering "What the bleep am I doing?". I knew something was holding me back and I talked to a coach about it who helped me define where I wanted to focus. It took longer to unravel the strings into a coherent message that I could share. The publicly sharing part was scary to say the least but I felt it was a necessary part of my work. Now that it is out, it feels really good to be so truthful with the "world" and be clear with myself. Even the camaraderie of comments here as well as off line feedback from my network has been very supportive, given me more to think about and has contributed to my self confidence. Happy to talk more and I'm cheering you on!!!
Heather, thank you so much for sharing this post. It's a beautiful articulation of something that I think so many of us struggle with. Personally, I am challenged by this and find myself becoming less and less able to confidently define my own success and achievements (and describe the path that helped me get there). Sometimes, I will hear my husband describe my background to someone, and I think to myself, "why can't I say it as plainly and confidently as that!" I realize it's something that is holding me back from future growth, and I am eager to find a solution to overcome it. You mentioned you worked with a coach. Would you mind sharing how you found this coach and if this coach had any particular focus? Thank you for sharing your experience with us!
Hi Christy,Your bio on Elpha is amazing and I think you should say that when you introduce yourself!!! Your awesome and the people you meet want to know upfront so they can maximize their interaction with you. I was introduced to the coach through I've really enjoyed all the 1 to 1 introductions they have made and Anne Klint (the coach) was one of those matches. It was a very serendipitous meeting. I was ready to do the work and Anne got right to the heart of it in 2 meetings.With her permission here is her website: I think there are lots of professional coaches on Elpha you can connect with as well. I'm glad my story spoke to you and I wish you all the best!
Thank you for the kind encouragement and for sharing Gild and Anne's information. I really appreciate it. They both look like amazing resources.
Omg, I'm in a similar place. My coach also highlighted a few things for me that caused me to be a little bolder. I following your example, I recently shared about my burnout and short term disability leave experience. I sat on this since September and realized that I was dealing with the shame that I am trying encourage other to shake. Thank you for sharing and for being a great example! Here is the link to my article. If you have a few mins, I'd love to hear any feedback that you have. Writing is therapeutic to me so I'm going to start doing it
Hi Erayna,You've written an incredible story. Thank you for sharing it!It made me think deeply about how to put policies in place and create a culture in my company where employees are encouraged to take care of themselves and utilize their benefits. Everyone wants their coworker to use sick days when they have the flu so it should be the same with your mental wellbeing. This is some of my fav actionable advice from your article:"Take a second to reflect on your last 30 days. Is the pace of work & life sustainable for the next 3 months straight? If you answer no, congratulations on recognizing there may be an issue looming. You can start by taking smaller, more regular breaks."Congratulations on your upcoming Hooky Spa& Lounge! I love that you created an No-Working space for hustlers to recharge.
Thanks for checking it out! I like that perspective. It's easy to think about catching a cold but it's rare to realize that burnout can make ppl toxic.
I love it! What an inspiration....