Selling is to hunting like marketing is to trapping

Always remember: don’t forget to keep on selling. Put that coffee down, coffee’s for closers only.

Are you a brilliant genius when it comes to search engine optimization? Are you a digital PR god? Do you live and breathe social media marketing? Even if you’re coddled by a sales team or protected by the full force of an agency, developing the skills associated with selling and marketing. In the same vein, are you el jefe of a band of brilliant gurus who take your insane signed contracts with unrealistic sky high promises out the wazoo only to run with it and actually dominate in the end? It’s 2016! Everyone needs to always be selling, always be closing (ABC).

Actually, “needs” is the wrong word for it: everyone should always be closing — or learning how to develop their networks and learning how to speak well and compellingly about your company and your products and services.

Outside of the companies I sold, ran, or owned, none of the companies I actually just worked for offered sales commissions to their employees until I started working for New Media Strategies when I was 32 — I was lucky employee 13.

They offered 20% to anyone in the company who landed clients and since I was a senior guy relegated to a junior position (I really wanted to work at NMS), that 20% was a strong motivator, something I couldn’t replicate when I jumped ship to Edelman Public Affairs. While I did get a bump in salary and position when I made the move to their elite digital team, salary can never touch sales commissions — even doctors, lawyers, lobbyists, kings and queens envy the top sellers.

Yes, you heard me correctly a couple paragraphs back: there are a ton of companies who are willing to offer between 10%-20% commission to anyone who can land them a solid client. You don’t even need to be a member of the company, you just need to sort out some paperwork and bona fides before you start counting your money.

But even if you can line up a string of very grateful and generous partners who would be ecstatic to pay you upwards of 20% or more (often depending on how far towards the goal you can drive the ball), you also need to become a salesman. Yes, a salesman (yes, take a second to recover from throwing up in your mouth a little bit).

Becoming a salesman is inevitable, especially if you don’t want to age out of your industry. I’m 46 right now and there are two paths that can keep me making a professional income well into my 60s or even 70s: become Richard Edelman or Peter Corbett and either rule a multi-generational agency empire or simply become “retire comfortably at 40” rich; or, you can start spinning gold from all of the high-level straw you’ve been collecting over the course of your forty-something-year career.

Selling is hard. People value your connections. There’s a money value and it’s more than the 1%, 4%, etc, that affiliate marketing can offer, and surely a lot more than anything you can get from Google AdSense and Amazon Associates. That said, you can take advantage of contextual advertising and affiliate marketing in a vacuum.

What selling does — and why there’s such a premium on it — is takes you out of that comfortable friendship based stage and holds you accountable for taking the relationship to the next level: financial, business, transactional, service-based, accountable — where you can really put your good name and sterling reputation on the line, vouching for and swearing fealty to the company, brand, service you’re doing the selling for. If you think public speaking is tough for most people, if you think leaning over and making the first move and going for the kiss on the first date is overwhelming, asking someone to trust you and trust their money to someone you work for or partner with can be steps too far for most people — even most salespeople really suck at being salespeople, if you can believe it or not.

As you move throughout your career, you’ll make a lot of friends and colleagues, even if you’re an exceptionally antisocial psychopath. You’ll fill up your LinkedIn and (Plaxo?) and contact database and even your Christmas card list. You’ll fill your pants pockets with business cards, sometimes from MOO and VistaPrints, sometimes Letterpress from Etsy.

I just got off the phone with my old friend Michael Bernstein, developer extraordinaire and former Zope and Plone bestie, and we realized that we’ve been out of touch for probably over a decade. We realized together that while we have so many contacts, so many people with whom we’ve crossed paths, so many people with whom we’ve worked, competed, collaborated, met at conferences, at pubs and bars and meetings, so many besties, BFFs, exes, mentors, and protégés who have come in and out of our lives, across the spectrum of business, experiences, passions, métiers, professions, cultures, and offerings, and yet not even Michael and I could keep in better touch.

I know what I am doing about it. A few weeks ago I explained in painful detail as to what I planned to do — and am doing — when it comes to reviving all of those network connection, at least on LinkedIn, Remember to market to your own influencer network. And it’s going well and has not only brought Mr. Bernstein back into my life but also has resulted in lunches, dinners, drinks, and dozens of calls with people I had connected to absentmindedly on LinkedIn and also with people with whom I had also really been close to, whether it be in the context of business or pleasure.

Also, because I explicitly asked to connect for reasons of business and pleasure, and because I was pointedly looking for business partnerships and professional relationships, I have been able to create quite a potentially profitable and formalize sales channel with a number of exceptional new channel partners — new partners being added weekly!

Selling is to hunting like marketing is to trapping. While trapping might very well still be a form of hunting — I understand that — and while, yes, farming and gathering and gardening are active and not passive, marketing still demands building or choosing the perfect trap for whatever it is you want to catch. (What is fishing? Hunting or trapping? Couldn’t it even be considered farming?)

Either way, don’t spend all of your time preparing or storing your food; additionally, you need to stop depending on others to do all of your hunting for you. You have all the tools right now that would allow you to become self-sufficient and avoid the closing doors of automation, robotics, AI, and outsourcing: selling is something only you can do! Only you have the exact friends, family, soul, character, reputation, and experience that you do. No self-aware entity living on the cloud or even the most savvy and brilliant resident of Bengali can replace your network, personal relationships, integrity, and reputation even though, day by day, they’ll handily be able to replace every single one of your products and services.

You pretty psyched? Good! Now, good luck and go git ’em, tiger!

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Originally published at on September 20, 2016.