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“I never want to be in sales.” This I told myself for years.

So, when one of my early stage entrepreneurial mentors gave me this advice: “If you want to work for yourself, get really good at selling.” I wanted to run for the hills screaming. 

I did not want to get really good at selling anything. 

But I did want to own my own healthy business, work with great clients and convey to people how I could help them. 

What to do? I wondered. 

For me, the answer came in the form of unselling myself on the idea of selling. 

I wondered what, besides selling, would create conversations and opportunities for Root + River to grow. 

Building on my journalistic roots, I began with creating compelling thought leadership. From an early stage, we produced daring, honest and heretical content that would elevate the conversations people were having around brand. Compelling content is not just about a blog piece that shocks people or drives them to click, it’s about moving a conversation forward, consistently. So we talked about spirituality in branding, soul in branding, artfulness in the language of the brand and more: all topics designed to start more conversations. Compelling content does not end a discussion, it begins one, which is a powerful rule of thumb when beginning content creation. 

Once we were well on our way to creating compelling content, it occurred to us we needed to name this baby! By then, Justin had picked up the book, Play Bigger. Using the ideas around category shared in the book, we realized we needed to identify a larger category that would differentiate us and allow us to build and own a conversation in the broader market. Our category became intrinsic branding. 

This category building helped me with my unselling because it allowed me to talk about what we do in terms of how we were re-interpreting and re-imagining branding. When I explained what intrinsic branding was, it gave me the chance to discuss how it came to be and how it was different from what already existed. That allowed people to either reject or accept these ideas as interesting. Essentially, they began to opt-in and opt-out of these conversations. 

Along the way, we began to intentionally practice intrinsic branding — bringing our holistic mindset and approach to our clients in ways that delighted them, inspired them and were extremely effective in setting a foundation for their brands. I knew that if in our practice of intrinsic branding, we could surprise and please the clients we had the opportunity to work with, we could reliably earn the most coveted of all non-selling, sales-assistance: word of mouth. 

If we had enough excellent word-of-mouth experiences out there in the world, and high quality content educating and inspiring people about what our category of branding was really all about, we could flourish. 

Lastly, were those word-of-mouth experiences. Instead of selling, I realized I had to get out of my office, my comfort zone and my circles and into new ones. I was not going to sell, but I needed and wanted to connect with others (being an entrepreneur is lonely!). Connecting meant getting to know people (something I enjoy) and also allowing people to get to know me. The goal of these experiences was not to sell, but to be connected to follow the energy, curiosity and interest of myself and the people I was around. 

Before becoming an entrepreneur, I had not joined community groups. I was too busy with work and family and my home. Since becoming an entrepreneur, my membership in various organizations along my interest lines has led to the most significant personal and professional growth I have experienced. 

These were my alternatives to selling. This was how I unsold myself on the idea of selling. 

Fortunately, these approaches have built our business steadily over the last six years. 

Along the way, I did not truly sell, when you consider that selling is defined as, “to deliver or give up in violation of duty, trust, or loyalty and especially for personal gain.”

Instead, I did the opposite. I built trust and loyalty and served with a sense of duty and honesty. 

As a member of our Being Marketers community recently pointed out, selling is an outdated word. I could not agree more. It needs a re-branding, a re-imagining itself. 

Perhaps the real work of growth begins when we stop selling at all. 

Let’s Talk!