what are you selling?

Posted on November 8, 2012 by

I’m in a coffeeshop, because there’s construction at home.  No complaint about the insulation going into the basement, though.  None at all.

So I’m here, in this incredibly comfy leather chair, surrounded by people softened by that first snowfall of winter.  There are lots of people like me, laptops in hand, looking busy.  There are an equal number of people in pairs, chatting.  A couple of iPhones.  A typical afternoon snapshot of small-city suburbia.

But one pair of people is different.

Something about the way they hold themselves tips me off.  There’s a deal being made.  Someone is selling something.

Once I know this, it’s easy to figure out who is who.  A year ago I would have been put off, just a little bit: I would have felt protective of the customer and a little on guard about the seller.  Now…I’m intrigued.  In fact, I’m taking notes.

The look like peers.  The buyer looks interested, engaged, attracted to what’s on offer.

The seller looks relaxed, comfortable, at ease.  She’s not worried, she’s just helping connect someone with something she wants.

It’s the perfect situation.  As the transaction continues, there’s a glich–which they solve together.  No one feels cheated or even uncomfortable here.  The buyer’s leopard-print rainboots glint in the grey light as she searches for her business card.

And as the transaction wraps up I start thinking about everyone.  Everyone-everyone, not just business-people-everyone.

What are you selling?  What am I selling?  What do we need to be selling?

Because this woman, she’s happier to be buying than not.  She looks glad to be here.

What do I have that would make someone happier?  How can I let her know?  As Marie Forleo  says, “If you had the cure for cancer, would you hesitate for a minute to share it with the world?”

No, of course not.  you’d tell everyone.

What is your superpower, your cure for cancer, or discontent, or the common cold?

And is that what you’re selling?  When you move in the world, is that what you let people know they can have?

Or do you undersell yourself in a misguided attempt at modesty?

Well, I COULD tell them about that cancer cure, but I don’t want them to think I’m bragging. So I think I’ll just offer them some cough drops.


It’s a way to hide.  Because having people reject your cough drops is a lot less painful than having someone mock you because you think you can cure cancer.  But if you can…if you CAN cure cancer then THAT is what the world needs.  Not cough drops.  We have those.  We need what you have.

And this isn’t about business, not really.  We need your shy smile, your passion for Legos, your kinda-cute-kinda-awkward way of dancing.  We need your willingness to leap boldly forward and your total unwillingness to make a choice without all the facts.

You are not broken.

But every time you advertise yourself as something your’e not, you’re reinforcing the story that you’re broken.  You’re telling yourself that YOU won’t sell, so please instead be selling something easier to explain.

Because sure, you’re complicated.  You have soft spots and warts and a few downright holes in your sweater.  You also do some stuff that’s awesome but can only be explained with five hours and an endless supply of hot cocoa.  And that stuff, the impossible stuff, is what we need, because the rest of us don’t even think it exists.

So take a look.  What are you selling?  …and what could you have on offer instead?  Tell us in the comments!