Many of the people I work with are heart-centered helper types (a category I would put myself in, too). This commitment to helping can get a little bit tangled up with our Great Work when we realize that in order to succeed we have to ask people to pay us for that help sometimes.

It takes a while to settle into the truth that sales is simply a part of life when you are a service provider (ie, coach, consultant, speaker, etc).

One of the things that makes this so hard is that when we think about what it means to sell, we are thinking about the absolute WORST example: the bot-driven, high-pressure, cold sales message that we are inundated with in our email inboxes and LinkedIn direct messages.

Here’s an example, pulled directly from my own inbox:

Hello amandacrowell. Would you like to make 1 million dollars selling your product on Instagram? I can help amandacrowell make 1 million dollars on Instagram!

This email is sending one message loud and clear (and it’s not that this person knows how to sell on Instagram): They don’t know me, and they don’t care.

This is the epitome of disrespect; disrespect for my time and for whatever relationship we might have had.

And all of that was sacrificed for the .0000001% chance that I was looking for literally anyone to help me figure out Instagram ads (or whatever it turns out they do). Which somehow makes it so much worse.

When a heart-centered helper-type considers these disrespectful sales tactics, it’s easy enough to conclude: “I cannot be the kind of person who sells. It’s simply isn’t who I am.”

What I want us to think instead, however, is: “I refuse to be the kind of person who sells disrespectfully.”

How do we sell in a manner that communicates total respect for the person and the relationship?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately for two reasons.

First, because this week’s guest on the podcast (Ron Tite),  has written a book on exactly this subject, called   Think. Do. Say.  His message is that respect is communicated through consistency across your values, your behavior, and your messaging. It’s a brilliant, readable book and Ron is a hilarious, insightful person so I definitely suggest you take a listen!  

Second, the   Great Work Community launched to its founding members last week (Woohooo!!!!! 🎉)! As I was putting together the community guidelines ahead of the kickoff, I was tempted to make the usual stipulation that we see all over Facebook groups: NO SELLING IN THE COMMUNITY.

But something about this blanket statement also felt inauthentic… almost disrespectful in its own way. I assume that most “NO SALES” rules are because the owner of the group wants to ensure all sales go to said owner.

Just to be clear: This is not how I feel.

I want members of the community to work together if it’s a good fit. The GWC is a community of people doing Great Work, and that spans a lot of tasks! They might, for example, need virtual assistance, Instagram strategy consultation, or bookkeeping!

I don’t do any of those things!

So, I wondered, how can I facilitate respectful collaboration amongst members while eliminating any and all pressure to buy?

Two ways to preserve respect around sales

  1. Wait for the invitation. The community guidelines now state that no one is allowed to make an offer to help someone else for money until an invitation has been made by the potential client. This means that everyone is encouraged to be clear about who they are, how they help people, and that they are open for new business, but NO OFFERS are allowed unless the potential client asks for one. No invitation, no paid offer.
  2. Trusted Members Courses. Many of the people who are joining the community are at the top of their field. They are experts and wonderful teachers. That’s why I’m inviting members to apply to place individual modules of their own courses (or stand-alone micro-courses, if they don’t have their own course, yet) into our member portal. These vetted people, then, become the community’s go-to experts, which will facilitate the invitation reference in item #1. Full circle!

Collaboration can’t thrive without respect

Outside of the community, I have different sales rules that I live by that are appropriate to other circumstances (how to offer to help strangers, how to do cold outreach campaigns with humility and humanity, how to offer to help someone who is a friend or colleague, etc) but they all boil down the same commitment:

If you want to work with people you admire, you must first establish categorical and non-negotiable respect.

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.