Too often women in the financial services industry are reluctant to promote themselves and their business because centuries of socialization have taught us to be demur and defer the attention to our male counterparts. In her book “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul,” media coach and marketing consultant Susan Harrow helps shatter those preconceptions with an effective guide to understanding the importance of self-promotion and tips on how to get yourself and your ideas out into the marketplace without “morphing into an alpha male.”
Your book is subtitled “A Woman’s Guide to Promoting Herself.” Why do women find it particularly difficult to market themselves as aggressively and, in many cases, as successfully as men?
Women see marketing as shining a spotlight on themselves, and women are reluctant to do that. When I speak to women’s groups, I will ask them how many of them feel that marketing themselves is the equivalent of prostitution, and two-thirds of them raise their hands. I think that other one-third is lying.
Women have the “disease to please.” I tell them to stop being nice. Take your due. Take your one seat. Acknowledge that you have power over yourself, and then take that power. That’s the key in shifting the dynamic. Everything comes from there and nothing else matters.
But those feelings are so engrained. How do we begin to overcome them?
A good way to start is to understand some basic differences between men and women, which is not to say that you have to turn into an aggressive male to get your message across. But you have to be aware of the differences before you can decide how to address them.
First, don’t take anything personally. That’s a big difference between women and men. Men never assume something is personal, and women always do. One of my clients was telling me that women at her firm come to her and complain if they weren’t invited to a meeting. She tells them to go to the meeting anyway. Don’t assume that you were purposely excluded. Assume they just forgot to include you.
Also, men assume they have rights, and women ask for permission or wait to be asked. You need to assume you have rights, too. That often plays out in meetings or on panels. Women don’t like to interrupt, and men have no problem interjecting their thoughts and ideas, so often the woman’s ideas are never heard. Women have to be trained to interrupt. If you know you have something to say, just say it.
Another issue is that women think they have to respond to every situation, whether it is good or bad. If something happens that a man doesn’t like, he just ignores it. Men act like they didn’t hear you or that it didn’t happen. So if someone says something to you that you think is degrading, ignore it and act like you didn’t hear it. Sometimes you need to correct an error, but you can maintain your dignity in that situation by addressing the specific error in a neutral voice and then just moving on.
How can women turn these characteristics into a marketing strength?
Don’t focus on the things that you think you need to change about yourself. Focus on setting your intention by asking yourself, “How can I get what I want?” That helps shift the dynamic, but it requires daily practice.
For example, if you are in a meeting and didn’t respond to something the way you think you should have, review what happened and think about how you would like to change it. Then run that positive scenario through your head so you’ll be better able to handle a similar situation next time.
Then you have to actually do it physically. Get a friend to help you, and keep running through the same scenario over and over again until you start feeling comfortable with it. That helps you develop your muscle memory. When I was a tennis pro, we would practice the same stroke hundreds of times against the net, the machine, and other people. Then when we were in the middle of a match we didn’t have to think about what to do. Our bodies just did it.
Why is media attention so important?
It’s the quickest way to raise your profile. It can be instant, but the effectiveness of the media attention depends on how well you communicate your message because media is very primal. On television, people make a judgment about you in seven seconds. In person, it’s three seconds. Everything we do telegraphs our lives before we even open our mouths.
Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” Everything you do, say, are and think needs to be in alignment. When those things are out of balance, people won’t respond to you. We know instantly when we can see that someone is a truth teller, so the more you tell the truth about yourself, the more people respond to you on a very primal level.
How do prepare for media attention?
One of the biggest mistakes women make is they ramble, so it is important to plan the points you want to make ahead of time. This is good for meetings, for seminars, and really good in every area of your life. The faster you get to the point, the faster you can help people.
First do it on your own. Have a tape recorder and begin just talking about your subject matter as if you are talking to another person and listen to yourself. Then do it in front of people and ask them what they remembered. You’re not asking for a critique of the presentation. Just ask them what stood out to them so you know what is sticking in the minds of other people.
The next step is honing those stories using a combination of anecdotes, facts, one-liners and statistics. You want a mix of those up in any presentation because stories move the soul but statistics move the mind.
Women also tend to be media shy. Why is that, and how can women advisors overcome it?
A lot of women don’t want to be seen–myself included. It has to do with body image. The TV really does put on 10 pounds, so women will tell me they have to lose 10 pounds before they can go on TV. But that’s not what you should be focusing on because the audience will get your essence immediately. They aren’t looking at your rear end. They are deciding whether they like, trust, and respect you. So if you feel good about yourself that will come through. Find something that makes you feel good about yourself. Maybe it’s a well-cut suit or your favorite piece of jewelry.
Again, though, getting comfortable in our own skin is a lifelong process. One of my clients is a body-image consultant. She stands in front of a mirror naked every night and loves herself up. Focus on what you like about yourself. Start with the one thing that you like and go from there.
Why do you include so many references to and information from spiritual masters?
I put them in there because it’s so important to me. I think women are natural servers, so if we can look at what we are doing as serving others while we are serving ourselves we can feel more comfortable doing it and be more successful.
You can be pure of heart, make a difference, and make money. I think it goes hand in hand. Some of the most successful spiritual masters are very wealthy. It’s a myth that money doesn’t matter. Money does matter. You can do great things with money.
I always ask women to set their intentions. What do you want for your clients? Then, what do you want for yourself? They both need to be done. That is the work of the spiritual master. Life is practice. The Dalai Lama tells us to be nice whenever it is possible, and that it’s always possible, but it’s not always easy.