Up Close and Personal–Selling and Speaking


The real business of business is selling your product to customers ( never mind bookkeeping and taxes. That stuff is easy). The hard part is that you have to sell two items each time you come face-to-face with a new customer; first you have to sell yourself and second you have to sell your product.

By ‘product’ I mean, of course, your book. But we’ll use the term product because selling is selling, and it does not matter if you’re selling Fuller brushes, computers or novels. You still have to sell first yourself and only second your product.

And if you’ve never done this before, it is just about the hardest thing in the world to do. Especially for introverts like writers, who spend most of their working day bent over a computer.

But if you want your book to make it in the market place, if you’ve put a year or two into writing it and need to make a living from your work, you have to put yourself out there and sell.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume that the idea of meeting total strangers and selling yourself as an author strikes you as a terrible deception to pull on some poor innocent. But if you don’t sell yourself as a successful author, one whose work will provide hours of enjoyment (or spiritual comfort or show them how to build a house or whatever) to the reader, why did you ever bother to write it in the first place?

Which, of course, brings us to the matter of self-confidence (or the lack thereof) and a lack of confidence in the worth of your product to a potential customer.

Screw that for the counter-productive pile of smelly stuff it is. Seriously. Self-doubt is a very destructive thing to do to oneself. Let the customer decide if you and your product are worth his or her time and money. Putting yourself and your product down is not your job.

Your job is selling. You’re the one who pushed yourself for the year or two (or in some cases more) to research, dream about and write your book. You did that. You set yourself a task and you saw it through to the end despite everything Life could (and probably did) throw at you.

You have every right to be proud of that, and THAT is what you have to show the customer. You have to demonstrate through your bearing, your dress and your behaviour just how much confidence you have in yourself because of what you have accomplished, and how much value you put on your work.

Be relaxed, be open and cheerful and welcoming when a potential customer approaches your table at whatever venue you attend (church socials, community festivals, author’s events arranged by charities, whatever, including book signings at indie bookstores) and most of all be proud of what you are; an author of an excellent work.

That’s step one, in a nutshell.

Step two is to demonstrate to the customer your interest in him or her as a person. Take a quick assessment of the individual’s dress and demeanor. If they wear a Colts sweatshirt, smile and say, “Go, Colts!” even if you’re a Broncos fan. If they’re wearing an expensive suit and silk tie, compliment their appearance and praise the choice of that tie with that shirt. And whatever you say in greeting, mean it, and let them know that.

You want that individual, male or female, young, old, black, white or magenta, to know that you recognize them as an individual with a value unique to themselves.

You are building a relationship; you are making a friend, you are developing trust between you and your customer. And you have about fifteen seconds to do that before he or she will turn away and look for someplace else to spend their money.

You are in direct competition for customer’s dollars with every other vendor at that event, and all of them have much more experience with direct selling than you do. It’s a hard school the first few times you go to an event as a vendor, but do not quit on yourself after you lose your shirt the first few times you go.

If the thought of putting yourself out there absolutely terrifies you to the point that you can not allow yourself to even consider ever doing such a thing, you are not alone; you are, in fact one of millions of people who cannot, will not, take the chance of being rejected.

But I have a secret to share with you;


Here’s another toastmaster’s link that will prove very useful:


This one is full of tips that will help you get through your first few meetings. They are intended to help new public speakers work through their first few speaking engagements, bot they all apply to conversations with total strangers.

I cannot recommend Toastmaster’s strongly enough for people new to dealing with the public – singly or ‘en mass’. In fact I would even recommend you locate their closest chapter and attend a few meetings. You will not only learn a few things, you will meet some very nice people.

Back to selling for a moment. Selling is not about deceiving the customer (although there is enough of that going ‘round you cannot be blamed for thinking that way). It is about demonstrating to the customer that your product has value for them.

But they don’t know you from Adam, so why should they believe a thing you say?

And that is why your first selling job with any new customer has to be yourself.

I can tell you this much; once you have sold a customer on the idea that you have value for them, selling your product as having value has become a rather simple task.


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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