My Biggest Fear

When I decided to transition from journalism to public relations more than 10 years ago, my biggest fear was I would have to become “a sales guy.” We all know the stereotype I’m talking about. It’s the guy who pushes by saying, “What’s it gonna take to get you to drive this car home today?”

used_car_salesmanAs in all things in life, there are options to choose. You can become an advocate or you can sell.

When you advocate, either for clients, your kids, ideas, a noble cause or for an action movie on date night, you are trying get others to acknowledge the benefit of what you propose. On recognition of the benefit, the decision becomes theirs and theirs alone.

When you sell, you aren’t trying to get someone to simply see a benefit to your proposal so much as you are trying to get them to buy it.

Subtle? Perhaps.

I was recently reminded of my fear when a determined “sales” guy called my office late one afternoon. He was purposefully vague, but ultimately revealed he was selling a credit card payment system.

When I explained we didn’t accept solicitation calls he became incredulous.

“How did you start your company?” he asked, with aggravation more than evident in his voice. He proceeded to bluntly explain he was building his business “just like you” and demanded an appointment.

Dale Carnegie he was not.

From my perspective, he failed from the outset because he was too busy selling and not trying hard enough to be an advocate. He didn’t know what we did, and therefore couldn’t advocate an idea for making our business run better. He just needed a meeting, and hopefully a sale.

He chose to try to sell me. And despite his frustrated tone, his sales approach failed because, in my experience, anyone who has to be “sold” almost always develops buyer’s remorse. But if you advocate a solution to a problem, often there is no sales effort necessary. That solution might not be embraced with the immediacy you would prefer, but I’d rather have a committed partner to work a year from now than a reluctant customer today who felt pressured to buy.

I’m grateful, as a solutions advocate, I’ve never had to ask a client “What’s it gonna take to get you into a press release today?” I’m confident the entrepreneurs and managers with whom I work appreciate this as well.

About Rod Hughes

I'm a writer, bibliophile, witty wordsmith and generally a commentator on the world around me. Professionally, I am a partner and vice president of a Greater Philadelphia-based public relations agency that helps businesses get their messages out into the world in a positive, effective way. Kimball Hughes Public Relations also specializes in helping organizations manage crisis communications situations. Contact me at
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