One thing I always remind myself: My customers are much less interested in me than they are interested in themselves.

Same with you: Your customers care a whole lot more about themselves than they care about you.

If our customers are more interested in themselves, doesn’t it make sense that they won’t be that interested if we talk aboutourselves?

Here’s the #1 sales rule: Don’t talk about yourself.

What?” you may ask. “How can I sell if I don’t talk about myself?

The answer: Make the sure the conversation is always about your customer, and carefully weave tidbits about you into this conversation.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to meet with a company’s management team to discuss the possibility of working with them with on a major strategic project. The president of the company had invited me to meet his team, and he started the meeting with a very flattering introduction, explaining to his team why he wanted them to talk with me. After the introduction, he turned to me and said, “Steve, why don’t you tell everyone about yourself and your company, and what kinds of other clients you work with.”

All eyes were on me, with everyone looking eager to hear me speak. On the surface, this seemed like a great moment for a consultant who is trying to sell his services; the boss has just told his team great things about me, and the team was keen to hear my message. So the best thing for me to do was seize this opportunity and tell this willing audience about my credentials, and how they make me perfectly qualified to help them, right?

Oh, I was tempted. But I knew it was the wrong thing to do.

The worst thing I could have done was to launch into a story about myself. No matter how interested everyone in the room was, I knew that interest would wane if I began a monologue about myself. It would take no more than 30 seconds before people started thinking about their next meeting, a phone call they need to make or the school bake sale they need to prepare for that evening.

I resisted the temptation to tell my story, knowing that the best way to hold their attention was not to talk about me but to talk about them. In a business setting, “What’s in it for me?”is at the top of everyone’s minds, so if you want someone to be engaged, keep the conversation focused on them.

Instead of launching into this monologue, I said, “Thanks, I’d love to tell the group about Yastrow & Company. First, if you don’t mind, I’d like to hear about you, so I can be sure to tell you things about us that are most relevant to your situation.” Then I asked the first of many questions in what turned out to be a very productive 1 1/2 hour conversation about their business.

The good news: I never had to tell a story about myself.

Yes, I did manage to communicate many important points about myself and my company throughout that 1 1/2 hours. But every time I said something about myself, I made sure that we were still talking about them. I was careful to make each statement about myself brief and to ensure that I could connect the information about myself to information about them. For example: “I saw a similar situation with another client, and here’s how I approached it.” or, “I understand the challenge you’ve just described. What I would suggest is...”

I never had to tell a complete story about myself, and this made for a very successful sales call.

At every moment, in every customer conversation, continually ask yourself, “Are we still talking about them?” Don’t let the conversation turn into a conversation about you, no matter how much the customer professes he wants to hear about you… because he really doesn’t. He wants to hear about himself. If you notice that the conversation is about you, change it!

As I wrote in a recent issue of this newsletter, you need to “tear up your elevator pitch” into little pieces. Don’t throw those little pieces away. Just use them sparingly. If you drop these little pieces of your story into a conversation one at a time, and only when you can connect them to pieces of your customer’s story, you will be able to keep the conversation focused on your customer.

Ditch the pitch. Keep your bulleted list of why you are so wonderful in your pocket. Resist the temptation to explain why you are so wonderful. In short, if you want to communicate your story effectively, don’t talk about yourself.


  • Pradeep Henry
    Nov 16, 2010 - 12:44 pm

    Steve’s suggestion to “tear up your elevator pitch” and then “drop these little pieces of your story into a conversation one at a time, and only when you can connect them to pieces of your customer’s story” is EXCELLENT!

  • Steve Yastrow
    Nov 21, 2010 - 15:14 pm

    Thanks Pradeep. It really works … doing these kinds of things has helped my sales conversations immensely.


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