Are your self-promotion and prospecting tactics ethical or not?

Self promotion is quite an important skill. It is the intention behind it that can bring you undone. Today it’s not uncommon for some people to stretch the truth in order to get a job, get a sale, get ahead or just get noticed – but this behaviour raises some important issues about the good, the bad and the ugly of self-promotion.

We have all had an experience with someone, a sales person, a manager, an acquaintance, who didn’t seem to have our interests at heart. Something was telling you not to trust them, but you couldn’t put your finger on it. They seem to be after victims, not a viable prospect or a genuine contact.

Proactive self promotion is essential in sales today, because good work does not speak for itself anymore – you do.

So are your self-promotion tactics ethical or not?

There has been significant research undertaken over the last 30 years in the area of self promotion and its impact on earning capacity, image and credibility of people and businesses. The basic aim of self promotion is sound: you’re communicating your abilities to people who can make use of them. A vital skill needed in today’s busy, cluttered world.

In its simplest terms, self promotion becomes unethical when you’re promoting something you can’t (or don’t intend to) deliver. Some questions I have asked myself when examining my own (or someone else’s) behaviour include:

  • Do other people stand to gain from my actions?
  • Do my actions have a positive influence on my own well-being and self-esteem?
  • Do my actions move me closer to my short- and long-term goals?
  • Would most people approve of how I prospect for new business or self promote?

If I can honestly answer “yes” to these questions… fine. But then I test them out by asking those who know me well to give me feedback on my self promotion activities by answering the questions above. You might like to try these too – if you get agreement that your activities are ethical then continue to use them.

In short… you work hard and perform your job well – you can and should, take pride in that. But if you want to be recognised and financially rewarded for your contributions, you must first make those contributions visible. The research also reveals that visibility precedes recognition, and it’s much too important to be left to chance.

Only when your contributions are recognised can you be rewarded. Not before.


Paul Hauck writes: I see a lot of people in second-tier ICT, particularly on the consulting side, who are convinced that they need to persuade the world in general, and each new prospect in particular, that they are much larger than they are. The idea is that they can’t land the big projects unless prospects think they are a big company, and they overlook the fact that they will have desperate trouble delivering the big project once they get it. If they don’t go broke from trying to do the work they’re not really structured for, they will at least be kept from selling the next job, so they will fall into the vicious-cycle trap when this big job finishes.

I very strongly encourage my people to be very clear about what they’re capable of, and to sell exactly that. If they find themselves selling something that’s right for what they want to be, rather than what they are, their time would be better spent on finding a customer for whom they are actually the right choice to make. That is going to get them a lot closer to being what they aspire to in the end.

It’s all a bit “the old fashioned way” though, isn’t it?


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