When you ponder the concept of self-promotion, which images come to mind? Do you think of your incompetent boss who somehow convinced someone that he knew what he was doing? Or the irritating top producer who seems to fall all over herself to name-drop during sales meetings? Or, conversely, the quiet sales guy with an enviable book of customers who regularly exceeds his goals by leveraging himself throughout the corporation so that people consistently refer him to their networks?

According to George Dudley and Shannon Goodson, the two behavioral scientists who authored the bestselling book The Psychology of Sales Call Reluctance, people who are most willing to “toot their own horn” are often the ones who get the highest reward. Sales Call Reluctance is the emotional hesitation to prospect, self-promote and toot said horn.

Consider the following excerpt, used with permission:

Idealistic Myth: The hardest-working, best-producing and most deserving always (eventually) rise to the top.

Practical Reality:

Look around. Are the people who head your organization necessarily the most competent? People who are “perceived” to be the most competent are the ones who typically make it to the top. But they cannot be perceived to be competent if their competence is invisible. Getting to the top of any enterprise or organization (you don’t already own) requires a two-part approach: competent performance supported by assertive self-promotion. Competent performance without assertive self-promotion creates a recognition vacuum. If you don’t take credit for who you are and the contributions you have made, someone else in the organization—probably less deserving—will.

Idealistic Myth: Good work speaks for itself.

Practical Reality:

Work gets rewarded from two basic sources. One is the personal satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment you confer on yourself when you know you’ve done your job well. That’s important, but it is also private. The other is public recognition and financial reward. These are based on the behavior of others and, to a great extent, are outside your control. These payoffs can be substantial and meaningful, but they are determined by people who are trying to maximize their own rewards by promoting themselves as good salespeople or shrewd corporate navigators. Payoffs for your good work are likely to be as insignificant and infrequent as you allow. 

Like it or not, these two myths represent the history of ineffective career management. If you hunker down and keep your nose to the grindstone all that is likely to happen is the disfigurement of your nose. While hard workers are often appreciated, they are less often promoted.


Effective self-promoters share three common behaviors that you can learn and employ. People who promote themselves do not hang back. They are willing to manage own their visibility.

  1. They position themselves to get noticed. They fully utilize their existing networks and are constantly developing new contacts. Not only do they get noticed, they make sure to do something distinctive so they are remembered.
  2. They have style. What’s unique about your style? Background? Hobbies? Experience? Hair? Golf handicap? Neckties? Eyeglasses? Sincere approach? Follow-up? Sense of humor? Volunteerism? Your ability to convey that you are here to serve your clients and not yourself? Is there anything about your style that is not serving you? Are you following up? Staying in touch? Keeping your word? Creating value?
  3. They demonstrate consistency. Effective self-promoters never leave self-promotion to chance. They know that a lost opportunity will go to one of their competitors. They repeatedly show up, even if they are not in the mood. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says that the “signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”

Don’t kid yourself: the fear of self-promotion keeps qualified, competent people huddled in their cubicles, failing to enjoy the career success that could be theirs if they would overcome their fear of self-promotion.

Are you ineffectively promoting yourself because you don’t want to be perceived as obnoxious? If so, you are blocking yourself by identifying self-promotion as a negative trait. The good news is that you can learn how to become an effective self-promoter. Learn more on how to overcome the fear of self-promotion at the Exceptional Sales website.



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