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How To Sell in B2B (If You Hate Selling)

The Ikigai of teaching as a way to sell.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

How to sell in B2B — even if you hate selling.

Some people like to sell, but I’m not one of those people. I hate to sell.

Or, to para­phrase Dorothy Parker’s fam­ous say­ing, “I hate to write, but I love hav­ing writ­ten.” That would be, “I hate to sell, but I love hav­ing sold.” 1As often is the case with fam­ous quotes, many can­not be attrib­uted to the ones who allegedly said or wrote them. According to this art­icle by Jason Kottke, Dorothy Parker prob­ably nev­er said or … Continue read­ing

In this blog art­icle, I’ll explain why I sell by teach­ing and helping.

Here we go:

Always Be Closing 

I respect the art of selling immensely. To me, salespeople are her­oes who keep the wheels of our eco­nomy turn­ing. Public rela­tions is just a lubricant. 

But selling isn’t just done by salespeople, much like PR pro­fes­sion­als don’t just do PR. We must all com­mu­nic­ate — and we must all sell, wheth­er it’s our products, ser­vices, or ourselves. Fresh out of uni­ver­sity, I quickly real­ised that my lack of sales chops would be a ser­i­ous problem.

During this peri­od, I listened to many self-help tapes on becom­ing a bet­ter sales­man and watched Glengarry Glen Ross on repeat. 

ABC, you know.
Always. Be Closing.

Selling is a Rough Business

My first years in the industry were spent selling art­icle ideas to journ­al­ists over the phone. Over and over again. 

I remem­ber lock­ing myself in the bath­room to breathe for a few minutes before going at it again. Life as a twenty-some­thing PR juni­or look­ing to make a name for him­self was rough.

I often fan­tas­ised about pur­su­ing anoth­er career when sit­ting in the sub­way home after work. I was sleep-deprived with nose bleeds and bolt­ing headaches. 

Instead, I dreamt of becom­ing a teach­er. “What could be more mean­ing­ful than teach­ing,” I thought. 

I acquired pas­sion­ate opin­ions about teach­ing at an early age. 

Perhaps iron­ic­ally, I was­n’t pop­u­lar amongst my teach­ers in school. I jumped at any chance to pro­voke and chal­lenge. I had ideas about how to present know­ledge, and I always felt that I would do a bet­ter job than my teachers.

During my uni­ver­sity years, my girl­friend stud­ied to be a teach­er in his­tory, polit­ics, and reli­gion. True to form, I read her course lit­er­at­ure, ran­ging from Michel Foucault to Jean Piaget. 

Teaching, it seemed, was part of my Ikigai.

Teaching as a Way To Sell

The Ikigai Test.
The Ikigai Test.
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The Ikigai Test

Here’s the first step of my Ikigai Test for the inter­sect­ing middle lay­er, where I would say that:

  • My pas­sion: Communication
  • My mis­sion: Teaching
  • My pro­fes­sion: Public Relations
  • My voca­tion: Learning and Sharing

Then, here’s the second step of my Ikigai Test for the out­er lay­er (based on my middle lay­er answers):

1. That which I love (Passion & Mission): CommunicationTeaching

2. That which the world needs (Mission + Vocation): Teaching + Learning and Sharing

3. That which I can get paid for (Profession + Vocation): Public Relations + Learning and Sharing

4. That which I’m good at (Passion + Profession): Communication + Public Relations

All good. My answers seem to work well with the out­er lay­er of the Ikigai diagram. 

So, for the third step, and based on my answers, what can I place in the centre (the Ikigai) that works?

  • My Ikigai: Creating Online PR Courses

Whohoo! That works!
Can you make it work, too?

Learn more: The Ikigai Test

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Helping as a Way to Sell

Soren Kierkegaard.
Fotografi efter bly­ant­stegn­ing ca. 1840 af Søren Kierkegaard. (Credit: Wikipedia)
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Existentialism: Thought Leadership, Advisory, and Education

Regarding thought lead­er­ship, advis­ory, and edu­ca­tion, I often remind myself of the beau­ti­ful words of the Danish exist­en­tial­ist Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855): 2Søren Kierkegaard. (2023, November 27). In Wikipedia.

If one is truly to suc­ceed in lead­ing a per­son to a spe­cif­ic place, one must first and fore­most take care to find him where he is and begin there.

This is the secret in the entire art of help­ing.

Anyone who can­not do this is him­self under a delu­sion if he thinks he is able to help someone else. In order truly to help someone else, I must under­stand more than he — but cer­tainly first and fore­most under­stand what he under­stands.

If I do not do that, my great­er under­stand­ing does not help him. If I nev­er­the­less want to assert my great­er under­stand­ing, then it is because I am vain or proud, then basic­ally instead of bene­fit­ing him I really want to be admired by him.

But all true help­ing begins with a hum­bling.

The help­er must first humble him­self under the per­son he wants to help and thereby under­stand that to help is not to dom­in­ate but to serve, that to help is a not to be the most dom­in­at­ing but the most patient, that to help is a will­ing­ness for the time being to put up with being in the wrong and not under­stand­ing what the oth­er under­stands.”
— Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)

Servitude is the found­a­tion for suc­cess for all aspir­ing thought lead­ers, advisers, and educators.

Learn more: Existentialism for PR Advisers

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How To Sell in B2B

Late one night on the sub­way, through yet anoth­er bolt­ing head­ache, I remembered the Søren Kierkegaard quote. 

If I want to teach as a humble ser­vant, maybe I could try to approach selling in the same way. 

Sure, who­ever I’m selling to must agree on com­pens­a­tion first. However, that’s only a minor con­sid­er­a­tion along the much more crit­ic­al road to truly help­ing someone achieve their goals and ful­fil their potential.

And so my Ikigai ended up chan­ging my whole approach to sales. To me, selling is nev­er about the deal. It’s about helping.

Now, I think this mind­set works because I genu­inely think that I have some­thing more valu­able to offer than just the mere exchange of money and time. I offer some­thing that will help.

Put anoth­er way: If you’re hon­est and con­fid­ent about help­ing people and organ­isa­tions, selling does­n’t have to feel like sales.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please con­sider shar­ing my pub­lic rela­tions blog with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. If you have ques­tions (or want to retain my PR ser­vices), please con­tact me at jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Public Relations Strategies for B2B

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Public Relations Strategies for B2B

Here are my pre­ferred pub­lic rela­tions strategies for B2B organisations:

  • Content Themes. Be the best in your industry or niche at organ­ising and pub­lish­ing con­tent in well-researched and stra­tegic­ally chosen themes.
    — Learn more about the con­tent themes PR strategy.
  • Deep Content. Be the best in your industry or niche at organ­ising and pub­lish­ing your con­tent in many lay­ers, allow­ing browsers to dig deep­er and deep­er and thus get more value than any­where else.
    — Learn more about the deep con­tent PR strategy.
  • Surround Message. Be the best in your industry or niche at con­vey­ing one spe­cif­ic thing only. This will require the dis­cip­line needed to fil­ter out everything else.
    — Learn more about the sur­round mes­sage PR strategy.
  • Hidden Arena. Be the best in your industry or niche at con­nect­ing act­iv­ists by sup­ply­ing them with an invite-only plat­form for exchan­ging ideas and coördin­at­ing their efforts. Provide them with resources if needed.
    — Learn more about the hid­den arena PR strategy.
  • Thought Leadership. Be the best in your industry or niche at provid­ing expert con­tent and opin­ions that can­not be found any­where else online.
    — Learn more about the thought lead­er­ship PR strategy.
  • Easy Street. Be the best in your industry or niche at execut­ing activ­it­ies and cam­paigns that come eas­ily and nat­ur­ally to your organ­isa­tion. “Do more of what works.”
    — Learn more about the easy street PR strategy.
  • Stupid Majority. Be the best in your industry or niche at tak­ing a stance against the major­ity. Just ensure this major­ity is fun­da­ment­ally flawed and long-term due for destruc­tion.
    — Learn more about the stu­pid major­ity PR strategy.
  • Superhero Solution. Be the best in your industry or niche at offer­ing a plug-and-play solu­tion for a small but wide­spread prob­lem. The solu­tion must have an easy-to-remem­ber name and be free.
    — Learn more about the super­hero solu­tion PR strategy.
  • Iceberg Publishing. Be the best in your industry or niche at cre­at­ing high-con­vert­ing land­ing pages with sol­id search intents while keep­ing every page on your site min­im­al.
    — Learn more about the ice­berg pub­lish­ing PR strategy.
  • Extra Mile. Be the best in your industry or niche at doing some­thing that does­n’t scale — like going above and bey­ond to provide cus­tom­er ser­vice. To be able to scale, we must some­times do things that don’t.
    — Learn more about the extra mile PR strategy.

Learn more: Public Relations Strategies for B2B

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

1 As often is the case with fam­ous quotes, many can­not be attrib­uted to the ones who allegedly said or wrote them. According to this art­icle by Jason Kottke, Dorothy Parker prob­ably nev­er said or wrote, “I hate to write, but I love to have written.”
2 Søren Kierkegaard. (2023, November 27). In Wikipedia.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has


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