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January 25, 2023
Salespeople often talk about getting their foot in the door.
Attaining an initial business opportunity and making inroads to ingratiating themselves with someone.
Now, when this phrase first came into the cultural lexicon in the eighteen hundreds, it was quite literal. Door to door sales reps used this hard sell tactic, as it made it impossible for home owners to reject their pitches. Over time, of course, getting your foot in the became much more figurative.
But what happens when the door is already open? What if this customer already knows who you are and what you do?
Because if this individual has an existing relationship with you, then the hard sell technique no longer gives you leverage. Even if you’re wearing steel toed boots.
What you need, much more than getting your foot in the door, is earning the right to have a different conversation with the customer behind that door.
One case study you may appreciate is from a colleague of mine. She is a master of feet and doors, and much more. Her practice has evolved significantly since she launched her firm twenty years ago as a corporate trainer.
A while back, she piloted an executive mentoring program, and the initial participants netted outstanding results. She quickly realized that the success in her new business line could earn her new money, but more importantly, earn her the opportunity to have a different conversation with her clients.
That was the bigger win. Leveraging her latest offering got her a seat at the table where she could discuss new value that her existing clients may not have been aware of yet.
And the best part, she told me, is not that she booked more business, although that did happen. Rather, that she had positioned herself in a different context.
That’s priceless from a brand standpoint. Think about the last time you did that for your work.
How might you relate to reality in a new way to determine your creative responses to situations that are different, not just better? What new professional path could you take that would make it impossible to imagine going back to the old way?
This tool of contexting is critical if you want to overcome career plateaus and the dissatisfaction that accompanies them. Forget about getting your foot in the door, this is like walking into an entirely new building.
Contexting unlocks opportunities to do new kinds of work that draws out your full ingenuity. And it all goes back to the interaction between two human beings. You need to do something that earns the right to have a different conversation with someone, an economic buyer, someone who has the power to write a check for your value.
That might mean securing a round of fundraising, launching a new version of your product, starting a new business line, hiring a new employee, or completely reinventing your brand from the ground up. It matters less what you do, and more how you do it. Contexting is about regularly taking intellectual and creative risks.
Now, you might be frustrated to find that there’s no playbook for this. What you physically do is up to you. But what’s important is the intention behind it. In addition to whatever financial or operational goals you have, part of your strategy needs to be about positioning your value in a more expanded way. Making it easier for people to say yes to you.
Taylor Swift, the songstress and pop icon, recently talked about this practice of contexting in her documentary. Taylor said:
We exist in this society where women in entertainment are discarded in an elephant graveyard by the time they’re in their mid thirties. Everyone’s a shiny, new toy for two years. Female artists have reinvented themselves twenty times more than the male artists. They have to, or else they’re out of a job. You’re constantly having to reinvent, constantly finding new facets of yourself that people find to be shiny.
It may not be fair, and it may not be pretty, but if we don’t do things to position ourselves in a new and different context, then not only will our foot not get in the door, but the rest of us might not survive the room.
What have you done in the last thirty days to earn the opportunity to have a different conversation with your clients?