To Push or to Pull: that isn’t the Question

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When building and maintaining a business, there is the concept of pushing—going after sales, clients, or work. It’s not the same as pushy (though it can be). It’s just an active approach to getting new business from new sources. Then there is the idea of creating a pull—anticipating demand for a product or service you offer, or establishing authority in a field so others come to you.

We all have “growth opportunities” in business ownership. At the moment, I’m struggling with the push side of business development because I’m mired in three debilitating states:

  • fear and ego
  • inaccurate perceptions
  • stubbornness or lack of conviction

Fear and ego
I’ll be honest: pushing scares me. The idea of approaching someone with a specific agenda, putting out something so blatant as an advertisement, or talking up my own ability feels scary, self-centred, forced, and inauthentic. I’m the first to admit that my ego hasn’t let me push.

I’ve always gravitated toward roles where the selling is done for me. My job was to deliver excellence to the people the sales team brought in. It’s not like I lack ability in selling—I have no trouble expounding on someone else’s business or product. Do you need to tantalize a shopper in a sentence or two? I’m your guy. Maybe you want to capture customer data in a live retail environment. Check. Hell, I can even stand up and speak to a crowd with aplomb. If you need to persuade your audience, leave it to me. I’ve got this. But for my own business? Scary.

Flaws in my perception
Another reason I’ve struggled to self-promote is that I think of pushing and pulling as separate acts. Because I’m more comfortable on the pulling side, I feel it’s “better” to pull, that it’s a more noble position to take. What a jackass.

While it may be true that each style may suit certain personalities, professional backgrounds, motivations, or social abilities better, neither is superior. And not only is neither superior, but you can’t even have a pull without some push; that is, they should feed each other.

Chinese philosophy wins again
WARNING: East Asian concepts to follow. Continue at your own peril.

In Tai Chi, we do the single push hands. It is the first, simplest partner exercise. Two people trade roles in slowly pushing each other’s hand toward their partner’s solar plexus. It becomes a constant exchange of attack and defence. There are many subtleties. One is to be relaxed enough to allow yourself to be pushed without pulling your hand away. Another is being sensitive enough to changes in your partner’s state to absorb a sudden fast blow rather than take it in the guts or push back against it. Finally, the pusher must begin first.

So in business, you first have to find a way to let people know you’re there (start with a push). There must be thousands of ways to reach audiences and stay authentic to your brand and self. Then deliver those exceptional experiences (create a pull). Keep them coming back and make them want to tell their friends.

Stubbornness and lack of conviction
There are solutions to overcoming my stuckness, I reckon. I could find someone to take on the pushing. Or, I can get over myself, face my fear, and learn to do it. I can’t stay the way I am and see success, but I haven’t acted aggressively enough to change, either.

Is it because I’m too stubborn, or is stubbornness an excuse for the fear? Maybe, I don’t believe enough in myself, what I do, and the reason I do it. If I did, wouldn’t I be singing it from the rooftops?

Now, that last bit is a terrible sales pitch, don’t you think? I do believe. I kick editing and writing ass. I just try to let my work and integrity do the talking. So back to stubbornness. How, then, to spread the word?

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