Businesswoman climbing ladder.
Do you wonder why some people make it to top of an organization and others who have equal talent reach a plateau? There are a number of factors in determining organization and personal success; this column will focus on the art of internal promotion or selling. Some skeptics may call this shameless or gratuitous self promotion. Other observers may call it politics. The fact is it may be the booster you need for your career and personal life; providing you communicate it effectively. It will enable you to expand your influential sphere, one of the key determiners of success.

So why do we hesitate to promote ourselves within our own company? Common excuses include: I’m too busy. My boss knows (or should know) what I do. I feel funny about tooting my own horn. I don’t want to be a show off; I’d rather be a team player and give credit to everyone. I am not good at playing the political game. Unfortunately, when we avoid talking about our accomplishments or results, we lose the opportunity to showcase our talents to senior management. We miss the chance to build trust and confidence with key stakeholders – the decision makers for budgets, new projects or promotions.

Let’s think about external sales people. Why do companies actively seek out strong selling skills when hiring sales and marketing experts? They are the link between the company and the customer. They promote products and services by developing visible relationships and interactions with the customer. Without them, companies struggle to grow revenue. If our customer does not know about us, how can they effectively buy from us? The same rationale holds true about marketing yourself within an organization.

Does effective internal promotion selling differ from the skills of our external sales person? Internally, there are two ways to sell – overtly or strategically. The overt approach is obvious – and generally works with individuals that have vocal personalities – we come to expect it from them and the corporate culture embraces their showiness. The more strategic approach works in a broader range of cultures and may be more adaptive to different personalities. Consider these ten techniques and modify them to your style:

  1. Present your ideas confidently. A tentative presenter leaves the opening for doubt in abilities.
  2. Be a positive force within your organization. Be the go to person. Be the idea generator.
  3. Share your results and accomplishments by writing summary reports to upper management. Provide credit for the team; management will still notice who wrote the report.
  4. Let people know what you are working on. Talk about progress of your goals with your colleagues and management informally over lunch or during informal meetings.
  5. Find ways to highlight the benefits of your decisions without highlighting it was your decision. People will invariably ask who made the decision.
  6. Offer to present or share best practices from your team with other groups. People remember great teachers and motivators.
  7. Write articles for the company newsletter or external publications. Showcase your expertise and credit your team or organization.
  8. Accept verbal praise for a job well done with grace while acknowledging your team. Avoid downplaying your role.
  9. Participate in internal or external promotions that recognize your accomplishments. Have a great picture ready!
  10. Take an active leadership role in your technical and/or trade associations. Let your management know you are developing yourself outside of your normal work environment.

Self promotion is an art form. Start slowly and incorporate one or more of these action items into your daily life. Pay attention to how receptive your organization is to each step you take and adjust accordingly. If the feedback continues to be positive, stay the course and you’ll soon reap the benefits!

This article was first published in Business Strategies Magazine in 2006.