The fear of hearing those words when marketing your professional services can stop you in your tracks. It’s the response you may most dread hearing when you make a sales pitch: “You? You think I should hire you? Well, who do you think you are?”
In reality, potential clients rarely say anything quite so confronting. Most people are polite and considerate when they decline to do business with you. But the real replies you hear from prospects are often a lesser obstacle to your success than the responses you imagine in advance. The negative reactions you think you might get can prevent you from saying anything at all.
A question I often get from clients and students goes something like this: “I’ve been collecting marketing ideas… and I have a drawer full! I also have a stack of promising leads I’ve accumulated. And I know it’s important to stay visible, so I keep marketing, but then I just end up with more names in the stack. How do I prioritize all this?”
If you’ve ever wondered something similar, you may have lost sight of a very important truth — the way to win the business game is not to collect the most leads; it’s to make the most sales.
Have you ever considered that prospective clients who are referred to you are much more likely to hire you than those who come to you in any other way? The endorsement of a referral carries so much weight that referred prospects ask fewer questions about your qualifications, are less likely to shop for the lowest price, and typically make their buying decisions much more quickly. In fact, they are often pre-sold when they contact you.
With the value of referred prospects being so high, it makes sense for generating more referrals to be an essential component of your marketing. But many professionals limit their ability to gain referrals by concentrating all their efforts on current and past clients.
I was talking with a good friend and business colleague over dinner recently about being busy. She has very little free time: busy personal life, plus her business to run, and I the same. We both felt pinched for time and were longing for some space, literally and mentally, from those things that are required just to keep our businesses running on a daily basis. We agreed it seems as if there’s a giant mountain of things that we need to do that can sometimes feel like a heavy weight, and only when that work is complete do we have time to do other things.
My clients often ask me to help figure out what’s wrong with their marketing. The first question I ask is how much marketing they’ve been doing, since many failures have more to do with quantity than quality. But assuming you’ve been sufficiently active at promoting yourself, here are some other ways in which your marketing might need fixing.
There are three areas you should examine — the package of services you are offering, your marketing strategies, and your sales methods. In order to market and sell effectively, your package of services should meet the following requirements:
The longer I do this work, the more I come to realize that we self-employed professionals can be our own worst enemies when it comes to getting clients. We know what we should be doing to market ourselves better, and then we don’t do it. Or we don’t know what’s the right thing to do, so we throw a dart and pick something randomly, or respond to the latest email we got, instead of considering our options and making a well-reasoned choice.
Or we make a valid choice, then second-guess ourselves, dropping one marketing strategy and picking up another, without putting enough effort into any one approach to produce results. Or we spend too much time talking to ourselves and not enough talking to prospective clients, worrying about why the last prospect never got back to us, whether the blog post we just wrote is good enough to publish, or if the latest version of our tag line finally gets across our message.