It’s harder than ever for a self-employed professional to land clients unless you appear credible. Once upon a time, you could get clients based on not much more than a business card, decent clothes, and your ability to present yourself well in a conversation.
Now what happens is that prospective clients check you out online before they decide to do business with you. Even when prospects are referred to you by someone they trust, they will typically visit your website, search online for your name, or look for you on social media. If what they learn doesn’t shout “credibility” to them, you’ll have a tough time getting their business.
It’s only natural to emulate successful people. You’d like to copy their success, so it seems it would make sense to copy their approach to sales and marketing. But modeling your marketing after the gurus in your field may not get you where they are.
Simply put, the present situation of these highly successful people may be entirely different from your own. Gurus typically have plenty of money to spend, staff to help, a large in-house mailing list, many followers on social media, widespread name recognition, a suite of products and services to offer, and many years of completed work to draw from. If you don’t have all this in your business, trying to copy their marketing and sales approach may be a recipe for failure rather than success.
Do you want your clients and prospects to love you? I think most of us self-employed professionals would. When your prospects love you, closing sales is easy. When your clients love you, they keep doing business with you, and refer others to do the same.
Yet the language often used for marketing and sales reveals perspectives that don’t have much to do with love. The path to closing sales is to “overcome objections” or “don’t take no for an answer.” You’re supposed to write “killer copy” to use for a “marketing blitz” or “promotional blasts” so you can “blow away” your “targets.” You should “hone your weapons” so you can “battle for market share,” “fight for sales,” and “smash the competition.” When you succeed, you are “killing it” or “crushing it.”
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.