The number one complaint my clients and students — self-employed professionals — bring me about their marketing is that they aren’t doing enough of it. You would think this would be easy to fix. I could just tell them to spend more time marketing and selling, and that would solve their problem. But like so many other challenges in life, knowing what needs to be done doesn’t necessarily make that thing occur.
Consider losing weight, for example. If it were as simple as being told to eat less or exercise more, we would all be as thin as we wished just by deciding to make it so. Since that doesn’t happen very often; it’s clear we humans need a bit more help.
Does it seem strange to use the word love when referring to a business relationship? Substitute another word if you prefer — “like,” for example, or “respect.” However you want to express it, the point is to consider how much you care about the people you sell to — their needs, goals, desires, concerns — all the elements of their lives that might be involved in their decision about whether to buy from you.
If you don’t love your prospects, they will know it. We’ve all been sold to by someone who didn’t care about us. The salesperson who pressures us to buy a car with options we don’t need.
A desperate self-employed professional contacted me recently. “I need to get clients immediately,” she said. “I’ve been trying for months with no success, and I’m almost out of money.” When I asked her how she had been marketing herself all this time, she gave me the following list of what she had been doing:
- Attending networking events where she met people, introduced herself, and exchanged business cards
- Launched a brochure-style website describing her services
- Started a Facebook page and began posting promos for her business and links to content she found interesting
- Printed some flyers and posted them on bulletin boards around town
Why is it that some people seem to be naturals at selling, while others struggle to close every sale or even fail completely in a role that requires them to sell? In 1982, psychologist Martin Seligman, PhD, set out to answer that question for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Seligman had been studying optimism and pessimism in the laboratory for almost twenty years when Met Life heard about his research. Could Seligman help them learn how to hire more effective salespeople, they asked?
As it turned out, he could. In a series of studies for Met Life that analyzed the relationship between successful selling and the personality of the salesperson, Seligman confirmed in the field what his laboratory research had predicted — optimists make more sales than pessimists.
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.
They lie in wait for you when you least expect them — the marketing dragons of fear, resistance and procrastination. Just when you think you’ve defeated them at last, they rear their ugly heads again. What’s a self-employed professional to do?
First of all, don’t panic, despair, or beat yourself up. It’s completely normal to have elements of fear and resistance show up around sales and marketing. Even if it seems like you’re the only one who has these feelings, trust me, you’re not.