Who are you?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.

Exposing yourself to criticism and rejection can be the scariest aspect of marketing a business where the product is yourself. When prospects challenge you with queries like “How much experience do you have?” or “What sort of results can I expect?” it can feel like a personal attack. When they say no to your offer or don’t return your call, you may interpret their response as dislike, disapproval, or condemnation.

Whenever you find yourself hesitant or fearful about marketing because of what people might say to you, here are six countermeasures to help you keep going.

1. You are probably your own worst critic. No one else will ever criticize you as harshly as you criticize yourself. In fact, by listening only to the voice in your own head instead of to what others think, you are likely to be exposing yourself to more criticism, not less.

Get out of your head and start listening to the good opinion others have of you. Ask a friend, colleague, or coach to help you list all the positive qualities that make you a qualified, competent professional. When people give you compliments, make note of what they say. Keep a file of your fan mail from satisfied clients and respected colleagues, and review it as undeniable evidence of what great service you can provide.

2. Your prospects’ business decisions are not judgments of your character. When potential clients say no to hiring you, it simply means they are choosing to spend their money elsewhere or to delay solving their problem. Their reasons for doing so have much more to do with them than they do with you. Don’t take a client’s refusal to mean there is something wrong with you.

Even when prospects choose to work with a competitor, they really aren’t judging you. They are making a business decision about what suits their needs best — a lower price, someone whose experience is a closer match for their project, or someone referred from a source they trust. You will often find that a prospect who decides not to work with you will turn around and refer you to someone else. They wouldn’t do that if they thought you weren’t up to the job.

3. When prospects don’t respond, it means nothing. If a prospect doesn’t respond to your letter, email, or phone call, it’s tempting to manufacture reasons why you haven’t heard from them. Your critical self may try to tell you they don’t like your style, think you’re incompetent, and a long list of other nonsense. But you’re making all that up based on no evidence whatsoever.

When a prospect doesn’t get back to you, it’s just as likely that they are too busy, their need isn’t urgent, they went on vacation, or the boss gave them a higher-priority project. If you’re going to make things up about your prospects, wouldn’t it be more helpful to visualize them eager to talk to you and awaiting your calls and emails?

4. Neither brilliance nor perfection are requirements for success. You don’t need to believe you are the very best at what you do in order to succeed. You simply need to believe you are capable, reliable, and deliver good value, and be willing to tell people so. Your prospects really don’t want someone who broadcasts the message, “I’m the best.” They want someone who tells them, “I’ll get your job done.”

Often the most successful professionals are not those with the most talent anyway. Remember the story of the turtle and the hare? The hare ran ahead, and full of his own success, he rested for too long. The turtle won the race because he kept moving forward at his own consistent speed. However good you are right now is good enough to get the job done for your clients. If you keep broadcasting that message consistently, you’ll get hired.

5. You’re not going to improve without more chances to practice. If you’re not perfect yet, it simply means you need more experience, and what better way to get it than by doing real jobs for real clients? This is what everyone does. No professional was born knowing his or her business inside out.

Training and book-learning can only go so far. The best way to learn is almost always by doing. The recognized experts in your field got to be that way by doing work for clients and getting paid for it. If you can deliver results to your clients in a reasonable timeframe at a market rate price, it’s time to stop rehearsing and start performing.

6. You can’t wait for your inner critic to stop talking. Ask successful professionals whether they still doubt their abilities sometimes, and the honest ones will tell you: “Absolutely.” The way you become successful is not by waiting for the doubts to go away. The path to success is by taking consistent action in pursuit of your goals even when doubts creep in.

Who do you think you are? You are a skilled, valuable professional with a wealth of expertise to contribute to your potential clients. If you don’t begin by convincing yourself of that, then you won’t be able to convince anyone else either.

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