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.”
If you’re answering calls, replying to emails and notes, responding to invitations, and receiving referrals and leads, it probably feels like you’re taking a lot of action to market your business. But it may be that a good deal of what you’re engaged in is actually RE-action.
Waiting to hear from the right prospects is nowhere near as productive as proactively taking steps to seek them out. And a stream of incoming communications can take up time and energy, but doesn’t always lead to closed sales.
Consider these suggestions for getting out of reaction mode and becoming more proactive in your marketing.
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.
At the start of every year, I encourage my clients to follow the same practice I do of reviewing the past year before setting intentions for the new one. I find that a thorough review of the previous year can provide important guidance for moving ahead. I make a list of “Successes, Accomplishments, and Breakthroughs” and another of “Failures, Disappointments, and Breakdowns.” After giving myself some time to celebrate my successes, I analyze my failures. Try this process yourself, and see what it provides.
Looking at each of your disappointments over the past year, ask yourself what went wrong in that area, and what you might be able to do differently. Let’s say you didn’t gain enough new clients last year. What’s your take on what went wrong?
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.