"I don't like to sell." "Asking people for business makes me uncomfortable." "Selling feels manipulative and sleazy." "I'm good at what I do. Why don't clients just come to me?" If any of these thoughts seem familiar, you may be hanging onto an unhelpful perspective...
As a professional selling your own services, you may believe that your discomfort about calling prospective clients on the phone is because you’re not a “real” salesperson. But studies reveal that up to 40% of full-time salespeople experience episodes of call reluctance that are serious enough to threaten their careers.
Responding to an inquiry, placing a follow-up call, or having a sales conversation are all situations where you can expect your prospects to ask questions. Preparation is the key to a confident response, but unfortunately, sometimes we prepare only for the questions we want to hear, and not for the tougher ones clients often ask.
In the old pre-COVID days, we self-employed professionals went to local and global gatherings to meet people -- mixers, professional meetings, conferences, community events, cultural happenings, and more. To follow up with our contacts, we scheduled coffee, lunch,...
One thing I’ve noticed regarding networking during the pandemic is how people are connecting, or more accurately, not connecting. During more “normal” times, networking had a certain forgiveness built into it. For example, if you went to a networking meeting and met several people, you’d connect with some more than others, and that would feel normal.
What Can You Do if You Need Clients Yesterday?
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I shared my thoughts on Appropriate Marketing in a Time of Crisis and What Kind of Marketing is Possible Right Now? The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on many self-employed professionals has been substantial. Even if you are able to perform your usual work under safer-at-home rules, your regular clients may not need your services right now. Or, they may simply be unable to pay you.
Meeting new people, in person, is consistently rated as one of the most effective ways to find new prospects for selling your professional services. After attending just a few networking mixers or industry meetings, you will quickly end up with a daunting collection of new contacts. But what do you do with them all?
Remember Why You Are Networking
The whole point of meeting new people is to give you a starting point for developing relationships. New contacts almost never become clients as the result of a one-time meeting.
I asked a new client recently what he had been doing to market his professional services. “Everything,” he said. “I’ve been running pay-per-click ads online, I hired someone to write a sales letter and mailed it to a list of local companies, I have a banner ad in my professional association’s directory, I’ve even been posting flyers around town… and I still have almost no business.”
“Ah hah,” I replied, “I think we’ve uncovered your problem. You actually haven’t been marketing your business. What you have been doing is advertising.”
Established professionals and those who are new in business often have a difference of opinion about going to networking events. Many old-timers in business say that live, in-person networking meetings are one of their most important sources of prospective clients, while the newcomers frequently claim to not see much return from attending these events. It’s the professionals’ length of time in business that seems to influence their view, not their age in years. So, what’s going on here?
It seems that a considerable amount of marketing and sales advice to self-employed professionals is aimed at extroverts. “Go to networking events and meet new people,” the authorities say. “Speak in front of groups.” “Call people up and chat with them.”
If you are an introvert, these experts might as well be telling you to fly to the moon. What if you don’t enjoy public gatherings, dislike being the center of attention, and hate to call strangers on the phone? Can you still do well at personal marketing?