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Take the angst out

It's a rare self-employed professional who has no qualms about talking to prospective clients regarding doing business together. Much more common is to feel anxious, resistant, or awkward about those conversations. Sometimes enough so that you find yourself avoiding them completely, or delaying for so long that someone else gets the business.

But it is possible to speak with prospective clients with less worry. Here are seven reasons you may be finding it hard to talk to your prospects, and seven solutions to lighten your burden.

Why Is Talking to Prospects So Hard?

  1. Fear of rejection. This is the classic explanation for what stops us from placing follow-up calls or pursuing a lead. We're afraid we'll be rejected, so we resist exposing ourselves to the possibility.
  2. Doom and gloom from the inner critic. That self-critical voice inside our heads tells us we're "not good enough," "don't know how," or we'll "screw it up."
  3. Not knowing what to say. We feel unskillful about sales conversations, and fear we'll get tongue-tied. Or we're literally not sure what words to use in a selling situation.
  4. Reluctance around strangers. We may think of ourselves as shy or introverted. Or we simply don't like to reveal elements of ourselves to people we don't yet know.
  5. Dislike of tooting one's own horn. We feel like sleazy salespeople when we say positive things about ourselves. A lifetime of being told not to show off makes us resist speaking up.
  6. Insecurity about what we're selling. Especially when we're new in business, we may still be unsure we can deliver what we're promising. Sometimes we even feel like impostors.
  7. Asking for money. We find money conversations distasteful. We may question if we're worth what we're asking. Perhaps it feels undignified to ask. Or we're embarrassed to admit we even need clients.

How Can Talking to Prospects Be Easier?

  1. Get crystal clear on what you offer. Know exactly what services you provide, what the benefits are of working with you, how much you charge, and which of your services you plan to lead with in every selling conversation. When you're already anxious, make this part a no-brainer.
  2. Script and rehearse. Write down every key point that might come up, especially those that might make you nervous. How will you respond if prospects question your experience or say your price is too high? Then practice saying what you've written to a friend, colleague, or coach. The more times you say the words, the more comfortable they'll feel.
  3. Look for repeat business. Your past clients are no longer strangers, and they already know the value of your work. Put at least as much effort into getting more business from past clients as you do seeking out new ones. If you don't have a new service to sell your old clients, consider designing one for them. You'll probably find these much more comfortable sales to make.
  4. Focus on building referrals. Prospects who are referred to you aren't complete strangers, because you know someone in common. Referred prospects often don't have to be convinced of your value, reducing the need for horn-tooting. They also may already know what you charge and be prepared to pay it. See Wanted: 100 Referral Partners or Three Keys to Get More Referrals for some how-tos.
  5. Take part in a social group. Many successful professionals get most of their business from an organization they belong to. This may be a business networking group, leads group, or trade association. Or, it could be a group associated with community, church, school, or children's activities. It's not only you who prefers to have conversations with people you already know. Your prospects prefer it, too.
  6. Practice detachment. Putting too much weight on a conversation is a sure way to provoke anxiety about it. Tell yourself it won't be the end of the world if you don't make this sale. Always maintain multiple prospects in your pipeline so you won't be worried about having all your eggs in one basket.
  7. Keep a positive attitude. Surround yourself with people who have an optimistic perspective about your success (and their own). Avoid spending time with worriers and complainers. Inspire yourself with books, movies, or music that make you feel confident and hopeful. Self-confidence is a muscle that will grow stronger when you exercise it.

One final tip: When you find yourself delaying or avoiding talking with prospects, don't ignore it or try to push through it. Instead, take time out to identify what may be making it so hard. Then use some of the suggestions above to make it easier.

Your prospects are out there looking for someone just like you to help them. Don't keep them waiting.

Copyright © 2015, C.J. Hayden

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