Five Questions about how to sell yourself to others
Continuing in the five questions vein I will talk today about how I strive to sell myself and my company to others. This is always a work in progress, but I have learned, am learning, some valuable lessons about this as I progress and grow myself and my firm.
Here are a few questions I would ask myself, ones that you might ask yourself when you consider how to best present yourself in the eyes of others.
1. What do people want to know about what I am doing and what I have done? This question is such a pivotal one and I had to start with it first. The most important thing I have learned is that I want to first know about the person I am talking with and who she/he represents in their business life. I spent 6 solid years with a Japanese/American joint venture in the automotive industry and the one thing they taught me well is that you always need to identify the problem first. The solutions should follow. I see that many, myself included, come in with the solution in mind and we don’t spend the time getting to know who we might serve and what their needs are. Who knows? The person you are talking with may have no need for your services and skills. That is not a bad thing. If you find out what their issues are first you will go a long way in developing a connection and opening up lines of communication to show that you are interested in serving them, not just selling to them.
2. What do I do and who do I want to work for or serve? You may notice that I used the word serve several times in the beginning of this post. That is no accident. I have revisited some previous reading on Servant Leadership and have discovered that I do my best work when I seek to serve and understand first versus meeting my own needs. Others can tell when you are only in this for yourself. Don’t get caught up in that “me first” mentality. You also need to know what you do and who you can best serve. No person or firm can be everything to everyone. I cringe when people use the word expert. Not sure how this happened for me, but the word expert is a real “red flag” for me when I see and hear others talk. I shy away, actually deflect the usage of this word when someone calls me an expert. I am a practitioner, not an expert. I may have deep skills, knowledge and experience in certain areas, but I will never, never be an expert. There will always be something to learn and I have to continually reflect to see that I am not becoming too rigid in my approach. Michael Porter, one of the greatest authorities on strategy, says that one of the key things you need to understand is not who and what you do, but what you will not do. Saying “NO” is a very important thing and hunger sometimes causes us to say yes when we should say no to a project.
3. Where do those I can best serve spend their time? You might also characterize this by saying that you need to hang out where those who need you most hang. Sort of a simple way of saying this, but it is really the truth. Keith Ferrazzi said this well in his book “Never eat Alone” and I fully agree that you need to know where to fish when you are looking for those you can serve, also known as clients.
4. How do I communicate or keep in touch? There are multiple facets to this step and they vary greatly based on a number of factors. Generations vary in how they wish to be contacted and communicated with and do not make the false assumption that every boomer hates social media and that all millennial love social media. Tailor your methods based on steps 1 and 2 above. Get to know your client or potential client well and this includes know how, and how often, to communicate with them.
5. How can I say thank you? Repeat clients are a great thing and I have had/currently have many. Some clients have ongoing needs and they will be constant opportunities for service. Other clients will only have a unique need and they may never need your services again. Don’t make the mistake of disregarding those who have not called upon you for an extended period of time. Many of my newer clients came as referrals from older clients. Never underestimate the value and power of a client referring you to another potential client. The time and effort to start with someone from scratch is vast when compared to the ramp up time when you get a solid referral. This only happens if you serve people well and invest in them even when they are not paying you. There are many ways to be compensated or thanked and the referral is at the top of my list.
I could go on, but I will stop here for today.
Those who serve others will thrive.
Those who take and do not offer anything in return will suffer in the long run.
Look at your clients as friends, confidants and resources that you need to constantly invest in.
When you do this you will see that you will gain greatly through giving rather than in constantly seeking to receive.