Rainmaking Training : Preparing for the initial meeting

Here are my 6 Steps to have a Great First Appointment with a new Prospect:

We do cover this and other topics on our sales training and Rainmaking Training workshops

Your first step is to establish with your prospect that this is what we call an “All Ears” meeting.
In that we will be “All Ears” whist you tell us about , you , your business and your issues.

1. This is a fact finding trip
Explain that you are on a fact finding mission with the prospect.
Yes, you have a service that may improve their business.
However you need to learn more about them and their business in order to know for sure and to make any suggestions or recommendations.

2. Agree an outcome for the meeting with them …
You should have sent an email with an outline agenda to them to cement the meeting in their diary.
Go through that quickly with them if you did.
If not, then agree early on what you want to cover with the prospect and ideally how long it will take.
Say something like “I think this meeting wil take about 45 minutes of your time. Is that ok?
How about we jointly conclude at the end of the meeting whether it’s worth taking a next step together or not?”

3.Get down to business quickly.
Please do talk about the weather and traffic and do accept a drink if it’s offered.
Some small talk can develop a little rapport and start to develop a relationship with the prospect and putting them at ease.
However do keep it to a minimum.
Respect their time and yours.

4.Don’t talk about you and your solution too soon.
(See also the blog on the trap door question)
The purpose of this meeting is to learn more about your prospect’s business.
Then you can determine the best solution for them and if it’s what you do at all.

5. Prepare your questions:
The questions you ask need to yield the answers you need. Poor questions will not do that.
With good questions you can and will control the meeting and get your prospect talking and you listening.
You can use thought provoking questions to challenge the thinking of your prospects.
You can also demonstrate by good questions that you have knowledge and interest in their business.
Over time write down the questions that work for you and build a library for yourself that you refer to before key appointments.

6. Have a conversation:
Having a clear goal and outcome for the meeting is great…
However please have a conversation with a fellow human being.
Don’t make it an interrogation of a robot.
Srike a balance between asking questions and putting your prospect at ease.
Use a conversational tone.

If you can do these 6 steps I think you will have a great first sales appointment

You might also like our appointment Planning guide . It’s FREE to download Simple Rainmaker meeting Planner
ry it out the next time you meet a new prospect. See if it helps

Let us know what you think of it. How do you plan your initial meetings. info@rainmaker-caching.co.uk

Sales Training : Why? Why Now? Why You?

I’ve spent many days in Sales Training sessions where the usually very enthusiastic sales trainer
has absolutely insisted that in all major sales you have to meet the M.A.N.

For the uninitiated that does not necessarily mean a male person merely the person
male or female with the Money, Authority (to buy) and the Need . Hence M.A.N.

The trainers are right. When you can, you must meet the M.A.N.

However you now see a caveat to that from me and that’s the “When you can”.

Sometimes in large and medium sized companies the MAN does not want to see you.
Sometimes the people you are dealing with are a little frightened of her themselves and
they may not be sufficiently comfortable with you and your colleagues (you are after all Salespeople!!) to introduce you all to the MAN.

If the MAN’s door isn’t open and you can’t see her,  you now have three alternatives.

  1. Qualify the opportunity out because you will never meet the MAN
  2. Risk making yourself unpopular with your contacts and going straight to the MAN.
  3. Delegating responsibility to your contact and assisting them to sell internally.


I have never personally gone for the first option.
Perhaps my sales funnel has never been full enough of prospects you say,
and I have only on a few occasions tried the second option with mixed results.

That therefore leaves us option 3.

If we are going to go for that option we do need to be careful with our assumptions here.
There are many dangerous assumptions that we can make here and they’ll all get us nowhere.

  1. That your prospects have a robust process of building a business case for doing anything different.
    This could be like buying a new product or outsourcing a service or whatever your company does.
  2. That your prospects have a method or criteria for choosing between possible suppliers
  3. That the person you are working with in your prospect is a decent SALES person.
  4. That the person you are spending time with knows the buying process and it’s people

That means that we can take option 3 but we need to do it professionally.
We need to DELEGATE responsibility not ABDICATE responsibility.
Let me explain what I mean.

Abdicating responsibility would be to send a boiler plate proposal that talks about us and not them.
Adding the standard sales blurb about our solutions in general not specifics and a quotation.
Then we can follow up with a phone call or an email a week until we think that they might now be thinking of us as stalkers not sales people…
That would be ABDICATING responsibility …

DELEGATING responsibility to our contact is very different and we make the following assumptions

  1. Assume that they have NOT built a business case for buying your product or service or anything like it.
    This means that you will have to build a business case using their numbers, which you will have to help to dig out,
    for both potential costs and potential business benefits.
    This exercise will have to answer the WHY? And The WHY NOW? questions
    A cynical and suspicious Finance Director, who will be part of the decision making process
    somewhere along the lines, will want these answered.
  2. Assume that the person we are working with is NOT a sales person.
    They have never been on a sales training workshop and may not have presented their ideas before.
    That means we need to give them a PowerPoint based presentation not a WORD document
    This will be more useful if they are going to present their idea to someone.
    Your quotation is important but the quantified benefits are much more important and the references need to be in there too.
    You need to ask your contact to find out what the buying process is and who is involved.
    Tailoring the presentation that your contact will make to make sure the messages resonate with all in the process will exercise your sales skills.
  3. Assume this presentation must also have enough detail on WHY YOU?
    to make it obvious to an uninvolved person that you are the right choice.
    Probably best to use their logos on the slide deck rather than make it in your corporate colours that could appear biased ?

A final thought … If marketing knew that this was how the majority of your sales completed would they build you some different tools to use on your journey with the prospects??

Sales Training – Rainmaking: Is it a Feature or a Benefit? How do you know?#1

Is it a Feature or a Benefit? How do you know ?

This came up again last week in a Sales Training workshop.
This time to a group of experienced business advisors.
Mostly Grey-Hairs, like me ?

We were on the Workshop session called Building your Compelling Business case…

There was lots of push back voiced as
“You don’t understand”
“People buy from people”
“They’ve got to trust you to go on the journey with them”
“It’s not just about the numbers”
“You can’t ask these kind of questions because they won’t know the answers” …

I have to say that for most of it I did say that I was in “Violent Agreement” …

However I did stand my ground and we agreed that at some point in the buying selling process that there is a “Weigh-In”
In the red corner is the COSTS AND RISKS to the business of going ahead with the project.
In the blue corner there are the BENEFITS to the business of going ahead…

Our job, I would suggest, is to help them and us to QUICKLY assess whether the Blue outweighs the Red…

If the Red outweighs the Blue then we need to move on quickly.
Why? Because unless TAMO selling is your trade (Then A Miracle Occured) your chances of success are low.
You will need to find a new prospect because this one won’t give you the deal you seek.

A little on Features VS Benefits
Working definitions…
A feature is a fact, detail, or description about your services.
A benefit is the positive result your client achieves from working with you.

Simple? Hmmmm Sometimes features sound suspiciously like benefits.

A few examples:
An IT consultant: He says “I help small businesses that are losing time and money due to computer problems.”
Sounds like a benefit. Looks like a benefit. It has money and time in the sentance..
Ahhhh NO it’s actually just a description of the consultant’s target market: businesses with computer problems.
That’s a feature of the consultant’s business.

A graphic designer: “I produce creative and attractive logos, business cards, and brochures.”
Should be obvious. It’s describing a feature…

A management consultant says “We conduct Strategy Planning Workshops using the Rainmaker Accelerate Process”
Describing the process they will use rather than the results is often a trap fallen into by services focused people …
Sorry again, this is a feature.

Is there ever a time to talk about features?
Certainly. Describing features can help you attract the right clients and let them know you have what they are seeking.
A copywriter who specializes in direct mail and ad copy should say so to distinguish himself from someone who writes primarily for websites and brochures.
An accountant who primarily serves business clients rather than individuals should make that clear.
But once you’ve covered the basics of who you serve and what you provide, it’s time to tell your prospects what they’ll get from working with you.

Ok Ok tell me then what is a benefit?
I believe that a Benefit can only come in 5 forms and answers these questions…

1. To what extent does what you do result in your client growing their revenues?
Finding new markets?
Getting to market quicker?
Getting to more prospects sooner?

2. By how much does what you do typically result in your client reducing their cost per transaction?
(Their costs may go up but their costs of processing an order etc should decrease)
Could they get more use out their assets?
Can they produce more with less effort?

3. In what way does what you do typically increase your clients employees productivity and engagement in the business
Can their employees do things faster (Pen vs Computer?)
What processes can be automated / Done away with?

4. In what way does what you will do with your client enable them to satisfy the needs of their clients?
Happier employees deliver better service to clients who become loyal and buy more at a lower cost of sales…

5. How do you enable your client to be compliant with the law of the land / Standards in place at the time?
Sarbannes-Oxley in the accounting world.
Disability access to buildings in offices

Don’t miss next times exciting episode when we give you a real example of a case of Benefits….

Sales Training – Rainmaking: Cross-selling is a major challenge for many companies.

Cross-selling is a major challenge for many companies.

Bringing in new customers is expensive.
According to research by Bain & Company, it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer.

So why do so many companies still have untapped opportunities for growing existing accounts

and yet they find capturing those opportunities so difficult

and  What is it that the successful cross-sellers do differently?

Here are our views..

1. Asking more Questions than their Competitors

Giving key people good sets of questions that will uncover opportunities
This rather than trying to get them to learn ALL about YOUR many services and their respective benefits
By doing this you force your team to be Interested in your clients businesses
This will feel really great for your clients
Your team will uncover buyers’ needs and drive demand for your existing services offerings.
After all there is No point asking a question about a service you don’t offer.
The most successful companies at cross-selling know where they provide value.
They discover what the customers issues are and they by asking questions create opportunities to connect the two.

2. Develop Strong Relationships up and down and across your clients organisation

Have objectives for account team members that measure how many relationships they’ve established
Viewing relationships as “our company to their organisation” as well as “me to my client.”
Develop deep relationships with their customers. That way when someone leaves the business still flows.
Your team are viewed by the clients as essential, Trusted and the “GoTo” people.

3. Have the Right Team and add to it if opportunities emerge

Once you discover an opportunity you need a great process for co-creating value with customers:
Successful Cross-sellers quickly assemble the right players on their team and work collaboratively with the client to construct new ways of delivering value.
High performers are much more likely to cite “creating team-based approaches” as effective for growing accounts.

4. Use Account Management Processes and Planning Tools

Having an effective strategic account planning tool and process is essential.
Develop the plan , execute the plan, review the plan and learn and repeat

5. Develop both Account Management Skills and Sales Skills

You will need strong sales skills somewhere on the team to be able to close the opportunities you create or your process and plan may fail

For many companies trying to adopt this approach may well mean an overhaul of culture and processes…

Maybe that’s perhaps why companies find cross selling so hard.
What do you think?


Sales Training – Rainmaking : Handling the Price Objection (and others)

Handling the Price Objection (and others)

“A person’s worth in this world is estimated according to the value they put on themselves.” Jean De La Bruyere

or if you prefer “If you really do put a small value upon yourself,
rest assured that the world will not raise your price”- Anonymous

“Your fees are just too high”
or  “We have an offer from someone who will do it for less”
or “I don’t see why I have to pay all that money just to have you create a plan”

When we hear those things said…How many of us try simply to lower our fees to get the work?
Especially if we are selling ourselves to deliver the service

However once we lowering our fees for a particular piece of work, we have established our value at that lower amount.
As above If we put a low value on our own work, certainly no one else is going to suggest our value is any higher.

Why do so many of us do this?

Let’s take a look at where objections fit into professional services selling.

Often an objection is seen as a sign of rejection.
However most objections can be overcome with a little effort.

Objections signal usually one thing.
There’s some kind of barrier to overcome in the mind of your prospective client.
Other objections, on the other hand, may simply be questions that have yet to be answered.
Others may be a true obstacle that may need further investigation to truly understand and a modification made to the plan

Your objective: Test if the objection is real and if so overcome it somehow:

We suggest that you might use our 4 C’s approach

1. Clarification :
Ask lots of questions to help you really understand the issue being raised
Listen with two ears and one mouth!
Establish that it’s real and not game playing or negotiating.
Explore the implications and knock-on timing effects

2. Communication:
Play back to your prospect (Parrot-Phrase not Paraphrase here!)
Say back to them what is your understanding of what they just said
Revisit the benefits and roi of the project. Do they really believe their numbers?
Reiterate and your track record of delivering

3. Co-Creation:
Work with them to come up with a solution that does not mean you drop your price.
Explore with them different options on payments
Explore different ways of delivering the benefits and changing the price or phasing of payments
Remember you are equal partners on this, you have a business too.
Ask yourself (a bit late) if you dealing with the right level of person here

4. Confirmation:
Get them to say that this solution is acceptable and there are no further objections.

Then … If all of these tactics still don’t work and you still firmly and confidently believe you have fairly priced your products and services…
and provided the solution you know will help the prospect….
And your prospect says “Your fees are too high” . We suggest that you are in the wrong place.
Walk away. Head held high.

Go find someone who does appreciate what you do. And will pay for it.

Business Skills: Follow ups vs Stalking? 5 tips

I had a phone conversation with someone seeking a new job and I’m working with them to help them do that.

It was about his job search and it  went something like this:
Candidate: I wrote to him last week and still haven’t heard back. It’s so frustrating.
Me: Why not follow up and check in?
Candidate: But I don’t want to appear a stalker !!.

His fear is understandable.
No one wants to be considered a stalker by a professional contact.
That’s especially when you want a job, meeting,a yes to an order, or something else very important from that person.

Let’s get serious though for a minute…
The average business person certainly one who can hire people and approve  orders can get > two hundred emails a day.
Pretty tough to respond to all of them, and if things fall off the bottom of that screen…
Then it’s natural for them to fall to the bottom of their list.
If you don’t get a response, it does not mean that someone’s ignoring you or finds you a pain

Reframe it to yourself and understand that they want to help you.
Your job is to make it easy for them to help you.
However it just may be that they are just too busy.

Should you follow up? Absolutely.  In fact, it’s your job.

Question is: How often should you do so?

Answer is;  “As many times as it takes.

However please do it the right way.
Be  “pleasantly persistent.”
Here are a few tips on how to (nicely) follow up with that hiring manager, sales lead, or VIP—and get the answer you’re looking for.

Rule 1: Be Overly Polite and Humble

That seems obvious enough, but a lot of people take it personally when they don’t hear back from someone right away.
Resist the urge to get upset or mad.
Never take your feelings out in an email.
Never say something like, “You haven’t responded yet,” or “You ignored my first email.”
Try…  ” I naturally assume that you are up to your neck in Muck and Bullets as usual ” ?

Just maintain an extremely polite tone throughout the entire email thread.
Showing that you’re friendly and that you understand how busy your contact is is a good way to keep him or her interested (and not mad).

Rule 2: Please not Every Day

Sending a follow-up email every day doesn’t show you have determination.
Actually  it shows you don’t respect a person’s time and don’t understand how busy people are at work and play.
A good rule of thumb is to allow a week before following up.
Any sooner, and it might come off as pushy;
If you let too much time pass, you risk the other person forgetting who you are.
Start off with an email every week, and then switch to every couple of weeks.

Rule 3: Ask if You Should Stop Bothering them

If you’ve followed up a few times and still haven’t heard back, it’s worth directly asking if you should stop following up.
After all, you don’t want to waste your time, either.
Try “I know how busy you are and completely understand if you just haven’t had the time to reply.
I don’t want to bombard you with emails if you’re not interested.
I’ve been around long enough to know that a “YES” is Great …
A “NO” is clear but disappointing but actually preferable to
a “POSSIBLY” because that means we can’t move on..
Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up.”

Most people respect honesty and don’t want to waste someone’s time, and they’ll at least let you know one way or another.

Rule 4: Stand Out…. But in a Good Way

I once had someone trying to sell me something…
I was vaguely interested in it.
However it was, at that time, nowhere near the top of my priority list.

Every week, he’d send me a new email quickly re-explaining what he sold
However he also copied links to stuff relevant to my job and commented on them.
It made him stand out in a good way, and as a result, we eventually had a call.
The lesson: If done well, a little creativity in your follow up can go a long way.

Rule 5: Change your approach

If you’re not connecting with someone, try changing your approach
Try sending email at different times and days of the week.
Sometimes responses can depend on catching them at the right time.
Try a phone call early in the morning before the gatekeeper has got in or in the evening when they’ve gone home?
Senior people do get in early and stay late I find…

Do Remember this though : If someone does ask you to stop following up… Then you must stop following up.
‘cos that is then STALKING and we don’t do that. Do we?

But until you hear that, it’s your responsibility to keep trying.

Sales Training – Rainmaking: Is it a Feature or a Benefit? How do you know ?#2

Is it a Feature or a Benefit? How do you know ? (contd)

At some point in the buying selling process we agreed that there is a “Weigh-In”
In the red corner is the Cost and Risks to the business of going ahead with the project.
In the blue corner there are the BENEFITS to the business of going ahead…

Our job I would suggest is to help them and us to QUICKLY assess whether the Blue outweighs the Red…

If the Red outweighs the Blue then we need to move on quickly.
Why? Because unless TAMO selling is your trade (Then A Miracle Occurs ) your chances of success are low.
You will need to find a new prospect because this one won’t give you the deal you seek.
Ok Ok tell me then what is a benefit?
I believe that a Benefit can only come in 5 forms and answers these questions by quantifying the benefits.

1. To what extent does what you do result in your client growing their revenues?
Finding new markets?
Getting to market quicker?
Getting to more prospects sooner?

2. To what extent does what you do result in your client reducing their cost per transaction?
(Their costs may go up but their costs of processing an order etc should decrease)
Could they get more use out their assets?
Can they produce more with less effort?

3. In what way does what you do increase your clients employees productivity and engagement in the business
Can their employees do things faster (Pen vs Computer?)
What processes can be automated / Done away with?

4. In what way does what you will do with your client enable them to satisfy the needs of their clients?
Happier employees deliver better service to clients who become loyal and buy more at a lower cost of sales…

5. How do you enable your client to be compliant with the law of the land / Standards in place at the time?
Sarbannes-Oxley in the accounting world.
Disability access to buildings in offices

Consider this potential sale of an Outsourced IT Security system to a prospect..

Solution is that …. We offer to outsource the IT Security of our client’s systems.

Benefit Area 1.
It will by operating all the time (not just when they have staff available
It enables them to offer their products and services on the web 24x7x365 without taking on extra staff.

Benefit 3. Employees more Productive :
IT Departments always have a long list of projects “To-Do” that they never quite “Do”
We free up resources in the IT Department
This enables them to focus on other projects that will also deliver benefits to their business.
It also enables their sales and services deliverers to work from home.

Other Benefits that may be possible

Revenues may increase as a result of now being able to offer their products securely and with someone in attendance 24 x 7 x 365 ??
Sales and services people will have more time to generate proposals?
Costs will decrease as we will share the costs of monitoring with our other clients and automate the processes by investing.
We will save them hiring skilled IT Security people?
Employee productivity will improve as the systems will be less likely to be hacked?
We will do what they did less expensively?
Their Customer Satisfaction should improve as their systems have fewer failures and their customers trust them more?

Trying to Quantify the benefits with the customer?? Ask these kind of questions

What if they make 1% more sales?
How much is that worth @ the average profit margin?

What if they save hiring 1 more person @ £100k all up costs per year (x 5 years??)
Is that £500k vs Your outsourcing costs over that period??

What if the employees sell another 1% more due to better system reliability and being able to get 10% more proposals out on time?

What if loyal Customers re-purchase at lower sales costs ??
What could that be? Conservatively 1% vs 5% lower sales costs? What are your sales costs today?

No one in IT is made redundant they are merely re-deployed onto different projects that they would not normally do so no redundancy money is paid out.
What would those projects be worth to the business? How much might we claim that we are enabling those? What % 2% ?

If you’re not sure if your offers are features or benefits, here’s the test:
Do your words describe what you do and how you do it, or do they focus on what your client wants and gets?
When you talk about yourself or your work, you are almost always stating a feature.
When you talk about your clients and their desires, odds are you are naming a benefit.

If you have any great compelling business cases we’d love to see them.

Business Development Training : ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and ME

Ever got yourself into the mindset where you ASSUME that the prospect should buy what you’re selling?

Ever found that making that assumption comes back to bite you?

Yes me too…

Because of our biased view we have moved from
“Based on what I know, if I were in their place I would buy”
“Therefore, they should buy.”

Two problems here:
1.”What I know” cannot ever be what the prospect knows
2.I can never be the person and know all they know, so any conclusions I make are guesses at best

Often we do this unconsciously and sometimes even with the best of intentions.
If we do not co-create our solutions, by definition, we cannot represent the buyer’s view;

Assuming causes us to begin presenting our service/solution.
We try to get them to agree that we’re right and that they should buy.
Now it’s almost impossible for us to explore what the prospect would welcome discussing with us.
We’ve effectively moved passed that phase in the selling buying process and it’s difficult to go back.
Because whatever we say , the buyer thinks we’ve shown our hand and now want to sell them whatever we said.

Instead, we should always start our business development meeting aiming to investigate with an open mind to learn whether or not the prospect’s circumstances, challenges have sufficient impact to require him to buy any solution, much less our own.
If there’s insufficient need to take action at all, there’s no chance of getting them to make any decision.
And that means there’s no need to take a specific action such as hiring you.

Don’t sell TO that prospect;
Co create a solution (with you at the centre of it) …
Sell WITH them.
And sometimes be prepared to work through a scenario with a client which leads to them not hiring you.
That will do loads for your credibility and they will come back to you when the chance arrives.
However you’ll have to go find another short term prospect.

You’ll find that his help will make all the difference in the world in your rate of success.

Remember: ASSUME makes an ASS out of U and ME  so don’t do it!

Realise that it’s you who are giving away free consulting

How to avoid giving away free consulting.

If you are a consultant, a consultative sales person or a coach, when you meet a prospect for the first time if you are like many people you are desperately trying to bring value.
You want to show that you know your stuff .
You fall into “consulting mode” and start doing the project for free.
You notice that the client is frantically making notes.
They are asking for the things you are showing to be sent by soft copy.
Then you wake up and realise that you are giving away your precious time by delivering  unpaid consulting.

You may have just stepped over the line.
The line between doing what you need to do to sell your services and giving free consulting.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when your keeness to impress takes over.
They may keep you on the right side of the line, allow to deliver value to your prospects and help you win the projects you want.

Tip #1 :  Watch out for the client open questions …


“What would you do if you were me?”
“What specific steps would you take in what sequence?”
“How would you suggest we overcome this?”

If you start answering those questions with details, you can find yourself  in free consulting land.
Be ready with an answer to those kind of questions … Try
“Right now I don’t know enough about your situation to answer that question…
However the first step we’d take after you decide to employ us is…”

Tip #2: Resist the urge to solve problems early

No one forces consultants to lay out solutions to a client’s problem.
However we all occasionally feel an urge to solve them.
We really enjoy it. It’s who we are and what we do.
However if we do it now …
We just lost track of the real reason for this conversation and that’s clear and simple.

Is there a here project to work on?

We think our willingness to consult will help win the deal.
We also know that whatever we say it’s premature and probably of little value.

Tip #3 Frame and Reframe the problem but don’t solve

Your client brings a tough problem to you. You have to
1. Understand the issue(s)
2. Define the scope of the effort
3. Frame and Re-frame the project to suit your approach
4. Work out with the client the value of resolving the issue.

Discuss these and you’ll demonstrate your fitness to do the work.
Plus, you’ll uncover everything you need to move the project forward to a proposal.
Do this type of project “Re-framing” at no cost.

If clients presses you for alternatives, say something like,
“I want to work with you on this issue, and I have ideas on how we can proceed.
However I don’t know enough yet to give you answers that you and I would be comfortable are the right ones.”

Frame and Re-frame a project for free.
Offer consulting services for a fee.

Tip #4 Define Boundaries and then Stick to them

Watch out for those clients who call (repeatedly) to get additional, unpaid help with a project.
Flattering isn’t it?  You take  it as a sign of trust and a strong relationship?
Easy to want to pitch in and help?
But you can easily cross that line again.

We suggest that you let your clients know they can contact you any time.
Be ready to take their calls or respond to emails.
Think about putting a time limit on “free help” ..
“30 days after we complete the project you can ask us questions for free”
Resist taking on unpaid work that requires extended effort.
You know the kind of work, editing a report or creating a new document, no matter who asks.
Let your clients know politely but firmly that you’re not able to take on such tasks without starting a paid project.

Most will understand the validity of boundaries.
Those who don’t are probably best left to someone else.

We think you can probably never really eliminate all unpaid consulting from your business.
However a good first step is to recognise what you are doing to create the situations where it thrives.

Good Rainmaking

Rainmaking: Selling yourself or How to toot your horn without blowing your own trumpet

“I’m really good at what I do,” says Paul, “but just I don’t seem to get a chance to show people.”
Paul’s experienced, is highly skilled, and is really good at what he does.
Getting enough work to earn a living as a freelancer means you need to learn how to sell yourself and what you do.
In fact I’d go further than that even if you are not a freelancer and in a team in a large company you need to be able to sell yourself.
If you don’t sell yourself internally then how do you think any of your colleagues will go about cross-selling your services?

Back to Paul…
“I don’t like to talk about myself,” he admits.
“It feels like bragging to say what a terrific job I do.
I don’t know how to express my capabilities to potential clients without sounding like a conceited know-it-all.”

Like Paul, lots of professional people hesitate to say how good they are.
They tell me that they feel immodest.
They fear that others will criticise them.
Many were taught from an early age and believe it’s unprofessional to boast.
Oh and by the way that is completely correct because if you TELL someone that you are great you’ll hit their critical filter.
So we have to find a way around the filter using different techniques and different perspectives.
There are ways you can let people know what you’re capable of and to not brag”

Tip 1. Use Your Clients’ Words

Testimonial quotes or endorsement letters from satisfied clients are your starting point.
These are really powerful tools that help communicate your value.
When clients describe what you did for them in their words, prospects gain a real understanding of your skills and talents.
This is very, very persuasive.
To solicit convincing testimonials from your clients, you will need to pick a time when they have expressed their appreciation for what you do.
Ask them, “How would you describe my work to someone who could benefit from it?”
Proudly display these testimonial quotes on your website.
Include them on a panel in your brochure or page in your marketing kit.
Sprinkle them throughout your marketing collateral.

Tip 2: Let Stories Show What You Can Do

When you need to speak with prospective clients about your capabilities, have two or three RELEVANT client success stories.
Again you see we are using someone else saying how great you are not you.
Instead of boasting about your qualifications, you are simply relating what happened.
Start by briefly describing your client’s situation when you started.
Then outline what you did for them.
Conclude with the client’s reaction and results.
Use your client’s words to tell the story instead of using your words.

Don’t say, “I wrote an easy-to-use manual early”.
Instead how about saying “My client was very pleased with how easy it was to use the manual, and he appreciated my completing it well before his deadline.”?

This change in perspective (seemingly where the comment is coming from) will also make you more comfortable.
Instead of relating your own perspective on what you did, you are merely sharing your client’s view of it.
This is much more convincing than speaking in the first person.
If you say it in the first person “I wrote an easy-to-use manual early”.
Your client will think “But you would say that you’re trying to sell it to me!!”.
You feel like you are bragging and everyone’s uncomfortable.

Tip 3 :Write-Up Case Studies

This storytelling approach can also help to get across the tangible results of an intangible process.
Consider a specialist struggling with how to communicate why clients hire him.
Sometimes the nature of what you do can be varied and difficult to describe in one sentence.
Demonstrate your abilities with case studies.
Write up five case studies about successful client engagements, each one focusing on a different problem.
In three to four paragraphs tell the story of your work with a client.
What was the original situation, what was the task in hand, what did you do, what were the results?
Always keep the names confidential unless you have express permission.
Try to get a quote from your client on the results you achieved together.

Tip 4: Try Thought Leadership

Try writing a white paper with your views on a particular topic to send to prospects by email or blog .
Share it with potential referral sources, or hand it out if you’ve when you give a talk.

Tip 5: But when you start out as a freelancer what if you can’t do any of the above?

You don’t have an impressive client list to display nor a stack of testimonials from satisfied clients.
How do you show evidence for that? As we’ve agreed you cannot just say it”.
Your profile / bio must include all the affiliations, awards, and accomplishments you have accumulated.
If you’ve worked on a project that was given an award, mention it.
Tell the story of the project as much as you can from the perspective of what results did it achieve.
Create a portfolio of any successful projects.
Put together a portfolio of work that you’ve done inside and outside companies.
Demonstrate your competence here instead of merely claiming it.

A final thought or two:

If you don’t let people know how you can help them, you will never get a chance to do so.
When you show people what you can do, you’re letting them know how your work can make their lives better or their jobs easier.
So, choose one of these ideas to toot your horn without blowing your own trumpet.
By the way there is a book you might like to read called “Brag!” by Peggy Klaus.

Start letting your light shine.

LIGHT by Virginia Satir
I can’t light your light
I can only light mine
So that I can illuminate
For you to see to light your own light.