Many of the independent writers I know are introverted by nature, and I’m no exception. We work in the confines of our own homes, writing our hearts out. On paper, we seem bold and courageous, knowledgeable and confident. But we may seem like something else in person. So, we go with our strengths and we operate our businesses mostly through e-mails, social media, and websites; but, eventually, the time must come for us to “meet” our clients and customers, either in person or over the phone.
Other solopreneurs and small business professionals face similar challenges. When they’re in their element, whether that means sticking their head in between someone’s pipes or turning overgrown foliage into a work of art, they are confident, knowledgeable, bold, and courageous. But put them face to face with a customer and they might stammer their way through their pitch.
If you are an expertise-focused introvert, meeting new customers is never going to be easy, but it can be a lot easier with proper preparation. If you know what to say and you practice saying it, you won’t have to stammer after the scattered thoughts in your head. If that’s you, then it’s time to give preparation a try.
First, you must know what you’re offering. What is it that you do or have that other people want? Two things can result from this analysis. You may realize that you have goods and services that are of good value at the prices you’ve set. If so, then you can proceed to the second step with confidence. However, you may realize that you don’t offer good value at the prices you’ve set. If so, then you know what your real problem is. You have to improve what you can offer or lower your prices if you want to be able to face your customers with confidence.
Second, you must consider what you know about the customers you’ve been attracting. Marketing—from word of mouth to content marketing, from advertisements to sales calls—attracts customers to us. Sometimes the customers we attract are among those we can serve confidently, because they need or want what we have to offer. If so, you can proceed to the next step with confidence. Sometimes, however, our marketing attracts people we cannot serve effectively. If this happens to you, then you need to go back over your marketing materials to determine why you’re attracting the wrong people and fix your problem. On the other hand, if you’ve accidently stumbled on a nice niche, then you can adjust your offerings to meet the needs of these customers. Either way, you have work to do before you’ll be able to face your customers with confidence.
The final step is to consider the pitches you’ve prepared. If you have the right offerings for the right customers at the right prices, then making sales should be fairly easy. You don’t need a hard sales approach. You don’t need rebuttals and counteroffers. You just need a pitch that fits. Sometimes this means giving a quick elevator pitch—the kind you give in the space between floors, before your targeted customer gets off the elevator. Other times you have to get in your pitch before dinner—the kind you give in the space between when someone picks up the phone and when they tell you that their dinner is getting cold. Occasionally and ideally, you have as much time as you need to say what needs to be said.
If you’ve ever worked in sales, then you’ll know that the elevator pitch is the hardest to prepare, but the easiest to deliver. You have to say what you have to say in fifteen seconds, which means you have to prepare in advance and practice a lot. If you succeed, you’ll get the phone call or the meeting. If you fail, you’ll never hear from that potential customer again. So, you squeeze what you have to say to get that phone call down to fifteen seconds. It’s harder than it sounds, but if you get it right and you practice regularly, the words will roll off your tongue in the moment of truth.
The phone call is a little more challenging. It still requires extensive preparation, but it also requires an If/Then approach. You start by preparing what you’ll say. Then, you prepare what you’ll say to each possible response. Then, you prepare what you’ll say to the next set of possible responses. The possibilities keep branching out (with quite a bit of overlap), until you reach a firm “yes” or “no.” A good telephone pitch will have at least three and up to five levels of If/Then. Anything less than three is not fully developed. Anything more than five needs to push for a “yes” to a meeting, instead of sale. You can discuss the additional levels of possibilities in greater detail at the meeting.
Meetings also take a great deal of preparation, but it’s a different kind of preparation. You’re not preparing a script, because there are too many If/Then possibilities. Instead, you’re preparing a presentation. The key here is to know your information so well that you’ll know what to say in almost every situation. (When you encounter a situation you’re not prepared for, then you’ll work up a new response after the meeting is over.)
Meetings aren’t as difficult as they sound, because your presentations will be focused on your areas of expertise. What services do you offer? What products do you use or sell? What problems can you solve? What benefits do you deliver? If you can answer these questions, then you can prepare for most meetings. Once you know your answers, you simply string them together with appropriate phrases to bridge the gaps between answers. Then, you practice; what time you do not devote to preparation, you should devote to rehearsal, so you can deliver your presentation with confidence.
Meeting new customers doesn’t have to be a trial if you are properly prepared. If this seems like something you cannot do for yourself, then I suggest that you contact me. I can help you prepare so that you can make the most of your opportunities.