Dear Danielle: I have found that almost every potential client I have talked to about my services trying to get their business, they in turn try to sell me their products. What is a polite way to reject someone’s product when you are telling them about your services and how you can help their business? —Michelle Prieto
This question left out a lot of details and context so I asked Michelle to elaborate a bit more. Here’s what she added:
Thank you for responding! I’ve attended several expos/events during the last year and have found it beneficial handing out cards and briefly speaking with people. A lot of the people I have come across start out being prospective clients, but by the end of our conversation, I feel since I didn’t purchase their product, they end with “Ok, I’ll call you.” Most are people who don’t know me that I have approached first. When I decided to venture into this business, I wanted my focus to be on helping small business owners grow their business by relieving some of the pressure of paperwork (no specific field). I have succeeded with that focused area until I come across someone who is selling a product. I’ve worked in an office setting since I was 12 (I started by helping out at my uncle’s Real Estate office doing misc. items). I’m very confident about my capabilities and skills. The area I am struggling in is finding and finally achieving clients. It has been a difficult year, but I am determined to make my business work.
Thanks for the extra context. That helps a lot!
Okay, so here’s what’s going on. These aren’t prospective clients. These are just people you’ve cornered at an event.
What you’re doing is a form of cold-calling, only in person instead of over the phone. You’re trying to sell your services to anyone and everyone—people who don’t know you from Adam. They might listen politely, but you’ll never hear from most, if any, of them.
Plus, it’s the wrong platform. You’re trying to “sell” your services in an environment where everyone is “selling.” And what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. 😉
This is a very common mistake that most new business owners make. They have no clue what they should be doing to get clients so they default to selling to anyone and everyone.
But promoting a professional service isn’t the same thing as selling a Sham Wow.
You’re rushing the process and approaching the wrong people in the wrong environment.
What you really want to be doing is seeking relationships, not sales.
No one likes to be sold to and especially not right off the bat. There’s some finesse involved, and a time and place for certain kinds of conversations.
Marketing professional services is a lot like dating. You don’t go on one date and immediately launch into all your requirements for a spouse and your urgency to get married.
Relationships are grown and nurtured over time, and only after there is some mutual interest established in moving forward.
Your competence and ability in the work you do has nothing to do with your competence and ability in marketing your business. They are two completely different skillsets.
And that’s where you will benefit: by learning about marketing and how professional services are best promoted (i.e., relationship building, not cold-calling, and letting people come to you).
Do things a little differently and you’ll get better results:
- Don’t cold-call/cold-sell.Talk about their businesses, not yours. What are their common challenges and frustrations in running their business? What kind of goals and objectives do they have? You become far more interesting and of interest to people when you are interested in them.
- Get a target market. Without one, all you’re doing is shooting your arrows into the wind in all directions without any intention. That’s an extremely inefficient and ineffective way to get business and you’ll wear yourself out long before seeing any results. When you decide who to focus on (i.e., your target market), you can then figure out where those folks specifically are hanging out, what their common needs, goals and challenges are, and then approach them accordingly.
- Give a “gift,” not business cards, something informative that is actually useful and of interest and value. And of course, to determine what will be of interest and value, you need a target market. Your useful “gift” then becomes a pipeline for you. Those who are interested will then come to you. Those are real prospects.
- Funnel everything to your website. Make sure everything you give out includes your branding and a call to action to visit your website.
- Have some kind of lead capture mechanism on your website. Your website should then have some kind of free offer that people can sign up for to get. This gets them onto your mailing list so that you can continue to keep in touch with them through an ezine, blog posts, special announcements, etc. Those people who sign up are actual hot prospects because they’ve shown interest and made the choice to come to you, not the other way around. This is one of the ways you create your own marketing pipelines and have people coming to you, not you chasing after them.
- Ask for their business cards instead of giving yours out. After conversation and they’ve shown some level of interest, ask people if they’d like to receive your free offer and then follow up accordingly.
Hope that helps, Michelle. If you need me to elaborate on any of this, feel free to ask in the comments. 🙂