Monday, August 18, 2014

Selling yourself

     Free daily tips, information and advice for small business
     from personal experience starting-up and growing businesses of my own.

     No business will make it unless someone sells the soap. Or the advice. Or whatever it is that inspired you in the first place.

     Business is selling.

     Owners who shy away from selling are ignoring their own childhood and adolescence. You learned to sell every step along the way.

     All of us sold our parents--you had to go to that concert, you had to borrow the car. We tried to sell our teachers--I couldn't find that book, my little brother tore up my paper.

     These were valuable lessons. Some worked. Others, not so much. But all were valuable learning experiences.

     Example: Walker got his law degree, passed the bar exam, and tacked a brass plate on his storefront door. Then he waited. And he waited. It's one thing, I told him, to have great credentials, but it's quite another thing to rein in paying clients. Every client expects a lawyer to be smart, educated, and resourceful. That's the minimum. But when they walk in your door, it's all about them. What can you do for me? It's not about you, I said, it's about the client. Walker joined the local chamber of commerce as well as several networking groups. He offered to lead free discussions at senior centers, local organizations and other groups. There, he talked about simple concerns of people in the audience: what to do when you get a traffic ticket, how you handle an elderly relative, what to do if you get sued. Soon his phone began to ring, and his law practice began to blossom.

     As a business owner, you must put yourself out there to meet people. All sorts of people. You never know which person will become a customer/client--and refer others to you.

     Shy? Many find face-to-face contact to be intimidating. But you can do many things to promote your business without the face-to-face contact.

     Example: Freida loved to bake. Something about creating cookies and cakes fascinated her. She opened her small bakery and waited for people to beat a path to her door. Some people stopped in, but business was slow. Customers gave her baked goods high marks, and they returned--from time to time. Freida was disillusioned, until she found ways to promote her bakery and turn it into a destination. She began holding events for kids. She set out a fresh sample table every day. She put her bakery on Facebook. She began holding baking classes--teaching people how to bake, giving them tips and information. All this activity created a buzz in the community--and beyond. At all these events, she handed out business cards--not the usual standard size, but postcard size cards with colorful pictures of scrumptious cookies and cupcakes, biscotti and brownies, layer cakes and fruit pies--along with her address, phone, hours, and her Facebook presence. Her reputation spread, and customers passed the word around, bringing others. 

     Sell yourself by getting the word out about what you can do for others. It's not about you, it's about them. Sell yourself by getting others to think of you when their needs arise. 

     Always pay attention to referrals. The people who attended Walker's talks on the law will remember him and pass the word around to their friends and relatives. And the people who attended Freida's baking sessions will talk about it to others. Satisfied customers/clients will do the selling for you.

     Selling the soap (or the advice) can be done in many ways. Concentrate on what works for you and your business. When a method works for you, figure out ways to do more of it. Selling yourself becomes easier when you focus on the ways you can help other people. 

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