5 Mistakes to Avoid When Seeking New Clients

As an entrepreneur, you’re likely very talented at delivering the service you offer your clients. But when it comes to marketing and selling yourself, many of you didn’t voluntarily sign up for that part. As a matter of fact, some of you are resisting (kicking and screaming) marketing yourself. If that’s you, that could be why your business is slow or not growing at the rate you’d like it to.

We all hope we will have enough referrals so that we will never have to sell ourselves. But in the last few years, referrals, even for those of us with huge followings, have slowed down. It’s (past) time that we work on more fully developing the marketing and selling function of our businesses. As you do, here are 5 mistakes to avoid.

5. Offering every service in the world, including the kitchen sink.

It’s hard to convince prospects that you are the best at one particular service such as tax returns for corporations doing business outside the U.S.; it’s even harder to convince prospects that you’re the right person for anyone’s payroll, tax return, bookkeeping, management consulting, budgeting, and accounts receivable factoring.

Plain and simple, its’ better to specialize. It sounds counter-intuitive, but here’s an example from my own practice: My “Five Simple Steps to Get More Clients for Accountants and QuickBooks ProAdvisors” product outsells my “Five Simple Steps to Get More Clients for Service-based Business Owners and Self-Employed Professionals” 5 to 1. The first one is more niched. The accountants feel like the product was made for them (and it was). Coke did not get to be Coke by selling coffee, bananas, or cake.

4. Not having (or showing) a track record.

Discerning prospects need to know you’ve done business and created results for people just like them. Ask for, compile, and publish testimonials and other reputation-building tools to show that you’ve produced results for dozens of clients in the past.

3. Overselling

Selling and marketing are learned skills, just like the skill you learned that you now offer to clients. If you don’t have those skills, people notice. It manifests in overselling, which looks needy; selling to the wrong prospect, which is costly; and most crucially, low confidence, which repels just about everyone around you.

There is no Fortune 100 business without a huge division of sales and marketing people that are trained and have degrees in their expertise. What would happen if they tried to wing it like entrepreneurs do?

Once you learn the skill of marketing and selling, the payoff is usually immediate. You can practice consultative selling and easily find the people who need what you have.

2. Taking the “freedom” of being an entrepreneur a little too far.

As an entrepreneur, you can have it your way. However, that doesn’t mean you can be successful while avoiding pieces of your business just because you don’t have the skill or don’t like doing it. I hated project management so much when I was doing it in corporate that I avoided it in my business for years – and I suffered great consequences of my avoidance. What if Google’s founders said, “No project management allowed here. We don’t like it.” Pretty ludicrous, right?

All businesses need a solid marketing and selling function that is professionally executed. The only part that is a choice is whether you do it yourself (assuming you have the skill set your business needs) or hire someone with the right experience and skill set to do it for you.

1. Having the belief that selling and marketing are “dirty” or sleazy, or whatever label you are putting on it.

There may be some of you (perhaps many of you) out there that have a belief that salespeople are sleazy. You avoid them like the plague when you go into a department store. You think they are pushy even if they just say hello. You would rather die than ever have to cold call, or even ask a current client for something. If this is you, then you might be getting in your own way of your success.

In this economy, a business will not succeed without sales and marketing. It simply won’t be heard through all the noise that’s out there, and you will stay the world’s best-kept secret. You will wonder why everyone else is doing better than you, even when your solution is better. Does Apple say, “Selling is sleazy?” No, they’ve made it a beautiful art.

Your solution (and only hope) is to undergo a major mindset change. You may be best off hiring a salesperson to grow your business, or keeping your job as an employee until your mindset changes.

When your business is below its capacity of serving clients, you cheat the world out of the gift and talents you have to offer. Start sharing who you really are so more people can benefit from your services.

Let me know what you think. Do you agree or disagree? What other mistakes do you see people making? How do you handle sales and marketing in your business?