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Are You Inadvertently Sabotaging Your Success?

In a meeting with a coaching client this morning, I asked what the new entrepreneurs intentions were with his business and with our coaching, as I ask all of my clients when we start working together. This particular client who is branding himself as a content provider and copywriting said he wanted to improve his skills and what he offers his clients, to grow his business by finding new clients and by improving his pitching success rate.

Regardless of how long one has been in an industry, improving skills and staying atop new developments is crucial to one’s success (as an individual and in our businesses). Yet, carving out the time it takes to do this on a regular basis is one thing that loses priority when we end up in the hustle of product, promotion and customer satisfaction.

My client mentioned low-cost online courses he has been taking to stay on top of search engine optimization (SEO) requirements, the latest in digital marketing techniques and the best practices for social media sales. But keeping sharp in our skills and industry knowledge doesn’t have to mean taking a class. In a 10-minute time block per day, we could read business or industry news, listen to the latest audible business book or peruse what is happening in our professional organizations. Making learning a priority not only helps us grow ourselves and our businesses but it also gives us conversation starters for current and potential clients.

Which brings me to how we introduce ourselves to clients or potential customers, especially in this age of electronic, worldwide interaction. Every day I receive messages on LinkedIn from marketers who claim they have the perfect solution to help me grow my businesses. I believe most of the letters are the same template they send to everyone, since no clear identifiers are within the text of these letters, no words that they’ve spent any time understanding me or my business.

When I asked the client to send me his pitch letter, I found something similar to all of the other letters I receive (and to which I don’t respond): the letter is almost solely about him. A summary of the letter is basically: Hi, I’m ____________________. I provide X and I do Y. I get my clients results by Z.  I’m sure you could use my services/product/whatever.

Successful marketing is a lot like successful advertising in that the initial thing it does is draw attention to itself (quite literally) by tapping into first a truth and second, an emotion. After that, you need a quick story. All of these are so people can relate to you and your products on a very human level, and then it is that connection that will lead you to sales success.

In Sophia Amurosa’s book Girl Boss, she tells readers that if they want to work at her company (or at any company for that matter) to not spend their whole cover letter talking about themselves and how awesome they are. Amurosa says, instead, to tell her how her company’s problems can be solved, genuine things the applicant likes about the company, why the applicant wants to work there. The “how great one is” should come through in the resume or CV or supporting documents.

This should be the same when we pitch a potential client. We need to show we know a truth: an understanding of who they are and what their needs are (without bashing them) and then connect why we are the best person/company/product to help them resolve or solve an issue by providing a story example of how we helped someone else. And then our closing should be asking for a few moments of their time to discuss it; not providing a link to your calendar and asking them to pick some time (as that is again very impersonal).

Doing these simple things—prioritizing lifelong learning and growing and then connecting to others in a genuine way by starting with a truth—will keep your current clients closer and will increase your pitch success rate. After all, we’d rather do business with those we feel “get us” than with some stranger who doesn’t.

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Written by Jill L. Ferguson

Jill L. Ferguson is the author of Creating a Freelance Career (Routledge, 2018) and seven other books. She is a higher education consultant, a coach to entrepreneurs and want-to-be authors, a frequent contributor to magazines, newspapers and websites, and a public speaker.

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