There's a myth often perpetrated in the media that consultants and coaches earn easy money doling out simplistic advice while hard-working salaried employees get on with the “real work”.
In my experience, the truth is very different. Most independent consultants and coaches work long hours, dedicated to helping their clients. They're still there plugging away long after the “hard-working employees” have gone home.
Yet most earn less than they did in the corporate world. And many struggle to survive.
It's not for want of talent or hard work.
Most usually it's because they're not good at marketing and selling their services.
And often, that stems from “crippling beliefs” they have about marketing and sales that undermine their attempts to get new clients.
In my time I've seen 5 particularly damaging beliefs that are commonly held by consultants, coaches and other professionals. Beliefs you must eradicate if you want to succeed at winning clients.
Crippling Belief #1: “If I do good work, people will hear about me”.
Painful truth: no they won't.
Sadly, good news doesn't travel. When researchers TARP looked at word of mouth, they found that if you have a bad experience with a business then on average you'll tell 12 people, and those 12 people will tell 6 others each. You've probably heard this or a similar statistic before.
However, a much less reported finding is that they also found that if you have a good experience with a business then on average you'll tell just a couple of friends. And those friends won't remember much, and won't tell anyone else at all.
And the problem with relying on word of mouth is that as most people practice it, it's a passive strategy. You're reliant on the goodwill of others to generate leads for you.
If you want more clients? Well, you just have to hope you get more recommendations.
So while word of mouth is great – relying on it alone is a sure road to the poor house.
Crippling Belief #2: “I just need to get my name out there”.
Painful truth: it won't make any difference.
Having your name out there more, having more people know about you, just means you're adding more noise to the constant barrage of promotional messages we all face every day.
“Getting your name out there” causes consultants and coaches to pay for advertising, send out meaningless flyers, and hire SEO companies to generate traffic to dead-end websites.
Unless you have a message that resonates with potential clients and that sets you apart from the myriad of others clamouring for attention then getting your name out there is pointless.
Crippling Belief #3: “I can copy what others are succeeding with”.
Painful truth: it might be working for them, that doesn't mean it will work for you.
These days we're overwhelmed with opportunities and information. Every day we see others “crushing it” with webinars, events, product launches, direct mail, networking, social media…
It's incredibly easy to become distracted – to try copy all the things other people (who always seem somehow less talented than us, but more succesfull) are doing.
But if we do this we'll hop from strategy to strategy. Always following the latest technique we've heard about and never mastering any of them.
And worse still, just because networking or social media or direct mail worked for one of your competitors or someone you saw speaking at an event doesn't mean it will work for you. Your clients are different. Your skills are different.
You have to tread your own path. Learn from others, but find the things that work for you. Then focus on them and become a master at them.
Crippling Belief #4: “I can't find the time for marketing”.
Painful truth: if you don't market, you'll soon have plenty of time on your hands.
Not having the time for marketing sounds ludicrous when you say it – but I hear it or something similar again and again.
You don't find the time for marketing – you make the time.
I advise most small firms and solo professionals that they should be spending between 10 – 20% of their time on marketing and business development. More in the early stages of their business.
If you can't make that time, then you've either got your priorities wrong, or (if you need to be billing for 80%+ of the time to make ends meet) you've got your economic model seriously wrong.
More usually, the problem is that people avoid marketing because they don't feel competent or comfortable with it, and unlike the area where they're an expert, it holds out the terrible potential for failure and rejection.
If you want to be successful you've got to get over this, and you've got to get over yourself. You've got to knuckle down, book the time, and get your marketing done.
Crippling Belief #5: “I'm not a (natural) salesperson”.
Painful truth: almost no one is a natural salesperson. It doesn't stop them, and it shouldn't stop you.
For some reason, many of us seem to have acquired this belief that “natural salespeople” kind of pop out of the womb that way. So we look at people who are good at selling and we assume we could never be like that and feel overwhelmed.
But the truth is that when we look at people who are good at selling, we're seeing the finished article. The product of years of experience and training. They didn't start off that way.
Sure, there are some skills like listening, empathising, making friends and being sociable that some people seem to be naturally good at or pick up at an early age. But those are perfectly learnable skills for us too. Along with the more structured skills involved in selling.
And we don't need to have perfected our skills to still have success with them. Most people see significant improvements in their success rate winning clients just by learning and following a simple, structured sales process.