Selling Professional Services is tricky.
Most professionals intensely dislike selling. In fact, I'd go as far to say that a great many fear it.
The thought of having to sell ourselves brings butterflies to our stomachs, makes our palms sweat, and triggers all sorts of negative thoughts:
“I didn't do years of training to have to go out and sell”.
“I'm the expert here, people should be coming to me, I shouldn't have to beg for work”.
“Selling is beneath me”.
In fact, some professionals can't even bring themselves to call selling by it's proper name. They call it business development or even marketing. When really they mean selling: engaging with potential clients and persuading them to hire you.
Why do we get such intense emotions when it comes to selling?
The most common response is that it's “fear of rejection”.
But that's far too simplistic a view. What on earth is “fear of rejection” really? We get rejected all the time. What are we really afraid of?
In my experience, there are multiple factors.
Sometimes we're worried that we might damage client relationships by being “too pushy” and asking for sales.
Sometimes it's because we have a very negative stereotypical image of salespeople. The sales people we've come across are the Ricky Roma, Willy Loman “used car salesman” types and we don't want to be like them. (Apologies to all the professional used car salespeople out there who of course aren't at all like the stereotype).
But the issue I see more often than not is that we're worried what others might think of us. We're worried that by “selling” we might come across as desperate. We have a self image of a highly successful professional we want everyone to buy in to.
Of course, we make all sorts of excuses and rationalisations. The time isn't right to call. A direct mail sales letter is “unprofessional”. Clients' don't respond well to being asked for referrals.
We're none of us immune to this. I did – and to some extent still do – this all the time. I have to catch myself when I start talking to myself like this and shake myself up.
Next time you find yourself thinking like this, take a step back and consider whether this is the reality – or whether the real issue is that you're worried what the client or prospect might think of you.
And then think about how much preserving that image is worth to you. Is it worth limiting your career for? Is it worth risking the livelihood of your business – and your family for?
Sometimes we just have to get over ourselves and get on and do what's needed.