They make decisions.
And why is that scary?
Well…how many people do you know who have been demoted or gotten fired because they made a bad decision?
The buying process is filled with decisions. It’s full of risk. And if you’re a potential new vendor for your client you’re asking them to take a big risk.
Lots of them actually.
What if you don’t perform? What if the money they spend on your solution ends up being needed to capitalize on some opportunity?
And if you sell to consumers, they face risks in the buying process too.
Have you ever gotten into a fight with your significant other over a purchase?
Ever felt stupid after you told a peer you bought something?
Sure you have.
When you’re involved in a sales conversation or a selling relationship, you’re asking the buyer to trust you. You’re asking them to take the risk that what you’re promising is really true and that you really will deliver on all the things you’re saying.
And that nothing bad will happen to them personally or professionally.
Your marketing tactics are likely bringing Suspects (or leads) in from a variety of sources – the Web (through your blog posts, social posts, directories, and more); live events like speaking opportunities, mixers, and industry events; referrals; and other sources.
Buyers come to you at various points in their own buying process and they’re looking for specific types of things at each point in the process.
The buyer probably doesn’t even realize they’re looking for them.
What they want to know is if taking a step closer to learn more about working with you is worth it. Is it safe or are you just like so many others out there – just out for the sale.
They’re looking – either consciously or unconsciously – for proof elements.
Proof elements come in various types but they serve to reduce the buyer’s level of risk and raise their level of trust of you.
Social Proof. These include testimonials and other evidence that your offerings work, that you’re a nice and reliable person (or company), and that you deliver on your promises. The more proof the better. I like to sprinkle social proof throughout a website and throughout the various collateral material in the sales process. I once saw a testimonial from a client who returned a product. He complimented the business on making good on the “no hassle returns” promise and made clear that the produce appeared to be a good one, just not right for him at the present time. That’s a gutsy move but very smart. Talk about reducing risk and increasing trust.
Results-based. This is the sort of proof that’s grounded in the outcomes past clients have gotten. The more specific the results cited, the more believable they are. So don’t round numbers up or down. If the average client sees a 13.67% improvement in X when using your service than say that. The key element here is to have other proof elements (which I’ll explain below) along with the details in order to strengthen the buyer’s confidence. So when you see the picture, read a little blurb about the person, and read about the results she had you’re subconsciously thinking, “if SHE had results like that then I should certainly be able to see improvement in my situation.” This is one of many reasons why staying in touch with clients to monitor their progress is important and also why you’ve got to have results from people who are like those you most want to work with. Because if your clients all appear to be big companies and your Suspect is a small business she may dismiss those results as being impossible for her to duplicate.
Third-Party Endorsement. This is different from a testimonial. It’s when someone who’s not a client says nice things about you. Maybe some guru saw you speak and blogged about how brilliant you are. (You have a Google Alert set up and you take other steps to monitor when you or your organization is mentioned online don’t you?) That’s a third-party endorsement. When you get one, it’s like basking in the glow of that person’s brand.
Implied Endorsement. This is a subtle one but it can be really effective. Let’s say you speak at an event or you’re on stage at an event. That’s really an implied endorsement of you and your brilliance. I created a sales kit that sold $400,000 worth of new business in 4 months for the region’s largest roofing and siding company. One of the key elements was a document I downloaded and printed out off of a state website. It had the state’s logo and web address. I got permission for my client to use it and we didn’t change it in any way. We were just handing out helpful information to avoid being taken advantage of by home repair contractors. That was an implied endorsement.
Fact-based. If you’re going to make a claim, be sure to have evidence to back it up. This might be a survey or some other type of verifiable evidence that supports your point of view or verifies your statements. Following organizations that are widely respected and that track trends or conduct studies that are related to your industry, your offering, or the impact your work has on a segment of the population can help you stay on top of and use this type of information.
Achievement. This is slightly different than Results-Based. Results had to do with the outcome your clients’ have. Achievement relates to you, your organization, or your staff if you have one. Have you won an award, landed some big client, celebrated some anniversary, or done something else? If what you achieved is relevant for your clients than you want to use this in your marketing pieces.
Visual Proof. Sure you can say Joe Blow the COO of ABC Company said you guys are the best thing ever but when you have a picture of you and Joe or you have a video of him actually delivering his testimonial and talking about the results they’ve gotten, then by all means use it. Grab a selfie-stick and the next time you’re meeting with a client who loves you, stand next to her and let her start raving. Some of the elements already mentioned get bonus points when you can add a visual element to them.
Credentials. If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or other professional whose clients want to know that you carry a certain credential then make it clear you have it. Certifications are a way to help buyers recognize that someone is competent in some field. So if it’s important in your industry or to your clients, than make it clear that you’ve got the necessary credentials. I’ve got a certification I maintain that nobody has ever asked me about, but it helped me get a freelance job and was an easy way to verify that I must have known something.
Buyers often don’t know how to buy. They don’t understand what’s different between providers and they can easily default to simple-to-understand elements like price.
You don’t want that to happen.
Proof elements help your buyer feel more confident about you and your ability to perform. So the more, the different, and the more elaborate proof you can provide the easier it will be for them to move forward in the buying process.
What types of proof are important to your Prime Suspects? What elements do you plan to focus on adding to your sales process?
The frustratingly difficult part of selling our services is making those differences clear – to ourselves so we can communicate them and to others so they’re drawn to us.
We don’t want to chase after clients, nor do we want to compete on things like price.
So how do we uncover what truly makes us unique and communicate that in a way that gets the message across to those it will really resonate with?
Is it our offerings that make us unique? What about the results we deliver or the way we deliver them?
It’s actually none of that. Each of those things can be duplicated.
Sure being first to market can ensure our position in the minds of our audience but none of us is the first accountant, doctor, business coach, or marketing consultant in our community.
What makes us unique and unduplicatable is the unique cocktail that is our approach, philosophy, beliefs, values, mission, and drivers.
Simon Sinek’s great TED talk, “Start With Why” is a great starting point if you’re struggling to uncover and build a foundation that’s unique to you and you alone.
But identifying your Why is challenging.
I think we have three Why’s.
Your personal Whys. I’ve got many reasons I’m self-employed and lots of reasons I do the work I do. I believe service-professionals have a hard time fully articulating their Why because it’s so deeply ingrained in them. I’ve been asked why I do the work I do and I’ve asked others. And the answer among us is the same – “I have to. It’s my mission.” Or “It’s just what I do.”
We’ve been gifted with a set of unique talents that we spend a good part of our lives trying to identify and put to use.
And while we all share the same basic mission – To Serve Others – each of us is driven and motivated by different elements that keep us moving towards achieving the mission placed on our hearts.
Your work…your mission…even that of your firm as you work to build it…grows from within you. Ask yourself “why” in order to unearth it.
The Why for your Clients. I’ve got a Why or two for my clients. Sometimes it feels like I want their success more than they do.
I want my clients to create the independent lives they dream of. I want to see them joyfully using their skills and sharing them with the world. I want to see them experiencing the abundance they dream of.
On days (like today) when I’m staring at that blank page in front of me, trying to collect my thoughts, the thing that keeps me going is knowing someone needs my help to achieve their goals faster than they’d be able to do it without my help.
The Why for the World. I grew up in a small town in the most rural county in South Jersey. Less than 64,000 people live in the entire county. It’s a beautiful place. But the town is a ghost town. Full of boarded up buildings, vacant lots, and unemployed people who can’t or won’t leave.
When I was a kid, you could walk into town and buy virtually anything you wanted – from a new car to groceries to clothing. We had three grocery stores and every neighborhood had a little store that was family owned. My aunt and uncle owned one of those stores and their shop also sold fresh meat since my Uncle Johnny was a butcher.
It breaks my heart to go back home and drive through town and see nothing but broken windows and buildings that are falling apart.
In my heart, I think that helping my clients – most of whom are husbands and wives who work in their business together – is somehow an attempt to heal the hurt in that little town.
I’m crazy enough to believe that people should be able to be self-employed…to earn a handsome living being well-compensated for providing goods and services for others in their community, their region, or even around the world.
I also believe that communicating your uniqueness starts with understanding your Why, then communicating it in as many ways as you can.
So here’s what I think you can reflect on. And for those of you who are growing a business with a team – whether they’re employees or contractors – giving full voice to your why and sharing that with your staff, will help you become an employer who can choose from the best. People will come on board because they resonate with what you stand for and with how you do what you do.
OK, so here’s that list of what forms the foundation and framework of your why…
Your Beliefs – about people, about the work you do, about those you serve
Your approach – how you look at the problem you solve and then how you tackle it. I approach every sales problem from the mind of the buyer, not from the seller.
Your philosophy – According to Dictionary.com, a philosophy is “a particular system of thought based on study or investigation”; “the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, especially with a view to improving or reconstituting them”; “a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs”; or “an attitude of rationality, patience, composure, and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.” We’ve all GOT a philosophy. We just don’t typically think about it. We just sort of react. But attracting clients is at its root, attracting people who share your beliefs and philosophy, so it’s important – even critical I think – to uncover and give voice to yours.
Your motivation – Yep, this is what drives you. It’s a combination of your personality (the way you’re wired), the problem(s) you’re trying to solve, and the wishes in your heart. One of my motivations is the dream that I’ll build a business big enough to have my sisters be able to work for me. My other motivation is knowing the difference I could make for people.
And I love solving a problem. It’s fun to see the possibilities and figure out the solution to make them a reality.
Your experiences – You’re who you are because of everything you went through to get here. There’s something(s) in your background that will help your best clients feel like you get them. They contribute to your Why as well as to the What and the How. As a professional you might not want to talk about the things you perceive as negatives in your background but those things you see as dark moments may prove to your clients that you’ve got what it takes to help them avoid those same dark spots they’ll face. No one wants diet tips from someone who’s never struggled with their weight right?
Your style – You’ve got one whether you want to admit it or not, and it can be important to your clients. An accountant is an accountant right? My accountant lives 500 miles from me and I refuse to go to anyone else. I love his style. He’s got the perfect demeanor for me and I’d rather work with him than someone a mile away.
Your approach – This is a little different from your style. Your approach is the method you follow…your system. THIS is often a big part of your difference. If you’re a service provider, naming your system will go along way to further differentiate you.
The role you play – Are you the Hero? The Visionary? The Cheerleader? The Problem Solver? Each of us usually plays one primary role which is centered on the core of our work (my clients tell me I’m their Problem Solver) and then there’s a secondary role that helps us in our approach.
When you’re feeling frustrated at your efforts to differentiate yourself, get back to basics and get more clarity around your Why. Then begin to incorporate that in your messaging. You’ll be surprised at how It can help you attract more clients and help them decide to buy.
Today’s buyer is hip to the typical marketing tactics. They’re on to the ways sales people try to manipulate the conversation.
C’mon…you’re a buyer. Aren’t you on to all of that? And I’m sure you hate it too.
We’ve all been conditioned to hate the sales experience – we’ve seen pushy sales people in movies and on TV. We’ve felt pressured by sales people hawking everything from insurance to furniture to cars.
And while you may not want to be “that guy”, it’s easy to fall into what I refer to as “ego-focused” marketing and selling.
Ego-focused messages are the sort that make vague claims, use lots of hypey BUY-NOW language, and talk about how great the business is.
Client-focused messaging is focused on the problem your Prime Suspects have, the impact of that problem on their business, life, or both and educates the Suspect about the solution options.
You KNOW your offerings can help the person who comes to your website or who you meet over the vegetable tray at the local association dinner.
But why can’t they see that?
Did I mention they hate being sold to?
You created your message in the highest levels of your brain, using the most sophisticated concepts you could think of.
But when they receive the message, it comes into the most primitive area of their brain first – their lizard brain if you will.
They are on high alert for anything that smacks of a marketing or sales message and they’re likely to just dismiss it — and you — as fast as they can.
So whether people are going to your website, watching your video channel, or meeting you in the buffet line, inspiring them to pay attention to you and your messages requires you being client-focused rather than ego-focused.
There are 5 components of a Client-Focused sales process…
If you’re feeling frustrated with how long it takes for a Prime Suspect to go from contact to client, then it’s time to review your process and messaging to identify ways you can continue to improve your client-focus and reduce your ego-focus.
One of my all time favorite holiday movies is A Christmas Carol. I love the version starring Alastair Sim , but the Muppet version with Michael Caine as Scrooge, and the George C. Scott tele-movie in third place.
Even if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book I’m sure you’re familiar with the basic premise of the story:
Ebeneezer Scrooge is a wealthy business man known for his ruthless approach and penny pinching ways who doesn’t even enjoy his wealth himself.
Seven years after his partner Jacob Marley dies, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost.
Marley is forced to spend eternity walking among the living for eternity and witness the love and happiness he – and Scrooge – chose not to see or participate in. Marley must wear heavy chains that are wrapped around him. The chains symbolize the choices Marley made.
Marley realizes they focused on the wrong things in running their business and in running their lives.
Marley tells Scrooge that three ghosts will visit during the night in an effort to help Scrooge realize the error of his ways and reform. They visit and eventually Scrooge recognizes the mistakes he’s made and how blind he’s been. He makes a promise – to himself and to the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come – to “…honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
And of course, that’s the challenge we all face, isn’t it? To honor and live the spirit of our beliefs, not just talk about them.
As you throw out the wrappings and put away the decorations, I hope you’ll pause to reflect on what I believe are the 5 lessons Marley and the spirits shared with Scrooge and consider how you may “honour Christmas” and “keep it all the year.”
Your brain can’t help you create what it doesn’t know you want.
Write out your vision for the future and make it so detailed a 10-year old could read and understand it. Studies show writing by hand – not typing – has more impact on the brain.
Whether you celebrate the Christmas season or not, there’s no doubt the spirit of the holiday is bigger than its commercial trappings or battles over “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.”
So as you head into the new year I pray you’ll lift a glass and make the same promise Scrooge made, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
We’re barreling to the end of the year and, in addition to examining what went right and what went wrong, planning to make the next year even more successful, it’s also time to decide how we’re going to say thanks to our clients, strategic referral partners, and even our special vendors.
Thanking your team members and staff is also important but I’m going to save that for another post.
Whether this has been a banner year financially for you or not, it’s still important to find some way to show your appreciation to the special people in your business life.
No matter whether you give your gifts during the month of December or you save them as a kick off to the new year, I’ve got some tips on how you can use your budget effectively without looking like a Scrooge.
The most important phrase I learned about gift giving came from my very first consulting client, Bruce Kamis of Kamis Imprinted Products.
Bruce and I met in a networking group and we just hit it off.
He gave a presentation once that educated us on “perceived value”. This speaks to the price the receiver has in her head about the overall worth of your gift.
For example, we’ve all seen aluminum travel cups on sale in coffee shops. They’re typically priced around $10 to $20. So when you give someone that as a gift along with a bag of their favorite coffee and a few cookies, they’re going to see that as a gift worth anywhere from $20 to $40 dollars.
If you bought the cup in quantities from a promotional products company it’s possible that you spent only $5 or so for the cup. That takes the actual price of your gift down to the $10 to $15 dollar range.
Understanding perceived value and that the recipient of your gift is going to do the mental comparisons in her head is important if you want to keep your gesture from creating more harm than good.
For example, It’s common for a real estate agent to give a gift to the buyer after the purchase.
When we bought our house last winter, our real estate agent gave us a gift of a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic vinegar.
We gave him $18,000 in revenue and he gave us something that cost maybe $20 tops and that’s if he bought really high-end stuff (trust me, he didn’t) and if we add in the sales tax.
That made me feel as though he either didn’t appreciate our business or was too thoughtless or lazy to put any effort in choosing something.
A much nicer and more thoughtful gift would have been a gift certificate for dinner at one of the gourmet restaurants in town.
Even if we had the most expensive thing on the menu, plus dessert, plus cocktails it would have cost 1% of what our sale was truly worth to him.
But it’s not just dollars and cents in the perceived value equation.
It’s also the thought and sometimes the effort involved.
This is when it pays to adopt some of Sherlock’s powers of observation.
I work pretty closely with my clients and strategic referral partners over the course of a project. I discover who has a sweet tooth and who’s gone gluten free.
I know who is an empty-nester and who is struggling to juggle the new baby and work.
I also know who the proud pet parents are.
One of my colleagues once gave me a tiny tree. I was over the moon! It couldn’t have cost more than a few dollars, but that gift showed just how well she knew me (I’m a big birder and gardener). I planted that thing in the perfect spot and said goodbye to it when I moved. (Yes I take “tree hugger” to new levels).
Another person “adopted” a seal for me.
I was crazy with joy over that and still have the picture and the “adoption certificate”.
if you don’t know much about your clients, do a little research. Connect with them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Scan their wall or profile for things they post about and things they’re interested in.
Do you know their home town or university? Get them a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or even a coffee mug with the college emblem.
Even a key chain is a good idea. Something else Bruce taught me was you want them to use the item (or at least look at it a lot) and think of you (fondly) when they use it.
I actually like getting junk mail catalogs and I scan them all year for goofy stuff to give.
I had a colleague who had a Santa collection. So when I saw a toy Santa with a Mexican hat and maracas that played and danced to Feliz Navidad (her favorite Christmas carol), I knew I had a gift home run.
Not sure if they celebrate Christmas? That’s ok, everyone celebrates the start of a new year. A great way to stand out from the December holiday deluge of cards is to save yours (and your gift where appropriate) and send them to coincide with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
It helps your gift or card stand out a bit more and it takes some of the pressure off you too.
When figuring out your holiday budget, it also makes sense to prioritize the gifts you’ll give.
For example, a client who is paying you thousands of dollars isn’t going to get the same gift as a potential client who you’ve had a couple of meetings with.
As my examples show, it’s not necessary to spend a ton of money to show you appreciate and care for the person. But you don’t want to give something that looks like next to no thought went into it at all.
It’s easy to say “bah humbug” at this time of year because there’s so much to do and maybe you feel as though there’s not enough cash to go around. But when a gift is well thought out and conveys the right emotion it’s easy to build your brand and strengthen your relationship with the recipient.
If you’re a notoriously bad gift giver or you’ve got more money than time, consider hiring a professional gift buying consultant who can help you use your budget wisely and make you look good at the same time.
I was very flattered when the woman on the phone told me she heard me speak a few years ago and has been hanging on to my card ever since. But the conversation took a turn for the worse when she then said, “I want to work with you, but I’m afraid when everyone else in my industry sees what we’re doing they’ll copy me and steal our ideas. And if we work together, you couldn’t work with anyone else in my industry.”
First of all, an entrepreneur who is serious about standing out in their field, can’t allow the fear that someone will copy what she’s doing keep her from taking action.
A mindset like hers tells me this person is operating on fear because she’s not confidently and clearly positioned in the market.
Positioning is the action of communicating your unique value so clearly that you get into the mind of your ideal buyer and anchor yourself in so deeply that everyone else is seen as just an also ran.
Your Position is a combination of…
It gets communicated visually — through your brand elements like website, logo, color palette, and your or your staff’s appearance — and verbally — through the tone of voice you use as well as your specific word choice (I use “verbally” to mean written or spoken, online and offline)– and is the foundation of the brand you’re building.
This is about more than just about “brand awareness” or being known for what you do.
When I say “soda” (or “pop” as they call it up here in the Niagara Falls region), your first thought may be of Coke. But that doesn’t matter if Pepsi is what you spend your money on.
The best positioning goes deeper than just the mind. It resonates with the potential client’s heart.
There are four steps to Positioning:
First you have to actually get clear on who and what your business and offerings are all about.
The Father of Modern Advertising — the legendary David Ogilvy — called Positioning “the most important decision you can make” about an offering. That’s because it impacts every other decision you need to make about said offering.
Committing to claiming a position is a brave act — something solo professionals or the owners of small firms might talk about but often resist at a subconscious level for fear claiming a position is going to turn away too much business.
Ogilivy was faced with how to position Dove® soap and the decision is a great example of how powerful the choice is.
He had to decide if Dove® should be positioned as a a cleaning agent — something that gets skin very clean — or should it be positioned as a softening agent — something that cleanses skin while also making it soft?
Lever accepted his recommendation about 50 years ago and it’s still the foundation of Dove’s position.
The second step is getting found. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best at what you do. If those who want what you offer can’t find you or your insight when they need you, you’re struggling. Since the majority of people turn to the Internet to begin the search to solve a problem, you need a large digital footprint that communicates your position effectively so you resonate cognitively and emotionally with your Ideal Clients. And whatever you do needs to be able to be viewed no matter the tech device used.
Step three is to get into their heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re first in their mind or not. What matters is if they know, like, and trust you enough to choose to work with you. H&R Block might be the first name I think of if you say “Tax Accounting” but that’s not who I trust with my taxes. I might have moved 500 miles away from Bob, my accountant, but he still does my taxes.
Bob’s in my heart. And by getting into my heart he’s my go-to choice.
The fourth step is staying top of mind. Professional solution providers are nervous about this because we’re worried we’ll come across as a pest or that we’ll be seen as salesy.
But when your overworked, overwhelmed ideal client needs a solution provider they can often make a decision driven by convenience. The person who sent them an email this morning may get the business because the client forgot about you.
If you’re ready to truly attract more of your best clients and make it easy for others to refer you, then it’s time to uncover, embrace, and fully communicate your unique so you’re clearly differentiated from the others in your industry segment.
If you’re a consultant, coach, licensed service professional or other expert who’s stock in trade is their expertise, one issue you may struggle with is getting your message out in a powerful way that doesn’t come across as salesy.
If you’re a corporate escapee like me, you were probably an expert at talking about the problems your employer’s customers had. But once out on your own, you’ve probably struggled to create a message that consistently resonates with the mind and heart of your ideal clients (who I refer to as your Prime Suspects).
One big element of that problem is deeply understanding the problem your Suspects have and communicating in a way that shows you GET it. This video talks about that.
One of the frustrating challenges of starting, running, and growing a business — especially a small consulting, coaching, or other expertise-based business — is narrowing your focus so you’re talking to and attracting ONE type of client.
This is really hard for those of us who are creative and who also consider ourselves spiritual or conscious.
We hate to turn people down.
It’s also easy to get a little nervous (ok…a lot nervous) in those moments when clients may be harder to come by….it’s summer and people are distracted….the holiday season and people are thinking of parties….end of the year when people are caught up planning…
But focusing on serving only those who you’re truly aligned with actually helps position you as the leader and expert for that segment.
This video gives you a few tips on the topic of what I refer to as Prime Suspects and Ideal Clients.
Think about who you’re trying to attract. The chances are good that if you’re messaging isn’t resonating with anyone it’s because you’re speaking too broadly. That’s a sure sign you need to narrow your focus.
Most of the service-based entrepreneurs I talk to and associate with are passionate about and experts at what they do.
But they DESPISE the sales part.
They’re afraid they’ll be seen as pushy or salesy so they actually lean too far in the other directions and end up working way too hard for every sale they do make and every client they get.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
And one of the first steps is to getting over your hatred of selling is to stop seeing it as something bad you’re doing to someone.
You’re not taking something from them. You’re GIVING something TOO them.
I explain it in this video….
As my friends Stacy and Robin – the founders of Interconnections for Women – are fond of saying, “you gotta network to get work”.
And as much as you may tell yourself that’s true, I wonder if you’re not actually treating your networking like flossing.
You know you NEED to do it and you SHOULD do it, but you don’t always get around to it and when you do you might not give it your all.
While we tend to think of networking as something that only happens at a conference or mixer, networking is something we do whenever we come into contact with other people.
Networking has a ton of benefits, but the biggest one is you can directly control the message you’re sending and help make sure people truly understand what you do.
That’s critical if you hope to generate more referrals.
Yes, you have a website, you speak, you write blog posts…but business is still a personal experience that’s built on an emotional connection.
And that’s really the heart of what networking involves.
And in today’s world, we don’t just network at events. We also do it online.
Online networking is something that’s still in its infancy (“social networking” is an incredibly young concept) but it’s apparent how we’ve embraced it when you consider that as of May 1, 2014 300 million people use LinkedIn, and Facebook hit 1 billion users way back in 2012.
Networking online may seem easy to do but it’s fraught with problems and can easily damage your reputation if you’re not careful.
Make mistakes and you’ve damaged your reputation and your personal brand. Do it right, and both your reputation and your reach grow.
Here are the top 5 mistakes people make when networking online so you can avoid them.
1. Traveling incognito. Unless you’re the Lone Ranger or Spiderman, people need to see who you are. Use a photo that’s appropriate to the forum. Professional pictures are a must on a site like LinkedIn. You don’t have to pay a pro for a headshot (although it helps) but be sure your image communicates that you’re a competent professional. Leave the party pictures for Facebook. On second thought…eliminate them from there too since people are checking you out and looking at your overall web presence.
2. Making seeming random connections. Several people have named this as a mistake specifically on LinkedIn – sending someone a connection request without explaining why you want to connect with them or reminding them how you met. One person equated it with trying to kiss a stranger. We’d all like to think we’re memorable but keep in mind the other person has met a zillion other people the same week and therefore you’re one of a crowd. Remind them where you met, or mention that you have mutual friends and you’d like to learn more about them. Dan Muchnok, COO of Opticom Consulting is probably speaking for lots of others when he says a request from an unknown person – especially one with 500+ connections – feels like spam. LinkedIn is much more personal than Facebook in many ways so take the time to personalize the connection request and don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t want to connect with you there. I’m more open on Facebook than I am on LinkedIn but if you explain where and how we met and why LinkedIn is where you’d like to connect I’m likely to accept.
3. Becoming one of “those” people.” Val Neighbors, an elder care advocate and business coach for home healthcare providers, andW endy Terwelp, the Networking Coach, both expressed revulsion at the tendency for some new connections to go into sales mode way too quickly. As tempting as it is to start sharing your fabulous offering or to ask that expert you just got connected to for a referral, please resist the temptation. It comes across as desperate. You have to take steps to raise your KLT-Q – your Know-Like-Trust Quotient – first.
4. Not being active in the platform(s) you register with. Networking is not a fast solution to growing a business. It’s like farming. You plant seeds…fertilize them…water them….care for them…and then you harvest the bounty once they grow. Not being active on a platform conveys you’re not really interested in relationship building, but instead are just out to promote yourself. That completely flies in the face of the concept of networking.
5. Relying on social networks as your online home. The popular blog, Copyblogger, posted an article decrying “digital sharecropping” and the danger of “building your business on someone else’s land”. We entrepreneurs are famous for bootstrapping our way to success but as soon as possible you’ve got to build your online headquarters as the hub of your web presence. You can’t let Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other site control your online identity. You can start a site for as little as $100. It’ll be basic, but it’s yours. Get a custom site done as soon as you can. It’s money well spent and critical to your business development efforts because it’s marketing – and networking — for you all day, every day.
Online Networking is becoming an increasingly more important way to build your reputation as an expert and attract referral partners as well as potential clients. The challenge is in presenting yourself effectively and clearly distinguishing yourself from the rest of the others in your professional category.
Be careful to stay current with the best practices in this area and be sure to balance relationship building with selling.