Category Archives for General Blog

The Benefits of Choosing a Niche

Gurus talk about it, sales books cover it….choosing a niche or target audience really is an important decision to make. But most entrepreneurs resist it for a variety of reasons including…

  • fears that any customers are better than no customers
  • belief that everyone needs your services
  • an inability to focus your attention

While it may be true that everyone needs your services, not everyone wants them. Part of what makes you feel salesy is when you’re trying to convince someone to buy from you. That person doesn’t want what you’re selling or they don’t want it in the way you deliver it.

This video discusses the benefits of choosing an ideal client segment or what I refer to as a Prime Suspect.

https://youtu.be/vyxu3FWf0o8

How to Educate Potential Clients and Elevate Yourself as an Authority

 

It’s no secret that inbound or content marketing should be a critical piece of every marketing strategy. The Web is made of content and your potential clients are turning to the Internet first when searching for a solution to their problem.

They turn to the Internet for help in figuring out what their problem is in the first place.

And if you’re a consultant, coach, or other licensed professional looking to attract more Prime Suspects (those likely to be your best clients) then educational content is a great way to educate your potential clients and elevate yourself as an authority in your field.

Depending on what study you review, customers — whether businesses or consumers — are turning to the Internet first when they have or suspect they have a problem. They want to learn more about their symptoms, get a diagnosis, and understand what their options are for solving the problem PDQ.

You the business owner should be creating content in different formats (video, written, audio, etc.) so your Suspects can get educated about the problem.

Focusing on giving them great information that genuinely educates them will help you create content that’s on-point, of high value to them, and that they want to share.

When we hear someone speak, watch their video, read their articles, we can’t help but think “this person’s an expert”. We see the person as an expert even if we don’t agree with all of the information they’re sharing.

Here’s a video I shot that gives an overview of what Pre-Selling means and how it helps clients buy.

 

How to Know if You’re Ready for a Rebrand

cocoons_butterfliesNow that spring is finally committed to sticking around (please God!), it’s nice to walk around town (without a jacket) and see signs of new growth everywhere you look.

You may have noticed some things didn’t survive very well through the harsh winter we had.

The streets have potholes; roofs have been damaged; and the clothes in your closet have shrunk somehow.

This is also a great time to sit back and reflect on how your business — and you — have changed or how you’re in the process of changing and where in fact you and that business of yours are going.

As you think about this, ask yourself if the branding — the visual and verbal messaging — that got you where you are is going to get you where you want to go.

What’s Branding?

When I say “branding” I’m not just talking about your logo or color palette. I’m talking about all of your brand elements that combine to make up your entire messaging — everything that communicates who you are, what you do, and who you serve. From your vision, mission, and values to the Persona that describes your Prime Suspect to your collateral material and website.

What’s a Brand?

A brand isn’t your logo or your tagline. Those are just the visual and verbal representations of what you stand for. Your brand is your promise to the market. It’s your reputation based on what you deliver. The goal is to create a visual (and a verbal) brand so powerful that people equate that visual image with whatever outcome you deliver.

Your branding — your brand elements — are tools to help you communicate with your Prime Suspects (those most likely to be great clients). They can limit the power of your verbal message (presentations you make, conversations you have…) because they can create confusion in the mind of the Suspect or they can make it difficult for the Suspect to process the messages you’re communicating.

There are lots of reasons you may not be getting  the results you want, but one reason could be you need a total rebrand.

What’s a Rebrand?

A rebrand is often thought of as a new logo, it’s much more than that.

A rebrand is an evolutionary process and it’s born out of a deep feeling of disconnection between what you’ve got, what you want, and what you do.

The rebranding process is one that starts with uncovering who you are, where you’re going, and what the business has become.

Run away from anyone who tells you that work isn’t necessary or who doesn’t take the time to understand who you are, what you stand for, and what you’re building.

It may be that — like so many consultants, coaches, and other independent service providers — you may never have had a brand that truly represents you. This happens when you focus on the fun, visual stuff without doing the deep internal work necessary to uncover what the visual stuff should represent.

Here are 14 signs you may be ready for a rebrand

  1. The clients you have are not the clients you want.
  2. You look and sound like your competition.
  3. You’re attracting fewer new inquiries about working with you.
  4. It takes longer than you want for a Suspect to go from initial conversation to signed engagement.
  5. You’re ready to grow and don’t feel your visual will take you where you want to go
  6. You’re competing on price.
  7. When people introduce you or say what you do you think, “that’s not it”.
  8. You look at your messaging and sometimes feel as though it’s not really you.
  9. Your business has grown beyond just you.
  10. You can’t state what you do in 30 seconds or less.
  11. You’re adding a new revenue stream or moving in a completely different direction.
  12. You have website shame.
  13. You have collateral material shame (whether you give out the physical stuff, email it as an attachment, or have it as downloads on your website.
  14. People have told you they don’t understand what you do.

A rebrand is a process that’s not to be rushed and it’s not for the faint of heart. There are things that can be done to shorten the time it takes but that means you have to come into the process ready to go. That means you’ve got to come into the process having done a good bit of soul searching on your own or with a facilitator.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people who are going through a rebrand without doing the prep work is that the designer or developer is asking them questions they (the business owner ) can’t answer.

If that’s the case, it means you need to work with a consultant who is skilled at uncovering your difference. It also may mean that you’ve got a lot of uncertainty within yourself and until you’ve gotten clarity the process will be slow and painful.

There are times when it’s not a complete rebrand that’s needed. It might be that there’s a problem with the overall sales process — with how you’re bringing in Prime Suspects or how you’re helping them travel their Buying Journey.

If you’re trying to discern the problem and figure out if you need a rebrand or you need some adjustment to your sales process then you should talk to a consultant, coach, or strategist who works specifically around helping entrepreneurs like you stand out. The goal is to increase your reach so you serve more and earn more not just have a nice logo.

 

 

 

 

 

Basic Tips to Choosing a Domain Name

Last week I talked to an independent consultant  who’s struggling to attract great clients. I asked her for her website address so I could check out her site. She started to give it to me letter by letter and when she said “the number 2…” I stopped her.

I told her to get a new domain NOW.

This video explains what to consider when buying a domain name. If you’re in a hurry, here are the highlights…

1. You don’t really “buy” a domain. You register them through a reputable, authorized domain registrar. I use and recommend GoDaddy. They have great service, often have sales and promotions, and I can often find coupons that knock off even more.

2. Choose a simple domain. You want something that’s easy to say and easy to remember. If you’re the business then get your name. If your name is taken that ad a word or two to make clear who you are…JaneDoeConsultant.com for example.

 

https://youtu.be/U4r7XU75Zc8

Embrace your unique difference to position yourself clearly

Embracing and operating with a Help Clients Buy mindset means giving your Prime Suspects (AKA best clients) the information they need to make the best decision for them. No chasing…no being salesy.

The first thing to do is to make sure you’re clearly differentiated. If people don’t understand why they should work with you and they don’t understand or recognize the value you bring then they’re going to fall back on price. That’s something they can understand very clearly.

Are you well differentiated in the marketplace? Most people tend to think about things like their logo or tagline. What makes you different is much deeper than those things.

What’s unique about you?

Tips to Develop Thick Skin as You Market Your Business Online

elephant-650625_1920I read a post a friend shared on Facebook because I it’s rare for her to share something and even more rare to share it without commenting.

The post she shared was from one blogger who was bad mouthing another blogger. We’ll call the blogger doing the badmouthing Jane and the blogger getting bad-mouthed Sally just for ease.

The post went into great detail about all the things Sally says that are flat out wrong in Jane’s opinion. Jane had facts to back up her statements and her belief that Sally was someone who was giving out bad information.

Believe me, that’s the nice, watered-down version. Jane used profanity in her headline and in the article.

I don’t know who’s right in this little skirmish and it wasn’t important enough for me to learn more and pick a side. But it got me thinking about the Haters out there, how the Internet gives people a platform to share their viewpoint, and how you can navigate these scary waters.

As a person who hates confrontation, I can tell you the initial reaction is to just not put any content out there.

And I realized this weekend that’s actually what I’ve been doing. I’ve been allowing my fears of Haters to hold me back.

That’s a mistake. For me and for all of us.

No content means you’re not going to get any search engine love and subsequently limits your discoverability.

A bigger problem is potential clients, potential referral partners, and others interested in what you have to say have nothing to base an opinion on.

Creating and sharing content is exhausting and time consuming but people can’t evaluate you and your abilities if you’re not giving them something to experience. You have to give people a sample of your knowledge and personality.

The next mistake is to not share a strong opinion.

You and I know there are lots of things that are grey in life. Lots of shadings and sides to an issue.

But you need to have a strong point of view (POV) in order to stand out and to genuinely attract your Prime Suspects, best Partners in Crime (JV partners or referral partners), and the best opportunities.

And for the sake of brevity, sometimes that may mean simplifying or distilling a message down to a more basic level than others would like.

One of the things to recognize is that as you step out you are stepping into the role of leader within your industry segment and to your constituents (those you serve).

I know….there are other people smarter than you. There are other people smarter than ME for that matter. Wrestling with this issue of being an authority is complicated. Especially for those of us who consciously want to remain humble.

And really — like the term “authority” or not — you and I are trying to become someone others reach out to, turn to for an opinion….turn to for advice….turn to when they need — yes, an expert — in our specialities.

And being ready for the Haters and Trolls is part of that.

So here are 10 strategies that can help you as you work to develop that thicker skin while you move forward to grow your business and your reputation.

1. Be prepared for it. I don’t know about you but the first time I realized someone said bad things about me was in grade school. We’ve been dealing with this all our lives. I really thought it would go away when I became a professional. Naive, I know. So just remember there are people out there getting their tomatoes ready to throw at you. Don’t relax. Always play with your A game.

2. Keep a cheer file. I save things that people send me like emails that tell me they liked an article I wrote, thank you notes I’ve gotten….stuff that just makes me laugh. Then I bring them out when I’m feeling bad. I’ll also go to my Facebook page and look at nice things people have posted. Here are some other ideas to get happy when business gets you down…

3. Practice self care. Things hurt me most when I’m run down, haven’t been exercising, or I’ve eaten too much sugar. So find your prescription for self-care and follow it. For me, it’s taking time off to work around the yard…playing with my cats….spending time with my husband, eating healthfully….and otherwise being good to myself.

4. Recognize what button got pushed. There’s a reason you got hurt. It may be a past wound you thought was healed but isn’t. Maybe it’s something you pride yourself on that’s coming into question. For example, you pride yourself on your writing ability and the person is really tearing up what you said in your article. Maybe they’re pointing out a mistake you made and you pride yourself on your attention to detail. Recognize you had the button there to be pushed and continue to do the inner work to let that go.

5. Is there truth there? If there is own it. None of us is perfect. If someone called you for a mistake just admit your responsibility, apologize, fix it, and move on. And if they did it publicly — on a blog or via social media — then respond in that same place so people can follow the thread. The Web is all about transparency.

6. Be the real authority. Narrow your focus so you can really own being the authority in a topic or to a specific audience. With the incredible amount of competition faced in every segment and no matter the size of your business, the entrepreneur who focuses on being great in one area and in serving a specific audience is going to be more successful.

7. Be clear on your focus. Jane has a lot of degrees. Sally doesn’t. Sally’s audience may like that she simplifies things and uses simple terminology. Jane may think Sally is dumbing things down. So think about your audience, who they are, who you’re being for them, and make sure that’s crystal clear so you’re attracting the right audience. When I started out as an independent consultant I tried to be everything to everyone. You can imagine how well that worked.

Not.

8. Actively solicit feedback. Hearing criticism is hard. It takes practice. One thing I do is actively ask people to give me feedback on something. I’m still careful about who I talk to. It’s best to ask people who share your overall philosophy and approach. So if you know someone is super salesy and you’re not, then don’t ask for feedback because they’ll constantly tell you to make your messages like theirs.

9. Stop playing the tape in your head. Why is the stuff that tends to dominate our memories are the things that make us feel bad? Just like a song gets stuck in your head, negative feedback get stuck on a loop with different things triggering it to replay. Recognize when that happens and stop yourself in mid-thought and challenge it. If you’ve fixed the problem or learned from it then you’re not going to make the same mistake. If you’ve had a troll badmouthing you online then block them if possible and tell people you don’t want them to forward you her posts. But don’t feed into it by replaying the negative messages in your head.

10. Detach from the outcome. This little gem is one that finally sunk in after reading Think and Grow Rich for the 15th time. One day the concept finally made sense to me. If I’m emotionally attached to the result then I haven’t detached from the outcome. If my feelings are hurt because of something someone said about my work or the feedback a Suspect or client gave me then I’m emotionally attached to the result and haven’t detached from the outcome. Imagine if Thomas Edison had gotten discouraged on the 9,999th time he tried to get a lightbulb to work. We’d still be reading by candlelight and Al Gore would never have discovered the Internet.

So recognize that Haters are gonna hate. Just don’t let them get to you while they do it.

What strategies help you deal with criticism or the slings and arrows of Haters?

 

10 Tips to Get Started Using Video to Market Your Business

video_cameraIf you’ve resisted using video to market your services, resist no more.

Video communicates in ways text can’t. It lets people get a feel for your personality and it can raise trust like few other things can.

Trust of course is critical to #HelpClientsBuy.

Video educates your audience, engages them, and inspires action. It’s not just for product demonstrations.

Here are my 10 best tips to help you jump into video if you haven’t done it already.

  1. Get over yourself. Sorry to be so blunt, but just stop obsessing that you’ve got a face made for podcasting. You look fine. No one is going to be having dinner with their significant other discussing what you wore in your video today. They’re not going to be outraged that you need to have your bangs trimmed or that you said “uh” a couple of times.
  2. Have a wardrobe and standard makeup. I have about 5 outfits that are my uniforms for video so I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear. Pick colors you like and that flatter you. Blue is a great color because most people look good in some shade of it. I like about 3 colors of blue and you’ll usually see me in one of them. Wear a top that has one solid color as often as you can. As for makeup….guys you may need some to. You probably need concealer for dark places around your eyes. Visit a makeup counter and explain you’re going to be doing videos and they’ll hook you right up. I like Bobbie Brown and I get it at Macy’s.
  3. Set up a video station. Don’t make it complicated. Below are two pictures of the video station in my home office. I picked up the bar stool at a yard sale for $10 and put two empty plastic boxes on it to raise my laptop so the camera is at a good level. I’m changing chairs soon so one of those boxes will go. The lamps I also got at yard sales. I use lightbulbs that are supposed to mimic natural light. You want the lights in front of you and just slightly to the side. I leave this set up in place so when I get inspired I can just run over and shoot something. I write bullet points on an index card and tape it to the top of the laptop just above the camera. I use blue painter’s tape for that.

    video_setup2video_setup
    Think about the background. You can just be up against a bare wall (a little dull) or you can do like I’ve done and use a spot with some visual interest. I love my Sherlock collection and it’s fun to have them in my videos.  Don’t be afraid to show some personality. That’s what people really want to see. They want the real you.

  1. Use the simplest tech you can. I prefer to do this stuff myself so it’s got to be simple. My laptop comes with Windows Movie Maker (yes, I confess I’m a PC person). If you’re a mac person then you’ve got stuff built in too. I’ve got the laptop positioned so I can just hit the record button without reaching too far and risk jarring the laptop. I used to use a Flip on a tripod and still use that sometimes, especially when I’m speaking somewhere.
  2. It’s OK to hide. If you just can’t bring yourself to sit in front of a camera yet try narrating a slide show with PowerPoint or Keynote (mac). You’ll at least get comfortable with talking and recording yourself and can then jump into the deep end after you’ve gotten more confidence. You could shoot a short intro or outro for the slideshow and be done.
  1. Aim for about 5 minutes long. That doesn’t seem like much but you know you’ve been bored by someone in less time than that. Your viewer has a zillion things to do and has the attention of a flea so keep your videos short and to the point. Develop a quick introduction and a quick conclusion. That leaves you with an average of 4 minutes of content to share. Yes, I sometimes go over that. If you think you need more time to cover the topic then do more than one video.
  1. Have a call to action. Send people somewhere. Tell them where to get more information. Tell them to leave a comment, give you a thumb’s up or like the video, and encourage them to share it. Tell them to subscribe. Don’t just let the video end. If you don’t tell people what to do at the end of a video (or anything else for that matter), don’t be surprised when you don’t get the result you want. Know where you want them to go before you start shooting.
  1. Share FAQs and SAQs. This was a great tip from my mentor, Mike Koenigs. He makes a list of frequently asked questions and a list of “should ask” questions. Then he films himself answering them. SAQs are the questions you wish people would ask you or they’re the deeper question they should ask. For example, people will ask me what they should post on Facebook. The bigger question is who are they talking to on Facebook, so maybe an SAQ related to that would be “how do I find out what my audience wants me to share on Facebook?”
  1. Commit to a schedule. As I was looking to uplevel my outreach and add video to my marketing strategy I knew if I didn’t create a schedule I’d never see it through. It’s like any other habit. At first, you’ve got to plan for it and prepare, then your brain gets conditioned to just do it. So I film on Friday and upload on Monday. I also recommend you shoot more than one video at a time to make the best use of your time. So have a list of videos to do and see if you can knock out a month’s worth in one day.
  1. Tie your video into your content calendar. When I started I just did a video on anything I could think of. It was more about getting comfortable than anything else. Now I’m more strategic. I have a theme or concept for the week. I do a video on it, I write a newsletter article (which will become a blog post), and I may do an additional blog post on the topic. Now I’ve got at least two pieces of content addressing slightly different aspects of a topic. I usually edit one of the articles and turn that into my LinkedIn post. My LI posts are shorter than my blog posts because people are usually in a hurry there. I’m going to be experimenting with Google+ more this year so I’ll see how that adds to my content strategy’s impact.

Using video is like doing anything else. It just takes practice to get comfortable. Video has the ability to raise trust, improve the time buyers stay on your site, and increase sales. It also has great power in the search engines. It’s time to make video a part of your marketing and sales strategy in order to further help your clients decide to buy.

7 Types of Proof Elements and How They Help Clients Decide to Buy

Buying is full of risk. There are lots of reasons your Prime Suspects don’t buy from you but they all boil down to fear.

They’re afraid you won’t deliver….afraid your solution will make things worse and not better…afraid the return on investment they want won’t happen….

They’re also likely to be afraid of change, or of what you’re asking them to face (really important for those selling anything to do with prevention, health, finances, etc).

And they’re afraid your solution won’t work for them.

So when you’re talking to a Prime Suspect or they’re reviewing your website, a social profile, or reviewing collateral material (a brochure, a proposal, etc.) what they’re really looking for is proof.

They want proof you can deliver as promise and that your solution will work for them.

This video shares the 7 proof elements you can use to market and sell your offerings. You don’t necessarily need all 7 but the more powerful your proof is the easier buyers will be able to say yes to working with you.

 

6 Tips to Use Testimonials to Help Clients Feel Confident in You and Buy

magnifying_glass_puzzle_pieceI follow several copywriters who are all at the top of their profession and niche segments. Each has a slightly different focus and I learn from all of them.

One of them was talking about the power of testimonials and shared some tips to get them from clients.

And what if you’re a new entrepreneur or your offerings are new?

Well, she said, just go to websites selling similar offerings, copy the testimonials, and then use them on your site.

Say what?!!

Aside from the fact that she just recommended plagiarizing and violating copyright laws, doing something like that is unethical and deceptive.

I think I strained my finger clicking on the Unsubscribe link as fast as I did.

That’s the type of behavior that makes people skeptical of testimonials in the first place and especially skeptical of testimonials on the web.

Here are a few tips to using testimonials so your potential clients are educated, recognize you as the authority, and confident about working with you.

  1. Be Truthful. I always thought this went without saying but apparently it doesn’t. It’s very easy to replace one word with another one that sounds more powerful. Resist that temptation unless you check with the person giving you the testimonial. If someone wrote a nice testimonial but wasn’t as gushy as you’d like they may be trying to be more formal than necessary. Remind them of some words they used in the past. Or copy and paste something they said in an email that praised you. People are concerned about looking stupid or sounding silly so let them know that speaking from the heart serves them well. People want to help you but they want to look good doing it.
  2. Be representative of results. This is a tricky one. Especially when you perform a service. My mentor, Mike Koenigs, has people working for him in what he refers to as his “Department of Proof”. His team asks us to submit proof whenever we report a success story. This makes our testimonials much more powerful because he’s cobining the social proof of the testimonial with visual evidence for a powerful combination.

    Follow-up with past clients to see how they’re doing. It can be a great way to get testimonials and even case studies as well as helping you stay top of mind with them and encourage referrals.

  3. Be as specific as your profession – and your client – allows. I know there are industries where those you serve are hesitant to reveal they came to you for service. Maybe you’re a career coach and your clients are afraid their employer will find out they worked with you and see it as a negative. I’ve had people who work in marketing come to me for help with their sales process and they don’t want their clients to know that (hey, we ALL need to work with someone). Use as much information as they’re comfortable with and is appropriate. Use pictures, first and last names, city and state, and web address if they have one. Video testimonials are great and can be powerful. People have a tendency to ramble though so consider sending them some questions to answer to help them stay on track if they’re going to submit a video. And if your industry or profession doesn’t really do names and pictures, that’s fine. I’m sure potential patients understand that. But recognize you may need to do more to help develop trust and make people feel more confident in hiring you as their service provider.
  4. Edit where necessary. I’ve worked with people who have these long (rambly) testimonials they used in their marketing. They weren’t effective because just looking at them made me not want to read them. Then I’d force myself and had a hard time following it. Or I’d have clients who’d edit their testimonials to sound more professional and the comments sounded way too stiff and impersonal. Make sure the testifier knows you have the right to and will edit for space and clarity. Feel free to take out phrases or sentences and use just those. A good example is the endorsement I received from legendary management guru and author Ken Blanchard. I submitted my first book’s manuscript to him and he gave me a fantastic endorsement that was a few sentences long. I wanted to have his name on the cover because we all know how that can help sell a book. The whole thing would have been too long, so I just used a short phrase “…provocative and reflective!” I edit testimonials for space, clarity, and spelling but I leave the bad grammar or clumsy sentence construction because that’s how people talk and write.
  5. Answer questions and concerns potential buyers have. If you offer a high-priced service then people may wonder if it’s worth it. Structure questions that help testifiers provide the answer to what someone is wondering. For example, I ask people if they were nervous about working with me. I’ll get great comments like “Yes, I was a little nervous because I’d worked with a guru who didn’t deliver.” That’s a great statement because it’s real, it’s heartfelt, and who hasn’t worked with someone who hasn’t delivered? We’ve all done that. So when a testimonial can go on to say something like “But I saw a benefit right away….” it really lowers the potential buyer’s guard. I actually added benchmarking where my clients are before we start working together because I found they were often terrible at tracking their results! So when I remind them of how things were before we started working together it can help them provide a richer before…and now… type of statement. Remember, your marketing and sales messaging and materials should always be focused on helping the potential buyer make the best decision for them.  Statements like “I recouped my investment within a week” are priceless for you and give the potential client confidence they can benefit from working with you.
  6. Represent the clients you truly want to work with. When I first went out on my own I did a lot of work with corporate clients. Since I lived near Atlantic City in South Jersey I had casinos as clients and some mid-sized companies too. I started hearing that “I guess you don’t work with people like me” from exactly the sort of people I really wanted to work with so I took the list of companies off my site. Potential clients want proof you can do the job; but they also want to know you can do the job for people like them, organizations like theirs, and that you can solve the type of problem they’ve got. Your testimonials — and client list if you publish that — should help them see that.

Testimonials educate your potential buyers and really do assist you in helping clients buy so you can sell without being salesy and don’t sacrifice your values. The key is getting powerful testimonials that communicate the value of your offerings.

Testimonials – how you get them, how you use them, who gives them – should also be addressed in the general policies and Terms and Conditions (Ts & Cs) for your site. If you don’t have Ts&Cs I strongly recommend you get them.

I use and recommend Web Site Legal Form Generator put out by attorney Mike Young. Mike specializes in online / internet marketing. (That’s an affiliate link and I’ll get the equivalent of a cup of tea if you buy through it) And here’s a link to the US government’s guidelines on using testimonials and endorsements. (I’m not a lawyer and I’m not giving legal advice so be sure to talk to your own internet lawyer.)

What Potential Clients Need From You to Say Yes

magnifying_glass_factsThe more complexity surrounding the problem, the bigger the changes they need to make, the more nervous the buyer is likely to be about taking action to solve the problem.

Your potential clients are weighing three things in trying to decide to buy:

Risk — What if you don’t deliver? What if you disappear with the deposit? What if the changes you recommend don’t work?

Change – Use your system, follow your recommendations, or adopt whatever new thing you’re selling as the solution to their problem

Fears – What will happen to them if your changes don’t work? Will their reputation be damaged in some way? Will there be a bigger mess to clean up than there was to start with?

They’re looking for proof that you can do the job you say you can and that it will produce the results you promise.

It’s not that they don’t believe you.

People they trusted in the past stretched the truth (Brian Williams is an unfortunate example). People they relied on let them down. Changes they tried in the past didn’t work out the way they hoped or how the solution provider promised they would.

Then there’s the media’s distorted representation of anyone selling anything and the fact that we all know only a limited amount about the things we purchase.

Buyers want proof that you’re the right solution provider, that your offerings work as promised, and that you’ll help them get the results they want with the least amount of disruption.

7 Types of Proof That Help Potential Clients Say “Yes”

Here are the 7 proof elements that can help you inspire confidence in you from your Suspects. You don’t necessarily need all 7 — some may be more important to your buyers than others.

Fact-Based Proof – You have a point of view…a philosophy, approach, and a set of beliefs…that you operate on. Fact-based proof elements are things like survey results, statistics, and other verifiable evidence that supports your point of view. This is why being an authority requires such focus. You’ve got to stay on top of what’s going on in your industry, in your Suspect’s industry, and in other broad topics. Quoting some reputable source with a big name is like saying “See? It’s not just me who thinks this.”

Third-party Proof – An endorsement from someone with a big reputation would be Third-Party proof. You bask in the reflection of that person’s brand when you get an endorsement. It’s why a book will have an endorsement from a big name person on the front cover. The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is a Third Party endorsement. Having an article published on Forbes.com is a veiled endorsement because your article was good enough for them so it must be worth reading.

Visual Proof – Most of us are visually influenced to some degree. We land on a website and within 3 seconds we’re gone. We made the decision there’s nothing there we want. Our hand moves away from the dented can of peas and puts the undented can in our cart even though we know the peas in both cans are just as good. Pictures…videos…they’re the easiest elements of visual proof but even your website’s layout will impact buyer confidence. And if you’re the face of your brand, your appearance is part visual proof. Visual proof not only provides visible evidence of your claims but in the case of videos, webinars, and livecasts it can help people get a feel for what working with you would be like. My mentor, Mike Koenigs, is constantly asking those of us in his programs to send him things like screen shots of contracts or checks. He knows that Visual Proof trumps anything he can say. So if at all possible, take one type of proof and see if you can also turn it into Visual Proof.

Results-Based Proof – This is at the heart of what buyers want to know: what results have you produced…what outcomes did your clients have? Be very careful about the claims you make.

Social Proof – From testimonials to case studies to reviews on ratings sites like Yelp, people put more stock in what other individuals say than in what you the entrepreneur say. Yes, buyers know there are fake reviews on sites but they still check them and they are still influenced by them.

The Suspect is looking for themselves in who you’ve served. If they’re a micro business have you served other micros? If they’re a restaurant do you have testimonials from other restaurant owners?

They may see you’ve helped clients achieve great results but if your proof elements don’t help them recognize they could have similar results with you then they won’t move forward.

The more detail you can provide, the more powerful a piece of social proof becomes. Pictures, full names, websites, etc. all help Social Proof be more powerful.

Achievement Proof – Where Results Proof is an example of what your clients have achieved, Achievement Proof is what YOU’VE achieved. For example, I created a sales kit that sold $400,000 worth of new business in the first four months it was used by the client. That’s Results Proof. The kit then won a Silver Prize in the 2007 International Davey Awards. That’s Achievement Proof. Achievement Proof is particularly important if your work involves a role model for others in some way. My physical therapist is 60 and she looks fantastic. I look at her and know that’s a great achievement so when she gives me advice I take it. I copy-chiefed a new copywriter at the agency I worked for and her first press release landed on the front page of Forbes.com. That’s quite an achievement and something that could lead a potential client to think, “If she did that for THEM, she could do something like it for ME.”

Credential Proof – Some professions require credentials – doctors, attorneys, etc. and some don’t (like coaches for example). Credentials can help buyers choose because the credential at least demonstrates some level of education has been obtained. It’s important to be at the top of your game, but consider whether a credential is truly going to help differentiate you or help your buyers recognize you as an authority. If you have a certificate, help potential clients recognize how the certificate adds value to your background.

Your sales process – from the steps you take to build awareness right through to service delivery and after-sale relationship building – must be designed to help the buyer make the multitude of decisions necessary at each point in their buying process. Keep in mind that your buyers are just like you when YOU’RE the buyer. They’re nervous because buying is risky. They want to believe your claims are true, so help them recognize you as the best solution provider for them by using a variety of proof elements. They’ll be more confident and will take action faster.