Wouldn't growing your consulting business be so much easier if you felt comfortable promoting yourself?

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If you’re an introvert, you may feel like if you could force yourself to be more extroverted, sales and marketing would be a breeze.

Not to worry, being more introverted doesn’t mean you’re doomed to having low client conversion rates. You don’t need a change in personality, but you could benefit from changing your mindset.

Kristen Gallagher, onboarding consultant and CEO of Edify, used to struggle with promoting herself. When she started her consulting business, she thought marketing was about automated outreach. Sales were about "closing deals."

When Kristen reached out for help, we didn't start working on her tactics. We started by changing her mind about marketing and selling.

Marketing isn't about getting in front of as many people as possible, it's about putting valuable ideas and content in front of your ideal clients. Selling isn't about closing deals, it's about having meaningful conversations that add value.

I'd bet that adding value by helping people doesn't make you feel self-promotional.

And if you can help people with your marketing and sales, not only will it feel more comfortable — you'll win more business.

After Kristen began practicing marketing and sales with this mindset, she increased her prices by 150%.

By the end of this post, you'll have a step-by-step strategy to build authority, promote yourself and your business, and position your offerings for more sales without every feeling self-promotional, spammy, or "salesy."

But first, let's examine why promoting yourself makes you feel uncomfortable.

Why Does Selling Make You Feel Uncomfortable In The First Place?

When you share something new, it’s common to get that weird feeling in your gut.

  • "What will my colleagues think of me if I post this?”
  • "Is this good enough?"
  • "Am I really someone who's qualified to write this?"

Your brain is playing tricks on you. This phenomenon is the "Spotlight Effect."

The spotlight effect is your tendency to believe that you are just as important to other people as you are to yourself. It makes you think that people are judging everything that you do.

Imagine walking into your office wearing this shirt:

Barry Manilow shirt experiment

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It’s sure to make a statement, right? You might imagine everyone in your office stopping to look at you, wondering why you were wearing it.

In a study by Thomas Gilovich and Kenneth Savitsky, they conducted this experiment to see how many people noticed the shirt (yes, with a Barry Manilow t-shirt).

According to the study, less than 50% of the people were able to recall the shirt. If they saw it, they didn't care enough to remember it. Think about how this applies to you promoting your business.

When you're sharing something you're working on or selling an offer, you may feel like you're walking into a room full of people with an embarrassing shirt on.

You're the center of your universe. But you are not the center of everyone else's universe. Most people are focused on themselves. If promoting yourself makes you feel uncomfortable, you may be focusing on yourself too much.

To fix that, you'll approach selling with a relentless focus on who you’re trying to serve instead of yourself.

The Right Way To Market Yourself

Don't you hate it when you're watching a video and you're interrupted by an irrelevant ad? That type of content gives advertising and selling a bad name.

If you despise this type of marketing, I've got good news for you — when B2B decision makers are considering a purchase, they only spend 17% of their time engaging with sales reps to make a decision. B2B buyers tend to spend more time researching options independently than engaging with companies directly.

Why would your customers and clients prefer to get information online than through advertising or engaging with reps?

Here's a personal example.

I was looking for a replacement for caffeine. So, I did a Google search for "replace coffee with matcha" — and landed on an article by a tea company.

Their website didn't bombard me with "buy now" buttons for their matcha products. Instead, they provided a helpful case study. The author wrote about their experience switching from coffee to matcha tea.

Inbound content example: matcha vs coffee comparison

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After reading the post, I understood what it would feel like to quit coffee. I could relate to what the author was experiencing. They provided a caffeine alternative and  included links to their products.

But the links weren't promotional, they were helpful. The post answered my questions and fulfilled my needs. Since their free content was this helpful, I figured their product would be even more helpful.

I haven’t fully given up coffee, but I now drink matcha daily and love it. This habit was largely inspired by that initial blog post.

Let’s apply this example to your business.

This same principle of content that helps your prospects get a result applies just as much if you're a business selling to another business. Write content that helps your prospects.

Use your content to provide value to them and get them a result. And if you provide a product or service that can help them get that result even faster, don't you think they'd like to learn more about it?

Here's the best part: promoting content that provides value to your prospects keeps your focus on them, not you. You're not promoting yourself. You're promoting your advice — advice that creates value for your audience.

Now that you're more comfortable "promoting" (read: helping people) what happens when someone books a sales call with you?

From Selling To Having Meaningful Conversations

You've created content that helps people.

Now, they're booking calls with you to learn more about your product or service.

This is where some people start to get uncomfortable.

When people are asked about the honesty and ethical standards of people in different fields, "insurance salespeople" and "car salespeople" rank on the lower ends — among "members of Congress" and "senators."

If you think negatively about salespeople, chances are you've had a negative interaction with one who either tried to sell you something you weren’t interested in, or used aggressive, high-pressure tactics.

You don't have to — nor should you — do either of these.

Instead of using high-pressure sales tactics, think of these calls as meaningful conversations about the problem your prospect wants to solve.

Having meaningful conversations is about active listening and asking good questions.

Oscar Trimboli, listening expert, speaks about the 125/900 rule.

We speak at 125 words per minute, but we think at 900 words per minute. Your prospect has hundreds of more words stuck in their head than they first disclose. To keep them engaged, try this tip in your next meaningful conversation with a client.

After they're done speaking, follow up with: "I'm curious what else you're thinking about this topic." This gives the person you’re talking to the time and space to share additional information they may not have been able to communicate initially.

Focused listening will help you uncover deep, valuable information about their needs — and helps you ask better questions.

Better questions help you uncover the true value — both tangible and intangible — that you can provide them.

Imagine you're a consultant, and your services help your client win more business.

  • "Salesy" question: "What is your budget for this project?"
  • Meaningful question: "What is the average value of a sale for you?"

The former is about you. The client feels like you're trying to charge as much as possible. The latter is about your client. The client feels like you're trying to connect your product or service to their return on investment.

Asking questions to uncover the value you can create for your client is

  • Not promotional.
  • Leads to a more engaging and enjoyable conversation.
  • Can lead to higher-leverage pricing engagements like value-based fees and performance deals

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According to the Consulting Success 2019 Consulting Fees Study, over 29% of Consultants who price their services based on value and ROI have successfully completed a performance deal — versus only 8% of consultants who use an hourly rate.

Deep listening and asking thought-provoking questions don't seem promotional, do they?

Taking this approach empowers you to build trust with potential clients, which is far more beneficial than overly-promotional, aggressive sales tactics.

Focusing on ROI also puts you in a better position to raise your prices because you’re charging based on the results you create instead of your time spent.

Ready to put all this to use in your business?

Action Step: Win Your Next Sale With Inbound

Does this whole process from helpful content to meaningful conversation to winning the sale sound familiar?

It's inbound selling.

Inbound flywheel

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If you're up for the challenge, your goal is to win your next sale using the inbound methodology.

You'll put some constraints on yourself. Refrain from relying on cold-calling, or cold email outreach and instead focus on finding creative ways to deliver value and attract the right potential clients.

Try following this process:

  1. Listen to your customers and record their pains points, dreams, and frustrations.
  2. Create content that helps them alleviate their pain points, overcome their frustrations, and get one step closer to their dream.
  3. Share your content on websites and platforms where your customers hang out.
  4. Prompt those who read your content to schedule a call with you about how you might be able to help them.
  5. Use a CRM to track your pipeline of potential business.
  6. Follow up with your prospects and move them through your pipeline with a series of meaningful conversations.
  7. If you’re confident you can help them, offer them your product or service.

By following this process, you'll be able to build your brand and attract attention from potential buyers, putting you in a better position to convert without feeling like you’re promoting yourself.

One final note: think about the times you took action despite feeling uncomfortable. Chances are, you felt elated by feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

For some people, putting themselves out there may never feel comfortable. But you owe it to the people you can help to do it.

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Originally published Nov 30, 2020 7:30:00 AM, updated December 01 2020

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