Strength or Weakness: How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself When You Market and Sell

A very ambitious and inspiring 16-year old wrote me yesterday. He is doing more to market his web-design business than many of my supposedly more mature and seasoned clients, and will no doubt be successful when he decides it is time to take his business to the next level.

However, he also disclosed a flaw in his thinking that is common to many professionals. This flaw is causing him to sabotage his marketing efforts, and limits the growth of his firm.

In his case, he thinks that because he is only 16, he is too young to pursue certain marketing tactics that other people can use.

Other people have other excuses for not taking action:

- Too new to the field

- Too little money

- Too old

- Doesn’t know enough

- From a country where the people have no budget to pay for services, and will take advantage of performance guarantees

- Too busy

- Too much competition

- Recession; no one will spend money

- Outsourcing

- You name it

The above could all be excellent reasons to give up.

So here is a challenge for you to think about this weekend:

1. What is your biggest weakness keeping you from getting more clients? Put another way: What is it that you think keeps you from getting work from prospects, or that is your reason for not marketing your business more aggressively? Put yet another way, in the words of Pee Wee Herman: “Everyone has a big BUT.” What is yours?

2. Is this weakness an absolute truth or a subjective perception?

3. What is the easiest way to instantly reframe this weakness?

I’ll give my answers to these questions in next blog….But post your own answers and responses before then.

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  • Thirteenva

    Andrew, just want to say i think you have one of the best and most interesting blogs on this site. You challenge us to think and offer interesting perspectives on a subject you’re very affluent in. I wish some of the other blogs that fit more into my job description were as good. I find myself reading your blogs consistently even though I no longer freelance and need to market myself.

    Thanks for sharing your tips.

  • http://www.boagworld.com boagworld

    Time is an issue even when you are running your own business full time. I run a web design company with 2 other directors and 5 employees. No matter what we do we never seem to have enough time to focus on the growth of our business. We hired a project manager to take the loads off of us so we could focus on marketing and business strategy however i think we made a fundermental mistake at that point. With another mouth to feed we panicked and worried we wouldnt be able to bring enough work in. As a result we started under charging and so ended up just as busy again without really succeeding in growing the business. I believe that our strategy of removing ourselves from the day to day graft was right and that having more time should have allowed us to spend more time on business growth. We just got scared when it happenned. We are now in a position where we are having to start charging more realistically again so we dont have to take on so much work. This hopefully will allow us the time we need to think about how we grow from here.

  • Sergeant

    The reason I’m not trying to get more clients is that I’m still doing a study. I suppose that would be a pretty good excuse?

    So I could stop going to school. Or just follow the education and try to use the things I learn directly in my own business.

    Just 20 years old… Waiting till my study is done. So I can go full throttle.

  • mrtopher

    I agree with the 16 year old being hesitant about moving ahead with his advertising efforts. I am 19 and have been holding back “big” advertising efforts in fear that I might get “too popular” or things would get tough to juggle between college and work. Right now I do a very select mailing campaign every summer (of between 15 to 20 companies) and see what happens. Haven

  • http://www.bittime.com transio

    Good thought here. Most people don’t market themselves appropriately because of fear, then they make excuses to justify it to themselves. Webmonster, you’re a perfect example. If you have no time, you’re doing pretty well. Maybe it’s time to take that leap and quit your job and go for broke w/ your web design business. Or maybe you’ve got a little extra cash. So use that to pay someone else to assist in your marketing efforts or hire a part-time employee. The bottom line, though, is that it’s your fear of failure and the subsequent pain endured by your kids that is your “but”. You’re justifying your decision with a more logical reason (time), but that’s not the truth.

    Joseph Sugarman said that we make decisions based upon emotion and justify them with logic. He developed his entire sales strategy upon that assumption. I think that people who make decisions in business based upon emotion are selling themselves. Put that energy into selling other people your owrk and you’ll be a lot more successful !!!

    - Steve :D

  • karunnt

    Webmonster, if you are more interested in making money than being a web designer, then why not look into your background and find some area in which you have particluar expertise.

    Then take over the maintenence and also the content of a site for some organization in that field.

    The company must be able to benefit and be in need of these services and be able to pay good money for them.

    They would give you some framework and outline for the content and you would fill it in being the editor, writer, webdesigner, etc.

    Set up an extranet, a publishing workflow, make it look professional and easy for people to work with you. You would not have to meet them in person very often, get a monthly retainer, work across the country

    But it’s probably best to test this market first.

  • redleader

    I’ve built my web site, got the e-commerce working (though I do feel PayPal is seen as un-professsional for a web hosting service), and I’ve got a few clients.
    The only thing holding me back is a reliable source of direct mail addresses.

  • clintwilde

    I am facing the same issue right now, and I have decided I need to raise my rates. I have a current client that I will be meeting with in 2 days. I am a senior java developer with 5 years of web development experience and have been charging $30/ hour. I know it’s low. I was actually charging $100/ hour 2 years ago but I felt I needed to substantially lower it during the .com crash to get the contracts, but now I am convinced I need to raise it back up again.

    So how do I do it without losing the job?

  • http://www.SitePoint.com Matt Mickiewicz

    To readleader: InfoUSA.com is a great source for direct mail addresses. You can buy lists by business type, business size, business location and much more…

  • Anonymous

    The number one reason that most people don’t do more to be successful is; They don’t believe in themselves.

    They believe in who they are right now, but they don’t don’t believe in their potential for being someone more successful tommorow.

    Ken

  • karunnt

    The only way to approach this hypothesis is to test the theory out for a while. Try what you think will be a failure and see if you are correct.

    If it is not then you have climbed a major hurdle. If it is true, you have learned something and go find another way to achieve the same results.

    Either way you have won becuase the worst thing to do is stall in business.

    Being in business is being able to adapt to changing situations anyway.

  • http://www.thewebmonsters.com webmonster

    Without a doubt, my biggest problem in not marketing and growing my business is TIME. I don’t have any!!! I am 27 years old with a wife and 2 kids under the age of 5. I work a full-time job everyday that takes up 10 hours per day when you include the commute in the car. The only time I have to spend on my business is after 9:00pm most nights after my kids have gone to bed. I just don’t have the time and there is not a whole lot I can do about that at this point in my life because I am not ready to leave the comforts of my full-time job yet to pursue my own business. I just can’t take that risk when I have a family to take care of.

    I don’t want to sound like I am complaining because I think there are a lot of positives to the situation that I am in. Like I said, I have a very stable full-time job with a steady paycheck coming in every 2 weeks. I also have excellent health insurance and a 401K plan. I like my jog and all the people I work with and I do a slightly different job at work then I do for my own business so I don’t get tired of the same old thing all day and night. I get to grow my business without the worry of “Where is my next paycheck coming from” or “How can I afford to bring my sick kid to the doctor.” I don’t have those worries because of the full-time job I have.

    The downside of it all though is the time I don’t have to meet with clients during normal business hours and I don’t have time to REALLY work at marketing and growing my business. So to answer Andrew’s question, my problem is time and there is nothing I can do about it right now with the situation I am in.

    Someday I will be ready to take the plunge into my own business but right now I can’t risk it.

  • Taz121

    The answer to this one is simple – face your fears.

    Only when we face our fears are we going to defeat them. Five years ago, I was that sixteen year old that you mention, how did I over come it?

    I got myself a ‘sales job’ – selling car insurance.. This is where I first learned the difference between features and benefits (something recently mentioned in this blog).

    More recently, I decided to up my prices, this may sound strange, but I decided to pitch/quote a client with 3 times more than my usual cost – why? because I’m worth it.

    Anyway, back to the point, what’s my biggest weakness?

    – Thinking that my one man design shop is too small to handle blue-chip clients.

    This is a subjective perception.

    The easiest way to get over this is to identify it (as I am doing here) and to face it head on. Bite the bullet.

    After recently tripling my prices with a similar method – I ask myself what could go wrong.

    If my pitch isn’t accepted – I still win. I then have an idea that I can sell to another potential blue-chip. :)

    Thanks for the inspiration.. time to grow!

  • aneitlich

    Webmonster:

    How can you turn your weakness (time) into a strength from client’s point of view.

    At least in that context, there IS something you can do about it.

    Andrew

  • http://www.thewebmonsters.com webmonster

    Well I suppose you could look at my situation like this. Since I have a limited amount of time, that prevents me from taking on too many jobs and therefore allows me to focus more on one particular client at a time rather than trying to manage multiple jobs/clients all at once. That is the only positive I can see in it and even that can be looked upon as a disadvantage by some clients if they think the opposite which is that since I have a full-time job already then I won’t have enough time to dedicate to them. I guess it just depend which way you look at it… glass half empty or glass half full?

  • aneitlich

    Exactly. More on this on next blog….

    Andrew