By Andrew Neitlich

Finesse: How to overcome the issue of strengths vs. weaknesses

By Andrew Neitlich

The last blog challenged you to think about your biggest weakness, or reason why a client wouldn’t hire you. It then asked you how to handle this with clients.

Here’s my answer:

Every strength is a weakness and every weakness is a strength. Those who know how to finesse a weakness into a strength (and a competitor’s strength into a weaknesses) will get more clients than those who don’t.

The way to turn your weaknesses into strengths is by playing the “That’s exactly why you should hire me” game. Here’s how it works:

1. Client tells you a concern or perceived weakness.
2. You say, “That’s exactly why you should hire me.”
3. Finesse the reason why.

Here are some examples:

Client: You are too young, not even out of high school.
You: That’s exactly why you should hire me. I’m passionate about web design, whereas some older competitors might be a bit jaded, doing it by rote. Also, I know about the latest innovations to help you create a powerful web presence, whereas those who have been at it longer than me might be a bit rusty. Plus, I understand that some clients might be skeptical. That’s why I go out of my way to be flexible, responsive, and to do what it takes to delight you. Finally, overhead is not a big issue for me, so you’ll get a fair price for high quality work.

Client: You have no references from previous clients like me.
You: That’s exactly why you should hire me. I’m new to this business, and building a client base. While web designers with tons of references might take you for granted, I’m going to do everything possible to earn your trust and turn you into a reference.

Client: I don’t like you.
You: That’s exactly why you should hire me. Lots of people react negatively to my sometimes gruff personality. But that means I don’t have to worry about being popular. I can be objective, and focus on helping you achieve your business goals — even if it means giving you some tough advice. And, I have thick skin, and don’t mind if you tell me whatever is on your mind.

Client: You don’t seem committed enough to your business. After all, you are only at it part time.
You: That’s exactly why you should hire me. I am part time, and so I have to choose my clients carefully in order to manage my time. If we work together, you’ll be one of only a very few, select clients. That way, I can give you my full attention. Also, I don’t mind working weekends and through the night to get the job done for you, so you will find me even more accessible and responsive than full timers who work 9 to 5.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Almost nothing is absolute in sales and marketing. It’s all about creating perception. And that requires finesse.

So, do you have finesse or not?

  • Sergeant

    Client: I don’t like you. You: That’s exactly why you should hire me.

    Haha, nice one…

    Bit I do think it will work when you are really serious about what you’re saying. Bringing up some really good arguments will increase the chance of being selected.

    Client: You’re bad at desiging. You: That’s exactly why you should hire me. I’m willing to make a very good design and because I know I’m not that good at making a nice design I will definitly do my very best to provide you with the best design ever. I will discuse it with my new designer ASAP.

    I guess this is the trick ain’t it?

  • momos

    Client: Your dress-code does not fit our profile. You: That is why you should hire me. I jump out. People notice me, as they notice my designs.

  • Andrew,

    I agree with your strategy to a degree, but I believe that you’re not really answering the question of your last blog entry, which was directed more at the emotional dampers people put on themselves, holding them back from pursuing sales. I really wish you would have pursued that point further, because that’s really the question that was posed to you. The 16-year old you mentioned was insecure about himself and his ability to run a successful design studio. He had a valid concern, which was his age. That should be addressed (maybe in your next entry).

    Anyhow, this entry is about sales.

    While you raise another good point, I believe that you’re over-simplifying the psychology of sales to a great extent. You’re bringing up the point of rebuttals. Every good salesman should have a rebuttal for any question or negative that may be posed to him. Not only the ones that he feels self-conscious about, but any that the client may bring up.

    “I can’t afford a website,” is the most common. Easy rebuttal: “With the money it will make for you, you can’t afford NOT to have a website!”

    Skillful salesmanship is a multi-faceted psychological toolbox. You really can’t teach sales in one blog entry. Some people have many of the required skills naturally. However, you need to read to fine-tune your ability to sell.

    I suggest the following reading to anyone who’s interested in improving their ability to sell:

    “How to Become a Rainmaker”

    Both are great books with great techniques and good info on how to overcome your weaknesses to become a superb salesman.

  • aneitlich


    Great points.

    Yes, I am oversimplifying on sales. This post is a quick “clinic” or focused exercise on one aspect of sales. It’s like practicing a simple forehand in tennis. So it’s just a game, and a basic one, for those who could use some practice. It provides a script that probably shouldn’t be used in live conversations (too stilted) but that participants in my trainings have found fun and useful.

    And yes, you are absolutely right that I need to address the deeper issue raised in the last blog. I’ll do that in the next one….

    Thanks for keeping me honest.



  • What happens if you take on a really big project, and you realise its way too complex or way too big?

    Do you accept defeat or carry on regardless? And what should a person’s reaction be to a company that queries why you accepted defeat before ‘death’?

  • worchy,

    Sometimes you have to accept that a project will be impossible for you to complete before taking it, and be wise enough to turn it down. That requires project management. If it’s just too good a project to turn away, then you will have to either contract parts of it out or let the potential client know that taking on the project will require growth of your company and patience from him or her, since you’ll be experiencing growing pains. If you’ve already taken the project, you may want to consult with a bigger company and take steps to hand it off or sell it to them, or you may want to look for a contracter who can assist you in completion of it. Never resign on a project that you’ve taken on. Part of accepting a contract is a commitment to the customer to complete it. Quitting is habit-forming.

    I don’t understand your last question. Why would a company ask you that, unless you have accepted defeat?

    – Steve

  • Transio> I think I’m going to have to disagree with you to a degree (haha, there’s something new).

    While he didn’t explicitly answer that question – he did in a round about way. Let’s rethink why that 16 year old might be a bit timid to start his company.

    Most people in that sort of situation are afraid that when meeting with clients they wiill bring up the fact that they are young and have no experience. With this new tool to combat questions like these, he could easily go to his next potential very sure of himself and realize in his mind that he can do the job. Then when the prospect brings up his age, he can come back with something that makes him seem more profitable than he was before.

    So, I believe as long as this 16 year old can answer questions like Andrew did earlier, he has no excuses for why he is too young. Subsequently, neither will his clients.

    Once again, excellent entry.

  • Hey Brak!

    Didn’t know you read this list! You’re missing the point I was trying to make.

    Andrew’s last entry was about self-sabotage regarding marketing. That’s only indirectly related to sales, which deals with the psychology of the potential client rather than the self.

    The point I was making was that even with these tools, that 16 year-old hasn’t really been given the ability to deal with his own insecurity. He’s only got a canned response to the question – a response which he doesn’t believe himself. That’s a much deeper issue, one which should be resolved prior to developing a rebuttal strategy.

  • Jake

    Hey guys, since we’re on the subject of 16 year olds (ME!!! :-), I have a question. I have a choice right now, I can either get a job to pay for my truck insurance, gas, Korg keyboard and computer software (Flash, Dreamweaver, etc.), or I could start my own web dev. business. I’m a decent web developer, I know HTML, CSS, XML, PHP, JavaScript, ActionScript, and a little Java and C++ (in the order of what I know best). My biggest weakness is in graphic design, but I’m starting to get better at it by trying to read at least a couple articals/tutorials/books about it every few days.

    Also, if you suggest I start my own business, do I create an actual business? As in, well, you know, a business! :-) Where people pay the biz. for my services. Or do I just have people pay me? With cash or a check to my personal bank account?

    I’ve been reading books such as the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series, and “INC. And Grow Rich”, and it seems like creating a business would be the best way of doing it, cutting taxes down and such…


  • Could you use the “that’s exactly why you should hire us?” on this:

    We’re not interested…

  • If someone said you’re not interested, I would say “If I can show you through case studies how businesses similar to your increased their profits through a website, would you change your mind?”

  • aneitlich


    Did you see most recent blog? Did it satisfy your objection? I was looking forward to your comment on it, and was disappointed to have seen nothing from you, yet.


  • Rick

    Where I live, very often interviewers ask you to give 3 flaws about yourself. Is there a hint to use this to my advantage?

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