If you have a business (or would like one) as a coach, consultant or other service-based business and you’re struggling to talk about your services to potential clients or people who could refer you business it may be that you have doubts about yourself and the value you provide.
This is something I see so often with my clients.
They reach out because they either have an existing business or are in the early stages of business development but are struggling to get the sales they need for their business to be profitable and sustainable.
When we look at what they’re doing with their days I can see where they’re going wrong. They’re spending lots of time working – but not on the things that matter.
They’re tweaking their webcopy, making nice- looking posts for social media, and cleaning their office, but they’re not doing what they need to do to connect to their potential customers directly.
When I explore this, the reason for this procrastination becomes evident. They are lacking confidence. They doubt themselves and whether they can provide the results that they are saying they can provide.
The compare themselves to others with more established businesses and feel like they could never be there. This saps their energy and motivation, leaving them discouraged and unproductive.
If you’re stuck in a similar place, where you want to grow your business but hold yourself back from marketing yourself and your services because you doubt your value, try the ideas that follow.
Get more practice.
The one thing that will help you build your confidence in your service is by doing the work! The more clients you work with, the more you’ll develop the skills and capacities to get better results. So if you’re short of clients or don’t feel skilled or experienced enough to take on full fee clients, start with offering your services for a reduced fee.
One client I worked with was starting out with coaching but kept putting off getting started. She always had what seemed to be a valid excuse but when we looked more closely it was because she didn’t feel ready.
Following my advice she contacted her friends and told them she was offering reduced sessions and immediately got a few people interested (which validated her idea and the demand). Once she had done a few sessions with two clients her confidence increased, she had her systems and processes in place and she felt ready to start taking on more higher fee clients.
2. Keep a record of any feedback you receive.
If you’re struggling to value what you provide it may be that you suffer from imposter syndrome where you struggle to internalize success. You make sense of any successes as the result of luck but failures as they result of personal failings.
I remember when I started out blogging it could be really easy to convince myself that my writing wasn’t good enough and no one found what I wrote useful. I still remember an email I got from someone really early on who described how much reading my email had helped him and how grateful he was for the work I was doing. Receiving this gave me the energy and motivation to continue at a time when I could have easily given up.
Having feedback like this in one easily accessible place can be really helpful when you’re having moments when you forget the impact that you’ve already had.
And when you start to work with clients, make sure you ask for feedback afterwards. Jenny Shih has a great system for being able to ask for feedback and testimonials.
3. Learn how to cope with failure and rejection.
While no one likes to fail, if you’re emotionally sensitive you probably see failure as a sign that you’re a failure and experience shame as a result. When you received negative feedback or even no feedback you experience it as a personal rejection.
When I ask clients about the expectations they have about telling people about what they do, they’re often expecting negative consequences. They’re imagining that people won’t be interested in what they have to offer or will question their credibility.
But when they take the risk to try the results are often quite the opposite. One clients challenged herself to start talking about her consulting business more openly and was so surprised how interested people were. She was also able to get valuable feedback from people in her niche market so she could refine her message.
Again, being conscious of developing a growth mindset here is the key. See each challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow, to develop skills and capacities that will serve you in the future.
Another strategy is to practice seeing yourself as capable of succeeding. Again, if you struggle with self-doubt if can be difficult for you to imagine positive outcomes to challenging situations –you’re far more likely to focus on and worry about the negative outcome. A great exercise to do this is the Best Possible Selves Diary from Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. This is one of the best activities to help you build confidence and change you self concept.
Here’s what to do:
“There are many ways to practice optimism, but the one that has been empirically shown to enhance well-being is the original Best Possible Selves diary method. To try it out, sit in a quiet place, and take twenty to thirty minutes to think about what you expect your life to be one, five, or ten years from now. Visualize a future for yourself in which everything has turned out the way you’ve wanted. You have tried your best, worked hard, and achieved all your goals. Now write down what you imagine. This writing exercise in a sense puts your optimistic ‘muscles’ into practice. Even if thinking about the brightest future for yourself doesn’t come naturally at first, it may get there with time and training. Amazing things can come about as a result of writing.”
I recommend that you do this as often as you can, preferably on a daily basis. If you can only manage 5 minutes, rather do 5 minutes than not at all.
A nice question to add to this is, “In order to achieve this goal, who do I have to become?” For me being able to continue working on my PhD consistently and growing my business, while looking after my two children requires a level of organization, planning and focus beyond my current capacities. So this is part of my development plan – developing better skills in these areas.
I remember the feeling when my coach asked me to think about the person that I will have become in a year after this rather intense growth period. It was a rather nice thought!
So what about you. What is holding you back from moving forward with your business and what small step can you take today that will help you build your confidence in the value you provide?