You’ve had your big idea, created your grand plan, but now what? Now comes the hard part – selling. Cue the imposter syndrome! You don’t have to be a 20-something, fresh-faced and naive, to feel anxiety when confronted by the task of sales.
We’ve all been there – heck, I still am, for much of the time (social anxiety doesn’t help). And as the saying goes, it does get more comfortable with time and experience. But that doesn’t help when you need to make sales now. You need to get your big idea out there and have people biting your hand off for what you’re offering; otherwise, your business will be dead in the water.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m lucky and quite privileged. In my household, we have savings, my partner has a steady income from regular employment, and even if I locked myself in a closet for the next few months, we’d stay afloat. A lot of new entrepreneurs can only dream of that level of security. But, naturally, there’s a payoff: I didn’t have to swim or face the sinking. I’ve had time to build up my business gradually, to hesitate, overthink, and play it safe.
That wasn’t intended as a ‘humble-brag’. In fact, not being forced to learn to sell has massively held me back. I’ve been shy, apologetic, awkward when discussing money, and undervaluing myself dramatically. I’ve sought client’s approval in compensation for the lack of value on my side of the transaction – but businesses don’t grow with pats on the back and a “that’s great, we love it!”. The testimonials are lovely (keep ’em coming!), the ‘exposure’ is nice (but never guaranteed), and knowing I’ve made a difference for someone else’s growing business is a priceless reward.
But my business expenses aren’t ‘priceless’. Rent and food and clothing aren’t ‘priceless’. My plans for the future aren’t ‘priceless’. And my time is precious, but not ‘priceless’. So I’ve needed to take a good hard look in the mirror and make the conscious decision that my skills, my passion, and the work I produce isn’t without a fair price. And yours shouldn’t be, either.
Well that’s sounds easy, but…
“But, Lexi”, I hear you yelp, followed by something like:
“I don’t have the confidence to charge what I deserve; I’ve not been doing this long!”
“I feel like an imposter in my industry; I don’t feel like I deserve to be doing this!”
“No one will take me seriously if I charge premium prices, I’ll lose customers!”
Well, buckle up, my brother-or-sister-in-arms, because there are two routes here:
- View your work or products as mere commodities, and scale back and price them accordingly, carefully managing tight profit margins and pray the sales will roll in.
- Find some damn confidence in what you do, get paid what you deserve so you can grow your business and enjoy your life.
We’ll assume you’re reading this because you want to figure out how to apply the second option. If the first appeals more to you, then frankly, I can’t help you – I do creativity, not number-crunching.
It’s time for a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!
First, realise that you’re helping your clients. You’re not a skeezy salesman trying to rip somebody off and pull a fast one. You’re genuinely investing your time, expertise, passion, and unique perspective to help solve a problem for them. Stop feeling bad about asking for a fair exchange of value. You’re bringing skills to the table that they require, not trying to sell them a dodgy used car (hopefully). So have some pride in your ability to help!
Second, what’s their problem worth to them? How much does it cost them in lost time, sales, convenience, comfort, etc.? That’s the value of your offering, and it will vary by customer. You will always be out of someone’s price range. Some will consider a low rate a sign of unprofessionalism or lack of expertise, whereas others will find a high price beyond justification. It doesn’t matter – your work is worth whatever someone will pay for it. £1000 is a lot of money to one person, but it’s considered small-change for someone else. There’s a huge market out there, so don’t position yourself at the low, commodity-driven end of it. Never bid to the bottom.
Third, realise that you need to be your business’ biggest fan. You need to love your idea (and its execution) more than anyone else. You need to embrace it, breathe it, hype it, and bring it to life. If you don’t, then perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board or figure out why you don’t perceive the value of your offering. Respect yourself, your skills, and your passion. If you love what you do, if you realise it’s value to your clients, then you’ll want to shout about it.
And not everyone will want to hear you: that’s okay. I’m sure Lamborghini’s are great, but that’s not what I’d spend money on (even if I could afford it right now). Does that dissuade them? Of course not! I’m not their target customer, so they don’t care. I also don’t buy the own-brand, cheapest tins of beans from the supermarket (is it just me, or does it taste like dusty tomato sauce?) – but I’m sure someone else likes them. Your product or service will not be suitable for everyone – and if it is, you’re selling a commodity (see option one above, and godspeed).
Make a scene, damnit!
Finally, you need to ‘advertise’ it. I’m not saying you need to throw a thousand pounds at Google Ads for any traction to happen (it probably doesn’t hurt, but that’s a topic for another day). You need to write content. You need to send emails. You need to contact potential buyers (ew, cold-calling, I know). You need to create offers and events that get people excited. You need to get your business card in people’s hands (for the rest of 2020, you might need to fold it into a small paper aeroplane and throw it 2+ metres). Stop overthinking and start creating.
And all the while, you need to be in love with your business. Just like that friend who’s almost annoyingly giddy over their new relationship with Mr Dreamy, you’ve got to sing praises until everyone’s so damn curious that they have to show up and find out what all the fuss is about. And they will!
Don’t just bring your offering to the table and stand back quietly with your arms folded, trying not to make a fuss. Make a fuss; this is your livelihood! Cover the damn thing in confetti and make it sing and dance (so to speak… depends on what you’re selling, really). The fact is, a few people will decline over price, they will give you the side-eye and think you’re full of it, they will decide that your work is not valuable enough to them. That’s fine, because that’s not your ideal customer, anyway! And so the ‘big secret’? The difference between a new, nervous business owner and a seasoned, successful entrepreneur is simply this: They know and have accepted all of that, and they’ve decided it doesn’t bloody matter.