Selling something intangible, like services, is incredibility difficult.
It takes a lot of skill to convey how you deliver value. And it takes a lot of nuance to be able to communicate that value over and over and over.
But many times, we are our own worst enemy.
We sabotage our efforts — knowingly and unknowingly — to win business by taking any work, from any client, at any cost. Trouble is, that type of behavior can only get you so far. In the long run, it’s the single-biggest reason for failure.
Here are 5 critical lead generation and sales mistakes (and how to avoid them).
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Mistake #1: Commoditizing Yourself
When it comes to getting business, you don’t want to be just a number in a crowd. You don’t want to give up control or leverage. And you don’t want to deal with price sensitive people.
Because you’ll automatically become a commodity, and making yourself a commodity is career suicide.
And that’s why ideally, you should never use job boards or respond to RFPs.
(Responding to an RFP is exactly like using a job board, even though the numbers might be better and the client might be bigger.)
When you’re just another nameless, faceless member of a crowd, it becomes really easy to compare you on things that don’t matter (like features and price), and not on the things that do matter (like value you deliver).
MOST people are not qualified to accurately tell the difference between one service provider and another. (This will be a recurring theme through-out.)
So by lining you all up by nonsensical criteria like suspects in a police station, then it becomes extremely easy to shop based on price.
And if you compete on price, then you’ll never be able to make enough money to build your business, hire employees or contractors, and live a comfortable life.
Mistake #2: Selling Inputs, Not Outputs
My most lucrative service (in terms of highest client lifetime value) is SEO consulting.
But here’s the thing…
Nobody cares about SEO. Really, they don’t.
And even if they think they do, they don’t. Because most prospects — like 99.9% of the people I talk to — ARE NOT qualified to understand the intricacies of search engine optimization.
It’s not their fault. That doesn’t make them dumb. It’s just a very specialized area.
So selling someone based on features or inputs — like the number of keyphrases researched or the number of new backlinks each month — is stupid. It doesn’t make sense. And it automatically makes me compete for the lowest priced work.
Most (educated) buyers don’t care about that crap. Instead, they care about valuable, tangible, actionable things like how much awareness, how many leads, and the percentage of new business SEO is driving.
That stuff means something. It drives somebody’s business forward, and helps them take home more money for their family.
And as a result of prioritizing the value delivered, you get to charge a premium.
Mistake #3: Ignoring Brand Building
One of the biggest problems with most services companies is that they spend ALL of their time providing services.
But isn’t that what they’re supposed to do? Yes… and no.
Obviously a significant amount of your time should be devoted to providing services because that’s how you get paid today.
But another significant amount of your time should ALSO be devoted to building your business — which is how you get paid tomorrow.
It’s easy for service providers to get caught up in dealing with clients, spending every waking moment on “billable work”, and having tunnel vision. But what happens when this rich vein of work dies out (which it ultimately will a week, month, or year from now)?
Somehow, someway, you need to be simultaneously focusing on project management and brand building. Personally, I only spend 50% of time, or 20 hours each week, on billable work so that I have enough time to work on everything else. And even though I have more clients now than ever before, I continue to limit my client work to 50% by scaling my services, delegating work, etc. etc.
Like in personal finance, you need to be able to “pay yourself first” and spend a little time creating future demand for your services. Maybe that’s writing an industry column. Or perhaps that’s pursuing a speaking engagement.
It’s easy to lose the forest through the trees when you’re stuck in the weeds. Build your business first, than others.
Mistake #4: Giving Up Control & Leverage
When someone hires you to perform a set of services, YOU’RE the expert — not them. (Otherwise, they would just do it themselves.)
If contract terms are being dictated to you (like the scope and pricing), before you even get to the negotiating table, then you only have two choices:
- Accept the work and deal with outlandish requests, scope creep, and absurd timing schedules.
- Or be passed over.
By giving up all control and leverage, you’re forced to go along with whatever the prospect or clients wants. And typically, it puts you in a lose-lose situation. (Because as we’ve said before, in most cases the prospect or client doesn’t really know the correct plan of action.)
The prospect might not be an asshole on purpose. Maybe they have an aggressive boss who’s demanding a lot. Or maybe they’re tight on time and money and they need to feed their family. But humans are inherently greedy, so you need to be able to draw a line in the sand and stick up for yourself.
If a prospect or client doesn’t respect your opinion, and doesn’t see you as a business partner (not just a vendor), then you’ll never, ever, grow.
Mistake #5: Accepting Every Client
Michael Port, author of the great Book Yourself Solid, talks a lot about having a “Velvet Rope Policy” where you only work with the people who you can provide the best work.
The point is to (a) identify the types of clients you want, and then (b) only work with those people. Accepting every job or every client that comes by is a recipe for disaster.
Too often, we forget or ignore our own opportunity cost and waste time, energy, money, and stress on jobs that aren’t worth it.
If you’re a service provider, then there are basically only two ways to grow or make more money…
- Work more
- Earn more
The first answer is the easy, simple solution. But it’s the wrong answer. So we’re going to ignore it.
The second answer takes more creativity, focus, and skill.
For example, you can earn more by providing more value and thus raising your fees. Or you can earn more by introducing leverage and hiring subcontractors or employees.
Earning more is the only true way to grow your business and/or make more money.
The One Solution to Avoiding these Common Mistakes
These common sales mistakes can kill or cripple those who have the best intentions. So avoiding them and learning from them is critical.
And the one key…
The one underlying solution to all of these things…
… is inbound demand.
If you can consistently create inbound demand for your services, then you’ll be able to charge more, hire staff, and actually enjoy running a business.
I can help. We can set-up a time to talk about your business.
Or you can attend my free upcoming webinar on Wednesday, November 13th at 1pm PST. We’ll dive deep on getting more clients, and I’ll provide any feedback to questions or problems you might be struggling with.
Important: There will be NO replays or video recordings!