Success E-Letter Vol.3/4 Fall '03
Marketing Conversations and Conversation Stoppers
Nina Ham, CPPC, LCSW
Where many marketing conversations get off-track are the ones you have with yourself, before you even pick up the phone or initiate the handshake. As independent professionals, usually at the helm of solo businesses, we sometimes find ourselves facing daunting internal obstacles as we try to begin our day’s marketing activity. With no one in our office-of-one to help with a confidence booster, an important resource to have in our self-management toolbox is a means of submitting the negative self-talk for an internal Second Opinion.
Let’s imagine you’re about to pick up the phone to follow up on a promising contact you met a few days ago. You recognize that the clammy hands gripping the phone are a sure sign that Fear of Rejection is in charge. You’ve convinced yourself that the voice about to answer your call is just waiting for an excuse, any excuse, to hang up. What to do? Time for a Second Opinion!
The Department of Second Opinions
The Department of Second Opinions draws on that part of yourself that knows enough to question the self-defeating voices by asking, “How real is this?” Buttressing its wisdom is the recognition that a conversation underlies every marketing activity as sub-text, a conversation that’s usually unspoken. While we may tend to think of marketing as telling people what we do, in fact all our marketing activities implicitly ask a question: “Do my services have potential value to you?” When Fear of Rejection is in charge, the door slams shut on any potential conversation. “Do my services have value?” “No!” End of conversation. But what if you stay in the (unspoken) conversation and wonder, “What are they actually saying no to, and why?” They could be saying no to having the conversation now, or to a perceived misfit between their needs and your services, or even to the person they couldn’t say no to 10 minutes earlier!
Viewed in this light, the imagined door slamming shut in your face shifts to a swinging door. Even if it shuts, you’re likely to come away with useful information about the needs of this prospect, or about how to better position your services for your target client. Even if it shuts on him or her as a prospect, you’ve gotten the word out to one more person about your services.
"I Can’t Sell Myself"
Another conversation stopper, particularly seductive for service professionals: “I Can’t Sell Myself”. This one actually negates any conversation from the outset, presuming instead that rather than talking, you have to convince or even manipulate the prospect. A Second Opinion might point to a more promising line of inquiry such as: How do I quickly and accurately inform myself about my prospect’s needs and present my services as an effective solution?
Shifting the internal voices
Shifting the internal voices – abandoning the conversation-stoppers or door-slammers and instead framing a question - gives you a good chance of getting off on positive footing for the actual conversation. It’s very helpful to remember that even if the prospect says no, this doesn’t have to be your last opportunity. When you relax into the conversation, into listening and asking as well as telling, you may hear an interest or need that has no direct connection to your services but provides a basis for staying in touch. This will indeed have been a successful marketing conversation! Good luck.