by Marcia Hoeck
I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief when I got my business to the point of being able to say to clients, “I’ve got 25 years of experience in this area, and I’ve successfully helped many businesses like yours with exactly the same challenges you’re having right now.” It is definitely cool to have earned that right.
But all is not lost if you’re not there yet. The Internet has changed everything.
It used to be that businesses had to have stood the test of time in order to be trusted, and it was far more difficult to gain trust without the credibility of experience—believe me, I fought my way through it before the days of the computer and the Internet.
Today, because anyone with something to say or a good idea can get out there in a matter of minutes and proclaim it—to the entire world, no less—the playing field is busted wide open. Anyone can compete.
Other things are more important than the number of years you’ve been in business.
Here’s what’s important:
* Do you know what your audience really wants?
* Can you deliver it?
* Can you talk about it in a way that’s engaging to them, so they understand how you can help?
* Is what you offer something they want badly enough that they’re willing to pay for it?
* Are your solutions things they can put into use and see the benefit of?
Bingo. These things are much more valuable to your clients than how many years you’ve been in business.
In fact, if you’re young, your youth may be an asset for many of your clients.
If your clients are young, they want you to be young, too. Their opinion of themselves is high because of their youth and energy and impact, and they’re not likely to hold your youth against you. And the older market is now convinced of the value of working with younger people as well—in fact, many corporations now hire young people specifically to mentor older employees for their knowledge of technology and social media. It’s their brains they’re after, not the number of years they’ve been in business.
Young people are smart, aggressive, energetic, they know how to make the new relationships work, and they think they can conquer the world—who wouldn’t want someone like that on their side?
It’s all about how well you know your clients—it’s not really about you.
So if you do have a few years under your belt, go ahead and promote the fact—people still want to hear you know what you’re doing. And if you don’t, don’t worry about it, and don’t apologize for it, either. No matter how much experience you have, clients want to know, today more than ever, that you’ve got what they want, that you can deliver, and that it will help them. Show them you’ve got these things covered, and your value to them will be evident.
“If your clients are young, they want you to be young, too. Their opinion of themselves is high because of their youth and energy and impact, and they’re not likely to hold your youth against you.”
1. In your conversations with potential clients, be the “asker” instead of the “answerer” or the “teller,” especially if you don’t have very much experience. Asking questions gets the client to focus on his challenges, draws out the information you need to determine if you can help him, and makes you appear smart and interested. Here’s a valuable lesson: more clients find value in the type of questions you ask than in the information you present.
2. Before you meet with potential clients, do your homework. Read up on their industry, and find out about the general challenges they face. Poke around their website, read their press releases. Knowledge of their current trends and circumstances is much more valuable than your past history.
1. Read Jack Trout’s classic, Differentiate or Die, to make sure your niche is narrow enough that you can get to know your target market. It’s hard to promote your value to “the world.”
2. Study up on what your audience really wants by reading their industry trade publications and going to their events.
3. Read Harry Beckwith’s insightful What Clients Love.