Who We Serve Independent Professionals And Small Business Owners
The term 'independent professional' can refer to a wide variety of people and businesses. We define that term in the broadest way possible. An independent professional may be a sole proprietor, be part of an affliated group of professionals, or have a small staff - whose size and employment status is often flexible, based on specific and shifting needs. Rather than attempting to describe everyone we consider an independent professional, a sampling will hopefully adequately define it. For us, independent professional include:
Providers of professional or consulting services who often, but not always, have an advanced degrees: engineers, therapists and other health practitioners, curriculum designers, attorneys, software engineers and implementators, etc.
Experienced members of what are traditionally considered skilled trades, often with professional certifications: electricians, carpenters, plumbers, automobile mechanics, furniture designer and repairer, locksmith, etc.
Someone who is passionate about making a living doing from a hobby or something they love, and that may or may not have an academic degree or professional certification: graphic designers, website developers, IT support technicians, chefs and bakers, restauranteurs, bead makers, landscaper, etc.
The common characteristics among those groups are that they are very knowledgeable and skilled in their chosen occupation, but frequently lack expertise - or in some cases, any experience at all - in how to market and sell their services. That lack of expertise is a common reason for the excessively high failure rate of new and small businesses. Starting a business and making it successful is a daunting task filled with many obstacles. Having to learn how to be a marketer and sales person adds to it. Just a sampling of the marketing and sales knowledge and skills that may be required include:
Graphic design or the other creative necessary to generate marketing collateral
Understanding of the components of branding and how to establish brand awareness
Knowing how to design and build websites
Understanding advantages of different advertising and other marketing mediums, and how to evaluate their usefulness in promotong your business
How to conduct effective assessments and discovery so that opportunities can be qualified, and needs identified and quantified
Negotiation skills to maintain margins and manage customer expectations
And all of those are key knowledge and skills related to marketing and sales. Developing them is critical and presents a major challenge to independent professional and small business owners.
There are countless challenges in being an independent professional or small business owner. Marketing and sales are just a few, and can be easily dismissed or underappreciated in the massive amount of tasks and frenzy of activity related to starting the business. But marketing and sales is a core function and critical to the success of the business. But most independent professionals are lacking in some or all of the necessary marketing and sales skills.
As mentioned in the previous tab, lack of expertise in marketing and sales is a common reason for the failure of many new and small businesses. And for a new business, the impact of failure early on can be more devastating than for established businesses. Limited cash resources, the importance of establishing a strong initial reputation and brand, and the need develop a customer base make each early failure that much more impactful.
Some of the factors that contribute to making the development of marketing and sales expertise even more challenging to the independent professional or small business owner are:
Many are starting with limited funds and launching the business is expensive, so there is often a rush to generate business and revenue - but rushing results in mistakes.
With all of the expenses and other reources related to starting the business, early failures can be even more significant
Most of the information and programs on marketing and sales are geared toward other applications (e.g., corporate sales reps, established companies, larger enterprises with more resources) and the small busines owners lack of expertise in those areas makes translating that information to their environment even more difficult
often have competing demands on time - key ones being providing services vs enagaing in sales and marketing
vendors do not have your best interests at heart - try to sell you products and services you don't need
The challenges listed above relate to the obstacles to developing the skills and knowledge necssary to market your business, and sell you products or services. The specific challenges in marketing and sales are another set of difficulties. In addition to the general challenges facing any marketers and sales people, particular ones for independnent professionals include:
Defining your target markets
Creating compelling value propositions
Adopting sales and marketing practices that are consistent with your professional stature
Developing and executing effective marketing plans and campaigns, including websites and collateral materials
Qualifying opportunities so that resources are allocated effectively and efficiently
Knowing how to orchestrate the steps to a buying decision
Proving the full value of your services and negotiating fair compensation
Managing customer expectations
To start with, there are some best practices that relate specifically to how independent professionals and small business owners approach both the development of the required marketing and sales expertise, and their marketing and sales in general. They include:
First and foremost, being able to do an honest analysis of your strengths and weaknesses, with respect to sales and marketing, and take action to remediate areas in need of development
With respect to marketing, take a strategic view in planning and an incremental approach in execution - spend extra time developing a plan before you act and recognize the step-by-step nature of developing a foundation to build on
Fully evaluate your marketing options - they will be numerous and each will promise fantastic results, so assess their track record and how they support your marketing plan
Be very conscious about how your approach and actions define your brand - that the way you market and sell reflects your business and represents it more publically than just about anything esle
As should be the case, most of the general best practices in sales pertain to independent professionals and small business owners. Modifying them as needed so that they work in your specific environment is the challenge and the key to your success. We have designed a specialized program to do just that. You can also learn more about the general best practices in sales. In summary, top sales performers:
Have effective conversations that enagage prospects and elicit necessarry information
Clearly identify the nature of the need or want being addressed (e.g., it's urgency in terms of time, it's importance in terms of basic needs or important values, etc,) that is driving action
Orchestrate the steps to a buying decision
Identify the key players in a buying decision and address their specific concerns
Qualify opportunities on all three major criteria
Persuade without coming across as manipulative
Effectively overcomes competitive threats
Manage the demands and expectations of customers so that they are satisfied with both the purchase and the buying experience
Building referral networks
From our experience working with independent professionals and small business owners, we have developed a specialized program to address their specific needs and challenges. To best accomodate your needs, we also offer our services through a variety of modalities, including:
Distance-learning programs (web and telephone)
Self-paced workbooks and other instructional materials
Job aids and other support tools
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