We solopreneurs are CEOs of our business, but that stands for Chief Everything Officer. We are responsible for everything from strategic planning to marketing to sales to accounting to – oh, yeah – whatever it is that we charge our clients for.
Every business experiences lulls, times when it seems that you barely have the energy to drag yourself into your office, and you can’t stand the thought of having to go out and generate business. This happens to everyone, and it often happens at the end of the year and during the middle of the year, as people are out of the office or in vacation mode and not doing a lot. Here are some of the actions I add to my marketing plan when I need to rev my marketing efforts up a notch.
One of the critical characteristics of a successful solopreneur is the willingness to hold what Zen Buddhists call shoshin, or “beginner’s mind,” in every situation. Beginner’s mind looks with wonder and without preconceptions, assuming that you do not understand or see all aspects of the situation or all the possibilities present. Even (especially!) when you considers yourself an expert, you look at it as if seeing it for the first time. This willingness to let go of the ego-attachment of being an expert lets you see things in a different and fuller way.
In my experience, this means constantly living slightly outside my comfort zone, to acknowledge that each situation is new and what was true in other situations may not be true in this one. Being an expert, even being the expert in a field, isn’t sufficient to build a successful business. While I always feel a bit stretched, it is a good and healthy thing to be reminded frequently that I need to look at situations from a fresh perspective.
Maybe it’s because I was getting ready for my webinar, From Zero to Clients: Starting (or Re-starting) Your Word-of-Mouth Referral Machine, but I reached out to my network several times last week, asking for referrals for various jobs I needed done. What I experienced showed me just how critical these referrals are for solopreneurs and how important it is to excel if you have been referred to someone.
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great piece on how to be a better listener. While it’s useful in any conversational setting, it is particularly valuable when you are approaching a negotiation with a client.
Before a negotiation, for example, you should:
- do a brain dump of pending work so you can pick it up later (so your mind is clear)
- make a list of questions and topics you want to cover (This enables you to fully listen to the other person, rather than constantly thinking of what you want to say next.)
- set an intention to talk 25% and listen 75% (yes, really!)
- drop your assumptions of what the other person will say and just listen
In preparation for my presentations at the 2014 SLA Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO (that’s a mouthful), I went through the online directory of exhibitors to get some good examples of vendors describing themselves by value rather than by lists of features. I was dismayed to see that virtually all of them simply described the company (“we’ve been in business for X years”, “a global leader in information blah blah”) and mentioned what services they offer.
Very few exhibitors took the time to tell exhibit hall attendees why their product or service would be meaningful or would enable the attendees to accomplish their goals. Only a handful talked about the value they provide to this group of professionals. Given the cost to exhibit, I would expect a little more energy invested in figuring out and articulating their value proposition.