The Baseball Rule of Personal Branding

StrikeThree strikes and you’re out. You may do all the personal branding and business marketing imaginable. But, if you can’t move through the bases of new business development, you’re OUT.

Marketing is getting easy and easier. But your sales from social media marketing are probably getting worse, if you see any results at all. Why? You’re only ready to strike out. You’re not prepared for success.

Here’s what I mean. Marketing is really simple now. Just tweet and link to your website or article.  That gets you in the game really fast.

Over time, you attract followers – including qualified prospects. This means people (like me) need what you’re selling – and have money to pay you. We click on relevant tweets with links. That gets us onto your website or an article you’ve written.  You seem like you know what you’re talking about.

If you were prepared to succeed, we would be your customers within 24-48 hours. But, two-thirds of business people aren’t ready for the most important conversation you can have: talking to a qualified prospect.

Can You Recognize a Qualified Prospect?
In case you don’t know, here’s what qualified prospect looks and sounds like.

  1. We have a problem we’ve identified, even if it’s not the “right” one.
  2. We could use expert guidance to understand the consequences or tentacles of the problem.
  3. We need your help to define the right sized solution, especially because what we need may not be exactly what we think we need.
  4. We need simple to understand pricing information, so we know what you deliver for our money.
  5. We can afford to solve the problem, and more importantly: you created a feeling of urgency to get to it right away. You’ve amplified the downsides of leaving things as-is. Alternatively, you’ve made our mouths water thinking about the pay-offs we get from working with you.

How a Direct Message Gets You Up to Bat
A qualified prospect probably sends you a direct message to begin the attempt to work with you. Learn to recognize it. Here’s an typical exchange.

PROSPECT to YOU: Do you do handle (insert problem/solution)
YOU to PROSPECT: Absolutely! What’s your project?
PROSPECT to YOU: Briefly (insert quick spec). Can you email me (insert my email)?

Then, you and the prospect email back and forth a bit, even talk directly. This is where you strike out. It’s like we’ve put a softball onto a T-ball stand in front of you. How do you miss?

When you are obviously unprepared with relationship-building skills, including the right questions, along with examples, success stories, roadmaps, references and budgets: you unwittingly reveal you’re no major league expert.

You ask about the “project,” not the challenge we’re facing or opportunity we’re trying to capitalize on.

You don’t have the time or you lack the communication skills to help prospects define what we need. You’re unprepared to lead us with questions or examples that capture the downstream consequences of our problems or the upside of solving them.

Sad, because the single greatest factor in your getting a job is your participation in defining it. If only you were ready with the right questions.

You poke around in your prospects’ pockets.  We’ve taken an inexpert stab at defining our project (which is what you call our problem when you talk to us). Now you want us to tell you what we should pay you.

Your bad. Don’t rely on customers to come up with your price. Once you’ve defined the problem accurately, produce a price list that describes similar jobs, reflecting a range of costs. Maybe you have a menu of functionality or customization, based on objectives. How about terms and timelines? Time is money.

You don’t have samples and references.

Maybe you’re too busy working to get your site together.  Maybe you forget to save your work and you have no idea how to ask for a reference letter. Or maybe, you’ve thought about the business you’re promoting, but you don’t really do it.  You don’t have to be a veteran to win over prospects, but if you’re a newbie: you must partner with someone who has samples and references.

How to Go All the Way with a Prospect

Get down the fundamentals of the game.

  1. Write and practice clear, crisp and compelling questions that get you the information you need, and inspire the prospect to do business with you. Make a FAQ cheat sheet for yourself. This allows you to get back quickly via email or be ready to lead conversations on-the-spot.
  2. Prepare a price list with job descriptions and timelines.
  3. Put your samples together with highlights of outcomes they helped achieve. Make these easy to see on your website, or send in a email. Post testimonials.

It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame. Get prepared to win.

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