Have you ever been a part of this new client scenario?
You: Thank you so much for meeting with me to discuss your upcoming XYZ. We are excited to work on this project with you and have a few more questions. Let’s discuss your timeline and budget.
Potential Client: Thank you for meeting with us also. I know you are building your business and this project would be great for you to meet some potential clients and other business leaders. We are looking for you to offer this service pro bono.
You: blank stare* I have been in business X amount of years and am not looking to take on any pro bono clients.
PC: But you could take your little business to the next level with our recommendation.
You: blank stare and slowly back away
While I can’t see you through the computer screen I can almost venture to guess that many of you are about to nod your head off in agreement. I have been in the PR business for six years but I have had a couple of businesses before this one and I have had some variation of this same scenario happen more often that I think is necessary to share. At some point people dismiss the fact that you might not need their business as much as they think. Somehow, somewhere there are a group of people who hold a boldness I don’t understand and can ask you to make an investment in them but will not make an investment in themselves and pay for your services. Now don’t get me wrong I do believe that you should evaluate each of these scenarios on a case-by-case basis. You might find that you do need to take one a client one time at your cost to build a long-term large contract. HOWEVER, don’t get bullied into this or second-guess your services, tenure, and worth.
How about this business meeting scenario?
You: It would be my suggestion to do XYZ because it will more efficiently impact the consumer
Colleague: Well, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and you should just do it my way
You: *blank stare and slowly walk away
As a woman it excites me to sit in a meeting with other women where we all speak with such enthusiasm about business, the growth of our community, economic advancement, and how we must create a seat at every table possible. After all, it is empowering to know that individually we are great but collectively we are powerful. On the other hand the most uncomfortable situation to be in is a meeting where everyone is competing but no one ever realizes that they are fighting. If we are offered a seat at the table doesn’t that mean we are qualified? Wouldn’t that mean our experience, while different, complements each other? The bottom line is that we must accept that we are all different, embrace that we don’t know everything, and work together for the greater good of whatever we are working on.
And here is the last scenario…
I consult with quite a few business owners and they often find that the people closest to them are the ones quickest to dismiss their work and skills. Their question to me is often “how do I receive the respect I deserve without walking around with my bio, resume, or case studies?” I give them a step-by-step approach regarding their brand and how to better showcase their service offerings and personal brand. HOWEVER, the long of the short is that some people will never understand your business, how valuable your skills are, or why you can’t give away or barter services. This can even include family, which is a hard pill to swallow. Just know that those people (who never get you or your business) are not your audience; your core is someone you can work with because they understand what you can do for them OR they want to understand what you can do for them.
Somewhere along the line three things happen; 1) people will always consider you and your business little, emerging, or not ‘there’ yet when it is convenient for them 2) some people live in a (business) silo and think that you are only great if they have worked with you before, heard of you through a particular network, or have seen you on television and 3) some people have an aversion to seeing others excel and will always question your credentials and tenure no matter the letters behind your name, awards to boot, or long list of clients.
So before you order the shirts I am working on with “Check My Resume” on it here are a just a few (there are many) suggestions to make the process a little easier.
Learn how to promote yourself: I say this all the time but it is not a bad thing to talk about yourself. In ‘You Are Your Biggest Fan’ I highlight the need to toot your own horn, especially as women, to ensure your name is among the ranks. Don’t feel bad for asking others to nominate you for awards, sharing them on your website and social networks. Also, learn how to narrow down your elevator speech and present during networking opportunities.
Train others to respect you: When people call me for advice, and they are looking for a 10 minute answer and not an hour coaching, they almost always start the call with “I know you don’t work for free but I have a quick question…feel free to not answer it.” I am always tickled that people know me so well that they give themselves a caveat before we even begin. However, that is not something that happened by osmosis; I share my views on bartering, discounting, free services in training sessions, speaking engagements, social media platforms, and when the topic comes up at networking events. Identify your core business culture and values and begin to use your platforms to share your thoughts regarding your beliefs. Just watch, it works!
Be bold: When people ask you for free or discounted services they have a boldness that I sometimes don’t understand how to have (and I think I am pretty bold). I believe that conversations should be mutually beneficial so if you agree to discount or barter services I believe you should be bold enough to create your own conditions. Many times bartering services can eventually become unequal and even undervalued so to ensure the requestor understands your value ask for an immediate business referral to one of those “great” people you would meet by taking on this client or request an additional service back from them. One of two things will happen, they will get the point and better value your services or they will get offended. If they are offended they are not for you and will be a disruption to your brand.
Overall, I think at some point or another you have silently said to yourself “they better check my resume” among other muffled ramblings. While we could talk about this subject all day and I have many more scenarios and tips to share I would love to hear from you. What tips do you have to offer?
Kia Jarmon is a brand strategist and PR coach with boutique public relations firm, The MEPR Agency. She speaks, blogs, mentors, and is soon to be an author. You can find more information at her personal brand site, www.KiaJarmon.com.