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Coaches Diary: Lucy Learns To Sell Her Services

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Coach Olivia Stefanino explains how to grow confidence as a first-timer in the world of freelancing.


Lucy’s throat started flushing – a clear indicator that she was not comfortable in answering my question. And if I could make her ill at ease when she had come to me for help then it was clear that her prospective clients would soon sense her discomfort too, and decline to hire her services.

Lucy had more than 15 years experience in IT under her belt and her previous employer had given her a glowing reference. Lucy loved her work but had decided to embark on the path of self-employment after giving birth to her son Max.

While Lucy knew that she was very capable of providing cost-effective IT solutions for professional partnerships, she had also come to recognise that she wasn’t very good at sales particularly when it came to selling her own services.

Having taken advice on how to produce the appropriate promotional literature, Lucy had optimistically thought that all she needed to do to get her business going was send out her sales letter and brochure and then sit at her desk waiting for the phone to ring.

Quickly, she had learned that there was more to promoting her business than she had realised. However, before we could begin work on the five step sales plan which would generate her as much business as she could handle, Lucy first needed to change her perception of herself.

Used to working in jeans, Lucy was giving the wrong first impression. People tend to feel most at ease with people who are like them, so Lucy was going to have to start dressing in business suits if her prospective clients were going to feel comfortable with her.

And she was also going to have to get used to asking for fees commensurate with those of her prospective clients, accountants and lawyers, if she wanted to gain their respect.

“It is all a matter of perspective”, I said. Holding up the tea tray, I asked Lucy to write down on a scrap of paper how much she thought I had paid for it. “Thirty five pounds,” was her response. “And if I tell you that I bought the tray at a car boot sale, how much do you think I paid for it?” Quickly, she scribbled “£1”.

“And now I want you to use your imagination,” I teased. “Picture this tea tray being given to you in a gilt-edged box, which you take out of a Harrods carrier bag. Now how much do you think the tray cost?” As Lucy wrote her response of £85, she began to smile, recognising that the tea tray was the same only her perception had changed.

Lucy needed to learn and feel that clients would put the same value on her as she did on herself. Therefore, it was imperative that she start to adopt a professional attitude in both her appearance and her speech.

Finally, she also needed to get used to asking for the right amount of money. Ask for too little, and her perspective clients would fear that she was no good at her job and refuse to take her on. While there was a danger that she could price herself out of the market by asking for too much, Lucy was also about to make another discovery.

“If you undercharge, people don’t value your advice and don’t do what you tell them,” I told her. “The result is that they think you’re rubbish. However, charge your clients properly and of course fairly and they will value what you tell them and act upon your advice. The result? They’ll think you’re brilliant!”

Lucy laughed out loud and her face took on a more determined look as she realised how both she and her clients could benefit by her having more belief in herself.

Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. To find out more – and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit www.beyourownguru.com

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