Does being self employed have to be lonely? Wouldn’t it be great if self employment meant enjoying the support of a committed community? Well, it doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. But to leave isolation and loneliness behind, you may have to rethink your position on selling to your customers because it can actually help you build trust with your customers.
What Makes a Community?
Community begins with shared ownership of things physical or metaphysical or both. In order for a community to grow up around your business, your customers need to share ownership with you and with each other.
Inviting people into the community isn’t hard. One time-honored method is to give something away. This makes it safe for someone to approach your business and evaluate your offer. If it is not a fit, the prospect can walk away with no harm done. (Remember, we’re talking about a community of just-right customers.)
If your give-away is valuable to her, your prospect may hang around. If you keep giving away valuable information, eventually she becomes part of your community. Right?
How “Free” Gets in the Way
Community begins with shared ownership, and if all you offer is free information, how can your prospects take ownership?
They can’t. The only way for customers to take ownership is to buy something from you. That means you have to sell something to them.
Until you ask your prospective customer or client to buy, you haven’t given them a way to invest — let alone to participate — in a community of shared interests. No investment, no return on investment.
That’s not just semantics. Sure, people can benefit from reading a free newsletter for years without buying a thing. But until you ask for investment, you may have admirers, but you won’t have community.
The Trust Factor
There’s a direct relationship between selling to your customers and gaining their trust. That’s because authentic trust is the result of commitments that are made, tested, and kept. What’s more, there has to be some risk involved. Without risk, the only kind of trust available to your customers can have is naïve trust, the half-blind hope that since you haven’t betrayed them so far, you won’t betray them in the future.
The kind of trust that builds long term relationships and communities grows as individuals exchange commitments while remaining aware of the risks entailed. Will the other party come through? Can you live up to your part of the bargain? And how do you manage when something unexpected happens?
Selling Builds Trust
The way to build trust with your just-right customers is to ask them to take just such a risk. Offer them something you believe to be of value, and ask them to pay it. Then live up to your end of the bargain.
Does the idea of coming right out and selling to your customers give you the heebie-jeebies? It did me. I’m fine with marketing, but selling? Yikes!
For eight of the nine years that I’ve been writing my newsletter, the content was more than 90% editorial. Until this year, there were less than a handful of times that I sent an email to my list that wasn’t focused on delivering content.
As I began to send emails to promote (and sell) the Authentic Wealth Tele-retreat, I got some pushback. Most of it came from friends, who care a great deal for me and had my best interests at heart. But they were not and are not my just-right clients, and they didn’t and don’t know anything about a business like mine.
Until I decided to sell to my list, life here at Shaboom was part dream, part nightmare, a rollercoaster of excitement and depletion. My energy would go up when my subscribers praised me and down when you didn’t. I lived in fear of pissing my readers off.
That’s no way to build a long-term relationship, let alone a thriving community.
When you avoid selling you keep customers at arms length, turning them into strangers. I’m here to tell you, neither you nor your business can survive by relying on the kindness of strangers. (And why should strangers take care of you, anyway?)
Enough. It’s the upside to this story that I am itching to share, so here’s the good news. When you sell to your customers, everything changes.
How Selling Builds Community
When you sell and a customer buys, the whole world changes. Does the customer love what they bought? Wonderful! Find out how else you can help, and sell them something else. Not to milk them, not to take advantage of them, but to help. (That is why you’re in business, isn’t it?)
Is your customer dissatisfied? Excellent! Find out why. Ask how you can improve the product or service, and, provided that the customer fits your business “just right,” they’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to make them happy and to attract more people just like them.
More customers mean more people taking ownership, and that is the basis for a community. Yes, there’s more to growing the community than this, but you won’t have one to grow until you start selling.
The Real Reason Nice People Don’t Sell
Do you know why nice people like you and me resist selling? It’s simple: we would rather be liked than have profitable businesses. Another way of saying that is that we’d rather be liked than do what it takes to deliver value to the people we can help.
Okay, you may be more evolved than I am. But consider these classic reasons for not stepping selling to customers.
You don’t want to seem pushy. (You want to be liked.)
You are afraid your work isn’t good enough. (You are afraid a customer might be disappointed and then they wouldn’t like you.)
You can’t stand rejection. (What is rejection except the belief that the person who is saying “no” doesn’t like you?)
If you have read this far, odds are very high that you, like me, place a very high value on being liked. There is nothing wrong with that. But are you willing to let the desire to be liked prevent people from benefiting from your work? Are you willing to place being liked ahead of creating revenue streams that will energize your business and help you generate quality products and services on an ongoing basis?
Smile. Your Customers Love You.
Here’s the part that will make you smile big time. Imagine having plenty of bandwidth to build trust with your customers and take care of them. Imagine being comfortable in your own skin, satisfied to be doing your best for your just right customers. (Goodbye, perfectionism!) Imagine looking forward to feedback, both positive and negative, from customers that are part of a growing community.
That’s what selling can do.
I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for building relationships, trust, and community by selling your products and services. I am here to help self employed people who have a lot to give and a lot to learn about how to do just that.
Being self employed doesn’t have to be lonely!
Molly Gordon, MCC, is a leading figure in business coaching, writer, workshop leader, a frequent presenter at live and virtual events worldwide, and an acknowledged specialist on small business marketing. Read Molly’s customer service tips and articles to find out what makes good customer service, and, while on the site, don’t forget to join 12,000 readers of her Authentic Promotion® ezine and receive a free 31-page guide on effective self promotion.