Talk to any accountant, lawyer or other professional and chances are, most will tell you that what they like least about their jobs is selling themselves or their services. They spent years earning specialized degrees, passing rigorous exams, and working hard to hone their craft. To then have a partner or marketing director turn around and tell them they need to put on their best suit and their shiniest smile and make some rain runs counter to their very makeup.

To be fair, some professionals may never excel in this area. But selling one’s self is a skill that can be learned. It’s also nothing to be ashamed, or afraid, of. And you don’t have to take any sales and marketing courses to get on the right track.

The great thing about professional services is that there’s always a market for them, always a need for taxes to be prepared, estate plans to be forged, and succession planning to be implemented so that small businesses don’t die with their owners.

So, unlike, say, a newly designed automatic garbage disposal, customers need what you’re selling. They don’t necessarily need you to provide it, however, and increased competition in the professional services industry is why marketing, branding, and yes, selling, is being talked about more and more.

What attracts potential customers to professional service providers? Usually, they have a problem they need to solve, and it needs to be done quickly. A former moving company employee scraping up enough money to start his own moving company who has no idea how to set up his accounting and payroll software. A car dealership owner whose partner suddenly wants out. These kinds of prospects are out there every day.

Buying ads in local Pennysavers and phone books might bring in a few prospects, but referrals from current customers will bring in a higher caliber prospect who will probably be more willing to buy your service. And speaking at a local Rotary Club on a tax or accounting topic where you’re the expert should bring in more referrals. Routinely send performance appraisal surveys to your customers and ask those who are thrilled with your work to refer you to their friends. Write an informative monthly e-newsletter for your clients and ask them to pass it along. Viral marketing can be very effective.

But most of all, people are sold on professional service providers because they sense that this person is smart, cares about their financial lives, and can be trusted with the sensitive data they’ll need to entrust to them.

Most practitioners will say they are all these things – and most probably are – but unless that’s communicated to potential clients, new business could be elusive.

The secret to great communication is basic. Look people in the eyes when you’re talking to them and when they’re talking to you. Avoiding eye contact makes people think you’re hiding something or you’re not interested in what they’re saying. Ask your prospects probing questions about their financial and business concerns, and then actively listen to their answers, and follow up with more questions that show you understand their concerns.

Above all, believe in yourself, be passionate about what you do, and let that enthusiasm show.  It works.

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