CONFESSION: I’m about to share something and be a bad, bad girl.
Okay, fine, I’m not really a bad girl (it’s only Thursday, after all) but I am about to share an excerpt from the column that I write exclusively for my Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends, because I THINK THIS TOPIC IS THAT IMPORTANT.
Here was the question that was sent in:
I am about to embark on giving my first set of free 20-minute coaching calls (with no sales pitch) to get people on the phone so I can hear what they say their problem is, so that I can get my coaching practice and group coaching program started soon.
I plan to give live talks at a couple of meetups and enroll people that way. If on that initial 20-minute phone call they indicate they want my help, I would then schedule another call for that, to honour my promise not to sell on that initial call.
My question is, what if any of them ask me for testimonials from past clients, and I have no past clients and no testimonials? What do I say in that situation?
And so I wanted to share my response with you here, in case this is something you’re also struggling with. <3
This is a really common question that a lot of new business owners ask, and you know why I think this is?
Because the minute we go into business for ourselves, you know what we all have the instinct to do? PUT OUR MASKS ON. Don’t we? We put those masks firmly upon our face and say: I am someone legitimate! I am a professional! I am worth spending money on! I am good enough! I promise, I am! (AND PLEASE DON’T CALL ME ON IT.)
But no, really, let’s laugh about this! Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s always the first thing that happens: we go from being normal, smart, educated human beings to feeling pressured into putting on this bigggggg giant fakery show, as if we’re suppose to:
Be way bigger than we are
Already be trazillionaires
Have an entire bible full of testimonials and happy clients
Have a yacht in the Mediterranean
Employ a nanny to paint our toenails
And BE BIGGER THAN LIFE ITSELF
Have you ever felt this pressure? This pressure to be so much “greater” than you are? Or the pressure to be way more advanced in your business right now—or else no one will dare trust you?
Here’s what I think, girlfriend.
I think you should do whatever you can to avoid the “fake-it-til-you-make-it” reflex, and instead, try an approach that’s probably going to feel like a total breath of fresh air:
PERMISSION TO BE EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE IN BUSINESS.
But how do you get clients if they think that, perhaps, you’re a little green? You totally OWN IT!
But—you own it in a smart way.
You don’t have to have mounds of testimonials—but what you *do* have to have is a sharp angle for doing what we’re doing, so you don’t seem amateur, but rather, up-and-coming. There’s a big difference there. Amateur vs up-and-coming.
Think about those two words. What’s the difference that you notice?
One implies a negative, and the other implies a positive, doesn’t it?
An amateur doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. An up-and-coming, however, is someone with totally fresh talent and killer instinct. The way you are perceived has everything to do with the way you position yourself and your offering.
So if you’re standing up there on your website pedestal, fluffing your own feathers and offering these free 20 minute consults, trying to seem like you are already someone who is highly sought after (which, by the way, I’m of the opinion the free consult ruins), then, yes, of COURSE you would feel the pressure to have this entire backlog of important testimonials. Because what you’re saying you are, and what your experience proves you are, are not aligned. And that’s a problem. It’s a problem for you ethically, and it’s a problem for your conscience, and it’s a problem for your testimonials, too.
So what if you didn’t? What if you stood right where you were and owned it? What if, for example, if you’re a writer, instead of offering generalized free consults in a very average way, you put together a really compelling offer that went along the lines of:
30 DAYS. 30 PAGES. $3,000 DOLLARS. (For example.)
And what if you turned your brand new offer into an event? What if you turned it into a going-into-business sale? What if you stood up and rallied a group of people together, and created a buzz around your event? What if you said, proud and loud: I’m a former engineer who’s spent the last two years studying web design. And now, my new superpower is about to be released to the world in March 2017. Specializing in the marriage of science and art, JANE DOE PRODUCTIONS is proud to spearhead the industry smart design. We’re not ready to accept a new docket of clients just yet, but we *are* launching a very special beta service, designed to help your website get smarter—while we do, too. If you want to be one of our very special crew—a gang of _____ and _____ and _______ [insert target market] looking to not only look better, but sell more this year, then let’s get your name on the books before Tuesday, when we’ll get to work!
Of course, I don’t know what your business is and these are completely random examples, but can you see how this feels much more powerful, and in control, like you’re taking the lead—versus you hoping to bait and switch someone with a free 20 minute consult (which we all know aren’t reallllllllllllllly just out of the goodness of your own heart—even if you don’t do any selling, we all know what the purpose is. So does it make it any better?)
Bonus? You actually get paid—which is a really critical part of your business. A business without revenue is a non-profit, and I’m guessing that’s not what you’re trying to start. But you DO have to start somewhere. And maybe instead of going for free (and sending the message that “free” implies), you go for compact, and beta, and something that respects your experience exactly where you’re at—while giving you a chance to grow it.
Because the second bonus you’ll receive?
Are actual clients.
And by the time you’re done with the 30 days?
You’ll have those testimonials, too.
With all my grit and guts,
Afterward, the Girlfriends talked it over. Here were some of their responses:
In addition? Even if you’re new—and therefore don’t have a bunch of testimonials—it’s *never* a bad idea, or shameful, or stupid to ask for testimonials from past colleagues and bosses and mentors and humans that can speak to your skill set as a whole, and your character, and any relevant insight about your work process that would help you own your new role.
Because that’s what this is all about at the end of the day—not hiding the fact that you’re starting a new venture.
And believe it or not? Your enthusiasm alone will be one of the greatest testaments to your work there ever was.