Seeing the product
Anyone who has started a small business will know that it is not always easy to be taken seriously by potential customers or clients. It is probably a little easier if you are in retail because your customers can browse around your shop. Even with an on-line shop it is easier because your customer already knows what he or she wants and is then probably looking for a particular brand and the best deal. You have been found. A successful sale should lead to another with good customer service as a back-up.
It is more difficult if you provide a service. You have no product to show. One question I once had from a client’s wife stopped me dead in my tracks. She asked “Are you retired?” Maybe I was looking a bit old and haggard after a very busy time, but I was rather puzzled. Why did she think I was there with the client? I guess she thought I must be playing because:
- the services I provide are the same as those of big corporates, though in my case with the personal touch.
- I am of a more mature vintage though not gone entirely gray (well hardly at all actually).
Being taken seriously
There are actions we can all take to gain the credibility we need.
- Ask for testimonials from our early customers which we can publish, and keep the habit of asking for them.
- Build our local reputation by going out and networking, but not selling. Just being a person your business friends will remember and talk about will give local credibility. Don’t forget to help your fellow networkers, though.
- Publish case studies in our brochure or website. Have prospects think “I could really do with something similar”.
- Write articles to showcase our knowledge – content marketing.
- Have a polite response memorized in case we get asked a potentially wrong-footing question like “are you retired?” I responded by saying that I had built my business for a number of years and had many happy clients.
There will always be those who would prefer to buy from a large corporate rather than a small business. That is probably their loss in terms of quality of service, but we need to be philosophical and concentrate on our personal brand, which is what counts more than anything in the small business service sector.
Smile and move on. Don’t you agree?