Traditional marketing advice often presumes that its listeners have a high level of self-confidence and a complete lack of self-doubt. However many small business owners and freelancers find that this does not come naturally to them, and they feel utter dread at the prospect of self-promotion.
If the thought of phoning up a stranger and asking for work or explaining to a conference attendee why you are superb at what you do fills you with horror, the following advice is just for you.
Before the tips, however, it is important to remember that the entrepreneur who lacks self-confidence is often no less proficient at their job than the arrogant, pushy guy who tells everyone how great he is. The shy or introverted entrepreneur just struggles to sell him-/herself. He/She could well match, or beat, his/her confident colleagues at their work, he/she simply has an aversion to drawing attention to him-/herself.
Force Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone
Not too far, just a little. Recognize which tasks or situations you are avoiding and take a small step into them. This might be speaking up at a meeting, standing up for yourself in the office or making a dreaded phone call. Why not set yourself a target of talking to a certain number of people during a networking event? The more you do this, the more confident you will become.
Don’t do this hourly, or even daily, as the pressure will turn you into a nervous wreck. Instead set yourself a target for how many times per week, or per month, you are going to push yourself, and stick to it.
Don’t expect that you will be the keynote speaker at your next industry conference. Instead, start by attending a local networking event or calling a nearby organization who you could pitch your product to. Taking it step by step makes it less overwhelming and progress will be more steady.
A great way of carrying on a potentially awkward conversation is to ask lots of questions. Prepare them in advance, if you prefer. This way, the person you are talking to feels that her opinions are valued, and there is less pressure on you to talk about yourself.
Work at Home
If you are normally based in an office, work at home from time to time. Sometimes, feeling self-conscious while trying to promote yourself is exacerbated by having to do it in front of colleagues.
Use Social Media
What could be better? You can talk to people with the protection of computer screens between you and them. A veneer of confidence can arise just by not being face to face with your contact, and you can take advantage of this and start testing out marketing approaches.
There are additional benefits too: there is no frightening introductory small-talk, no need to feel self-conscious about what you look like, and no awkward silences to fill. You don’t even have to give them your business card – if they like what they see, they will click the link on your profile.
If your lack of confidence stems from a genuine sense that you are not good enough at your job, then you need to find out whether this is a valid concern. Ask colleagues if they think you cope well, ask your boss if they are pleased with your work, and ask the people you manage if they find benefit in your management style. If you are a freelancer or solopreneur, speak in confidence with a fellow freelancer whose opinion you trust.
Most of the time you will be assured that you are doing fine, so start to believe it! If, however, you conclude that you really lack the necessary ability, enrol on a training course or look for a different job which suits your skills better.
You probably know someone who is a superb self-promoter. He works the room and schmoozes his way to new contacts and contracts everywhere he goes. At the next event, watch him as he does it, and see what tips you can pick up. Perhaps it is the way he opens a conversation, the kinds of questions he asks or even his body language. Choose something he does and model your behavior on that.
Work out what, exactly, it is that you are afraid of. Is it when being surrounded by strangers or only when you need to stand up in front of a group of people? What is the worst that could happen? Once you have identified the problem you can look at solving it much more effectively.
Remember Your Successes
Make a note every time you have a successful interaction with someone in a marketing context. Whether it is as monumental as presenting a new product to a room full of industry experts, or as small as sending a tweet to someone you admire, it takes bravery and this should be applauded. By doing this, you will be less likely to forget the times you did well and only focus on when it went wrong.
Overcome Your Lack Of Confidence
There can be many reasons that people are shy, from a simple lack of confidence in their abilities to a crippling mental illness. However in most cases it is a personality trait which, with encouragement and practise, can be overcome.
Even if you only get to a stage where you can ‘fake it til you make it’, your abilities to market yourself and your product will increase exponentially the more you do it.
Expanding your confidence and, as a result, your marketing abilities, can only lead to increased success for you and your business.
Are you a shy person? An introvert? How are you approaching awkward situations?
Photo by Rebecca Barray