This is a guest post from Robert Middleton, and it really resonated with me. I can empathize with Rose. When I started my business I had a very hard time asking. But unless you are able to ask–for the meeting, for the sale, for whatever you need–your business can not succeed. Read on to get insight into your terror of asking and start working toward your breakthrough.
Rose is a talented and determined consultant and coach who works with medical professionals to help them become more balanced in their work and their lives, overcoming stress and burnout so common to the medical profession.
She’s worked with a number of doctors who have completely transformed their practices, along with their degree of fulfillment and satisfaction as medical professionals.
When Rose came to me she had some good written marketing materials but her website needed a lot of work, and she needed to re-package her services to be more comprehensive.
I gave her directions to improve her website and packaging and before long she was presenting her business powerfully both though articles and on her website.
Rose had the kind of clients who were not easy to reach through networking or giving speaking engagements. She was getting calls from her website, but we determined that a good approach for her would be to call hospitals directly and talk to program directors, send her materials, and follow up for meetings.
With her impressive track record, Powerful message, quality materials, and numerous case studies, I felt that this would be an excellent way to connect with her prospects directly. And in the past she had been called by these same program directors who in turn referred her to their burned-out doctors.
And then she hit a wall.
I now call this wall, “The Terror of Asking.” And if you’re self-employed you’ve probably experienced it as well.
Marketing activities are fine as long as they are passive: developing messages, writing materials, putting together presentations, improving websites, and networking in non-threatening environments.
But as soon as marketing changes from passive to proactive, resistance rears its ugly head. Whenever faced with asking for something from a prospect, the fear of rejection and inadequacy, present themselves front and center.
Here are some of the symptoms that Rose faced.
1. Over Preparation
We developed approaches, calling scripts and ways to get the attention of the program directors. But week-after week, she kept tweaking these strategies but failed to pick up the phone.
2. Creative Avoidance
When she determined she was finally ready to make the outreach calls, something else got in the way: her husband’s business, her health, or some other priority always seems to push taking action into the future.
3. Excuse Making
Even after running out of excuses, she started to argue that this approach really wasn’t sound and that another approach would probably work better. But she really couldn’t find a simpler, more direct way to reach these program directors.
If these symptoms sounds familiar, it’s because they are alarmingly common amongst self-employed professionals. Just the thought of reaching out to someone we don’t know strikes terror into our hearts. We imagine the worst of outcomes, the possibility of humiliation and rejection beyond contemplation.
Over the years I’ve learned techniques to get my clients past this abject terror of asking, and I’ll talk about two of them today.
The Cost of Inaction
Reaching out to those you don’t know and asking for something can definitely bring up fear in many people. One way to get past this fear is to look at what it’s costing you. However, the cost has to be much bigger than the fear.
I explore this by asking: “What is likely to happen to your business if you don’t get past this fear and take action? Please look honestly and tell me what this will actually cost you to continue with your avoidance.”
Ultimately the cost is failure, not succeeding at your business and not achieving your dreams. And this cost is not imaginary. Self-employed professionals pay that cost every day. They simply don’t make it and have to return to an unfulfilling job and give up the dream of independence that was once so important to them.
The realization of this cost has to go deep. The emotional impact of it must be much stronger than the fear of asking.
The Payoff of Inaction
When I ask clients what their payoff of giving into fear is, they often don’t understand the question. They don’t see that they are getting something highly beneficial from succumbing to their fear. But it’s so innocuous that it’s easy to miss.
The payoff of avoiding to ask is staying in one’s comfort zone. You see, in the comfort zone their is no rejection, no pain, no risk, no problem, no change, no nothing.
And the comfort zone is the sate the mind prefers. After all, if you can avoid asking, you avoid rejection and humiliation. And to the mind, that’s a good thing! So we’ll stay in the comfort zone forever if need be, no matter the cost.
And again, the only way to get beyond the comfort zone is to look even more deeply into the cost of staying there. Believe me, this is not comfortable work! It’s very confronting.
On the other side of terror
It took many conversations of this kind for Rose to eventually come around. With a lot of support she started making those calls and often got a very favorable reception. She started to realize that her fear of asking wasn’t based on any real proof. They were actually glad to hear from her and get her materials!
And it’s this kind of breakthrough that changes everything. You realize that your fear was completely unfounded, that the kind of rejection you expected rarely happened and that asking didn’t lead to humiliation after all.
Rose has moved on and her business is growing. She’s attracting the kind of clients she loves and whom she can serve with all her expertise, talents and abilities.
I hope this story about “the terror of asking” has rung a bell with you as well. I assure you that it’s the most common fear experienced by self-employed professionals. The good news is that it can be confronted with honesty and courage.
And when you get past “the terror of asking” you’ll start to see your business as the amazing opportunity it is to make a difference with your clients and in the world.
Do you have a story about “the terror of asking” and how you got through it?
By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at www.actionplan.com for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.