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Creating a Reputation

by Marcia Yudkin

Want to shorten the sales cycle for your professional services? Want pre-sold prospects who need fewer or no face-to-face meetings before hiring you? Create a reputation.

Recently a room full of consultants agreed that you had to meet with potential clients at least twice - better, three times - before winning the business. "Then how do you get business outside the area?" someone asked. The consensus: Forget it.

Yet I've been hired by companies in Australia and elsewhere without even phone calls, much less a face-to-face. Like nearly all my most congenial clients, they weren't choosing candidates to compare with one another. They weren't shopping, weren't engaged in a systematic search. If hunting, they stopped when they found me. Or they hadn't thought of spending money on their problem until my reputation gave them the idea.

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Postcard Marketing Course

Publishing books, as I've done, is just one way to establish a reputation that pre-sells prospects on what you can do for them. For image consultant Mary Lou Andre of Needham, Massachusetts, a reputation-building tool has been her Web site. In addition to descriptions of her services, her site at http://www.dressingwell.com chronicles the media publicity she's received and highlights her approach to fashion through profiles of prominent individuals and corporations that she's helped.

"Last fall I closed a national retail chain that found us on the Web and e-mailed us in June," says Andre. "When I told them I was about to give birth, they said they'd wait. In September, they signed the contract. We never met face to face! They modeled the entire project after the work I did for Bose Corporation, which is featured on our Web site. I firmly believe our reputation (and Web site) closed the deal."

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Take Your Business on the Road Course

For translation industry consultant Sarah Pilgrim of Wilsall, Montana, a reputation-building tool has been a half-page ad she's run for years in a trade journal for translators. A signed testimonial in it from someone in the business and a credential of having been in the business herself for 20+ years gives her high credibility with her target market.

"When translation agency owners read my bio, they recognize the name of the translation company I founded and sold, which has a good reputation," Pilgrim adds. "When they call to find out more, they can tell I know the business. And therefore when I've gone to visit clients it's always been as a paid consultant, with the client footing the bill."

Whether you use publishing, the Internet, advertising, promotional newsletters or media coverage to build a reputation, it takes time. Each piece of visibility reinforces previous effects. With a reputation, you get more inquiries like "Do you do...?" and fewer along the lines of "We're looking for a ___ who does..." With a reputation, pre-sale meetings drop to one or zero. E-mail or phone exchanges can suffice. Powerful stuff!

Copyright 2000 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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