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How to be perceived as legitimate when starting a business?

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Adgo

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Hello guys,

I'm asking you this question today because it is something that I know for a fact is difficult.

When approaching future customers to sell them a service you just started offering, they will often ask to see examples of what you can do and what you did for other people before them. Whether you're selling websites, chatbots, software development, graphic design, etc.
I tried to offer my services for a lower price by admitting that I want to grow my portfolio and that I'm starting to monetize a specific service, but business owners seem to always prefer someone more expensive but with proven skills.

What would you advise in this case? How to approach my potential first customer with enough confidence to convince him that he can trust my services when he is my first customer?

If anybody can relate and help me to overcome this situation it would be great!
 

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aliosa

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Hello guys,

I'm asking you this question today because it is something that I know for a fact is difficult.

When approaching future customers to sell them a service you just started offering, they will often ask to see examples of what you can do and what you did for other people before them. Whether you're selling websites, chatbots, software development, graphic design, etc.
I tried to offer my services for a lower price by admitting that I want to grow my portfolio and that I'm starting to monetize a specific service, but business owners seem to always prefer someone more expensive but with proven skills.

What would you advise in this case? How to approach my potential first customer with enough confidence to convince him that he can trust my services when he is my first customer?

If anybody can relate and help me to overcome this situation it would be great!
Following. I am in a similar situation but with e-com clothing brand
 

Odysseus M Jones

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Yes it's tough.

How about you put yourself in the position of your potential customer & ask yourself what would make you take a chance on a new company without track record?

Look at it from their prospective.

Think about it and let us know what you come up with, you can bounce ideas off us.
 

Boo

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You must have a friend or family member who you can do work for free to prove your skills if necessary. Or if you do contract work, tell the business owner you'll work for free for the first month and they'll only need to pay in the 2nd month if they're happy with what you provide.

When you're a nobody, sometimes you'll need to do work for free. Same as an internship before you get offered a full-time position. Not always true, but if you're desperate and otherwise aren't doing anything to keep busy, it's a step in the right direction!
 
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Adgo

Adgo

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Thank you all for your actionable propositions, I will probably try a bit of everything and see if it is enough to find my first customer in that sector.
 

Odysseus M Jones

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As well as the reasons for buying, also look at the downsides from the customer's POV if they use your service & it fails.
What is their cost of failure.
What impact on:
Revenue
Customers
Reputation
Increased workload on damage control.

These are factors buyers take into consideration.

Look at every senario you can think of both for buying or not, find solutions you as a customer would accept in order to go ahead with an unproven service or seller.
 

Andy Black

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Hello guys,

I'm asking you this question today because it is something that I know for a fact is difficult.

When approaching future customers to sell them a service you just started offering, they will often ask to see examples of what you can do and what you did for other people before them. Whether you're selling websites, chatbots, software development, graphic design, etc.
I tried to offer my services for a lower price by admitting that I want to grow my portfolio and that I'm starting to monetize a specific service, but business owners seem to always prefer someone more expensive but with proven skills.

What would you advise in this case? How to approach my potential first customer with enough confidence to convince him that he can trust my services when he is my first customer?

If anybody can relate and help me to overcome this situation it would be great!
What’s your service? Can you give us an example of it and how your conversations go?
 

Fid

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business owners seem to always prefer someone more expensive but with proven skills.

What would you advise in this case?
Focus on the client, not the service. Ask questions about their business, their needs and show how your service can help. Do that with confidence - they don't want proof, they want confidence.

I do just that and hardly ever get asked for my portfolio. My first SEO client and my first Google Ads client did not know they were my first. I didn't really mean to hide that - they actually didn't care.

Clients ask you for portfolio or examples when:
a) you don't lead the conversation towards what's truly important (and they need to take over)
b) something makes it hard for them to trust you
c) they need a smokescreen to end the conversation without saying no
d*) what you deliver is mostly aesthetics/visual

You don't ask a plumber, a lawyer or a dentist for their portfolio.
You just assume that they are qualified to do the job.
What do you think makes it so?
 

BrianLateStart

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I'm a fan of Mark Schaefer's book "Known". It takes time and a lot of work, but I think it could be what you need.

Here's the description of the book:
"In today's world, there is a permanent advantage to becoming known in your field. Those who are known get the customers, the better jobs, and the invitations to exclusive opportunities. But can anybody become known? In this path-finding book, author Mark Schaefer provides a step-by-step plan followed by the most successful people in diverse careers like banking, education, real estate, construction, fashion, and more. With amazing case studies, dozens of exercises, and inspiring stories, KNOWN is the first book its kind, providing a path to personal business success in the digital age."

The book isn't just ideas, it's full of actionable steps.
 

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Andy Black

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Focus on the client, not the service. Ask questions about their business, their needs and show how your service can help. Do that with confidence - they don't want proof, they want confidence.

I do just that and hardly ever get asked for my portfolio. My first SEO client and my first Google Ads client did not know they were my first. I didn't really mean to hide that - they actually didn't care.

Clients ask you for portfolio or examples when:
a) you don't lead the conversation towards what's truly important (and they need to take over)
b) something makes it hard for them to trust you
c) they need a smokescreen to end the conversation without saying no
d*) what you deliver is mostly aesthetics/visual

You don't ask a plumber, a lawyer or a dentist for their portfolio.
You just assume that they are qualified to do the job.
What do you think makes it so?
Yeah. I never get asked for a portfolio.
 

Odysseus M Jones

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Adgo's main point: his confidence.

What would you advise in this case? How to approach my potential first customer with enough confidence to convince him that he can trust my services when he is my first customer?
As I mentioned above, look at it from the customer's perspective, work out what would make them confident to use your service & you'll have the confidence to sell them your service.
 

Andy Black

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I’ve been on local business workshops where I didn’t know anyone in the room.

“Before we start this workshop on how to use LinkedIn for your business (or whatever), can we go round the room and give us a little introduction? Tell us your name and what your business does.“

“Hi. My name is Andy Black. I do those little ads on Google.”

No need for a website.

No need for a business card.

No need for a company name.

No need for a USP.

No need for a portfolio.


Have a think why folks button-holed me at the coffee break or asked for my email address.
 

Odysseus M Jones

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I’ve been on local business workshops where I didn’t know anyone in the room.

“Before we start this workshop on how to use LinkedIn for your business (or whatever), can we go round the room and give us a little introduction? Tell us your name and what your business does.“

“Hi. My name is Andy Black. I do those little ads on Google.”

No need for a website.

No need for a business card.

No need for a company name.

No need for a USP.

No need for a portfolio.


Have a think why folks button-holed me at the coffee break or asked for my email address.
I know the answer to this, but I'll let the younger members have a go first.

PS it's not miniskirts, although I've had great success with that.
(Anyway, he hasn't got the legs for it ~ meow!)
 
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Adgo

Adgo

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Have a think why folks button-holed me at the coffee break or asked for my email address.
Probably because you didn't look desperate for anybody to hire you? You were not trying to convince anybody to work with you because you didn't need them to work with you?

I feel it a bit hard to convince potential customers that they are the ones who need you and not the other way around when you are actively looking for new clients and trying to establish the communication.


You don't ask a plumber, a lawyer, or a dentist for their portfolio.
You just assume that they are qualified to do the job.
What do you think makes it so?
This situation is a bit different because I would be the one asking for their services. They are not knocking at my door asking me whether I need a pipe replaced or if I have a cavity to fix.
So when I need these services, I do my research and I find an established business to help me.

Adgo's main point: his confidence.

As I mentioned above, look at it from the customer's perspective, work out what would make them confident to use your service & you'll have the confidence to sell them your service.
Thank you, I will think of the problem in that sense and try to come up with ideas.

I'm a fan of Mark Schaefer's book "Known". It takes time and a lot of work, but I think it could be what you need.

Here's the description of the book:
"In today's world, there is a permanent advantage to becoming known in your field. Those who are known get the customers, the better jobs, and the invitations to exclusive opportunities. But can anybody become known? In this path-finding book, author Mark Schaefer provides a step-by-step plan followed by the most successful people in diverse careers like banking, education, real estate, construction, fashion, and more. With amazing case studies, dozens of exercises, and inspiring stories, KNOWN is the first book its kind, providing a path to personal business success in the digital age."

The book isn't just ideas, it's full of actionable steps.
Thank you for the suggestion, I downloaded the book and will read it.
 

Andy Black

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Probably because you didn't look desperate for anybody to hire you? You were not trying to convince anybody to work with you because you didn't need them to work with you?
Yeah, I’m not trying to convince anyone to work with me. That’s partly it.

But why do folks approach me (or other business owners) in these situations?

I feel it a bit hard to convince potential customers that they are the ones who need you and not the other way around when you are actively looking for new clients and trying to establish the communication.
This situation is a bit different because I would be the one asking for their services. They are not knocking at my door asking me whether I need a pipe replaced or if I have a cavity to fix.
So when I need these services, I do my research and I find an established business to help me.
Don’t try to convince people then?

Have you tried inbound at all?
 

Canadoz

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Jul 13, 2018
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This is a key conundrum which is not addressed enough in business books.

It's easy for some in B2B contexts because an entrepreneur can leave their existing job and use their old employer as a reference customer.

To get credibility, here are some things you can do:

- Court the cheapo customers, they don't care about credibility, all they care about is price. These customers are hard work but you can use them to get testimonials.

- Be a media whore. Use every possible opportunity to get credibility via the media. Think of the power has "as mentioned in the Mercury News or CNN" has. This involves person-to-person outreach to journalists.

- Form a partnership with an established player. You basically piggyback on their trust they have built up. This probably the quickest way to get credibility.
 

Bobby_italy

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This is a key conundrum which is not addressed enough in business books.

It's easy for some in B2B contexts because an entrepreneur can leave their existing job and use their old employer as a reference customer.

To get credibility, here are some things you can do:

- Court the cheapo customers, they don't care about credibility, all they care about is price. These customers are hard work but you can use them to get testimonials.

- Be a media whore. Use every possible opportunity to get credibility via the media. Think of the power has "as mentioned in the Mercury News or CNN" has. This involves person-to-person outreach to journalists.

- Form a partnership with an established player. You basically piggyback on their trust they have built up. This probably the quickest way to get credibility.
+1 on the last one, many big players have way too much work on their hands and if you're willing to leave them a % of the revenue they'll let you work on their contracts, it's a win-win, you make profit and they make profit,you also build relationships and trust.
You also learn from the inside how they operate and that helps more than any course or information out there.
 

Canadoz

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Jul 13, 2018
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you're willing to leave them a % of the revenue they'll let you work on their contracts, it's a win-win, you make profit and they make profit,you also build relationships and trust.
You also learn from the inside how they operate and that helps more than any course or information out there
Great point. I know an e-commerce company which piggybacks on a big brand name selling their stuff (while leveraging their brand name of course). They get instant credibility.

But there is a caveat to this approach:

I had the pleasure of meeting the team (of said e-commerce co) over a couple of beers. They told me while their partnership works great, every 2 years or so, some brightspark (usually a new recruit) decides "Hey, we could keep this 2%" for ourselves. They then have to muster their best salespeople and send them into HQ to convince new-bright-spark-employee that its actually a bad idea. They have to do this trick every 2 years or so because the churn in some of these Big Brand companies is so high.
 

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Bobby_italy

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Great point. I know an e-commerce company which piggybacks on a big brand name selling their stuff (while leveraging their brand name of course). They get instant credibility.

But there is a caveat to this approach:

I had the pleasure of meeting the team (of said e-commerce co) over a couple of beers. They told me while their partnership works great, every 2 years or so, some brightspark (usually a new recruit) decides "Hey, we could keep this 2%" for ourselves. They then have to muster their best salespeople and send them into HQ to convince new-bright-spark-employee that its actually a bad idea. They have to do this trick every 2 years or so because the churn in some of these Big Brand companies is so high.
It can work in every kind of business, if you're good at what you do your top competitors could be the first ones to give you work.
some rules I'd follow:
-don't back stab trying to get the client to yourself, that ruins trust and bad rep isn't worth it;
-do what you promise and follow the damn contract, if you can't then tell them upfront;
-get a lawyer to look at every contract before you sign, if it's 20k ok maybe it's not profitable to have someone look at it, if it's half a million you better spend the 500€ consultation.
 

Kevin88660

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Hello guys,

I'm asking you this question today because it is something that I know for a fact is difficult.

When approaching future customers to sell them a service you just started offering, they will often ask to see examples of what you can do and what you did for other people before them. Whether you're selling websites, chatbots, software development, graphic design, etc.
I tried to offer my services for a lower price by admitting that I want to grow my portfolio and that I'm starting to monetize a specific service, but business owners seem to always prefer someone more expensive but with proven skills.

What would you advise in this case? How to approach my potential first customer with enough confidence to convince him that he can trust my services when he is my first customer?

If anybody can relate and help me to overcome this situation it would be great!
Be more hungry. Doing deals that experienced providers do not want to do.
 

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