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When I started my business in the mid-1990s, I had no contacts. So, in an effort to promote my services to prospective clients, I made cold calls. Dozens of them. Probably hundreds of them!

It was a miserable, soul-sucking experience. But I did manage to make a few promising contacts and, a few weeks later, even land a new client.

What I didn’t realize back then, however, was that I was taking a completely wrong approach to prospecting. I was trying to “sell” myself and my services to prospects I would phone or meet at networking events – prospects who were, in most cases, complete strangers.

It was a sure-fire recipe for rejection and embarrassment. The fact that it worked every once in a while didn’t make me feel any better. I could have stood on a street corner with a “Copywriter for Hire” sign and got similar results! (I know. I tried it once!)

So if selling yourself is the wrong approach, what is the right approach?

The right approach is what I call the relationship-building approach.

If you simply drop the idea that you need to sell yourself, and instead focus on building relationships with prospects, three things will happen:

  1. Prospecting will be much easier for you to do.
  2. You’ll get much better results.
  3. You’ll feel better doing it. (So you’ll probably do more of it.)

So I recommend that you adopt a brand new definition of prospecting. Here it is:

Prospecting is introducing yourself to people who are likely to be interested in your services. And then building those relationships, so when a prospect has a need, they’ll contact you.

Think about that definition for a moment.

No matter how you’re prospecting – making calls, sending emails, using LinkedIn, networking at events – if your focus is on making an introduction (not a sale), how much easier would you expect prospecting to be for you?

Probably a lot easier.

And if you’re focusing only on prospects who are likely to be interested in your services, what sort of response would you expect to get?

Probably a fairly positive response.

And if you do your best to build relationships with those prospects, so they come to know, like and trust you, how many more opportunities – in the form of leads, requests for quotes, and referrals – would you expect to get?

Probably a lot more!

So when prospecting, avoid putting yourself in the uncomfortable and undignified position of trying to sell yourself to a stranger. That just doesn’t work anymore.

Instead, focus on introducing yourself and building those relationships. What you want is a growing base of prospects who are getting to know, like, and trust you.

And the more of those you have, the more clients you’ll attract.