“Grow your email list.” “Speak in your community.” “Get active on social media.” “Meet people at events.” “Start a blog.” These are all recommendations a self-employed professional will hear when exploring how to build a thriving business.

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There’s nothing wrong with this advice. Each one of these approaches has the potential to bring you more clients. But there’s another factor in the business-building equation, and it’s probably the most important. That crucial element is you.

Having hundreds of people on your email list won’t help you if your inner critic or fear of rejection keeps you from asking for their business. If you resist meeting new people when you go to events, attending those events won’t be a successful strategy. And blogging will only be useful if you actually post regular blog entries instead of putting them off.

Are Saboteurs At Work?

Where might fear, resistance, procrastination, or the inner critic be slowing down — or even stopping — your business-building? Sometimes these saboteurs are easy to spot. For example, let’s say you have a hot lead you’ve been meaning to contact for the past two weeks, but it’s just not getting done. In this situation, it’s obvious even to you that you’re procrastinating or feeling fearful.

At other times, though, your self-sabotage can be more subtle. Perhaps you’ve been spending an hour per day lately liking and commenting on social media posts. Meanwhile, you claim you haven’t had the time to follow up with the prospective clients who weren’t ready to do business with you last quarter. You tell yourself your choice is okay, because your time on social media is marketing time, isn’t it?

Maybe it is (depending on whose posts you’re interacting with), but is that truly the best use of your sales and marketing time? Or is it possible that your sudden interest in social media is an excuse to avoid writing some potentially confronting marketing emails?

Get Curious about Your Marketing

You may already know that tracking and reporting your actions has value. Perhaps you have counted the number of steps you take in a day or kept a food diary of everything you eat. This sort of tracking helps you in three ways. First, you raise your awareness about what you’re doing. Second, having to keep a record of what you’re doing holds you accountable. Third, you learn what it might take to do things differently.

Adopting this simple practice of tracking your actions can have a powerful impact on your business-building activities, especially when it comes to defeating saboteurs. Start the week with some measurable commitments. For example, commit to placing five follow-up calls, writing ten emails to potential referral sources, and reaching out to three venues where you might publish a guest blog post. Then keep track of what you actually do.

When your tracking uncovers a gap between what you committed to and what you did, get curious. What did you do instead of placing the phone calls you intended? What was the story you told yourself about why those emails never got sent? What thoughts and feelings did you experience when you chose to clean off the top of your desk instead of making contacts about guest blogging?

Overcoming the Saboteurs

The first step toward vanquishing your business-building saboteurs is getting to know them. Once you recognize they are at work, take responsibility for them. The next time they show up, don’t try to deny or push through feeling anxious, resistant, or inadequate. Instead, acknowledge what’s happening, and name it: “Oh, there’s the fear again” or “Wow, I’m really feeling resistant right now.”

Then make a conscious choice about what to do next. Try to find one action step to take that’s in the direction you want to go. If a particular call seems too scary right now, choose a different call and make that one, instead of avoiding calls altogether. When you’re feeling resistant about writing a new blog post, try to spend just five minutes on it.

Every move you make in the direction of overcoming your saboteurs will strengthen your business-building muscles. Over time, you’ll find you have increased confidence and effectiveness in areas beyond sales and marketing as well. You’ll be building yourself up. And that’s one of the best things you can do to build your business.


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