Growth May 10, 2020

I'm afraid to talk to customers/prospects... and it's holding me back

Spencer Jones @jones_spencera

Hey IndieHackers,

This is a thing that has held me back over and over again.

As an introvert and developer, my natural bent is to build something quietly at home and never get out and talk to my target audience (even virtually).

While I believe that the best way forward and to build something that actually solves peoples problems, I find fear coming up over and over.

I easily fall into thinking "If you build it, they will come" ... mostly as a delusion—I know it's horribly wrong but it's easier to believe than get over my fear.

Enough about me, a couple things I'd love to hear from this community:

If you're not like me, how do you think about talking to prospects?

If you used to be like me, what helped you change?

_If you want to commiserate, that's cool too—hopefully we'll both learn something from the thread. :)


  1. 7

    Spencer jones , you don't know it but you're a fucking god amongst men. You know every little thing about your product and you know that it can benefit your prospects so don't be held back from giving them what they need. Heres what youre gonna do , get a list of some shitty prospects that you don't really wanna sell but that would still use your product , call them and practice on them. On the first couple of phone calls or emails you might not be coming off the way you want, and the nerves might get the best of you. nbut after the 10th you 'll become more calm and you'll be able to explain your product better. keep doing this for 30 calls , then mix in a little a bit of prospects that you like to land into the mix and then keep adding more quality prospects into your calling list and by no time you'll kick the fear.

    1. 2

      Thanks @mricecreamcone. I keep reading ...

      Spencer jones , you don't know it but you're a fucking god amongst men.

      Appreciate the vote of confidence :) I'm gonna get some practice in real soon.

  2. 4

    In my first job out of college, I had to communicate with hundreds of clients each week. I was very nervous because I did not understand the ins-and-outs of the company when I first started. Luckily, most of the communication was done via email. Over time, as I learned more about the company's operations, I grew more confident. I also experienced several negative interactions, which actually helped me become more confident in my back-and-forth.

    My advice:

    1. One thing you have is that you know your product well. Therefore, you shouldn't fear ever saying anything incorrect about the product. There's little that can lead to embarrassment.

    2. Stick to online communications in the beginning - aka email and online chats. With email, you can always re-read what you are about to send, before you send it. Also, remember that you don't need to respond to every single email. This is something I often forget myself.

    3. You will have a negative interaction at some point, no matter what. Some people are just jerks, it happens to all of us. They might be having a bad day and take it out on you. Or they're simply a rude person. The way to respond is to tell yourself "thank god I'm not this rude of a person" and kill it with kindness. For example, if someone reports a problem with the product in an unkind way, you can tell them "Thank you for letting me know about the problem. I'm sorry that XYZ happened. I am working to fix it / It's been fixed / I'll let you know as soon as it is fixed."

    4. Expect people to ignore your messages. Do you respond to every piece of marketing you receive? Definitely not. Expect the same from other people. It's usually not something personal. People are busy, they forget, or they are lazy, etc.

    5. If you still find it difficult, try to find a business partner (whom you trust and have a good relationship with) who is more extroverted. He/she can handle external communications while you continue working on development.

    I recommend reading one of Richard Branson's books about entrepreneurship. He talks a lot about personal interactions and how he deals with negative people. Try to keep things light and not take anything too seriously. It's the best way to combat any negativity you might encounter.

    Hope this is helpful!

    1. 1

      Thanks, @toureaux! Very helpful!!

      I was very nervous because I did not understand the ins-and-outs of the company when I first started.

      I'm thinking about stuff I've literally built... I don't know how you would even jump in to something you didn't even know. Hats off to you!

  3. 2

    Like you, I am an introverted developer, and I don't particularly like to make 'sales calls' to customers and prospects.

    But do you know what I like to do?? I love talking to other business owners and startup founders about their businesses and how they are tackling real world business problems. I also love talking about my product and my own startup journey. Somehow, when I stick to these topics, conversation flows, sparks fly and I sell some stuff!

    Reframe the conversation. You aren't making a "sales call", you are having a chat with another business owner about their struggles and hurdles. You are showcasing your own passion about what you do and how you do it. So often, that is enough.

    You can be good and effective at things you don't really enjoy doing.

    1. 2

      Thanks, @Devan! That's a good perspective :)

  4. 2

    Get this book:

    It is from a friend of mine who is an introvert and a millionaire salesperson. What you are experiencing is common. Most of us have reluctance to talk to people. That does mean you can't. Instead, you just need to learn the way that works for you. This is what the book teaches.

  5. 2

    I used to be afraid of talking to customers. In large part, it was because I had the wrong idea of what that meant. I thought that meant I had to do the talking, and I wasn't sure what I should say.

    To me what "talking to customers" really means is:

    1. Learn how to listen to customers. People really like talking about themselves and their problems. Your job is to be genuinely curious about them and their problems and help them start talking about it, and ask good follow up questions to keep the words comings.

    2. Try to help or teach team. If a customer really has a problem, sometimes just listening is helpful enough. A lot of times, they just want to vent and don't want to hear a solution. But if you sense they actually want help, then help – sometimes this is with your product, but sometimes it's offering other products or just advice. I find helping people to be rewarding and enjoyable.

    So in short, I found the easy way to "talk to customers" is to facilitate their talking and try to be helpful.

    This applies not only to business but just talking to people in general.

    I'd say that I used to be introverted, and I still kind of am. In general, I prefer alone and quiet, and I find interacting with people takes energy rather than gives energy. But over time, I've found that interacting with people is also really fun, enjoyable and rewarding so I seek it out from time to time even though it makes me tired. If that makes sense.

    1. 1

      This is a great perspective that definitely helps take the fear out of it for me! Thanks @stevenkkim!

  6. 1

    Hi I was doing cold outreach in 7 years in business. I was born as shy person, and I felt shy at first. Afraid with rejection, but my desire to became successful losing my shyness.

    I improve day by day, learn how to talking to prospect, in my college I hate to do presentation in class and now I must doing it in front of my client. I became more confident, closing a lot of deal with big prospect.

  7. 1

    Hey Spencer,
    Just want to say that the first step is asking for help and having the sheer will to want to change, which you've done, so props!
    I had this problem when talking to people and I used to be completely terrified of it but there are a few tricks I do that helped me to overcome:

    1. This may be simple but write a script. Not everything word for word because you don't know how the other person will respond. But have a list of talking points that you want to hit. It's not much different than making a presentation or a pitch. It's good to be prepared and know the direction you want the conversation to go in and you won't see yourself hesitating as much.
    2. Now this one actually helped me a lot: Talk to yourself in the mirror. Yes, it may seem crazy but actually practice talking in the mirror like you're talking to the person. It will not only boost your confidence but you might think of talking points.
    3. Lastly, this is very unconventional. But when I used to do theatre, I was terrified of performing and my teacher told me to make an alter ego that was the best version of myself (and completely fearless) and I tapped into her every time I did anything on the stage.
      I know my ideas are a little out there but it never hurts to try!
      Good luck! :)
  8. 1

    Get used to embarrassing yourself often in small ways, over time u become immune.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the reply @entrepreneurs! This sounds like ... go into cold water and eventually you can’t fee your legs to me! Eep! 😱

      1. 1

        After leaving the ice-cold bath though you get nothing out of it. Whereas mental strength will do you wonders till the day you slip into your cryonic chamber.

  9. 1

    See it as an experiment. And it’s not much talking anyways. Mostly you need to listen. Prepare a handful of questions so that you can keep firing questions.

  10. 1

    I have the same problem, so I'm afraid I don't have any actionable advice.

    However, I'm writing to let you know that I appreciate you articulating that feeling. It's nice to see something and immediately say "Yes! That's how I feel too!". The replies here have been super helpful, so thanks for approaching the topic.

    Best of luck!

    1. 1

      Thanks much @rfleury2! Glad to know I’m not alone. :)

      What are you working on?

  11. 1

    Same problem, what we have is we don't exist online.

    We don't have a presence, not that we don't talk to people.

    It's a lot less about talking to others, than have people talk to you

    If you exist across the board, talk about the problem - then talk about how you solve it.

    Users/clients will come.

    1. 1

      Thanks for chiming in, @vctr!

  12. 1

    Hey Spencer Jones,

    I can totally understand your situation. The thing that helps me the most while communicating with strangers via phone/email or chat is knowing that these are people just like me. Some of them walked their dog in the morning, others are planning their barbecue party with friends on the weekend and some just have a challenging time dealing with their hyper active children.

    In the rage of our fear, our brain tries to draw the worst case scenario in order to anticipate the amount of pain that might result of it. This makes us demonize the other person. In reality these people are just like you, they have their problems they have to take care of and they even take a shit once in a while. It is normal so the best thing to do is just act like they are normal. I know its a business talk but the more you talk to them like a human the more they will answer like it.

    1. 1

      Thanks, @Jorsoi! Appreciate the perspective—that helps!

  13. 1

    I have two option for you:

    A) Test how serious they are with a 30$ for 30 minutes consultation, set up it with Calendly or another calendar+payment software.

    B) Write down a script followed with questions and things to say, if you just read it you don't need to be confident, it won't be difficult :D

  14. 1

    I was in the exact same boat. Always thought my software will go viral with no effort. Have you tried toastmasters? It help me gain confidence in talking to people.

    1. 1

      Haven't tried Toastmasters but I've heard good things. Will give them another look. Thanks!

  15. 1

    If you used to be like me, what helped you change?

    I am still like you. What helped me change was quitting my day job. I am lucky in that I have this extreme aversion to working for someone else; not sure where it comes from. So, going back to a day job to make money is not an option. Having exactly $0 coming into my bank account every month, I have no option but to hustle and make sales.

    1. 1

      Hope it works out for you @dhruvg! What are you working on now?

  16. 1

    I was -and sometimes still am- exactly like you. I am an introvert and a developer. I used to prefer spending my life miserable (work- and financial-wise) rather than talk to people. Then the people I worked with pushed me a lot to talk to people. They even cornered me to accepting the calls a few times. 😄

    That's when I realized that it's not that bad. All you have to do is ask your potential customer some questions, noting/recording the answers, maybe a few follow up questions if something catches your interest. So in reality it's all about doing preparing. You don't need to talk much. Ask and listen. That's it.

    1. 2

      Thanks @hkanaktas!

      I used to prefer spending my life miserable (work- and financial-wise) rather than talk to people.

      Lol, so many feels! :)

  17. 1

    Stop feeling anxious about it. The feeling that you might inconvenience other people by telling them about the thing you are working on is a cognitive bias: you probably think that the world revolves around you (we all think so initially) and people will remember awkward interactions with you, think about it, blame you.

    They won't. They don't care. They have so many issues of their own that they do not have time thinking about how awkward you or conversation with you is.

    The worst case scenario is you having an awkward conversation with a client that they will instantly forget. The best case scenario is you getting feedback and/or getting more clients.

    This really has no downside. At some point I realized it and since then I never feel any shame or awkwardness telling people about my projects or talking with customers. After you realize the same thing, the lack of irrational shame will come to you naturally.

    Good luck!

    1. 2

      Thanks @borodutch. This is a good perspective ... but I also agree with @Zencentric that it's hard to force yourself through. Lots of folks on this thread seem to indicate that the best way through is to start and practice.

    2. 2

      Stop feeling anxious about it.

      Easier said than done :(
      Even if you understand everything it's f..g hard to force oneself to do something that is so uncomfortable. The only way is to really force, force, force...

      I'm forcing myself and feel awful, but that's the point - to get out of the comfort zone. The worse the better is my motto!

  18. 1

    I used to be an introvert like you and still partially am. Somehow I ended up in the sales role... and I can tell you its all just about practice and doing it. Pushing through... Starting small step by step, you can start sending cold emails & Linkedin messages. Like Tinder, the rejection is not super hard as you are not speaking face to face. Depending on your product though, you will still have to go through demo and a sale. I suggest you take that call, regardless how nervous you are. You will realise people don't bit and some conversations are very enjoyable in fact. And once you close your deal, you realise its not a "big deal". You go for a second call, third call and on the 50th call it becomes second nature. There is no magic of becoming an extrovert, but I just kept pushing through and trying to speak to people and realized I enjoyed it much more than coding to make a career of it. If you need help, ping me on Twitter and I am happy to have a call and help with some coaching (free of charge) :)

    1. 1

      Thanks @kirso... pinging you now on Twitter to chat a bit more :)

  19. 1

    I'm an introvert just like you, and I understand what you're going through. And I agree with @mricecreamcone that you should take this slowly. You can start with friends and family, and then maybe people in your community.

    The good thing is that even if these people do not have a need for your service (say its a music player app which fetches lyrics), they may remember what you're doing. Next time someone else discusses with them about how there isn't any good music player app, they may remember you and redirect to you. This way you can have a passive marketing going on by word of mouth.

    All the best! I hope you make it happen :) If you'd like to, we can chat on twitter!

    1. 1

      Hey @fosskevin, thanks for chiming in! I'd love to chat more ... but seems like your DMs are closed. Could you ping me here?