7 Ways You Might Be Damaging Your Credibility as an Entrepreneur

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For business owners, few aspects matter more than credibility. Entrepreneurs who don’t take time to maximize their credibility will struggle to win favorable terms with suppliers, attract investors, retain existing clients and land new business. Through personal experience, and the annual B2B BuyerSCAN survey conducted by my company, I have studied how credibility is killed and how to recover.

Below, I’ll share seven credibility killers entrepreneurs need to be aware of.

1. Not being findable through an online search

Upon encountering a potential business partner, employer or seller, the first step many businesspeople take is to conduct an online search. In our AI-prevalent world, people want assurances that they are dealing with a legitimate company and person.

They’re seeking information on capability and likeability and asking themselves: Is this person or company legitimate? Is this someone I want to spend time with and work with? If they can’t find you online, your credibility comes into question.

Because many of us have common names, it’s worth taking the time to create a unique profile. For example, there are many Lee Smiths in the world, including one very famous baseball relief pitcher. But I have crafted my professional profile using C. Lee Smith, which makes finding me online a bit easier.

I also ask my team members to create a professional profile on sites like LinkedIn when they connect to my company. This strategy makes my employees easily findable.

A while back, we hired a sales professional who kept changing his name on his LinkedIn page. Some days, he used only his first name. Other days, he left off the fact that he was employed by my company. This behavior is a sure way to confuse prospects and drive away business. Many of us wondered who he was hiding from because he certainly wasn’t making it easy to be found. That sales professional didn’t last long at my company.

Related: Want to Earn Trust? Don’t Break Any of These 4 Links in the Chain of Credibility.

2. Failing to know the prospect’s line of business/company

If you hope to provide your product or service to another organization, avoid this opening line: “Tell me about your business.”

This statement tells the prospect you haven’t bothered to research them. Clearly, you don’t understand their business problems or how your solution can help them.

As an entrepreneur, you are the chief salesperson for your organization. B2B buyers don’t want to educate the seller. They expect the seller to know about their line of business. Our research shows that 46% of surveyed B2B buyers look for how many years of experience a seller has in their industry. Unfortunately, 65% of sellers don’t even check the buyers’ website before they make their pitch.

If you don’t have specific experience in the prospect’s line of business, do your homework. Start following trends in their industry. Comment on other people’s LinkedIn posts regarding the industry. Being supportive, instead of self-serving, will increase your credibility.

3. Not being responsive

Decision-makers are busy people. They may not get back to a potential buyer or a business partner right away. As they prioritize their daily activity, for example, they may let the top candidate for an open position wait a day before they return a call.

As a seller, you must put up with this kind of buyer behavior. But buyers will not tolerate it from you.

When you ignore their outreach, you’re letting them know they’re not important to you. With that attitude, you’ll find it hard to succeed.

4. Pressing for a decision

Many entrepreneurs are driven and impatient. But when that impatience leads to rushing a decision-maker, you start to lose credibility.

Your pushiness reeks of desperation, showing you care only about yourself or need to wrap things up quickly before new information comes to light. In fact, 38% of B2B buyers have told us that pushy salesperson behavior can be a deal-breaker.

Related: Every Brand and Business Person Should Do This to Ensure Their Credibility

5. Posting unsavory content or behaving badly online

Your online profiles can destroy any credibility you may have built up with prospects. You should be particularly careful with your LinkedIn presence. I ask my employees to keep their personal social media profiles separate from their professional listings. They are instructed to avoid listing our company name or website in their personal social media.

This rule came about after one of my best friends was considering using a real estate agent in her hometown. While the agent’s bio page looked professional, this individual’s X feed was peppered with lewd and explicit content that was highly offensive. She quickly decided to move on to another agent.

To protect your credibility, consider using a personal social media profile that is not connected to your full name. Even then, temper the tone of your online remarks. You can disagree with another person respectfully and still make your point.

6. Working with a disreputable company — or having done so in the past

Half of B2B buyers make it clear they will not even take a call or meet with someone who is associated with a business that has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, either currently or in a previous job.

If you have had a past professional connection with a disreputable company, don’t try to cover it up. A determined buyer will find evidence of what you’d like to hide. A better strategy is to be aggressive about damage control. I recommend developing a breakup story.

For example, you might say that as soon as you learned of the trouble, you began looking for a new job. Or you might point out, that if you had known what was happening, you never would have accepted a position with the company.

Related: 10 Ways to Build Trust and Credibility With Your Customers

7. Treating support staff poorly

When I’m vetting a potential employee, vendor or business partner, I like to see how they behave in a non-professional setting. I ask them to meet me at a restaurant if they’re in town.

I arrive early and ask the maître d’ to observe my lunch companion’s behavior. If I learn the person is rude to employees who are bussing or waiting tables, I have an indication of their attitude regarding people in serving roles. Rudeness is a problem, and I don’t want arrogance to reflect poorly on me.

Remember that your visibility to an organization begins the moment you interact with anyone on the staff. Any negative behavior will work its way up the chain of command. Simply put, treating the support staff poorly will not build your credibility with decision-makers.

Entrepreneurs face an endless list of tasks. Despite the daily challenges you must address, building and maintaining credibility is too important to overlook. One small misstep could require the investment of additional time and energy to restore your loss of credibility.

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