Selling a product or service requires selling a bit of yourself. This typically takes the form of a capability statement, briefing, or marketing sheet. It’s your written argument for why the customer should buy from you.

The most common mistake people make when selling themselves is they sell themselves. Wait, what? That doesn’t make sense, does it? It turns out that selling yourself effectively requires you to share very little about yourself. Instead, selling yourself is about sharing how you’re going to solve the customer’s problem. Selling yourself is all about your potential customer.

Potential customers don’t care about the things we think they will. They don’t care about where you went to college. They don’t care about how long you’ve been in the business. And, they really don’t care about your proprietary 4-step process. All they want to know is this: Does she understand my problem and can she fix it?

As a would-be buyer, I need your competence — not your resume.

Pull out your capability statement. If you don’t have one, do a quick internet search on “capability statement” to see hundreds of terrible examples.

  • Does your statement start with a sentence reading, “We were founded in…”? Scrap it.
  • Do you go on to share anything about the number of employees and their technical skills? Delete this.
  • Have you included any meaningless statements about being “customer-oriented” or “mission-focused”? First, call me to explain what these mean, and then get out your red pen. You’re trashing all of this too.
  • Lastly, do you include any multi-step approach or methodology that includes gathering information, doing some analysis, and making any recommendations? Don’t waste your customer’s time with the nuts and bolts. Delete, delete, delete.

Now that you have a clean slate, start again.

  1. Start with why — and not your why. Write your customer’s why. What’s their problem and why do they want to solve it right now?
  2. Have a perspective. Establishing credibility is less about what you’ve done and learned in the past and more about how you view the present. There is no right or wrong answer here, but you must be prepared to offer a recommendation. What do you believe will be the most promising path to solving your customer’s problem? You’ll lose potential customers who don’t share your world view while eliminating doubt that you’re the right solution among those who do.
  3. List the opportunities and risks of not acting now. Your customers inherently know these. Listing them validates their concerns and spurs action.
  4. Talk about results. In the most honest and uncomplicated way you can, list the results your customer will see after buying from you. The most compelling ways to do this are to show them or to have someone else tell them through testimonials.

It’s counterintuitive. The best way to talk about yourself and your business is not to mention yourself at all. Focusing on your customers, their needs, and potential results is key. This is how you establish your credibility: through understanding them, not by listing your past education, experience, or well-thought-out methodology. Customers don’t want your life story, they want to know that you can fix their problem — and that’s what your capability statement should be all about.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.