Freelancers live and die by their ability to sell. Reputation can, and will get you far (if you’ve got the chops) but at the end of the day, sales is what pays for the roof over your head.
I never really thought of myself as a sales guy, until I had a few partners on joint ventures tell me that I was good at it. I guess it just takes practice.
This post is for everyone in creative services who’s out there fighting the good fight 🙂
Here are the 3 things that I believe have been most helpful in landing regular work:
- I believe in my, and my team’s ability to do great work.
- I prioritize personal contact.
- We (Strategy Partners) try to delight our customers.
Believe in Your Abilities
I’ve sat in with clients on pitches by other professionals, and I can’t tell you how often I see sales people that seem intimidated, or don’t come across confident. It’s a huge red flag to anyone that has to make a buying decision. If you can make the person on the other end of the phone (or desk) feel like their business and their life if going to be better with you in it, all you basically have to do is ask for the sale.
If you can make them feel this way about you, you will be surprised how often budgets seem to magically increase by 20-30 percent. I’ve seen it happen so often that when I basically ignore whatever number a prospective clients tells me their budget is. I know they can go higher, they just have to have someone with confidence on the other end of the phone or across the table that makes them feel like it’s going to be money well spent.
In a world of email, Facebook, Twitter, and all those other methods for staying connected, it’s really easy to forget the power of a personal, face to face, connection.
I try to make it a point to see as many of my clients, partners, and referral sources as often as our schedules align. When you get to know these people on a personal and professional level, you build rapport with them. For clients, its even better to build relationships with their staff. You’ll be surprised how far a box of chocolates, lunch, or even a cup of coffee can get you.
I’ve had assistants tip me off that other professionals are trying to poach clients, or that new projects are coming up. I’ve even had junior associates tip a proposal in my favor, because I am a known quantity that they can work with.
At the end of the day, it’s all about who you know. When I started on my own, I made it a point to build a solid referral network, and it now accounts for almost 50% of my business. That network was built almost entirely, on beer, coffee, and meals with people. The fastest way to build a relationship, is over a meal. The fastest way to build a business relationship, is to develop a friendship.
Delight Your Customers
In our industry, people have come to expect to be nickle and dimed. When you can break that mold, and undermine that expectation, you will be surprised how often your own clients will refer to you.
It’s always been my philosophy to deliver a little bit more than someone asks for, or expects. Most of the time, it comes in the form of extra attention and patience, rarely (if ever) does it involve delivering more than the contract specifies. When a client calls with a question at 8PM, and you answer the phone and talk to him or her, your stock goes up.
If a client wants you to teach them how to use a CMS so they can manage their website, go out of your way to spend the extra time to teach them. More often than not, that effort will be what gets you the long term maintenance contract. When you educate someone on what their site can do, you’re empowering them to test their imagination. Every time a client has an idea, it creates an opportunity for you to sell more.