Back to the Book: Sales

Alright, I paused on the marketing chapter for the last several weeks, but while I still haven’t talked about everything that chapter includes, we’re going to temporarily move on–because, like many parts of a business, marketing should be continuous–and come back to marketing techniques on a semi-regular basis (ie. when I feel like it).

Instead, this week we’re going to turn our attention to what is potentially one of the most important aspects of freelancing. We’re going to talk about Selling. That’s right, it gets a capital “S”–because it’s a big deal. Chapter 8 in Parker’s book is all about Selling Your Services (that’s actually the chapter title). One of the sentences on the first page sets you up for everything else you need to know about the topic: “As a salesperson, it’s your job to identify these people [prospects] and find out what they need and how you can help them.”

In many ways, sales is the opposite of marketing: marketing is all about trying to get the customer to know who and what you are, and convincing them to come to you. Sales is about going to them. In the marketing class I took as part of my Masters in Publishing degree, our professor described it as push and pull: marketing is pushing out info in order to pull in customers, while sales is about pulling in customers so you can push sales.

For many freelancers (including me) think selling yourself is a little terrifying. I can talk about it in theory until my tongue dries up and falls out of my mouth; I know what probably amounts to most of the “big tips” (make it about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you; always show yourself in your most positive light, etc.). And as I’ve discussed before, dealing with rejection is about realizing it for what it is: a less than perfect fit (or, as Parker puts it in this chapter–”Must rejection is no more than that–the prospect doesn’t need your services at this time.”)

So what can you to do rid yourself of the salesman jitters? The answer is two words that both batman and the boy scouts live by: BE PREPARED.

The first step of preparing yourself is creating a prospect list. Initially, your prospect list can look very similar to the list of contacts you made when working on market research. Then, perfect your elevator pitch–come up with a few benefits that you plan to offer to all your clients (both real benefits that your clients will see and benefits that set you apart from your competition). Remember that each person on your list is a person and if they can actually benefit from the services you are offering (and you can convince them of this) than they will WANT to hear what you have to say.

Once you have your list of clients and you’ve figured out roughly what you want to tell them, you need to actually try and make contact, while remembering what I’ve already said about rejection–they aren’t rejecting YOU, they are saying they don’t need your particular services at this time. If the prospect listens politely than tells you they aren’t currently looking for a writer, get their permission to check back in with them in a few months–promise not to be a bother (ie. Would it be alright for me to call you again toward the end of the year and see if anything has changed?) and get their OK to call again at that later date. If they say yes, GREAT, if not, well, cross them off your list.

One final note on something Parker said that I hadn’t realized. She writes, “Sales authorities will tell you that without a referral or previous contact, it can take five to ten sales approaches (such as a mailing, emailing, or phone call) to get a face-to-face meeting with a buyer, even when that buyer has a potential need for what you’re selling.” And that’s not even to make the sale–that’s just to get the meeting.

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