Selling Sucks: How to take charge of your sales process as a Freelancer

We all know the situation: you’re a freelancer, working on a great project with a great client for weeks, or months. Then the project ends, and you have to scramble into sales mode to organise your next piece of work. 

You reach out to everyone in your network and receive limited replies. Time ticks by. You finally get a lead. You’re up against an agency, a management consultancy, and several other freelancers. Competition is tough. 

This process is tough, right? You’re not a salesperson, you’re an innovator, and these things don’t come naturally to you. We understand the struggle, and have put together a bunch of tools, tips and tricks to make the world of selling your services less painful and time consuming. 

Here are three things to keep in mind before we begin:

  1. Clients work with people that they like and trust. You don’t always necessarily need to be the absolute best.
  2. People don’t like being “sold to”, so adopt the consultative sales approach
  3. Preparation is key. Don’t wait until the last minute to put together case studies and proposal templates – take some time out to prepare this stuff in advance so that you’re not stressing out unnecessarily.

Adopt a consultative/value-based sales approach

In today’s highly competitive market, potential clients are bombarded by people wanting to sell them something. It’s exhausting, especially when most salespeople haven’t done their research and don’t understand the challenges of the businesses they are trying to sell to. 

Instead of forcing your solution on a client, get to know your contact as a person and recommend solutions accordingly – even if that means you don’t win their business. This will gain their trust and allow you to only engage in projects that best showcase your talents. 

Here are some top-level tips on how to be a consultative salesperson:

  • Don’t start pitching right away: Spend time asking lots of questions about your prospect, their role, their team and their challenges. This will often allow you to get hints at how you might win their business, and solve their problem in the best possible way. 
  • Focus on the “why”: Instead of trying to convince prospects that your solution or process is the best option, talk to them about the benefits of your solution or process, and why these exist. By focussing on the “why”, your prospect will better understand the reasons that you should work together. 
  • Add value to every interaction: Your prospect should feel heard and supported during every interaction you have with them. That means leaving time to answer questions, give more information, and send relevant case studies or supporting documents. Treat your prospect as you would a friend; with patience, kindness and openness. 
  • Don’t forget the next steps!! Once the conversation is almost wrapped up, share the next steps for your sales process. You could say, for example “Ok, so if you decide you’d like to go ahead, I’ll send you a proposal, then we can line up an onboarding call with the rest of the team. Does that sound ok?” Getting agreement is crucial – this will make your client feel engaged in the process. 

Automate, automate, automate

As a freelancer, time is money, which means that spending a little time upfront will often save you loads of time and effort in the long run. 

We recommend automating as much of your sales process as possible. Here are a few ways to do this:

  1. Set recurring calendar invites to remind you to check in with clients. And don’t stop there – if you’ve read a great, useful article, or discovered a great podcast that would interest your client, put it into a folder to make sure you’re sending them something of value each time you check in. 
  2. Create email templates for your proposals, next steps, and check-ins. This will allow you to quickly respond and get in touch with clients without worrying about wording. 
  3. Sign up to newsletters that will push great content and resources into your inbox. Why search for interesting resources when you can have them delivered straight to you? For example, we love the Hubspot newsletter, as well as the Harvard Business Review, The Tedium, and Stratechery. 
  4. Use case study-building tools instead of building a website. Save time putting your case studies together by using the Wagestolz platform, which has been custom-built for case study creation. The templates, interactivity and animation options, and visual editing tools are easy to use and beautiful to look at. Better yet, you can get inspired by the work of others on the platform!

Continuously improve your network

Networking, although sometimes painful, is crucial to anyone wanting to run their own business. There are loads of ways to do this without the awkwardness of attending meetups and networking events. Some of our favourites are:

Maintain a consistent, opinionated presence on LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn is often overlooked, especially by designers, because it’s seen to be uncool and it can be difficult to gain traction. But, in reality, it’s an incredible tool if you’re sharing ideas that have value to your audience. If you’ve learned something interesting and new lately, and want to share it, go ahead! You’d be surprised – even the most simple, basic lessons can be brand new to some people, so don’t hesitate. This will help you to establish expertise in your arena, and you’ll find that with a well-worded post or some compelling images, you’ll have connections requests flooding into your inbox. 

Remind your clients that referrals mean a lot to you

There’s nothing wrong with asking for a referral. If you know that your client has a contact at a company (or even another department) that you’d like to work with, and you know that your client loved working with you, then don’t be afraid to ask them to put you in touch. And don’t let timing stop you – you might have work lined up for months in advance, but having a pool of potential clients that are excited to work with you will save you in tough times, and ensure that the pipeline is always full. 

Offer free feedback or office hours for your clients

Setting aside some free time for your prospects to ask questions is an amazing sales tool. Not only does it make them feel like they have a trusted advisor, but it gives you the opportunity to show off your skills and expertise in a casual environment. You can make their lives easier by answering questions, giving advice, and solving problems for them before having done paid work together. However, it’s crucial to ensure you have clearly defined boundaries before offering this time to prospects, so they are not taking advantage of you. Here’s how we would phrase this:

“Hi Marta. I’d like to offer you thirty minutes of office hours/consultation services this week so that I can talk your team through this problem”. 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again….

 A day of preparation and organisation is always a day well spent! By setting up your sales collateral, tools, communication, and case studies, you’ll save yourself a lot of anxiety in the long term. If you’ve got some spare time right now, use it to get on top of your sales efforts. We promise you’ll thank yourself later!
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