“Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them.” – T. Harv Eker
This is an extract from Acuity Training’s guide for creatives and freelancers
Confident, successful freelancers pick their projects carefully. They are also asked to work on the vast majority of the projects that are a good fit for them.
Initial meetings are a chance to find out more about the client and their project and whether it is a good fit for them.
They will always prepare carefully so that they present themselves in the best possible light, but they are also looking for signs that the client or project isn’t a good fit for them.
Perhaps the client’s timescale or budget is unreasonable? Perhaps the project depends on other freelancers or companies that haven’t yet been chosen and so it is currently impossible to commit to the completion date as they are asking?
There are lots of reasons why a project may be a problem waiting to happen. It is far better to know about it upfront and discuss it with the client. It may well be something that they haven’t thought of and they’ll thank you for bringing it to their attention.
If you don’t qualify your clients you are setting yourself up for failure. You can also look desperate. Be assertive as it’s important to really understand the project. Ask the tough questions respectfully and set yourself up for success.
Now that you are clear on what you need to get from the meeting how do we make sure that the client asks you to work on the projects that are a good fit for you?
Again much of it is down to your confidence. As a professional, it is unlikely that there are others who could clearly do a better job than you. Your challenge is communicating to your client your confidence that you could do an exceptional job for them.
That confidence will come across from the way in which you discuss the project and how you act in the meeting.
Let’s take a look at how you demonstrate that confidence to a client, and then have a look at the keys to selling.
1. Try To Enjoy Yourself
As a freelancer, you need to learn to sell your work. Your work may be great but nothing sells itself. You will have to learn to go out and sell.
Many people struggle selling their business. They feel that it is manipulative or somehow underhand. This comes from viewing sales negatively. Or from dealing with someone selling something with little or now value.
You are selling something of real value – your time and experience – and if you don’t believe that anyone else will. You are there to help someone solve a problem of theirs and should approach it that way.
If you struggle with changing your mindset try these two tricks. They’re very similar but interesting different people find different ones work best for them.
- You’re going to be discussing a client’s project. So say to yourself that you’re giving someone free advice. If they hire you as a result of that advice great, however for the meeting you’re there to do nothing more than to provide free advice. This article has more on this trick.
- Selling is problem-solving. Your work will help the other person grow their business and move forward and that is valuable to them. They want to speak to you for a reason. So selling is nothing more than problem-solving on some else’s behalf.
2. Body Language
Over half of communication is non-verbal, so pay close attention to your body language.
Good posture and confident body language both communicate and will actually increase your confidence further. Studies show that sitting straight actually increases your confidence.
The keys to good confident body language are being still, unhurried and direct. Sit up straight, look people in the eye when you speak to them and try not to speak too quickly.
If you’re not confident it comes across as if you don’t trust yourself. If you don’t trust yourself why would anyone else trust you, let alone buy from you?
If you feel your body language is coming across as weak or unconfident during a meeting, then a quick fix is to smile, take a deep breath and then adjust your position to take up a little more space. This will show that you are confident and relaxed.
Avoid crossing your arms or fidgeting.
Remember to use appropriate hand gestures. They give you something to do with your hands. Also, they have been shown to help you both feel more confident and make you come across as more passionate and engaged.
Another useful body language tip is to try mirroring the other person’s behaviour. People who mirror each other’s posture and actions generally trust and are comfortable with each other.
Used sparingly mirroring can help to build rapport and still remain natural. Don’t mirror everything someone does, that feels strange. For those interested here is a fascinating academic study on mirroring behaviour
3. Voice – Tone, Speed and Emphasis
Some studies show that 38% of communication is from how something is said rather than what is said. This has been disputed but what isn’t disputed is that how you say something is very important.
This YouTube clip says it all. Take the time to watch it from minute 6.
Try to avoid being monotone. Changing your tone, emphasising certain words and pausing all show that you are someone who is at ease. You’re not embarrassed and trying to fade into the background.
This article has some fantastic audio clips that demonstrate how using pauses and emphasis can change how your voice comes across.
4. What You Say
As much as you can, speak directly and without hedging your opinions too much. Direct communication gives the impression of confidence. Stating things clearly shows that you value the truth and clarity and are not spending too much time worrying about the other person’s feelings. A great article on this can be found here.
An example would be.
Approach 1: “The best way to proceed with the project is to do X, Y and Z”
Approach 2: “It’s difficult to say without more information. However, we could think about doing X and then perhaps Y, although it depends on your budget. If you have time you have you could also do Z”
In the second case, the person speaking has shown repeatedly that they are unsure and also worried about the other person’s feelings, budget and time. They’ve made their communication significantly more complicated in order to communicate this.
If you try to always speak directly you will probably find a happy balance. You will occasionally lapse and so communicate a level of empathy but generally, communicate directly and so communicate confidence.
5. Don’t Rush To Sell
Generally, you should take the potential client’s lead about when to transition from small talk to business.
If they are happy to chat for 10 minutes about the weather, football or anything else then you should let them. It’s a good sign and shows that you are building a relationship. It also shows that you’re not in a hurry to sell.
However, if after 10 minutes the client is still showing no inclination to talk about business it is worth trying to move the conversation to business. If they show no interest in doing so, chat some more and try to bring the conversation back to business again in 5 minutes.
You need to show that you are relaxed, friendly and personable but also that you are here to discuss business.
Introduction To Sales
Selling is a psychological business. We like to think that we live in a rational world where choices are made on the basis of pros and cons. This simply isn’t the case.
Selling is a highly emotional business. Understand the basics and you will find selling a far easier. Who knows you might even come to enjoy it!
This article lays out the basics exceptionally well.
Key Components Of A Sale
The best book to read on selling is Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini. It lays out very clearly the best ways to persuade people.
There is so much general advice on the web about selling that I won’t go over it here. The article and video above are great places to start.
However, getting specific, before you go into the meeting you need to have as a very minimum three things crystal clear in your mind:
1. The Benefits That You Offer The Client
The key to any sale is to make sure that your potential client is crystal clear about the clear benefits that you offer them.
Where possible try to quantify what you offer them, rather than offering vague promises.
Who would you be more likely from:
“I’ve previously built 8 fully responsive websites. Given my experience, I’m confident that I can deliver one for you in 3 working days. This element of the project could be finished for you by XXXX.”
“I think I could do that quickly for you for you as I’ve done some before. You wouldn’t need to worry as that wouldn’t take me long to complete.”
Taking this technique one step further is Ramit Sethi’s ‘Briefcase technique’.
This involves presenting some ideas for the project during that initial meeting. The fact that you have done this work upfront clearly demonstrates your enthusiasm to them, and there is no better way to get them excited about working with you than showing them some ideas of what you could do for them.
2. Testimonials & Examples Of Previous Work
During the meeting, you need to be sure to explain to your potential client other work that you’ve done. Also, prepare some client testimonials
The key is to ‘Show don’t tell’.
Telling someone you are a great web designer will have very little impact. That is a claim anyone could make. Showing someone a great website that you’ve designed will get them excited about what you could do for their business.
The closer the examples that you can show them are to the type of work that they are asking you to do the better.
Also, prepare some client testimonials from prior customers. Again the closer these customers are to your potential client in terms of industry and project type the better.
Collecting a small number of short clear testimonials helps put people at ease about your capability and acts as social proof that you can do what you say you can.
Research would suggest that the optimal number of testimonials to have is three.
Scarcity gives a feeling of value, just as abundance devalues something. Therefore, you need to create a feeling of scarcity both around your skillset and also your time.
So, when presenting what you do and your experience, emphasise how rare your skillset is. This could be emphasising your experience in their sector, with this particular type of project or some other vital aspect of the project. Ideally, you can show expertise in more than one of these areas.
Don’t hide your light under a bushel. You need to be sure that they clearly understand how well your skill set fits with their requirements. If they suggest that your skills are not that rare, you need to come back on that assertively, otherwise, your day will drop rapidly.
Secondly, make sure that they understand that there is an existing demand for your skills and time.
Remember people buy from successful people. Successful people are busy. Successful freelancers have other clients. Don’t be afraid to talking about other clients past and present. Confidently walking a client through some of your other projects and how they have benefited those clients is the most concrete example of your abilities.
This post is a contribution from Ben Richardson, director of Acuity Training. Want to contribute to PeoplePerHour blog? Get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org!