Articles - 8th May 2020

Tricks of Top Salespeople (and how to use them as a freelancer)

Words by Danielle Jones
Illustration by Jon McCormack

To many, the word “sales” is a dirty word, and that’s because we’ve all had the experience of being sold to… badly. From an aggressive door-to-door salesperson to someone pressuring you to buy something boring like insurance, there’s a negative feeling that comes with all of it.

I came to freelancing to get away from a career in sales. And while I was good at it, I was fed up with cold calling hundreds of companies each day. I thought freelancing would be a golden opportunity to be creative and set my own career goals. But I soon realised I’d left one selling job and stepped straight into another.

Sales trainer Andy Preston explained to me “(freelancers) need to realise you’re effectively a self-employed salesperson working on commission only. You need to be as good, if not better, than the production bit of the job.”

So, if you’re solely responsible for all sales in your freelance business, where do you start? If you’ve never sold before or have a deep aversion to the phrase “always be closing”, here are my top tips for gaining sales (without turning into an extra from Wolf of Wall Street!)


Don’t take it personally

Simple fact, not everybody is going to say ‘Yes’ to you. It’s part and parcel of business, freelancing and just general life. While it’s easy to second-guess yourself and assume that a rejection (or worse, ghosting) is a personal affront on your character, more often than not it’s something external that is the cause – budget cuts, someone higher up blocking purchases, their cat may have just died. Try and disassociate yourself from the negative outcome and instead revel in the fact that you can now free up your time to chase better opportunities.


Keep records (and make sure you update them!)

It’s boring and time-consuming but keeping detailed records of who you’ve contacted, what’s been said and where you’re at with them can save a lot of headaches in the long run. By doing this you can, at a glance, work out where you need to focus your attention and who you need to contact.


Pick up the phone

For many, phoning a potential customer is the most stressful task you can do. They may hang up on you, but that’s ultimately the worst thing that can happen in this situation. Calling potential leads is a skill that can be learned but does require practice. If you want to give it a go, start by phoning a potential customer to ask who makes the buying decisions and, once you have a name, you can call back later with the added confidence of knowing exactly who to speak to.


Use positive wording

Belief in yourself is half the battle in sales and for this to come across your use of wording is crucial. While it may be tempting to write a polite “I was wondering if you might be interested in…?”, it can come across as passive and unengaging to the person reading it.

Try to reframe any questions by using positive, affirming language and you will be surprised at how many people will react in turn. Always remember to show how you can add value to their business and use yes/no questions that they can’t turn down. For example, “Would you be interested in graphics that will immediately grab a customer’s attention to buy?” is going to elicit a better response than “Are you in need of any graphic design services?”


Learn how to ‘Objection Handle’

A sales trainer once told me that it takes on average eight ‘No’s’ to lead to that ‘Yes’. That may sound like pestering someone, but learning how to handle objections effectively is more about ensuring you’re discovering what the client’s real needs are. They may tell you they have no budget, but by asking a few further questions you then find out that the budget resets next month. However, you then find out they’ve bought a service like yours in the past and it ended up being an absolute disaster. By discovering more, you can then ask, directly, what reassurances they would need from you to change their mind.


Qualify your leads

It’s important to find out, as early as possible, whether this is going to be a good business decision for both sides. And while getting a rejection so quickly may sting, it will save you time and hassle. Try to work out some criteria for who you want to work with and stick to these wherever possible.


Follow up, follow up and, yeah, follow up!

When I speak to fellow freelancers who are struggling to win work, I always ask “Yeah, but have you followed up?” Occasionally, they’ll have sent a second email but then will never reach out again. As a sales rep, I would follow up with a lead at least eight times before moving on though now, but as a freelancer, I make it at least three and get the majority of my work on that third communication. As long as you’re polite and offering something that will make the potential client’s life easier, you have every right to.


Invest in some training

You invest in your equipment and you invest your time, so it makes sense to invest in your selling. You don’t need to spend thousands on a bespoke coaching package, but getting some additional training is a great way to quickly get more confidence and learn to deal with any regular stumbling blocks you come across.


At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game

Simply put, the more you put out there the more you’ll get back. By setting aside some time, whether it be each day, week or even month, to research potential clients and send out pitches to businesses, you’ll keep a steady flow of new opportunities into your cycle, The mantra I lived by in my previous sales life was the cheesy (but always true) ”For every ‘No’ you get, you get even closer to that ‘Yes!’”

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