Generating sales growth for freelancers: How to hold meaningful conversations
Sales success is often equated to pushy conversations or unanswered emails, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Engaging with prospects in an authentic and meaningful way can leave more of an impact than the traditional sales approach.
While marketing efforts, such as cold emails and social media outreach, are a necessary part of any marketing drive, building relationships on a personal level should never be underestimated.
A common challenge
The good news is that you are not alone. Many consultants find themselves facing the fact that their sales strategies need improvement because of common mistakes which include:
- Meaningless social media activity – unfocused communication that offers no value
- Lack of preparation – not understanding the potential client’s needs or aspirations
- Discomfort discussing fees – capitulating on fee structures in the face of any challenges by clients
- Pushiness – clients feel strong-armed to purchase products or services
- Overly deferential – leaving clients confused around the reasons the contact was initiated by you
The truth is that there are countless ways to derail a sales discussion and most consultants make blunders when they speak with a prospect. The key is to ensure that you have the confidence to change your approach during the engagement should you sense the need to adapt.
Give meaning to your approach
When initiating meaningful sales conversations, there are several recognised approaches that most successful consultants use in their sales activities.
The seven steps outlined below can help in this regard:
Before you can even think about asking questions or offering your services you need to build a connection with your prospect. If you are pleasant and focus on connection development, your sales talks will go a lot more smoothly. The best way to engage with a prospect is through common ground. Do your research and find out about your prospect to establish a connection.
Building rapport can be a challenge, but there are a few tips you can use to get ahead of the game:
- Be attentive
- Have a conversation starter
- Understand the needs of your potential client
- Listen before speaking
- Use humour where appropriate
- Ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of your offering and how you help to improve their business.
Discover and learn
If you have ever read any sales advice, you will know that you need to ask questions in order to identify the prospect’s ambitions. What most guidance does not cover is how to harness the power of these ambitions. What are the goals and obstacles that stand in the way of achieving these ambitions? By learning more you will start to crystallise your sales opportunity.
Some questions to ask include:
- What are your goals and objectives?
- What’s your budget?
- What does the competitive landscape look like and how are you unique?
- Why are you hiring a consultant?
- What is your timeline?
- What challenges have you faced to date?
- What is the decision process for approval of work?
Balance active enquiry and listening
Sales conversations necessitate both give and take. You must engage the prospect in order to thoroughly comprehend their challenges.
You must also take what the prospect says and provide ideas to showcase your expertise. Balance how much you say and how much you listen. In this way you can manage the conversation and set the agenda.
Make your pitch
You can do everything else well, but if the prospect does not understand the value of your solution (and you must be extremely explicit about that value) and the impact it will have, you will be unsuccessful. Clarity and simplicity are vital in this regard.
Promote a new vision
This is related to points 2 and 4. Once you understand the prospect’s ambitions, frame a vision of how you can help them in this regard. This is your call to action. Helping them see different possibilities is a powerful part of the sales conversation. It is what many sales professional call the ‘aha’ moment of the sales conversation.
Trust is everything
The basis of sales success is trust. If a prospect does not trust you, they will not open up and reveal their needs.
Trust unavoidably takes time to build – you may therefore need to engage in multiple sales conversation with a prospect.
Building trust and maintaining pre and post-sales trust is critical to building a sustainable business. Client testimonials and examples of work are one way to build pre-sales trust. Once a relationship has been established, meeting deadlines, staying on budget, open communication and a high standard of work go a long way to maintaining that trust.
Bank the learnings
Has your pitch and future vision secured a new client? Congratulations! Enjoy the moment and when you are done take the time to put together notes on the sales strategy you adopted and why it was successful – this can help you keep sales momentum.
Conversely, if it seems like you have lost a prospect for good, not all is necessarily lost! If you are offering good value and solutions, you just need to adjust your approach to get the message across.
Make some notes on the experience and try to pinpoint the instance in the sales conversation where you ‘lost’ the prospect. This is a powerful learning experience you can put to use in the future.
There is no fool proof approach to sales conversations. However, adopting a more structured approach where you plan and give thought to sales conversations will ultimately help you build your client base and increase sales.