You can do the creative work…but can you promote your services, then get someone to pay you for them? As a freelancer, you have to be good at sales because your business depends on it. There’s a lot of pressure to get this right. Learning to run an effective sales call is a big part of achieving success.
When I began freelancing, I avoided sales calls at all costs. I would take assignments without ever speaking to my clients. But, the reality is, the vast majority of people want to speak with a person before paying them. If I wanted bigger and better projects, I was going to have to figure this out.
In this post, I’ll share what I know about having a successful sales meeting, so you can implement these tips and bring in more business.
What is a sales call?
A sales call is a meeting between a service provider or seller and a potential buyer. They can take place in person, over the phone, or during a video conference. Most freelancers will find their sales calls happen virtually, especially in our current environment.
Research also shows that the majority of people think our lives will include a balance of in-person and virtual components for most activities in the future, so this is unlikely to change any time soon.
Why are sales calls important?
Selling services to customers is an essential part of running your business. It’s how you make money, so it’s vital that you do it well. Sales calls give you a chance to talk with prospective clients about what they need from you and help them understand if you’re the right person to work with.
Getting potential clients to schedule a sales call
Clients book a call after coming into contact with information about your product or service. This could be because you did cold outreach or because they found you online and filled out an intake form for your services.
This person is raising their hand and telling you they have an interest in your services. This gives you an opportunity to have a conversation that positions you as an expert and showcases what you have to offer as the solution to their problem.
To have sales calls on your calendar consistently and bring in a steady stream of clients, you need a marketing strategy that puts you in front of your potential clients. To learn more about that, read Powerful Strategies for Lead Generation: A Guide for Freelance Business Owners
How do you prepare before the call?
The key to running your sales calls like a pro is building a sales script that you can use to guide the conversation.
Why a sales script?
You wouldn’t go on stage without having some idea about what you’re going to say and do, and taking the same approach to sales calls is what will set you apart from others. A sales script is a map you follow on the way to closing the deal. You can break your script down into three phases:
The sales call structure
- Opening your call
- Running the call
- Closing the call
Next, we’ll walk through the different phases, what they consist of and how you can build your sales script.
Understanding the three phases of your sales call
Opening your sales call
The opening of your sales call is really your second chance to make a first impression, which is an opportunity we don’t get very often in our lives. Before the sales call, it’s likely that your potential customer has looked at your website and your online presence, they may already have an opinion about you. (Premusably, a positive one if they’re willing to jump on a call.)
Online personas can only say so much, though. Your prospect will fully form their opinion about you once they speak with you.
For example, we can look at how this works in businesses with a storefront. 76% of consumers look at a brand’s online presence before visiting a business. It makes sense that if they like what they see, they’ll head to the store. But if they encounter a rude employee or the store is a mess, do you think they’ll stick around and make a purchase? Slim chance.
As freelancers, the story is similar. We can impress clients with our website, it can even do a lot of the selling for us, but the way that we show up will impact the sales we make and the success we have as business owners.
So…what’s the best way to show up? Many say start with an open-ended question, but there’s a critical step that many people skip.
Setting a meeting agenda.
Data from Doodle shows that 67% of people believe that having a clear agenda is what makes meetings successful. If you’re the one presenting the agenda, it shows that you’ve put thought into the meeting. Your potential customer also doesn’t have to wonder what’s coming next. They can focus their attention on what’s happening at the moment.
Here’s one way you can open your meeting with a specific agenda.
“I’m going to ask you some questions so I can better understand what you need right now and how I can help. Then, I’ll share what the process of working with me looks like and we can discuss what the next step would be to move forward, does that sound good to you?”
Once the potential client agrees to move forward, you can jump into the first question, which should allow the prospect to explain their needs to you.
“You mentioned in your [email/message/form submission] that you need help with [the service they need.] Can you tell me a little more about that, and why you have a need for this right now?”
From here, just listen. That’s how you get deep insights into what your potential clients actually want. It’s a good idea to take notes during this stage with key details and anything that sticks out to you.
Running the sales call
Now that you have a solid opening, you need to plan for what kinds of questions you’ll ask as you move through the call. Everyone’s list may look a bit different, depending on what industry they work in, but here are some good topics to cover:
- Details about the organization
- The scope of project they need help with
- What business outcomes they expect to achieve with this project
During this period of time, having a script is helpful, but don’t follow it too rigidly. If you were jotting down some notes in the previous step, you can use them to come up with even more relevant questions and get ideas about what to follow up on.
You want to show prospects that you’re hearing them, not just asking irrelevant questions from a template. This will allow you to get all the details you need to move forward with confidence
Explaining your process
If at this stage, you feel like the client would be a good fit for you, explain how you can help and your process. If you haven’t got it all figured out yet, don’t worry. You don’t need to go into great detail here. All you need to do is tell them what steps you’ll go through to complete the project and what they can expect from you.
Then, give them the opportunity to ask any questions they might have about working together. (This is another good time for you to take notes, so you can keep track of if the same questions are coming up for your clients over and over again.)
Closing the call
Turning conversations into actual sales happens in the close. One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make here is being uncertain. They don’t have a next step or they leave it up to the client to tell them what happens next.
You need to remain in control during the close. Tell the client that after this call, you will send a proposal or a quote for them to review. From there, they can sign it to begin working together. Finally, you can end on a simple question to get their buy-in.
“Does that sound good to you?”
Getting a “yes” from the client at this point is critical. It doesn’t make working together a sure thing, but it does decrease the chances that you’ll waste your time sending a proposal that a client won’t even consider. The goal here is to confirm their interest before you put in more time and effort.
Selling your services as a freelancer
Having these sales conversations can feel overwhelming, or even impossible to do if you don’t have a lot of experience. But you don’t need a background in the sales industry to be successful. If you focus on growing your sales skills and making each call better than the last, these calls will get easier in time.
Do you have more questions about the sales process? Leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter.