Freelancer's guide to sales - i) how to develop a strategy

Lisette Howlett, of sales training firm Sandler London Central

Frustrated that you seem to be doing the same stuff for the same money today as five years ago?

Worried that the hopes you had of a new house, expensive holiday, private schooling are still just 'hopes'?

Want to break out of this cycle?!

Most freelancers are used to the boom and bust or feast and famine cycle. Indeed many will say that this is simply the nature of freelancing - when you have a contract you focus on this and make lots of money and then when it is over you work on finding the next contract whilst earning no money. For some, the downtime acts as a period of rest between bouts of hard work. This does not have to be the case. A bit of forward planning, lots of self-discipline, some new techniques, and a new approach to selling can fix this problem, forever.

1/WHAT IS A SALES STRATEGY?

“A strategy is a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, most often ‘winning’." For freelancers, this definition fits perfectly in that winning is the ability to attract new clients and retain current clients. And this is best achieved by having a plan of action and thinking about the mid to longer term.

Strategyis about choice, which affects outcomes. We all have a finite amount of time, money and energy and thus need to direct our sales efforts to those areas that best suit our goals and objectives. We have to make choices. We should make choices systematically and in the context of where we want to be.

In terms of developing your sales strategy we will look at the following elements

* Business Goals

* Ideal Client

* Competitor Analysis

* Channel to Market

i) BUSINESS GOALS

In order to get somewhere you first need to know where you are trying to get to. This sounds obvious but so many of us have not taken the time to clearly write down (and alas they need to be written down) our business goals. What sort of work do you want to be doing? How much money do you want to be earning (and in what time-frame)? How much time do you want to spend working? Where do you see yourself in five years?

ii) IDEAL CLIENT

Core to your sales strategy is having a clear idea of your ideal client. This is the person we want to get in front of so that they can buy into us and what we can offer them and their company. To do this, you need to clarify the industries or sectors you want to work in, the job role you want to get in front of and the size of company you think will offer your the best opportunities.

In addition you should think about the sorts of problems and challenges that they - the client - might face and the options they have for solving those issues. Take time to think creatively and broadly about the latter.

To illustrate, your target company may be experiencing a drop in advertising responses to a particular product they are selling. You might therefore look at the choices they have around advertising - to take on a freelancer to bring in new advertising ideas, to outsource advertising, to find a new advertising partner - and where you fit in. At the same time, you should look at the other alternatives - to redirect advertising spend to developing a social media presence, to cut prices (and advertising and marketing spend), or to replace the produce with a new one. Looking at this in the widest possible way allows you to see where your solution best fits.

iii) COMPETITOR ANALYSIS

Competitor Analysis helps you have an informed conversation with your potential clients (your prospects) and also helps you establish your price. It also means that you know that the prospect will have already heard from the 12 sales people they met before you walked in the door (or they picked up the phone)

iv) CHANNEL TO MARKET

Your sales strategy will depend on the route to market you select. Many people have no choice other than to find and approach their buyers themselves. Most freelancers, however, have three main routes to market:

* Direct sales where you make contact with the end-user or buyer of your services

* Agency placements where you rely on an agency to find you work for which they take a fee

* Associate arrangements where you act as an associate for another person or company who takes on the business development responsibilities and places you in work under their brand, paying you an agreed rate and charging the client a different one.

You need to decide which one of these three routes work for you. Each take a certain amount of time and effort and generally it is impractical to build all three into your strategy. You can have a primary and secondary channel but experience tells me that in practice the secondary channel fades away. When deciding on which one or two to focus on you need to consider the following factors:

* Your day rate. Clearly direct sales will give you the highest day rate since you are not giving away margin. When evaluating this look at the probability of your getting work on your own, compared with being found work by an agency or as an associate and then calculate whether or not the rate holds.

* Your business development motivation and capability. If you elect for direct sales will you be able to sustain the necessary level of business development, both prospecting and closing business?

* The feasibility of finding work through each channel. For example, are there suitable companies that you could do associate work for?

* Your business goals and which of these channels best meets the goal

2/SETTING OBJECTIVES

HOT TIP: Set yourself challenging goals which mean something to you, personally

GOLDEN RULE: A life without risk is a life without growth

When setting objectives you need to think about two things. Firstly your inputs - those things that you do and have complete control over. Secondly the output - those things that you seek to achieve but do not have control over.

Let me explain. You can control how much time you spend making cold calls, you can control how much time and money you invest in honing your cold calling skills - you cannot control how many people buy from you. You can improve the odds - by up-skilling, through dedicated application of the techniques, by actually picking up the phone each day, by monitoring successes and failures and learning from these - but only the person on the other end of the phone can decide whether or not to buy.

Thus you need to set goals for your inputs (we call these 'behaviours' at Sandler) which will drive your sales. If you work out the metrics carefully (how much of each input leads to a sale) you can also predict - to a level of accuracy that will astound you - the sales you will achieve.

The best advice, therefore, is to set and measure your input behaviours and track your business success.

This stuff is not easy which is why here at Sandler we focus on reinforcement training - creating a safe environment where business owners can learn new skills and practice them, as well as providing support and challenge. Doing it alone can be harder than doing it with the support of others.

You need to ensure that your objectives are important to you and personally compelling. They need to provide you with the inspiration required to keep you motivated to relentlessly follow your prospecting plan, which I will explore in part 2.


T his is the first in a three-part series. Lisette Howlett, of sales training advisory Sandler London Central, will look at the art and science of effective selling. Having now set out your sales strategy and objectives; above, part 2 will explore your sales plan and prospecting - finding and cultivating prospective buyers. Part 3 will reveal what gets in the way and tries to stop you from 100% effective selling, 100% of the time.

Want to learn more about developing a sales strategy? Contact Lisette or any of the team at Sandler London Central., which is currently running free business development seminars in November and December.   



Oct 20, 2010
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