Freelancer’s guide to sales – Where non-sales people get stuck

Lisette Howlett, sales expert for Sandler London Central writes:

Anxious about picking up the phone and dialling a total stranger?

Concerned that you are getting meetings but not closing the business?

Dream that you might one day have fun selling?

Understanding the sales challenge is the theme of our third article on the
art and science of selling.


There are two main reasons:

1. Lack of systematic prospecting (or lack of confidence or skills to
effectively execute the prospecting plan – see Part two)

2. They are caught up in their product or service and feel emotionally
attached to it and to the sale – therefore they 'sell' its benefits, rather than
listen to the needs of the prospect

As we’re on the topic of people, a word or two about me. I started with Sandler as a reluctant sales person. I loved what I did but hated selling, or rather hated the idea of being thought of as a ‘sales person.’ I realised, however, that in order to have fun work, and to help businesses as I knew I could, I had to sell to them. This is where the firm came in. They gave me honest, no-nonsense consultative sales techniques that get results while, importantly for me, preserving my self-respect!


The image most of us have of a sales person is not good. Pushy, does not listen,
interrupts what you are doing, does not understand your business – these are just some of the traits often heard complained about from a person on the receiving end of sales call!

The anti-sales feeling is such that most of us would NOT think we were being complimented when told we sound 'just like a used car salesperson'. Yet believe it or not, there are many used car salespeople who are motivated by the fact that they can help people buy something that could make their life easier, and who pride themselves on matching the car to the client.

Understanding the reasons for the generally negative perception of selling
is critical to understanding how to fix the problem. Selling and buying
has been going on for hundreds of years and both sides have long
established behaviour patterns and expectations. In our experience, these do not serve the best interests of either the buyer or the seller. We therefore support a different approach - where the expectations of both sides are openly shared, allowing for a genuine exploration of whether or not the buyer had a need and how the seller can best meet that need.

HOT TIP: You don't need to act like a salesperson to sell

GOLDEN RULE: Product knowledge used at the wrong time can be intimidating


At their most basic, they are:
* Opt out of sales
* Get someone else to sell for you
* Learn to sell/sell better

Each choice has implications both in terms of costs, benefits and what you
have to do.


Opting out of selling is the easiest in the short term. And for some
people it will be the right decision. Clearly it can never be a total opt
out. Even if you rely on agency placements, you still need to 'sell'
yourself to the agency and delivery some core selling skills, such as holding your
price, and finding out what the prospect/client needs.


Getting someone else to sell for you could mean going through an agency or
working as an associate. Equally it could mean outsourcing your lead
generation or hiring a business developer or telemarketer. The agency-using freelancer’s position is covered above. Getting associate work requires prospecting and selling. Not necessarily to such a high skill level but to some level of proficiency.

Finding someone to do this for you sounds fine in principle, but it does pose
challenges. Finding a lead generation company is easy - there are lots of
them around. Finding a good one is not easy, particularly if you have not
got a track record of cold calling/telesales and do not therefore really
know what a good onelooks like! Generally speaking; if the offering sounds too
good to be true, it normally is!

Unfortunately paying a lot of money also does not guarantee results - whilst it is undoubtedly true that really effective telemarketing agencies are not going to be cheap, it is not true that all expensive ones are good.

The decision to outsource your lead generation needs to be taken on a longer term basis - it is not a quick fix. It will also take any agency time to get up to speed to be effective and this will require an upfront investment from you. Similar consideration needs to be given to hiring someone to do your business development. You will have fixed costs from the outset and no guarantee of success. Furthermore, there is a real risk that unless you have expertise at both selling and managing a sales person, this will not turn out well. Though this may seem overly cautious and negative, the flip side is that outsourcing your sales operation is entirely plausible and does work for independent professionals, just be careful! Ensure you are considered in your research, time and attention; it is not always an 'easy solution,' as outsourcing partners tend to claim.


Finally, the option of learning to sell. Many business owners believe sales training doesn’t work. This is true; not all sales training does work! For example - one or two-day impact training courses can often prove a waste of money for some creative firms. As the owner-manager, you might of course leave the event feeling upbeat and all powerful. But by first thing the next morning - when it comes to picking up the phone and cold calling - much of the inspiration will have likely passed.

To pay the most dividends, sales training really needs to be a process not an event. It needs to focus not just on technique but also behaviours and also mindset. Results may not happen overnight. Yet with what’s called ‘ongoing reinforcement training; you get sustained incremental growth over time which is measurable. In practical terms, this means you are able to predict your business revenue and avoid the bust and boom cycle that is so often seen as 'just how it is' for freelancers.


There is also an understandable concern that, with the current economic instability, finding money to invest in training is either not possible or not a priority.

Nevertheless, consider that training is probably more relevant in a challenging market than in a buoyant one. With people losing confidence in their ability to sell in this market, because of the economic gloom, it is therefore even more important to do something different.

Our central tenant is that a change in sales strategy needs to go hand-in-hand with training that changes attitudes, tactics and techniques. Change can be
difficult, mastering new skills and ideas requires fine-tuning, reinforcement and coaching, all of which must be monitored so that progress can be measured.

Thus if you do resist outsourcing or opting out and invest in sales training, don’t regard it as a ‘quick fix.’ It also needs to fit your longer terms sales strategy. Having the confidence and skills to sell (even if you then decided to outsource part of your sales) puts you in control of your business - your pipeline, your prices, and your income.


This is the last in a three-part series on effective selling by Lisette Howlett.  To learn more about effective sales, training and techniques contact Lisette or any of the team at Sandler London Central , which offers free business development seminars in November and December.


3rd November 2010

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