Nothing… Nada… Zilch...
That job that you thought was a slam dunk “decided to go another route”, and you’re left wondering why. You came highly recommended to them. They had seen your work and loved it! You had a great initial meeting where you had them eating out of the palm of your hand. You know that your proposal was fair and now, nothing. Nada. Zilch.
If you’re a designer or developer, and you’ve found yourself in this situation, you are definitely not alone. As a part of my job, I deal with freelancers and digital agencies all day, and I can tell you first hand that this is an all too familiar scenario for many digital services professionals.
The good news is that there is hope! These problems are easily correctable with a little sales know how. Most people think that you have to be “a natural” and an extrovert to have success in sales. That is 100% false. By the time you finish this article, you’ll be equipped with some actionable items that will get you more work, earn you more money, and transform you into a much better salesperson.
Below, you’ll find 3 of the most common sales mistakes that I see made, and you will be given some alternative courses of action that will guarantee you better results.
Not Asking the Right QuestionsYou ask the client about what sort of branding they already have in place. Maybe you ask how’d they’d like their site to look. While it’s obviously important to get a feel for what types of services they’re looking for, and where they're currently at with design, marketing, etc, you need to ask questions that will help you to push them through your sales funnel, and out the other end.
Some questions that you should be asking during your initial consultation:
What is your time frame for this?A qualified candidate will have a pretty clear time frame. Also, if for instance, they say that they want to launch their new site in 8 weeks, and the development and design of the site will take you 7 weeks, you can use their short time frame to your advantage to help you close the deal. Additionally, they may answer with a really vague time frame which will tell you that they may not even be ready to move forward with anything. You can chose to build value in your services at this point to get them to a buying decision or, put them on the back burner so you can call on clients who are more eager to start.
What is the decision making process at your company like for something like this? Who else is involved in this decision?This two-part question will give you tons of valuable information. Their answer will tell you if you’re talking with the right person, if not, who’s making the decisions? Who has the credit card? That’s who you want to try to speak with. Also, this is going to give you a good idea of how long it will be before they are realistically able to start, which will help you in your follow up and forecasting.
What have you done to address this in the past?This is great for learning about pain points, which will give you leverage to offer the perfect solution. For instance, if they say that they had an ex employee design their current site, and since the employee left the company, there’s no one there that knows how to update the site, this will tell you that you can build a lot of value in your services by offering training, and there may be an ongoing opportunity for you to help manage the site. Maybe they tell you that they used to manage all of their PPC but, they just don’t have time for it. Time is their hot button. Use that to build value, letting them know that one of the many benefits of choosing your services is that their PPC will be handled by a professional, creating time for them to do what they do best.
There are dozens of really great questions to ask during that initial consult. Some others that you should incorporate in your initial consultation to uncover needs or wants and build value:
- What made you decide to use your current solution?
- What does the absolute perfect solution look like to you?
- If you don't change this now, what will happen with your business?
- What is your budget for this?
Not Asking for the BusinessThis is one of the biggest mistakes made in sales, but the good news is that it is also very simple to remedy! Just like it sounds, you’re just asking for the business. That’s all that closing is and, there’s a million different ways to do it.
Typically, you’ve already had the initial consultation with your prospect. You should know their budget, time frame, wants and needs; and you should know how they make their decisions and who’s involved.
Hopefully you’re able to have your second meeting with the decision maker(s). You will present your recommended course of action. You’ll explain how it fits their budget, how it fits their time frame, and most importantly how it fits their needs and wants. Right after presenting all of this, without skipping a beat, ask “What do you say we get started?”, and then, wait for them to answer.
Sometimes, they’ll surprise you and agree to start right then and there. Often times, they’ll start giving you the reasons why they can’t start, which is great! That is the most valuable information that you can have as a sales person. If it’s money, you can figure out a way to pare down your proposal to fit their budget. If they need to run it by a partner, you’ll have the chance to ask to present to them or, will at least know when to expect their decision. If they’re taking other bids, GREAT! That gives you the chance to explain why you’re better than your competitors.
Not Following UpYou’ve really put some work in by this time. You owe it to yourself to give yourself every shot at success. Don’t let the trail go cold, and don’t give the prospect a chance to forget about you. If you’ve followed the guidelines above, you should have a fair understanding of what the prospect will do next to reach their decision.
Use that in your follow up. If they need to present this at their quarterly board meeting, call and email just before the meeting to make sure that they’re prepared. Follow up afterwards too to see what questions came up. If they’re still waiting on other bids, great! Keep tabs on them through their evaluation process by phone and email. Let them know that you want the work, and show that you’re more responsive than the other providers that they’re considering.
In short, don’t trust them to get back to you. The majority of the time, they won't and all of your hard work will be for nothing.
In closing, don’t be intimidated by sales. It’s a learned skill, and at the end of the day it has more to do with asking and listening, than it does with being a polished presenter. By employing the tactics outlined, you’re giving yourself an edge over the majority of freelancers and agencies that you’re competing against.