Many self-employed professionals believe they don’t know how to sell. You’re justified if you think that of yourself. You didn’t go into business to be a salesperson. You became self-employed because you wanted to help people with web design or personal training or architecture or resumé writing. In order to get clients, you need to have sales conversations, but they aren’t something you’ve ever trained to do. You may even believe you’re no good at them.
Let’s fix that.
Most of my clients and students tell me that what they enjoy most about their business is being able to use their talents to help people. (If you’re one of the very few who went into business to make as much money as possible regardless of whether you’re helping anyone, you can stop reading now.) The good news about sales conversations is that you can use them to a) employ your talents, and b) help people.
Follow along with these examples of how a professional in each of the categories below can have an effective sales conversation without learning any skills beyond those you already possess.
Designer: What graphic design problems are you trying to solve right now?
Prospective Client: We need our graphic identity to better reflect our brand.
Designer: I’d love to help you with that. What do you already know about what you want your new identity to reflect?
Client: It needs to be more playful, less stuffy, make us seem more fun to work with.
Designer: If we were going to work together, I’d ask you lots more questions about that. But I can tell you right now that you can express fun and playfulness by using brighter colors and a more lively font. Plus, with a service like yours, I’d imagine you also want to show more energy, so you need a brand image that shows some movement and avoids straight lines.
Client: Wow, that’s helpful!
Designer: Great! Let’s talk about how I can help you some more. (Briefly outlines process for a client to get started.)
Coach: Tell me one thing you really want in your life right now.
Prospective Client: The last of my three kids is going off to college soon, and I’d like to go back to work, but I’m not even sure where to start.
Coach: That’s a significant goal. I’d like to help you reach it. What’s one thing you do know about what you’d like your new job or career to look like?
Client: I don’t have a clue yet. But something I’m sure of is that I want to be deliberate about what I choose this time. My old career was just what I fell into after I graduated.
Coach: If we were to work together, I’d want to explore that with you more. But for right now, it sounds like you need a clear vision of what you’d like to be doing for this next chapter of your life, which would include the type of work you would do, who you’d be working with, and the sort of environment it would be. You didn’t mention it, but I’d guess it would also be helpful to have an inventory of your personal values to give you a basis for making decisions as you go.
Client: Now that would really be something!
Coach: Terrific! Let me explain how we could start working together. (Describes process for a new client to come on board.)
Accountant: What are some of the accounting and financial issues you’d like to resolve?
Prospective Client: We need to know more about where we stand financially on a day-to-day basis, so we can make better strategic decisions.
Accountant: I’d enjoy helping you with that. What are some of the key areas where you feel like you don’t have enough information?
Client: We need to know if we’ve got enough money in the bank to pay the bills, and whether our sales are keeping pace with what we’re spending.
Accountant: If we were to work together, I could put together for you a complete portrait of your financial condition that you could access whenever you wanted it. But right now, it sounds like you need your accounting system to track your outstanding bills as they come in, record sales at the time they’re made, interface with your bank automatically, and produce a daily cash flow report. I’d want to know more, but you could probably also use a weekly profit and loss forecast.
Client: That would be awesome!
Accountant: Excellent. Let me tell you how we could get started. (Explains how new clients sign on.)
Yes, it really can be this easy to have sales conversations with your prospective clients. Keep your focus on a) helping the client, and b) putting your professional skills to work. You’ll be closing more sales (and avoiding fewer selling conversations) in no time.