How the desire to educate can make you better at sales

Sales was (and still is) easily the hardest part of freelancing for me. I’m not a natural born salesperson. The last thing I want to do is try to convince someone they want something when I know that they don’t. And that’s exactly how I saw sales.

But one day I had a simple but profound shift in perspective that forever changed my approach to “making the sale”.If you knew me as an undergraduate, you could scarcely imagine that in 2009 I would be walking the streets of Seattle as a canvasser. I enjoyed working outside and meeting the eclectic collection of people the Emerald City had to offer, but I was miserable at soliciting donations.

I was laid off at the end of my 2 week trial period for failing to meet my the modest sign up quota, and I swore I’d never work in high pressure sales again.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself willingingly hopping on sales calls once or twice a week! If you’re in the freelance world you might think of these meetings with potential clients as job interviews or proposal presentations, but at the end of the day what we’re all doing is selling.

We just happen to be selling ourselves.

Before I shifted my perspective on sales, I went into these conversations with a variety of different thoughts filling my mind:

    • I have to close this deal
    • If I don’t close this deal I’m a failure
    • I don’t want to pressure the client
    • I don’t want to work with a client who’s skeptical of my abilities
    • I really don’t want to have this conversation

It was like I was giving myself an anti-pep talk before every call. I walked away from these conversations feeling frazzled and drained. I knew there had to be a better way.

Flaunting your “value added”

Around that time, I read a really great book called Worth Every Penny by Erin Verbeck and Sarah Petty. The subtitle pretty much hits the subject right on the head: Build a Business That Thrills Your Customers and Still Charge What You’re Worth.

I picked up a copy mainly because I was researching the best way to set your freelance rates, but I came away with a lot more awesome knowledge.

I finally made the critical missing connection that helped take me from reluctant to resilient during sales calls.

One of the more significant themes in Worth Every Penny is “added value”–basically the extra stuff you bring to the table. In essence, Verbeck and Petty show you how to employ the principles of boutique business in any industry. And no, they don’t mean boutique as in a little shop on main street full of tchotchkes!

Fast, cheap, and good

I’m diverging a little bit, but this is important stuff. In the last 50 years, discount providers have surged into almost every corner of the market. It’s almost impossible to compete on price when large scale outfits have the benefit of supply chains and bulk discounts.

But, when it comes to service, things quickly start to fall apart for discounters. It’s the downfall of the classic three point model: fast, cheap, and good. You can only pick two!

I can’t do fast, cheap, AND good. And, in reality, I have no interest in working for cheap rates or cheap clients (or as Petty and Verbeck call them “price-sensitive”).

If 30% to 40% of the market doesn’t care about the quality of the product, so long as it’s cheap, I’m destined to fail if I go after them. I simply can’t compete in a global market,

So while other providers are scrambling for the “big head”, I’m targeting the “long tail”.

Sure, the client pool is smaller and the pressure to close is higher. But at the end of the day it all serves the purpose of fulfilling an aspect of my ideal client profile: I don’t want to work for someone who doesn’t believe in my abilities.

So, as a service provider, what’s my avenue to a boutique offering?

Everyone is different, but for me it came down to my desire to educate. (Which is a nice way of saying I’m a lifelong know-it-all or wanna-know-it-all.)

When clients come to me with questions, like, “What’s the best way to do this?” I want to be able to sit back and fire off the 3 best options without breaking a sweat. If I don’t have an answer, I’m off to find out.

Why is that?

Because I want my clients to succeed.

Because my client’s success is directly tied to my own.

Because running every aspect of your business in the best possible way is the foundation for success.

Sharing knowledge with my clients is my favourite part of my job, and it’s something I can start doing as soon as they pick up the phone for our first sales call. Take it from Kevin Dewalt and 10,000 others–the best entrepreneurs ask for help. And that’s exactly what I’m here to offer.

Breathing easier before a sales call

Things finally clicked into place for me when I stopped approaching sales calls as a burden and started approaching sales calls as an opportunity to:

  • Get to know a fellow entrepreneur
  • Have an interesting conversation
  • AND share knowledge (AKA my favourite service I provide my clients)

If I walk away from a sales call not feeling thrilled, then I thank the person for their time and we go our separate ways. If I really enjoyed them and they (hopefully) appreciated my somewhat know-it-all attitude, then I know I’ve found a great fit.

How the desire to educate can make you better at sales
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How the desire to educate can make you better at sales
Improve your sales call conversion rates and decrease your blood pressure at the same time with this fresh approach to selling yourself and your services.
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Hi Kelly,
Great insight! Wish I had come across that info decades ago since I have been freelancing most of my career.

Wishing you the best!
Debra Ferguson

[…] By the way: not so sure about doing sales calls? Check out my post about taking a fresh approach to sales. […]

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