Marketers are trained to drive awareness and traffic, and hopefully leads, to their websites. This is accomplished in multiple ways:
- Content production/blogging
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Content placement
- Paid search
- Referrals from services (like Credo)
While driving traffic and generating leads is all well and good (and of course necessary), what happens after the lead comes in is just as important. Let’s do some math.
Say you want to generate $20,000 per month in revenue. You’re on your own and know that 30% (if you’re lucky) will go to taxes and another 20% will go to business expenses like an office space, equipment, and software/tools. You’re now bringing in a still-very-respectable approximately $110,000 per year. Your average client is $5,000 per month, so you need to have at least 4 clients per month. To maintain your annual monthly revenue, you either need to retain them or have a pipeline with warm leads that you know you can close.
Generating leads is hard for most people, though, and finding time to qualify and close leads is hard. Therefore, you need to build in some safeguards that will help you close more of the deals that you want to close. If you need to close 4 clients, yet your close rate is only 10%, you need to generate 40 leads in order to reach your needed 4. However, if your close rate is 25%, you only need to generate 16 leads. That’s a drastic difference!
How do you increase your close rate and potentially increase the number of leads you’re generating as well, so that you can be even pickier with who you work with? I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that I want to pass along to you. A few of these come from some of the smartest sales professionals I know as well, like Ron Garrett from Distilled.
Know and Don’t Compromise Your Limits
When you’re hard up against a deadline to close deals or not eat, it’s tempting to compromise your hourly rate or range of services you feel comfortable with in order to get some cash flowing. This might seem to be a smart move short-term, but experience has shown that when you do this once, you are much more willing to do it again. At that rate, you’ll never be willing to take a stand for what you are truly worth and you’ll join the ranks of freelancers who are working for sub-average wages because they never learned to stand their ground.
Before you go into a pitch, you should always know your own limits and when to walk away. Think of sales like bidding at an auction – always know your maximum and when you need to walk away. With sales, it’s your:
- Minimum hourly rate/project size
- Services you are comfortable offering
- Time you’re willing to dedicate
- Convictions on client-consultant communications
As a freelance consultant, your time is valuable. After all, the more time you spend running your business, generating leads, and dealing with “free” labor, such as unlimited client phone calls, the less time you have to actually bill if you work on a per-hour basis.
This will be covered in a future post, but you should consider whether you should work on an hourly basis or a monthly retainer basis. I heartily recommend the retainer basis. For one of the best posts I’ve ever read on pricing, read this post from Patrick McKenzie (@patio11).
Learn Their Pain Points and Speak To Those
As a consultant, you’re not just providing a service. To retain clients, you’re not only helping them make more money; you’re also helping them solve their pain points, whether that is revenue, client retention, or a lack of (qualified) traffic to their site. Once you learn what their true motivation is for contacting you, you are better able to craft your pitch and speak their language.
You may have heard the old adage “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.” My mother used to tell me this when my younger brother would imitate me and I would become frustrated. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I’ve come to realize that this is one way (of many) to build trust with a prospect. By paying attention to the words they use and using these in your own speech, you put them at ease that you understand them and their issues.
Some common techniques include:
- Body posture mirroring (in person)
- Language/lexicon imitation (in person and on the phone)
- Eye contact (video chats can be great for this with a client/prospect)
For a read on speaking the client’s language (in the context of design), read this.
Clarify Your Outputs
As a consultant, you need your clients to understand exactly what they will be receiving from you. Where possible, outline the project ahead of time (or build in a paid discovery period) and clearly state what your deliverables will involve and how much communication they will have with you. For engagements, I will often outline it thus:
- Purpose of deliverable (fix site issues to increase rankings and drive traffic)
- Format (Word document with accompanying spreadsheet)
- Delivery date
- Followup (phone call one week after)
- Reporting (ie ongoing link building requires links built, rankings changes, and traffic/revenue improvements as a result)
By clarifying all of this ahead of time, you can cut down on your client feeling unsure about what they will receive for their investment. If you have sample reports to give them in the pre-sales process, even better!
Communication Solves All Problems
At the end of the day, how you communicate with your prospects and clients determines how successful you will be. People have found that adding something like “unlimited phone calls” can make clients feel valued, and actually they will probably call you less when they know that they can get in touch with you (similar to people with unlimited vacation taking less than they otherwise would).
However, also be sure to communicate your limits, such as:
- Phone calls between 6pm and 9pm will go to voicemail and they will receive a call back within 24 hours
- Emails will be answered within a 24 hour period
- Not willing to engage in blackhat tactics
You will find as you state your limits that anyone worth working for will respect them and respect you more for it.
This is the first in hopefully a series of posts about improving your selling and lead nurturing. What topics would you like to learn more about? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.