Tag Archives: Sales

Used-car Salesmen Anonymous

freelance salesWanted to follow up on Diane’s post from yesterday, “8 secret reasons you hate marketing your writing.” More important, I wanted to echo her sentiments: It’s incredibly important for writers to break down the self-imposed barriers that can hold us back.

Sales gets a bad rap. Back in my editorial staff days, there was an extra measure of envy for the BMW-driving, expense-account abusing, exotic-traveling schmoozers.

But here’s the fact: They were the ones who paid the bills. Nowadays, that’s me.

So, to amplify Diane’s thoughts from yesterday, I came across an interesting post, “Reps Drop the Hard Sell and Discover How to be More Effective.” Dr. Robert Cialdini, whose site it appears on, is the author of several books about the power of influence and persuasion, all of which are worth reading. And the link to the Wall Street Journal article is a must as well. (It’s about pharmaceutical sales, but the same lessons apply.)

Bottom line, you don’t have to be a used-car salesman or a hard-charging drug rep. In fact, as the WSJ piece notes, it’s all about building relationships; and as the mp3 interview with Cialdini makes clear, that is a matter of establishing trust and authority. And, while we’re at it, a recent study in Nature concluded that overconfidence—not just confidence—has some counterintuitive benefits.

Indeed, we’ve got it much better than a used-car salesman. They’re selling lemons…We’re selling ourselves.

Contributing blogger Jake Poinier offers answers to your freelancing questions at DoctorFreelance.com. His most recent post was “Write like you’re rich.”

Photo courtesy of Hans Thoursie.

If You Give a Client a Cookie

if you give a mouse a cookieBy Jake Poinier

If you’re a parent, or have had any contact whatsoever with five-year-olds, or were yourself born sometime since 1985, you’re likely familiar with Laura Joffe Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book series. (The favorite in our household was If You Give a Moose a Muffin.)

The basic principle is the cascade of escalating demands that occurs once you start giving in to someone of a needy-bossy persuasion: After you give the mouse a cookie, he’ll want some milk to go with it…and if he’s got a glass of milk, surely he’ll need a straw to drink it…and before you know it, you’re running around trying to oblige his newest request and the house is in a shambles.

IYGAMAC also happens to be the favorite business book of one of the most successful salespeople I know in the custom publishing business. He deals in six- and seven-figure projects, so he’s well aware of the temptation to sweeten the pot for potential clients — one easy concession surely leads to another, until suddenly you’ve got a contract that’s a lot more complicated and a lot less profitable.

For freelancers, the escalating demand dynamic often occurs in the form of scope creep or mission creep. It’s very common for a client to test your limits on how many itty-bitty revisions you’ll do for free, how short a deadline you’ll accept without rush charges, or how many changes in project direction you can stomach without going postal.

Each of us needs to manage cookie-craving clients in our own way, but in the simple spirit of IYGAMAC, here are a few thoughts to keeping the lid on the cookie jar till it’s appropriate:

  • Define policies in your contract or estimate. You can only negotiate things in writing, never he-said-she-said.
  • Set expectations early. Your behaviors at the beginning of a client relationship speak volumes about how you’re going to be to work with. I aim for something along the lines of firm-but-fair.
  • Don’t be a fool about it. I’m personally a lot freer with cookies when it comes long-term, loyal clients (who’ve earned them) or high-paying clients (who are paying for them) — not just any random mouse or moose who happens upon my doorstep.

Check out Jake’s most recent Dr. Freelance article: “The real freelance minimum wage.”

How to use personality tests

Can knowing your "type" help freelancers gain and retain more clients?
Can knowing your "type" help freelancers gain and retain more clients?

By Jake Poinier

If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, you’ve probably taken DiSC or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality tests. Ironically enough, taking a Myers-Briggs at my last corporate job hastened my departure: In an “aha” moment, I realized that my type, ENTP (click the link for details on what makes me tick), was diametrically opposed to my boss’s type. I’d been plotting my escape for nearly a year, but the test confirmed what I suspected in my head about how we saw the world so differently. It also indicated that my personality would be good for entrepreneurship and therefore freelancing. I left about a month later.

Personality tests are not a crystal ball by any means, but they can help you understand a bit more about your strengths and weaknesses, and how you react under stress. For a freelancer, that can make them a powerful tool.

More important, if you do a little bit of research on the other types, you can start identifying what types your prospective freelance clients and current clients are. That, of course, enables you to modify how you treat those clients as individuals.

One of the things I learned during my two-year stint as a sales manager for a custom-magazine publishing company was how different each of the clients were that came from the different salespeople:

  • Tim’s were hard-driving, number-crunching folks who wouldn’t believe anything unless they saw it in a spreadsheet. (Conversely, if you were good at spreadsheets, you could make them believe almost anything.) You had to get right to the point, or they’d cut you off. It took a lot to win them over, but were very loyal once you did.
  • Frank’s sales were usually very personable and easygoing. They were the most pleasant to work with, but also had trouble with deadlines and weren’t very detail oriented. You had to shmooze them into compliance.
  • Bill’s sales were best described as aloof. They weren’t as driven as Tim’s, nor as friendly as Frank’s. They were not terribly loyal, because they were never very dedicated in the first place. Anytime Bill made a sale, I knew they weren’t in for the long haul.

The personality tests probably won’t tell you anything that you don’t know (or at least suspected) about yourself. But having an understanding of what motivates or irritates a client is essential to creating a lasting bond.

Have you taken one of these personality tests or something else? Do you use personality-oriented techniques in the sales process? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Contributing blogger Jake Poinier runs Boomvang Creative Group, a Phoenix-based editorial services firm. He also blogs about freelancing at DoctorFreelance.com — most recently about freelance ghostwriting rates.

Your freelance elevator pitch

By Jake Poinier

Yesterday, while editing a book chapter for a professional speaker, I read something that stopped me in my tracks: My lifelong assumption about what makes a good freelance elevator pitch—you know, that 30-second summary of “what I do”—was totally wrong.

Getting asked, “So, what do you do?” can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The author took 12 pages to explain his whole theory, but I’ll do it in under 500 words. For starters, a good elevator pitch isn’t 30 seconds or even 15 seconds long—you don’t just launch into a spiel, you need to initiate a conversation in order to teasingly reveal what you do.

It starts with a single 3-second hook that arrests someone’s attention and gets them nodding or even saying “Huh?” For a freelancer, that might be something along the lines of:

  • There’s a lot of empty space out there, and I fill it with words
  • I’m the Anthony Bordain of the magazine world
  • I’m a corporate wordsmith-slash-poet

The point is, you need to get permission (a nodding head, a “huh?”) to go on. Assuming you’ve received that permission, the next step is to give a one-sentence, conversational, non-jargony statement with a benefit that expands your initial teaser:

  • I run a freelance writing and editing business whose main goal is getting websites a ton of traffic
  • I’m a travel writer who basically does in glossy mags what Anthony Bordain does on TV—expose the good, the bad and the ugly
  • When companies are tired of their lousy copy, I zoom in and give them a fresh new look

Finally, and again, assuming someone gives you the go-ahead with an appropriate conversational cue (“Who do you write for?” or “What kind of stuff do you write?”), you’re ready to provide the kicker. It comes in the form of a story that shows what you do, starting with “Now, for example…” So, it could be something like:

  • Now, for example, I recently helped a startup healthcare company create a social media strategy—and they’ve now got 3,000 Fans, 2,000 Twitter followers and 1,000 hits a day.
  • Now, for example, I recently did a piece for (name drop big magazine) on the Spanish Virgin Islands, which are pretty much like the British and U.S. Virgin Islands were back in the ’50s.
  • Now, for example, I recently redid the entire brochure suite for (fill in a big-name client here) right before they hit the big annual trade show for their industry.

Of course, this is a super-abbreviated version of a very interesting and thought-provoking article by a skilled sales and marketing professional. But you get the idea: Don’t just try to blurt out a pre-programmed version of what you do in 30 seconds. Relax, make it a conversation, and you just might find your elevator speech presses the right buttons to get a business card or new project.

Jake blogs regularly on freelancing and business strategies at DearDrFreelance.com and Jake’s Take.