The most common association to the word “sales” is the used-car salesperson.
Can’t you just picture that crazy caricature of a person? Shiny, slicked-back hair, an overgrown and yet well-combed caterpillar mustache, and of course, a suit that sticks out just a bit too much on the shoulders (my mind instantly goes to Danny DeVito in Matilda). “What’s it gonna take for me to get you into this car today?”
For many creatives, selling feels like a hopelessly greasy exchange in which you’re trying to get someone to book you for work or buy a product. Still for others, even talking with potential clients can feel debilitatingly difficult because you’re consumed with not knowing what to say! What if they don’t show up? What if you suddenly and entirely forget what it is that you do!? What if they say no?
Here’s the secret: the true reason that you feel scummy when selling isn’t because you’re secretly devilishly manipulative. Furthermore, you’re not actually having trouble chatting with clients because you might forget what to say.
No, the real reason that you’re struggling to sell your services is that you simply don’t have the right process.
Sales? I Don’t Do Sales…
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I’m a videographer, I don’t sell products”, or “I do freelance graphic design, why would I need to sharpen my sales skills?”
You’re not selling used cars, but the truth is: everyone who runs a business is selling something.
You may not be selling a physical item in a storefront where people have to sign on the dotted line to purchase, but if you’re in business, you are selling something. Whether it’s a design service, a photo session, or even just a set of ideas, your business is built on a product that is designed to help solve a client’s problem. Every time you get booked for a job, it means that your clients believe that hiring you will solve their issue!
Without even knowing it, you have already unintentionally created a process for your clients to solve their problems with your service. From the first time that they hear about your business to the first invoice that you send, your sales process is the road on which your clients must travel to hire you. Are you creating an easy road to travel? Or is your process an unpaved mystery that not even you have defined? If this process hasn’t been clearly defined, you risk losing clients along the way.
What’s the Problem?
Almost every successful business has a simple sales process that makes it easy for clients to get their problems solved. For example, grocery stores have an easy, intuitive layout that makes buying food easy and convenient! Movie theaters segment tickets and concessions on purpose; to drive more sales before you even sit down for a few hours of entertainment. Amazon makes the product finding and checkout process incredibly simple and instantaneous.
Your sales process should make buying or booking an easy, intuitive, and pleasant experience from start to finish while emphasizing the problem that you’re working on solving. With a simpler process, you don’t have to be concerned about saying the right thing or feeling like a greasy salesperson. Instead, you are helping them find the solution they need for a problem they already have.
So what’s the problem that you’re solving?
At Amarlo, we help creative small businesses grow through bookkeeping and better business management. As a wedding photographer, I was lucky enough to preserve memories for my clients so that they would never forget the best day of their lives. Intimately knowing and understanding the problem that you solve helps create a stronger connection between your business and your clients.
Trust the Process
Now that you’ve identified the problem that you’re working to solve, it’s time to build the process. Admittedly, this will take some considerable time and effort, but the payoff is enormous.
Begin by mapping out the way that you currently begin working with your clients. How do they discover your business? It’s incredibly common for some kind of marketing to take place for your clients to first discover you, and that’s an easy step for plenty of creatives… but what’s next? Are you creating an obvious way for them to contact you when they’re ready to chat?
When prospective clients transition from marketing to sales, I recommend using a two-call process. It’s an effective, non-intimidating way to build your relationship with the client quickly and makes selling incredibly easy!
The Needs Call
When your client first shows interest in working with you, schedule a call with them and be prepared to ask questions. Remember: we’re solving problems here! It’s important to understand exactly what your client is experiencing and what kind of solution they’re looking for.
Most likely, you work with a specific type of client – whether you’re a luxury wedding photographer or a motion graphic and marketing designer – which means that your clients have specific (and common) needs and worries. Create a list of questions that you find yourself repeatedly asking these clients so that you can easily identify the pain points they’re worried about encountering. This will help you deeply understand their needs, empathize with them, and then create a recommendation that involves your services to solve them!
After this first call with your client, there are two effective options: either offer a recommendation based on the services that you provide and then send them your contract or let your client know that you’d like to schedule their next appointment so that you can walk them through packages, pricing, and more. This creates a non-intimidating space where your client feels heard and understood while simultaneously having their expectations set about what to do next.
The Recommendation Call
With the knowledge of our client’s problem in hand, it’s time to move forward with offering our solution. On your second scheduled appointment, simply review the pain points or concerns that you talked about last time! This creates a natural transition into explaining how you can help and what options your clients have when hiring you.
When it comes to talking about pricing, it’s all too common for creatives to beat around the bush or feel intimidated. You’ve been building up so much value through understanding your client’s needs, and if your service is the best solution for them, it’ll be a natural fit! Send them a contract by email and have your new client put a deposit or retainer payment down so that you receive a financial commitment.
If they simply don’t see the value in your solution, that’s okay! You can choose to provide a better fitting option or you can simply allow them to move on.
After the Sale
What happens after your clients commit to working with you is just as important as what happens before and during your conversation! Having an amazing follow-up interaction can go a long way in creating an incredible client experience. Even if you’re simply fulfilling the first action item on your list, letting a client know that you’re excited to work with them and are already getting started goes a long way. Repeat customers come from building incredible interactions where your clients can easily and quickly see the value of working with your business.
When you define your entire sales process from start to finish, you can build an incredibly rewarding relationship with your clients that in turn builds your business! If you’re feeling greasy or unsure about what to say to your clients, it’s time to build a simpler sales process that starts by asking questions! An understanding of the pain points or concerns that your client has makes it easy to provide them with an unbeatable solution, effortlessly turning any potential client into a raving fan.