For the longest time, I fooled myself into thinking that because I wasn’t working in an official sales capacity, I wasn’t actually selling.
Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As freelancers, despite what we’d like to think, we are fully entrenched in sales. If we’re not continually focused on selling ourselves and our services, it becomes tough to grow our business.
Being totally honest with myself, I would have to admit I have an aversion to sales. It’s not that I can’t do it. It’s more that I feel awkward about the whole process from start to finish. It’s uncomfortable.
This feeling of uncomfortableness is something we need to spend time examining — It has to be overcome, our growth depends on it.
Why We Avoid Thinking Of Ourselves As Salespeople
Gone are the days of the hard sell, for most of us anyways. That’s good news except for the lucky few who can sell ice to Eskimos. In my 20s, I held more than my share of positions where hard selling was the only way to get the job done. I’ve spent hours upon hours on the phone calling complete strangers ad-libbing a sales pitch that I didn’t believe in. On any typical evening as a telemarketer I might have called 50 people, booked 7 free consultations and finally closed one or two sales the following week in person. It was awful and I knew even before my first call that I was hated by the person on the other end of the line.
Door-to-door sales are not much better. I know, because for two years I sold physical products to retailers. Every sales call was cold and face-to-face. It was only slightly better than telemarketing for the simple reason that people couldn’t hang up on you. In person, they are much less likely to be rude. Please remember this: Always be polite to salespeople.
I never considered myself to be a good salesperson even though I always managed to land new business. I was consistent, but never a top performer.
Despite my ability to sell products or services in one of the most uncomfortable ways possible, I still find myself feeling at odds with the process more than a decade later. Even though the sales process these days is a much softer sell, almost passive, it’s still not easy.
So what is it about selling that make me and other freelancers so uncomfortable?
A decade ago there was really only one thing that held people back excelling as a salesperson, fear of rejection. You had to get comfortable with the word “no.” The more times you heard “no”, the closer you were to the next yes.
Times have changed for the better and we are no longer forced to “hard-sell” our prospects. We have inbound marketing, social media, websites that generate warm leads and more.
These new methods of selling have created a new set of fears that stand in our way of success.
A large part of selling today involves creating visibility for ourselves and our business. Making sure that in a non-aggressive way, we are in front of and seen by our potential customers or clients. This opens up a whole new can of worms doesn’t it? New fears, new ways to second guess ourselves and a long list of reasons why we should put of starting until “tomorrow”.
Be Confident in Yourself & Your Services
We need to have confidence in ourselves and in our ability to deliver what our clients need. In my experience, there is no way to build confidence other that through practice. The more times we complete a particular task, the more confidence we build. The more confidence we build, the more comfortable we are “selling” ourselves and our services.
Every time you complete a project, take 5 minutes to admire it. Seriously. It’s far too easy to discount our hard work and this does nothing to build confidence. Look at each project you complete and pick out a few positive points to focus on. Maybe you’ve improved in a particular area or implemented a new skill. These are all victories that can contribute towards improving your overall confidence.
Here’s another idea that might be helpful, especially if your self-talk is not that great yet. Sometimes it can be a little too easy to criticize our own work. So instead of relying or your own opinion, try reading through your customer testimonials. This is something that has worked well for me because by I am typically self-critical to the point where it’s detrimental.
I won’t share where this came from, but it’s a text I received not to long ago from a client:
“I just wanted to say how much I appreciate working with you. Being cc’d on the email you sent [name removed] made me realize how valuable your services are to me. Thank you for asking questions I didn’t even know I needed to ask and for being such a fantastic member of our team.”
This text made my day.
Whenever I start to have doubt as to the value of the services I offer clients, I take 15 seconds to read this text. I would recommend you do the same with your testimonials whenever you have moments of doubt.
Perfectionism Does Not Exist
Perfectionism is like the final nail in the coffin. You can have everything else in place, ready to go but it won’t matter. If you’re a perfectionist you may never ship your product, publish your post or email that pitch. All because you feel like something isn’t quite right. If you never ship anything, you’ll never make a single sale. That I can guarantee.
I suffer from this problem as do many freelancers and in my experience, the only way to overcome it is by shipping imperfection. Not intentionally, of course. But mistakes are going to happen and the sooner you accept it, the easier it will become.
What I can’t afford to do is spend 2 hours on a pitch or 5 hours writing an 800-word blog post. When perfectionism gets in the way of productivity, we have a problem that needs to be addressed.
I once had a dinner conversation with a relative who had noticed a typo in something I wrote. From his pedestal, he advised me that my error simply denoted a lack of professionalism. Despite the fact that I had spent considerable time proofreading, I had clearly missed an error or two. Fair enough, my mistake. However, I also have a family member who has a website/blog that is “in development” and has been for over 2 years — not a single post published. All in the name of “never being quite perfect enough.”
So I ask, which camp would you rather be in? The one that ships good, even great work or the one that is waiting for the perfect first post, product or proposal to be complete? Which one is most likely to result in sales, revenue or profit?
Don’t Be Fearful
Fear is one of those things that you just need to accept as normal. It’s ok to be fearful and then just do what needs to be done.
The funny thing about fear is that once you get started, it subsides rather quickly. Before I send off a proposal to a new client, I often find myself playing out a dozen potential scenarios in my head. In the spirit of being honest, I will tell you that I have spent in excess of one hour (usually 10-15 minutes), looking at, reviewing and thinking about a proposal before finally clicking send. I play out almost every scenario in my head, all the while, afraid to click send.
A funny thing happens though. The moment I click send, the fear vanishes. Completely gone. I realize that it’s no longer in my hands and anything is possible. I’ve sent out proposals that I was sure would be rejected only to receive a “yes” within 30 minutes. At the same time I have send off proposals that I though were a done deal, only to have the potential client vanish into thin air. Strange isn’t it? It just goes to show you that we have much less control over the final outcome than we might like to believe.
This is way more common than you might think. Gina Horkey wrote a post just the other day that talked about her fear of reminding clients that their invoice was overdue. We all have these fears. It’s how we deal with them that matters.
You’re In Sales, So Get Over It.
As freelancers, we can’t possibly hide under a rock and expect our businesses to grow. Trust me, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. We need to accept that part of every day will be spent on sales, promotion and marketing, even if most of our new business comes via referral.
Like I mentioned earlier, sales today involves creating visibility online for ourselves and our business. It can be a difficult process mentally but we need to do it. We need to focus on getting better every single day. Confidence, perfectionism and fear are three recurring roadblocks that I see as issues in my business and in my clients businesses. You’ll notice I talk about dealing with those three things pretty often.
The sooner we acknowledge our challenges, the sooner we can begin dealing with them.
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