What motivates your client?

In order to sell you have to think the way your client is thinking. When customers buy a product or a service they are buying what the product or service will do for them - not what it is.

When you buy a car you could well be buying a status symbol, or you might be buying the freedom to go wherever you like without the limitations of public transport. You are not buying a metal box on wheels. When you buy shampoo you are not buying a container full of oily liquid. You are buying beauty, cleanliness and admiration.

Advertising is based on the theory that people buy what things do for them - not what they are. What the product is is a feature. What the product does is a benefit.

Why do you buy?

Think about what you buy, why you buy that product at all and why you buy that particular brand. You then need to apply the same rules to selling your services, skills and products.

The main difference is that the motive of the buyer is usually less obviously emotional. The benefits you need to get across to your customer are usually related to the success of your customer’s business.

The customer is asking the question: "What’s in it for me?". To answer this question we have to tell the customer not what we will do but how what we will do helps meet their needs.

And a customer’s needs may be very different. An acting role may require a Deep South drawling accent but that may not be the key motivator of the director. If the director has just had a nightmare dealing with an actor who turned up late or who could only work mornings because he was drunk after lunch, then a prime motivator might be an actor who turns up on time and will work all day. Dick van Dyke didn’t get to play Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins because of his perfect London accent.

Getting a job just because of punctuality may sound daft but you’d be amazed how many freelances are regularly late and miss deadlines, in all walks of life. Helping your client get over their deadline problem is a benefit. For that benefit they will be happy to pay.

Know your customers

To work out what benefits they would appreciate, you need to build a picture of the buyer and the business. Take every opportunity of learning as much as you can. Ask your agent about them, ask other freelances. Google them and read about them in the trade press or on industry websites and blogs.

Keep your eyes open when you visit. Talk to employees if you meet them. Get to know the buyer as a person and, if she or he is already a customer, study the buying record. Why did they buy when they did and why did they not buy everything you offered them?

The object is to decide whether your potential client is most concerned with quality, price, service or ease of operation. You will then know how to target your sales pitch.


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