IN SUCH a competitive environment, it’s vital to be proactive in getting your work under the right people’s noses and showing them why you’re the best person for the job. To help you do this, some direct sales techniques will help.
Identify and target your ‘hot leads’
Establishing new work can be a lengthy process so, to avoid wasting valuable time and resources, it’s important to focus your efforts on those people who are most likely to be commissioning your type of work now rather than take a scattergun approach.
You’ll probably already have some likely candidates in mind. As well as these, it’s advisable to expand your radar by keeping up with who’s hiring whom and when, e.g., through word of mouth and online research. Once you start looking actively and regularly, you’ll be surprised at how many opportunities are out there.
Set realistic targets
Get into the habit of setting manageable targets, e.g., you commit to contacting one potential client per week. Here, ‘contacting’ doesn’t mean a passive email that you never hear back from or a message left on voicemail. It means getting through to the ‘buyer’ to instigate two-way communication and move a step forward towards agreeing the commission e.g., an email that results in a producer agreeing to look at a demo; a phone call to set up a meeting with an editor.
You’ll probably get some ‘quick wins’ but it often takes several conversations over a period of time to get that final ‘yes’, so patience, persistence and follow- through are key.
Research and prepare
- Find out as much as possible about the potential client and their needs before making contact for the first time and keep asking questions on an on-going basis. This will allow you to pinpoint the specific experience and skills that you have that will best match their needs.
- Think about how the client will benefit from hiring you and be prepared to spell out these benefits. In addition to your talent and experience, think about the less obvious benefits that differentiate you from the competition and add value. For example, the client may be deciding between several wedding bands, all with an excellent reputation. Your USP (unique selling point) is that you live locally, which means that you can pop in to the venue the night before to ensure that things are set up properly for the big day. This re-assures the client that everything will run smoothly and is one less stressful thing for them to think about. Ca-ching.
- Decide on how to deliver your pitch and what you need to use to showcase your work, e.g., you might have a 15-minute window of opportunity over coffee so you take a laptop to show the client your blog on screen or perhaps you’re delivering a formal presentation to a group of executives where you’ll need to ensure all the right technical equipment is on hand.
Practise your delivery
The amount of effort you put in to this will depend on how important the work is to you, how complicated the pitch is and how much time you have to deliver it. At the very least, rehearse your introduction and key messages, i.e., the most important details that you wish to convey at that time.
You need to be aware of how you come across to others too. Just like any performance, preparation and practise will help you manage your nerves and convey confidence. If you feel that you know what you’re talking about, you’ll also be less self-aware with the headspace to better listen and observe the client and adjust what you’re saying if necessary.
Also, using appropriate and dynamic vocabulary that builds a clear and enticing picture in the client’s head, being animated when you speak, using positive body language and varying the volume, tone and tempo of your voice to make it more interesting are all important factors in getting the result you want.
Ask for the work
In sales terms, this is called ‘the close’. If people seem to be reacting well to what you’re saying, do prompt them to make a decision by asking for the work. For example, “You seem to be happy with everything that we’ve talked about. Would you like to go ahead?”
It doesn’t matter if they say ‘no’ because this is a way of flushing out a concern that they perhaps haven’t mentioned yet. So, you might say: “OK, is there anything else that we need to cover before you can make a decision?”
If you’re not keen on the idea of ‘selling’, use the passion and enthusiasm you have for your work to motivate you. You offer something valuable that people want, but they can’t hire you unless they know that you exist and how perfect you are for them! The alternative is waiting and hoping that work will land in your lap. You may get dribs and drabs with this approach but taking control and being proactive is logically a much better strategy.
If you’re nervous to start, bear in mind that the more practise you get the more confident you will become – especially when you see your efforts paying off.