Two or three years ago, I read that a Freelancer’s main competition is not another Freelance consultant who does what you do. Our real competitor is the client. As the less than stellar economy grinds on, enriching primarily the top 1% of the population plus a few lucky folks in the (shrinking) middle class, that statement gains more credence every day. Prospective clients have got a boat load of excuses to slide away from a contract, or cutting down what was originally promised. Do you ever wonder what could possibly be on the minds of clients and prospects who promise you the moon and then either disappear or offer up a very paltry version of the original proposal?
According to Steve W. Martin, professor of Sales Strategy at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and author of “Heavy Hitter Sales Linguistics: 101 Advanced Sales Call Strategies for Senior Salespeople” (2011), stress caused by peer pressure and insecurity is the culprit and its impact on decision-making is detrimental (no surprise there). Freelancers and sales people must do everything possible to communicate our value-added but in the end, the decision to give the green light is an internal matter and those outside have only so much influence. Here are examples of what worries our prospective clients:
There are two main criteria for deciding whether or not to give someone the contract or sale: 1). What is the ROI that will accrue from the sale? and 2). How does that ROI compare to what might be derived from other projects being considered? Projects that are considered strategic by the senior execs have priority, so if your project has that status, it’s only a question of how many hours you can get. Whatever your project, product or service, you must first receive the initial approval. You may believe that because you have confirmed that you are talking to a decision-maker and s/he says the go-ahead is imminent, that is not the whole story. There is the all-important step two and that happens when the team of heavy-hitters examines and ranks all pending projects and major sales and decides which items receive funding and at what amount. In other words, that decision-maker that you’ve been speaking with will confer with other decision-makers to compare which projects will go forward, because projects are continually re-prioritized in response to shifting conditions.
Your project must align with the organization’s goals as perceived by the higher-ups. If you notice, projects that are championed by lower-ranking employees often do not get funded because higher-ranking execs do understand or appreciate the value-added, do not view the proposal as strategically significant. Moreover, your project must demonstrate that the sponsoring higher-up understands and is actively advancing strategically relevant projects, products and services.
Ego and image
This is related to the above. Your project must make its chief sponsor look good to the person s/he answers to, as well as look good to colleagues and subordinates. When an outside consultant is hired or a major purchase is authorized, the project champion absolutely must look like a genius for doing the deal. Under no circumstances must s/he be perceived as having made the wrong move. Peer pressure is real and the project champion worries about making the right decision, especially if this is something that has not been done before. This is why the Freelance consultant must at all times deliver exceptional service, must exceed expectations, because the reputation and career advancement of your project sponsor is riding on it.
I’ll talk more about your nervous prospect next week.
Thanks for reading,