Whether we like it or not, Freelance consultants are salespeople. Before we are able to ply our given trade, we must first sell prospective clients on the idea of hiring us to do what we do, whether it’s web design or floral design. Steve W. Martin, professor of Sales Strategy at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, says that those who sell should be cognizant of the lowest common denominator of decision-making: stress.
Martin observes that stress is the death of rational decision-making. Stress shortens the attention span, escalates mental exhaustion and typically results in analysis-paralysis. Despite the “buying signals” that your prospective client may display, more than likely s/he is experiencing fear and doubt when speaking with you about your product or services.
The stress this creates serves as the key factor in determining whether or not the deal gets done. The most successful salespeople anticipate, seek to identify and learn to counteract that stress and enable the sale. Giving prospective clients information and diplomatically phrased and presented tactical advice that will help them fight against internal organization politics is a useful part of your sales strategy as well. Here are a couple of more reasons that your sale dies on the vine.
Stalled sales cycle
Customers are more cautious than ever and moving them through the sales process can become an almost Sisyphean task. Steve W. Martin correctly labels this common phenomenon as an internal problem that occurs when project sponsors do not know how to sell their concept to the senior executives who are able to give the green light. Further, certain sales cycles are prone to be lengthy in the best of circumstances. It is too easy for your contact person/project sponsor to get distracted and turn attention toward developing issues and in the process push your sale to the back burner, where it drifts into oblivion. Then there is sometimes reluctance to take responsibility. As a result, project sponsors involve more of their co-workers in the decision process and you know what happens when there are too many cooks.
Product information and vendor selection
As we enthusiastically pitch our services, prospective clients often wonder if we are telling the whole truth. Compounding that is the reality (or perception) that differences between many products and services are almost insignificant. Buyers are often skeptical because they may have been lied to by previous sales people. The client may feel that 1). it is necessary to separate fact from fiction when talking with someone who is trying to sell something and 2). it’s pretty much all the same thing anyway. Selling on service and operational efficiencies and the resulting benefits is the best antidote. Avoid selling on price if at all possible, because it reduces you to a commodity.
When preparing for your next prospective client meeting, keep in mind the inevitable presence of stress in your would-be client’s work environment. They don’t quite know who or what to believe. They’ve got co-workers, subordinates and bosses judging them. They are torn between acting in the best interest of the company and in the best interest of themselves. There is also the now-prevalent belief that not spending money is best for the organization’s bottom line and no one’s reputation suffers for declining to spend money. Making no decision just gets easier and easier.
Thanks for reading,