Can I ask you a couple of questions? Great! Here goes:

  • How many of you get most of your projects via word-of-mouth?
  • How many of you target your ideal clients, pitch your services and close a high percentage of your prospects?

I’ll bet my hat that most of you put your hand up to the first question. Am I right? Don’t feel badly, you’re in good company. As a business coach for creative professionals, I’ve learned that one of the biggest challenges my clients face is a resistance to ‘selling’ themselves. After all, if the work is good, shouldn’t it speak for itself? Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. If you’re in business, you’re in sales.

In my previous career as an agent for art directors, copywriters and illustrators, my job was to position the creative talent to brands and agencies, close the deal and manage the project from beginning to end. I learned very quickly that sales didn’t stop at getting the job. Taking a project from concept to production requires cooperation and buy-in from a lot of people, every step of the way. It’s ALL sales.

So why are we so averse to sales? Because we’ve all been on receiving end of a pushy salesperson trying to sell us something we have no need or desire for. It feels invasive, uncomfortable and just a little bit sleazy, right? No one wants to be that guy or girl, so we avoid the whole ‘sales thing’ altogether and hope for the best.

But if hoping for the best isn’t cutting it for you and you’re ready to build the career or business you deserve, I’d like to share my method for closing the sale with you. It’s the product of 15+ years of trial and error and I promise, you’ll still like yourself in the morning!

1) Start with a great product or service

In my experience, I can only sell something that I know is top-notch and will add significant value to someone’s life or business. If you don’t feel that way about your product or service, go back to the drawing board until you do.

2) Understand what makes you unique and what problems you solve

A common mistake freelancers make is saying they can do anything for anyone. The theory being, if they cast their net wide, they’ll catch more fish. The opposite is actually true. When clients are looking to hire, they typically have a very specific need in mind, so it’s in your best interests to specialize. If you love working with foodie clients, develop that niche. Your work will become stronger, you will be happier and more creative and you can direct you marketing efforts to a niche audience.

3) Know who your ideal client is

Now that you’ve defined your niche, the next step is to learn everything you can about their specific needs and make sure your capabilities dovetail with those needs. To continue with the foodie client example: Are you looking to work with small businesses or larger, more established brands? A start-up may have more creative freedom, but have a shoestring budget and need a lot of hand-holding. On the other hand, larger clients have more resources, but may have quantity and production requirements that you’re not able to meet.

Once you’ve narrowed the field, start building relationships with your ideal clients and letting them know how your services will benefit them.

4) Create a marketing message that speaks to your ideal client

Clients are much more likely to buy from people that they know, like and trust. Really get to know your ideal clients. What do they need? What keeps them up at night? What are their hopes and aspirations? Be generous with your expertise and offer solutions at every opportunity. Your ideal clients will ‘see’ themselves in your communications and pre-qualify themselves before you even get to a sales conversation.

5) Package your services

If you want more clients, you need to make it really easy for people to work with you. Creating packages that are tailored to your ideal clients needs demonstrates that you understand and value their time and resources. If your services appeal to them, the sales conversation will be about which package they will buy, rather than if they will buy. No selling required!

Not sure how to package your services? Start by learning what your clients really need (which is often different from what you think they need). This handy exercise will help you give exactly the information you need.

6) Don’t stop short

Our fear of being sales-y can cause us to stop short, right before we close the deal. Once you’ve taken your prospect through your services, a simple, “Do any of those packages resonate with you?” will prompt them to respond and give you an opportunity to outline next steps and, hopefully close the deal.

7) Remain unattached by the outcome

I’m a big proponent of setting goals for your business. Without them we have no incentive to push past our comfort zones and grow. But focusing too much on the target number, rather than the actual person, is the death knell to selling with integrity. Your goal is not to close just any sale, but to work with clients whose needs perfectly align with your unique services. I find that when I remain open and unattached to the outcome, I am more present and my words come from a place of integrity, not need. I’m not going to be the right business coach for everyone. If it doesn’t work out, it’s usually because we’re not a good fit.

8) Stay in touch

“Not now” isn’t the same as “No”. I keep a running list of people who have expressed an interest in working with me and check in every couple of months. People are busy and are usually happy that you checked in and reminded them that you’re there if they need you.

I hope these tips will inspire you to take action and embrace sales. Remember, sales aren’t something you do to someone, they are something you do for someone. You are simply sharing your unique talents with people who have a genuine need for them. Act with integrity and watch the magic happen!

If you need more guidance on how to position your services and get more clients, I’d be happy to chat. Call me!

Justine ClayJustine Clay, Pitch Perfect Presentation – Business Coaching for Creative Professionals

Justine Clay has been helping freelance creative professionals build thriving careers for more than 15 years. As an agent for some of New York’s top-creative talent, Justine built a track record of making the perfect match with clients that include Vogue, Bloomingdale’s, Henri Bendel, Coach, Joe Fresh, Target, and West Elm.

Pitch Perfect was launched in 2010 and born of the desire to share her expertise with a wider range of creative professionals and entrepreneurs. Through a series of clear actionable steps, Justine helps freelancers and creative entrepreneurs gain the clarity and confidence they need to identify what makes them unique, create an authentic marketing message and get more clients.