Do you hate selling?
Does the idea of approaching strangers and asking them to give you money make you want to curl up and die? Do you feel all dirty and slimy talking about prices?
Well, I have good news and bad news for you.
The good news is that you’re not alone. A lot of people feel that way. The bad news is that when you’ve picked freelance writing as your career, being able to sell is about as important as, oh… let’s say oxygen.
But before you throw in the towel to pursue a career in accounting or fry cookery, let me make you feel a whole lot better about this scenario by sharing some inside sales guy information with you.
You’ve been lied to. Or at the very least misled.
Sales is not what you think.
Why Real Sales Isn’t Skeezy
You probably think that in order to succeed at sales, you have to be one of those back-slapping, gregarious people who works the room at cocktail parties and has an off-color joke for every occasion.
Maybe you think you need to be super-slick and devious to get ahead in sales. Perhaps movies like Tin Men and Used Cars have given you the impression that sales is something you do to other people… like a wedgie or a noogie.
I’m going to take a load off your shoulders right now. Are you ready?
Take it from a successful 20-something year sales veteran: Real, honest, successful selling is nothing like that. In fact, most of those qualities work more against you than they do for you.
Now that you know what it isn’t, let’s talk about what selling really is.
How to Keep It Simple and Sell a Ton
Sales is nothing more than empathetically understanding what it feels like to be in another person’s situation, offering advice about things that could solve their problem, and then helping them obtain those things.
In your case, their problem is that they’re unable or unwilling to write for themselves. And the thing that you have that could solve their problem is your expert ability to write it for them.
It seems simple, doesn’t it? That’s because it really is – regardless of what all those online marketing programs and sales books say.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying there’s not value in those detailed, complex programs. If you were someone who made a living from selling full-time, I’d highly recommend a formal program.
But just as a nursery school nurse doesn’t need to know how to remove a gall bladder to be effective, you as a freelance writer don’t need to know how to close a multi-million dollar deal with a Fortune 500 firm. You just need to know the basics so you can get jobs and be paid a fair price for your work.
So how about we talk about that now?
Since selling is merely the act of matching a problem with a solution, you need to treat it that way when you’re promoting your work.
Important: As we walk through the discussion that follows, I need you to have a specific person — or several specific people — in the forefront of your mind.
So ask yourself: Who is it in your life that you keep going back to again and again – and you’re more than happy to pay them for what they do for you?
From here on out, we’ll refer to those people as your cavalry – because they’re always there when you’re in a pinch. Keep those people in mind as we cover the rest of the material.
The Four Cornerstones of Integrity Selling
When you sell from a place of honesty, you set yourself up for a longer, more successful career. I call it Integrity Selling. It has nothing to do with fast talking, up-selling, or lying. It has everything to do with serving the needs of your clients and making their lives easier.
Here are the four primary cornerstones, or fundamental principles, of integrity selling. Embrace these principles and not only will you feel good about selling your work – you’ll sell more of it.
1: You’re the Trusted Consultant – Not the Wolf at the Doorstep
You know that image of the fast-talking, sleazy, double-dealing salesman you’ve become accustomed to? Forget it. It’s largely a caricature – and in instances where those types exist, they don’t last long.
I’ve been at this a long time – and as I reflect, I cannot tell you of one sleazy, pushy person who has enjoyed a successful sales career that lasted over 5 or 10 years. They starve to death. Or they make a bunch of sales by pressuring people and then it blows up in their face later, when their customers figure out they’ve been had. Customers don’t come back if you slime them, right?
As a freelancer, you need to mount a sales effort that feels right to you and will sustain you long-term. You’re not selling a one-time, quick-hit item like kitchen knives or an ab machine.
I’m going to play mind-reader here for a second. I’ll bet that part of the reason you keep going back to your cavalry is that they’ve helped you a great deal. They’ve answered your questions, they’ve made your life easier, they’ve removed pain from your life – or added pleasure to it.
That’s the image of real selling that you need to get into your head – and it’s the experience you need to create for your clients. You’re the one with the answers. You’re the one they can trust. You’re the one who delivers quality work on time every time. Your clients don’t have to think twice about saying yes to you.
You’re not the wolf at the door. You’re the consultant. You’re the cavalry coming to save the day.
2: Know the Difference Between Price and Value
Don’t be shy about talking money. Most people get nervous and lowball when it comes to naming a price. But when you provide more benefit than your competition for the same type of work, you make yourself an obvious choice.
That’s called value by the way – and it’s very different from price. Value has to do with what your prospect deems your product or service to be worth. And if you make their lives significantly easier, more pleasurable, or more profitable you can demand a higher price because your client will know you’re worth it.
Anyone can lowball a price, but not everyone can deliver real value.
3: All Other Things Being Equal, People Buy From People They Like
It should be no surprise that people buy from people they genuinely like. This is true not only in situations where there’s an actual exchange of money, but also in situations when you’re asking for an emotional or intellectual buy-in.
For instance: There are many good freelance writer websites. Why do you visit this one? I’m guessing it’s because you like Sophie, the way she communicates, and the way her content makes you feel.
And if you analyze why you like others, you’ll uncover all the reasons your potential clients will like you. If you think about it, you can come up with many reasons why you personally like someone – but here are three that most everyone shares:
a. Being Unique and Genuine
If you try to emulate someone else’s personality, or try to be too official and corporate when you’re not that kind of person, you’re done for. People can smell forced behavior a mile away.
If you’re witty, serious, emotional, soft-spoken, cerebral, or whatever – let it show when you’re selling. Those who don’t ‘get’ you will never get you – but those who do… man… they’re going to love you if you keep it real.
b. Being Empathetic
Empathy is a widely misunderstood word. I even heard a famous author defining it incorrectly in a recent interview. Being empathetic is not just about emotions and being touchy-feely. Empathy is possibly the most important part of selling, so I want you to have the real definition.
Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
So empathy is about understanding feelings – but it’s also about understanding someone else’s thoughts and experiences. That means it’s about understanding their current situation — emotionally, personally, and with regard to their business.
When you understand how your prospect feels, how they react to things personally, and the current state of their business affairs, you’re in the position to really help them. You are in a position to make a difference in their life and their business… and that, my friend, is what real selling should be.
c. Being Generous
This doesn’t mean that you should work for free or slash your rates. It means that you always do a little more than you’re expected to do. Notice what’s going on in your client’s world – and when you see something that looks like a sore spot, offer to help.
Be generous with your time, your work, and — when it makes business sense — your money.
In general, I always try to remember the old saying: “To have a friend, be a friend.”
What are the qualities and behaviors that you appreciate from your cavalry and other people you genuinely like? Know what those are – and be those things for your clients.
4: People Buy Benefits – Not Features
Pop quiz: What is it that you sell? If you said, “blog posts” or “my writing” I’m going to have to give you a demerit. No recess for you.
Your clients aren’t really buying a 500 word blog post at 50 cents per word. Those things are features.
Features are fact-oriented and tend to be described with words like: long, short, tall, blue, toxic, heavy, and round. People don’t usually buy based on features unless you’re selling computers, electronics, or something else with lots of technical specs.
Words on paper are not your product. What those words will do for your client is. In other words: benefits.
Benefits are results-oriented and are associated with words like: easy, profitable, effective, satisfaction, and confidence.
Would you rather hear me talk about bringing you happiness or about bringing you round things? Your clients would answer that question the same way you just did!
The question, then, is: What will your work do for your clients? Maybe you’re saving them from writing their own copy so they can focus on other things. Or maybe your writing will bring them more customers, or improve their image – or something else that they see as valuable.
Always sell the benefit – not the feature!
So before you pitch a prospective client, do your research in advance. Think it through and figure out what is it that your writing will actually do for that client that will make their life easier, more enjoyable, or more profitable. When you know, focus your pitch around those benefits.
Businesses get pitched all the time. Salespeople try to sell them office supplies, telephone systems, computers, software, sponsorships, advertising, and a hundred other things literally every single day.
The good news for you is that most of those sales pitches – whether they be in person, over the phone, through snail mail, or online – are terribly ineffective. Your average office supply or computer salesman won’t be in the same job in 5 years. I promise.
They walk in, or call, or email – and botch the job. They use all the same clichéd sales lines. They have all the same cheesy closes… “If you buy today I’ll (blah, blah, blah).” They tend to be pushy because they’re desperate to earn a commission.
That’s what bad salespeople have in common. The thing all good salespeople have in common is that instead of doing those things, they build relationships.
The best way to prove that you’re in it for the long haul is to learn as much as possible about your prospect. Research them – and whenever possible, ask them questions about themselves so you can find out where they’re coming from.
By learning as much as possible about your prospect, you’re achieving two very important things:
Thing 1: You’re Demonstrating Competency and Intent
At some point in your recent past, you’ve been in the position to buy something. Maybe you experienced a salesperson who tried to push you into a certain product or service that you weren’t really interested in.
How did that make you feel inside? How did it make you feel about the salesperson?
But you’ve probably encountered a real salesperson at some time, too. You know, one who greeted you warmly and asked you about yourself. They probably asked you about what type of product you were looking for, how you planned on using it, and what your budget was.
How did that person make you feel? It’s a different world isn’t it? You knew you were in the hands of a professional – and you got a feeling that they were there to help, not take you for all you had.
Be like that second salesperson for your clients.
Thing 2: You’re Gathering Information to Close the Sale
Contrary to what some people think, closing the sale isn’t a bad thing or a slimy thing. If done properly, it’s the result of successfully solving your client’s problem.
When you’ve thoroughly done your research and you’ve asked your questions, you should understand your clients current situation, their wants, their needs, their fears, their budget, their timeline, and their expectations.
And when you know your client that well, you can much more easily solve their problem.
Selling Is an Art – and You’re An Artist
Now you’ve seen that selling isn’t an act of brute force. It’s a mix of creativity, problem-solving and relationship-building: an art form.
And, tah-dah… you’re an artist.
Use the principles taught in this post the next time you pitch a new client. Sell with a clear conscience, with confidence, and most importantly – with pride. When you’re Integrity Selling you’re providing a service and helping mankind.
You are the cavalry.
Ride out in style with a free mentoring session to get you set on the path to success. I’m giving away one top prize of a 60 minute session to help you sell with confidence, PLUS two runner-up prizes of a 30 minute session.
For your chance to win, check out these 3 blog posts:
Then leave a comment to tell me which of them is most relevant to your situation, and what you hope to learn in your prize mentoring session. We’ll choose the winners on 12th January.
Image: Omar Omar
Tom Crawford says
That was a great read, Gary. This is something I encounter a lot from freelance writers, and it can be a big hurdle to get over (and a big reason for charging low rates). While we have all seen the pushy salesman in operation, this is not the norm and certainly not the model to follow.
Freelance writers and bloggers should be proud of the great service and value they provide. They should know what they’re worth and not budge on price. I hope your article helps others with this shift in mindset.
Gary Korisko says
Couldn’t agree more – be proud and confident. And remember you provide a service worth paying for!
Alicia Rades says
Nice post, Gary! Your voice really shined through, something I often struggle with but know it’s important.
I loved your “Feature Preacher” post. The one thing that got my attention: “You want to sell more.” Yep. This post is for me.
I continued down the page and loved your example with the family buying the vehicle. At first, I didn’t even realize the salesman’s pitch was bad until you pointed it out. Then I went back and read it again, and I’m like, “Tell me why I care!”
I’ve learned all this before since I write product descriptions, but you really drilled it in nicely. This post reminded me that I REALLY have to write a killer description for my ebook coming out soon if I want to sell it.
I would really love to learn about how to find people to sell to, but in a session like this, I’d be most interested in learning how to go about selling digital products (like ebooks) to people and how to make sure they understand it’s worth the few dollars it’s priced at.
Gary Korisko says
Glad you found it helpful. If it helps, selling an eBook online vs a product face to face follows the same principles – but with a few twists. You’re still creating value and talking about benefits, right? 🙂
I’d be happy to answer specific questions!
Alicia Rades says
Yep. My curiosity lied in how to pinpoint the right “benefits” of digital products.
Gary Korisko says
Benefits usually answer the question, “So???”
A feature of your digital products might be that it teaches the reader “X.” The benefit would be the “So?” behind that….
“This eBook teaches you X *SO* that you can more easily gain more clients and demand a better price for your work.”
Make sense? It’s tough without knowing the specific product, but hopefully that example helps a little. 🙂
Williesha Morris says
Fantastic! Love this post.
Gary Korisko says
Thanks much, Williesha!
Thank you for this great post! I read the 3 articles, and the last article “Why They Buy” was most helpful to me. The 6 questions in the “Use It or Lose It” section make the perfect “pitch checklist” as I reach out to new clients. In my prize mentoring session, I hope to learn how to effectively target clients in my “unique” areas startups and education.
Thanks again for the inspiration:).
Gary Korisko says
Happy to hear you enjoyed this post – and the series. Best of luck to you in the contest!
Enjoyed your posts, Gary. For me, the important point is that each tells us not to get so wrapped up in what we’re selling that we forget the people we’re trying to sell. Because of that, the most useful is “How Not to Spray and Pray” because you make it clear we will not be successful if we don’t treat each potential customer as an individual. Thanks for that.
Gary Korisko says
Great observation, Louis!
One of the biggest mistakes people make when selling is to make the sale all about the product and the seller. The truth is that the sale is all about the buyer’s needs. Focus on that and your chances for success increase exponentially.
Derek Thompson says
I found all three posts relevant to my situation and my business. However, ‘How Not to Spray and Pray’ hit the spot. As a freelancer with fingers in features, web writing, fiction and comedy writing, it can be a challenge to both identify the target and then hit it myself!
From the three articles, the “Are You a Feature Preacher” is the most useful to me because I tend to sell features and disregard to tell my prospect clients about the benefits.
What I hope to learn from the prize mentoring session is that, to be able to show benefits to clients. I want to show them how my posts can bring in more sales, more engagements, and move value to their blog.
Gary Korisko says
Yep. That’s an easy trap to fall into for sure. We all do it from time to time. Good luck to you!
Anthony Dezenzio says
Enjoyed reading all three of your articles.
Gary Korisko says
Here’s my dilemma Gary. While I’m usually all for benefits, if you’re targeting someone that has the budget to pay for quality, aren’t you targeting someone who is familiar with the benefits of quality writing? I feel like you’d be hard pressed to convince someone unfamiliar with what a good article can do for your business to pay you 100$ and upwards per post. And if you just shove benefits in the qualified person’s face instead of facts, results, examples and testimonials would they really be interested? Is my assumption that they are qualified too hasty? Or is my assumption that that makes them not like benefits false?
How to not spray and pray is definitely the most relevant to my situation right now. If I won a session, I would hope to narrow down who I target, enabling me to get more results with less grunt work.
Gary Korisko says
Great point. There are a couple of ways to look at this.
I could write a whole new post on your question, but I’ll try not to 🙂
I’ve spent over 20 years selling to business owners. They’re about as qualified as you can get. And I can tell you, it’s a mistake to assume that your prospect understands everything about what you do. Plus – you can use your testimonials to back up your benefits. So if your benefit is that they’ll get more conversions, you can back it up with a testimonial that says that’s a benefit of working with you – or a chart that proves it. They’re not opposing forces. They can work together.
Second – (and this is a BIG one) remember, you’re not so much selling quality writing as you are selling *YOUR* quality writing. Your client can find good writers anywhere they look. Sell the benefits of why you specifically are the right solution for them. Make sense?
Lastly – Remember benefits aren’t fluffy, BS-laden false promises. They’re what you said – the real, actual positive results your client will see if they choose you. But if you just come at them with data and charts without being able to tell the story of what those charts mean to their bottom line or their life… you’ll fall short.
Excellent question! And best of luck in the contest.
That actually makes a lot of sense. I think I got so obsessed with avoiding fluff that I ended up writing more of it and missing the point about benefits, haha. Thanks for clearing that up for me! ^^
Gary – I love your no bullshit* approach (am I allowed to use words like this ’round these parts?????!!). I’m definitely not a sleazy salesperson (no additional oil in my hair OR pinstripe suit adorned) but asking people for money … sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.
Of the 3 posts, the one that resonated with me was numero 3:
why they buy. ‘People buy for their reasons, not yours’ – LOVE IT.
What I hope to learn from a mentoring call with you:
The art of closing the sale. My calls go well (build rapport, have some laugh, mood is light) but at the end, I ask the caller to think about the proposal and come back to me with their conclusion. At this point, even if they’re ready to buy, I’ve just shot myself in the foot.
Gary Korisko says
Are you allowed to say “bullshit” on Sophie’s blog? Yeah – I think you’re ok. 🙂
You picked out one of my favorite lines from my whole sales career. One I repeat to my employees over and over: “People buy for their reasons, not yours.”
Thanks for the comment – and good luck to you!
Lynn Silva says
Well, I’ve read your series several times throughout the day and each time I add to my notes. It’s been so very difficult to ‘find my place’ in the online world. I’ve known from the start that, I want, and I CAN help people…physically, emotionally & financially. I haven’t been able to narrow my niche until recently. It is now narrowed and my site is in the middle of transformation.
I cannot put into words how valuable your articles are. They’ve given me key targets to aim for in my home and about me page. They’ve made me realize I CAN do this, that my services are of value and most of all, that I can come from a place of humility and servitude and actually help people.
You asked at the end of this article to comment on where I’m at. I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t answer that question. I think I’m truly at the cusp of reaching people who need my skills and whom I need as clients. I just have to find the correct wording…honest, humble and serving words that genuinely show who and what I’m about. I’ve been too worried that I won’t sound like a professional ‘salesperson.’ Well, thank goodness I don’t have to sound that way! I’m ecstatic that you led me to that epiphany.
I’m SO GRATEFUL for your post and look forward to reading many more in the future. THANK YOU!!!!
Gary Korisko says
Wow. What a nice comment. I’m very happy to hear the post(s) helped you so much. It seems like you’re catching on just fine. This online thing is an ongoing process – and it can feel slow. Keep plugging away!
Nice post Gary. I laughed out loud when I read, “sales is something you do to other people… like a wedgie or a noogie.”
When I started out, the idea of selling my services to people seemed absolutely disgusting. But, I’ve realized that if my service serves my clients needs and I enjoy the work, then the money transaction is just a minute detail. It’s nice to keep getting reminders like this though. Thanks.
Gary Korisko says
Yeah – it’s important not to lose sight of the sincere side of sales. When approached with an attitude of servitude, it’s a totally different animal.
Except selling *isn’t* something you do TO people. Glad you got a chuckle out of it! 🙂
Sophie Lizard says
OK, it took a while to choose just of these fantastic comments, but the winners are in!
1st prize of a 1 hour mentoring session: Ragnar.
2nd prizes of a 30 minute mentoring session: Lynn Silva and Razwana
Congratulations, folks! I’ll be emailing you in just a moment about your prize.
For everyone else, there’s more where this came from: check out Reboot Authentic for more sales wisdom.
I am an online marketer. Freelance writers and bloggers do a great job and they really provide a great value in online marketing.
Thanks for this post.
Interesting post. I found this marketplace for selling posts called seedingup.com and I was wondering what people think of it and if there are others.
I am just getting started with my blog and thought the concept was pretty cool
Eternity G. Bleu says
I am actively researching and studying my market as we speak! Earlier this month, I started an online business (which will go live on September 1st) to sell blog posts I write and other digital goods. Some articles say beginner bloggers and sellers should not have to worry about volume just yet, but don’t skimp out on the “sause” (my trademark instead of spelling it with a “c”).
Reading your post about how to sell to your clients gave me a deeper insight into my networking habits. I keep it conversational, but I still have a little trouble being assertive. The only thing close to being a salesperson was when I used to work through Primerica in 2016 – 2017. Horrible experience with my trainers, but wonderful experience with learning about traditional business before COVID-19.
Sorry for writing so much. I appreciate your post a lot! It kept me engaged and wanting to know more about selling or how to talk to people. I also realized I may need to revamp certain points on my website and sales approach to encourage additional traffic and responses to my products (which will lead to closed sales). Thank you for writing this.
By the way, you also hit the first page on Google, so for sure I am going to revisit soon! Have a great day, meow!