Early in September of this year, I was lucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel regarding the topic of turning your freelance business from a side gig into a full time business. During the happy hour following the day’s events, quite a few freelancers and would-be freelancers approached me to get my opinion on just why they weren’t getting clients when they just knew their service/product was superior to what they saw in their marketplaces. Most had a common problem: they have set up their online presence, but don’t know how to sell beyond that.
These freelancer conversations led me to realize that when sales fail, it is because the seller lacks an understanding of their target customers. And in my experience, most misunderstandings stem from poor listening skills.
Any Success I Have Had Turning Prospects Into Clients Was a Direct Result of Active Listening: the Ability to Focus on the Client’s Needs During the Sales Process
The biggest mistake most sellers make on social is talking about how great they are. As I told many freelancers last week at the conference:
“You need to understand, you are just a box the client is looking to check-off their list. No one wants to pay for your magnum opus, they want to pay for solving a business problem.”
The wrong question always is, “How do I show how great my work is?”
The right question is: “How does my work help the client meet their business objectives?”
For example, when a prospect let me know how “time poor” he is, I wrote the proposal with timelines including just how much time the prospect had to engage at each stage of the project. I won the sale. While I was technically paid to position a brand and build brand collateral, the client was really buying my organization skills and streamlined process for getting the branding tasks completed. Understanding this distinction and delivering on my promise has also lead this client to refer me to others.
The Good News: These Listening Skills CAN Be Learned
I learned active listening skills through being trained to resolve conflict when I taught at-risk teens. These listening skills have been VERY useful in business.
Active listening is really about getting to the REAL problem. And active listening skills translate well to social selling.
The Basics of Active Listening on Social Media
The Art of Listening: Learn How You Can Help Your Target Community
Active Listening Tips:
- Join relevant groups and listen for the true needs of that particular niche
- Ask questions to get more information so that you learn how to be helpful
Active Questioning Tips:
- Paraphrase other’s problems & check for understanding
- Follow with a question inquiring if they think your solution would help
Make People Feel Safe and Comfortable
Research members of your target community on “nonprofessional” platforms to learn about their lives and interests so you may gain trust through:
- Increased personalization through identifying common interests
- Building rapport about common experiences
- Building trust by developing a sense of liking and affinity
Research Every Platform for Your Target Community
- Connect outside of professional social networks for identifying your contact’s relevant connections
- Learn more about your prospects in different contexts – more personalization = less rejection
- Look for content by influencers in your target community, reach out to them with your take-aways from their content (I got my first client in Austin from this technique)
- Keep your messaging focused on solving problems, with almost zero referrals to your own content or points of sale
Here’s the Simple Truth –
You cannot solve a problem if you don’t understand it. Even if you do understand how to solve a particular problem, no one will hire you if they don’t know about your solution. Active Listening and Active Questioning solve both of these problems.
Your job if you are to sell anything at all is to be known as the solver of a particular problem.
You build your reputation by demonstrating that you are of use. The way you demonstrate usefulness is by adding value to the right conversations.
Shout out to Tim Hughes for inspiring some of the content of this article.