When you’re just starting out on your own, it can feel like you’ve got nothing to offer a potential client. In your mind, everyone else out there has a polished sales record. They have experience. They have a great portfolio or brochure they can show off. Winning business is easy for them because they look professional. So why don’t you look professional? How can you compete successfully to win contracts time and again?

Focus on your key areas of specialism

It’s important that you don’t sell yourself as a general jack-of-all-trades. You can’t possibly gain enough experience in everything. But you’ve got a good chance at gaining experience in one or two areas where you already excel. Think back on some of your college projects. What about those personal projects or the odd jobs you did for friends and family? Those are the things you should focus on selling right now.

Naturally, the more of a specialist you are and niche your area of business, the more focused your keywords for SEO might be, too. It’s okay to list all the things you might be willing to do for a fee on your website. But it’s important you pick out and focus on two or three things where you want to make a name for yourself. Collate your previous work experience, including the unpaid projects. Write them up in detail on your website. Make sure your LinkedIn profile and Facebook pages also link directly to those pages.

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Develop a multi-level website that serves your customers well. Image source

Develop more functionality for your customers

Clients and customers want to engage. Developing an app to help them do that could be just the thing to make you stand out ahead of your competitors. If this happens to be one of your key areas of specialization, then it is essential you produce examples of your work like this. To save time and to save face, it’s important you track bugs as you go. An open source bug tracking tool might be ideal for this.

Make ordering systems both informative and simple to use. It might be worth including a detailed FAQ page with a link to it on each page of your order form. Don’t forget to offer comprehensive details of what you can offer and include images and video wherever possible. This may be at the point of order, but you need to help the customer feel like this is the right decision to make.

Marketing

If you’re not actively marketing your business every day, you might not be doing enough to stay ahead of the competition. It might depend on the area of your expertise as to which platforms or media you use. In fact, it might affect your entire approach to marketing. Remember, your goal is to win contracts so you can work and earn money. You need to carefully target the people actively shopping for what you produce or do. Where do these people spend time? How do they approach businesses that do what you do? What do you have to do to attract their attention?

It really is worth spending the time to develop a full strategy and campaign schedule to keep your marketing moving. Aim to become a voice of authority in your specialization. You might offer quotes and PR pieces to journalists that write about your chosen industry. Maybe you can regularly post articles to your website in the form of a blog. Eventually, you might be able to guest blog on other sites of authority. Remember, you’re building your brand as well as your credibility.

Shine Brightly

Networking gives you a chance to shine brightly in a room of people that might be looking for services like the ones you provide. There are always plenty of networking opportunities. You just have to actively seek them. Seminars, workshops, conventions and expos are all ideal places to find potential clients. You might be able to check out some of your competitors to give you a greater insight into your industry.

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Figure out your links and aim to meet new clients through networking. Image source

Always be prepared with well-rehearsed answers about what you do, how you do it and who you can serve. You don’t need to disclose a price if you don’t want to. Simply answer that you have a pricing structure that is likely to suit the size of business they’re inquiring about. Ask for an email address so you can forward that on when you’ve had time to think clearly about their request. This gives you a chance to add a couple of extras to add some real dazzle to your quote. Have an offline version of your website on your device to show a potential client, regardless of the signal quality in the room.

Contacting The Clients You Want Most

Some people say this is a numbers game. You have to make 300 contacts to acquire 3 leads, of which 1 might convert to a contract if you’re great at sales. When you’re on your own because you’re just starting out, those numbers are impractical. You need to beat those odds.

Pick twenty businesses that you genuinely believe you could help . Find out who the decision maker is in that company and write to that person. Detail what you can do for them. Write it like a story. It shows you know their history, you can identify their struggles and you know how to raise them up to become winners over their competitors. What is the problem you solve and how easy is it for you to solve it successfully?

This level of research and copywriting might take several hours or even days per contact. This is just the first stage of the sales funnel. When you’re approaching businesses, there will be far more obstacles, challenges, objections and decision makers to overcome. You need a letter, a phone script, an email, or presentation to steer them to the next stage. This is why your strategy needs time to be developed, polished and implemented. Are you ready to start winning contracts?

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