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Articles on Freelance Writing Success
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(Excerpted from The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds; Fanove, 2005).
Say sales or marketing to a group of creative types and watch the sweat beads pop, the muscles tighten and the breathing get shallow. For many small business creatives whether writers, graphic designers, illustrators or others, sales and marketing are indeed the Panic Pair.
In The Well-Fed Writer, when I wrote, This business is, first and foremost, a sales and marketing venture, oh, the e-mail I received: Im terrible at sales I could never sell anything to anyone... The thought of selling something to somebody is downright frightening to me... and on and on. Alas. All so unnecessary. So, lets talk about what sales really does and doesnt mean.
Somewhere along the line, for many of us, sales of anything got wired to high-pressure techniques, pushy salespeople, slick sales practices, etc. Why did this happen? Because, at some point, weve been the target of salespeople who embodied all the negative stereotypes about sales. Maybe it was someone selling cars. Time-share vacations. Encyclopedias. Aluminum siding. Perhaps enough obnoxious telemarketers got thrown into that broad sales bin as well. However, wherever, whenever, and at whoevers hands it happened, it happened.
Sales: Meeting Needs
Well, guess what? Thats not what sales is. Sales is nothing more than matching your product or service with a prospects needs. With this definition in mind, we can start seeing the potential for sales to morph into a more consultative function. If you build a commercial writing business, one things for certain:
Whether or not you thought of yourself as selling something, you did. That client bought you and your service because of who you are, how you presented yourself and what you had to offer. And he or she had a need for that product or service. Over time, as were about to discuss, you dismantled the barriers standing in the way of that client doing business with you.
Now, Im going to make a few generalizations here. Maybe not true in all cases (so please dont e-mail me with your exception), but certainly valid enough to serve the purpose of underscoring a few key points.
B2B vs. B2C
Sales takes place in two main arenas: business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). A B2B sale (what we as small business professionals do, in case youre unsure) is generally a problem-solving type of sale. Youre a professional selling a product or service to other professionals. Examples of B2B products include: mainframe computers, medical equipment, software, billing systems, pharmaceuticals, copywriting services, marketing consulting, graphic design and about ten gazillion other things. Youre helping a business address its challenges and your solution will enhance its position in the marketplace by making it more efficient, profitable, reputable, competitive, etc. So far, so good.
B2C, or business-to-consumer, is the other big arena and, as consumers, many of the bad sales experiences weve had in our lifetimes fall into this category. By definition, all door-to-door, in-home and telemarketing sales are B2C sales. Why are B2C sales usually the ones that bring out the dark side of sales and salespeople and turn us off to sales? Well, for a few inter-related reasons.
Discretionary vs. Non-Discretionary
Many sales in the B2C realm are discretionary, meaning they involve items you dont actually need. For example, you dont need a time-share, encyclopedias, aluminum siding, etc. And yes, you may need a car, but you dont need that $50K car. And when you dont need something, emotions play a much bigger role in your buying decision. Playing on those emotions becomes a B2C salespersons big role. He or she has to resort to pressure and manipulation until you can sometimes feel well, pressured and manipulated. And so you may walk away from those sales experiences with an icky taste in your mouth about sales in general.
In the B2B arena, sales are generally more non-discretionary. Sure, an organization makes a choice to buy a product or service. But, instead of some ephemeral want or desire being the catalyst as in many B2C scenarios its much more prosaic but crucial considerations like profitability, operational efficiency and competitive edge that carry the day. In todays competitive climate, if a business wants to thrive, it doesnt often have a lot of choice about investing in certain things.
Emotional vs. Unemotional
Yes, emotion can play a slight role in B2B sales that is, from the standpoint of planting the idea that a product carries with it the promise of success (or conversely, the fear of business failure through non-action), increased competitive edge and, of course, the professional rewards that might logically accrue to a wise decision-maker. But were still dealing with the primacy of business considerations.
Translation? B2B sales are much more unemotional than B2C. And when emotion isnt ruling the proceedings, pressure and manipulation become non-issues. Not that theyre ever appropriate in any sales arena, but in the B2C realm, when a juicy commission is on the line, many salespeople see the consumer as a sitting duck to be exploited for his discretionary desires. As small business people, high-pressure sales tactics what many think of as the sales model arent just inappropriate; theyre irrelevant.
Now, relax, mop your brow and take a deep breath. Its going to be all right.
Mothball all those I-cant-sell excuses and start looking instead for a fit between what you offer and what a business needs. Good luck!
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