A big problem many freelance professionals face is maintaining a full stable of clients. One month you have a packed schedule, and then the next, you might have no billable client work at all. And this can be a serious issue when looking to develop a long term freelancing career. A potential solution is the introduction of outbound sales techniques to your wider marketing and sales strategies.
Unfortunately, the mention of outbound sales can leave a freelancer or solopreneur somewhat disconcerted. Nowadays it’s the popular thing to focus on inbound marketing and sales strategies while deeming the more traditional ‘in your face’ methods of sales as ineffective or unacceptable.
The idea of pitching complete strangers can fill even the most lionhearted of freelancers with uncertainty, especially when it comes to phone calls.
What is outbound sales?
Outbound sales is the process of generating interest and selling services/products by actively reaching out to potential clients. These prospects (leads) can be found in a number of different ways, some ways more effective than others.
For most big companies, the reaching out is in the form of phone calls (also known as cold calling) or emails. A sales representative uses a list of contact details and methodically gets in touch with the potential buyers.
The list of contacts is gained either from buying existing lists developed by third parties or by curating their own list of prospects. The latter technique is deemed to be a lot more effective.
How does outbound differ from inbound?
Inbound marketing and sales strategies center around attracting prospects by providing valuable content and building trust over time. The content attracts and engages the prospect and if successful, builds confidence thereby making it likely the potential client becomes an actual client.
Inbound strategies rely on the prospect being drawn in to the marketing and sales messages, whereas an outbound strategy takes your sales pitch out directly to the potential customer.
Benefits of outbound sales strategies
Most freelancers rely on inbound marketing strategies and sales communications. Inbound is highly effective when done right but it can take time to come to fruition. When you’re just starting out or you’re looking to move into a new market, then relying on inbound sales strategies can be frustratingly ineffective.
By actively reaching out to potential clients in a new niche market, you’re able to more quickly judge how hungry that particular target market is. This saves you from spending months marketing to an audience that just isn’t really interested or is not very lucrative.
Another benefit of outbound sales is the ability to reach potential clients who might not respond to inbound marketing and sales strategies. For example, some business owners just don’t read blog articles, social media streams, or brochures. They’re out and about all day, away from computer screens, and respond a lot better to a direct phone call.
These people might desperately need your services but just didn’t know where, when, or how to look.
How freelancers can use outbound sales techniques
There are a number of different outbound sales techniques for freelancers depending on personal preferences, target market, and industry.
Picking up the phone and simply calling a potential client can be extremely effective, especially for freelances, because so few of your competitors have the courage to do similar. It’s understandably the most daunting technique. Also known as ‘cold-calling’, phoning a prospect out of the blue requires guts, self-confidence, and poise.
When first making cold phone calls, it’s important to work from a prepared script. This outlines the points you want to make and helps you to focus on the salient sales points that need to be succinctly conveyed. People are busy and also naturally defensive when it comes to sales-type calls, so getting to the point quickly and confidently is essential.
Overcoming self-doubt and just leaping into cold calling can potentially and positively change your freelancing career beyond all recognition.
Emailing is an effective alternative to the cold phone call. A ‘cold email’, when written using strong copywriting techniques, can quickly warm a prospect and lead to a phone call. In fact, this should be the primary goal of prospective emailing for freelancers. Every email sent should navigate the prospect towards a phone call where the sale is then advanced or completed.
Other outbound channels
Social media can also play a part in an effective outbound sales strategy. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, allow you to reach out to potential clients who might have in some way signaled an interest in the type of services you provide.
Networking events also provide an excellent opportunity for outreach. Creating good quality business cards and practicing effective small talk when meeting new people can result in new clients (or collaboration partners), especially when networking with fellow business owners.
Then there’s the more traditional snail mail route. This might involve sending a postcard or leaflet to your target market with information about your business and how your services can help. To meet with success, you might potentially need to send hundreds of such materials to targets throughout your local region.
The importance of following up
With outbound sales strategies, it’s vital to follow-up. Following up is getting back in touch with a prospect after a short period of time and continuing the sales process. Sometimes a potential client may not have answered the phone, replied to an email, or acknowledged a social media message. More often than not this is because they’ve just been too busy to reply. They might genuinely be interested in taking things further at a more opportune moment.
It’s been suggested that it can sometimes take 5-7 touchpoints with the prospect to finally complete a sale. However, for freelancers who take a more warm and personal approach, a sale is likely to happen sooner.
Using both outbound and inbound sales strategies
Inbound sales strategies are by far the most popular way for freelancers to gain new clients these days. That said, outbound sales techniques can be more effective in gaining the exact type of client you want and sooner. You have the freedom to find that perfect client and then simply contact them, which is not always possible with inbound marketing.
That said, successful selling in whatever industry or sector, usually comprises facets of both inbound and outbound marketing and sales. This is just as applicable to freelance professionals as it is to the big companies using sales reps to make cold calls.
By combining long-term content marketing with pin-point outbound prospecting tactics, you can ensure you’re never without a perfect client.