What can be the scariest part of a freelance copywriter’s job?
Picking up the phone and talking to a prospect for the very first time.
Writing web copy? Piece of cake. Sending an email? Easy peasey. Calling a lead to make sure they’re a good client for you?
Ouch. Email seems soooo much easier.
Phone time with a prospect is important. Sure, email is easy and quick – but you often don’t get all the answers you want. A 30-minute phone chat can provide insight into the client’s personality, highlight their real needs (as opposed to what they may say their needs are) and – most importantly – help you decide if you want to work with them.
The secret to successful prospect calls is preparation. When you’re prepared, you’ll feel less nervous. You’ll sound more confident. And you’ll be able to close more sales, more quickly. Even if you have to talk on the phone.
Here’s how to do it:
– Don’t take calls out of the blue. Set an appointment instead. It’s great when prospects call and want to talk about their site RIGHT NOW. But setting an appointment is your best bet (especially if you have a hard time switching gears between writing and talking to people!) Instead of dropping what you’re doing, email (or call) the prospect back and set a time to chat. This extra time allows you to focus, prepare and do any necessary gear-switching.
– Gather basic information via email before the call. Whether you’re talking with the client in a few hours – or a few days – try to get some information before the call. At the very minimum, you’ll need the URL. In a perfect world, the prospect shares what pages she’ll want you to write, what her current challenges are and her budget. This doesn’t often happen, but it’s great when it does.
When I’m setting the appointment, I ask for answers for up to three questions before the call. Do I always get the interview responses? No. But I’ve found that the more motivated (read: ready to buy) clients will respond. At this phase, resist the urge to send the client a multi-page questionnaire. You run the risk of the client ignoring your questionnaire – and your scheduled call time, too.
If you’re wondering, my three typical questions are….
Who is your target audience? Do you have multiple target audiences?
What are the top three benefits of your product/service?
What sites represent your main online competition? What are their URLs?
– Review the client’s site . What SEO writing elements are screaming “fix me?” Do you see keyphrase stuffing? Is the content benefit-statement free? Is the blog gathering dust and there hasn’t been any recent posts for awhile? Make some quick notes – all of these tidbits represent great upsell opportunities. Don’t forget to write down what you do like, too. It’s always better to tell a prospect, “You’ll want to look at X, but the way you’re doing Y is great,” than focus 100 percent on the negative.
Review the prospect’s interview answers. Look for red flags like, “We don’t have much of a budget” or “We want to be #1 in Google for our search terms.” If you’re a new freelance copywriter, a small budget could be OK – but if you’ve been freelancing for awhile, you may want to discuss pricing sooner rather than later. Additionally, if your prospect has unrealistic expectations (like #1 rankings for all their key terms), be prepared to provide a (gentle) reality slap.
Important note: If you feel the prospect isn’t a good match, send them an email and let them know. There’s no reason to hold a call if you know you can’t help them. It wastes their time – and it wastes yours, too.
Write down your talking points. Do you have a testimonial from a client in a similar vertical? Have you handled a similar situation before? Write down what you want the client to know. Forgetting to bring up an important point during the call is easy to do (trust me!)
You’ve reviewed the site, made some notes and gathered all the information you can. Now, it’s time for the sales call! I’ll provide some of my favorite “how to sell to prospects” tips next week. Stay tuned!
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