Eight ways for freelancers and entrepreneurs to address customers
From Amor Dhaouadi
In my coaching sessions with freelancers and executives, we discuss different sales methods that employees should use in their sales activities. It is fascinating to see the different success rates of the different sales methods, depending on the industry segment (B2B or B2C) being considered. Below is an overview of the most commonly used sales channels and methods:
Networking: For many “old-school” salespeople, networking is the best and most effective way to attract people. In a previous survey done by the Freelancing.hk Group, most freelancers indicated that they used this acquisition method. Networking is based on using one's own contacts to generate more prospects that can later be turned into business opportunities. Note: Millennials (the people born between 1980 and 2000) often do not know about this kind of customer acquisition because it is not about virtual contacts, but about real people, you have met in real life.
Email: Email is still the most popular way to make the first contact with a customer. Many people use email for customer acquisition because it is easy to send many emails with a single click. It also saves us from the unpleasant feeling of rejection. However, it is problematic if the emails are not customer-specific and do not represent any added value for the recipient. “Added value” here means information that the customer might need, such as invitations to relevant events or information about important changes in legislation in Hong Kong.
Telephone: Although a phone call actually opens up a direct dialogue with potential customers, this is the most feared method, especially among the younger generation. Many people even get scared when they proactively pick up the phone and enter into a direct conversation with an existing customer. Many people have not learned to talk to customers on the phone in their training. Although some online gurus want to declare telephone-based customer acquisition as dead, it remains the most effective method to me, because it gives me the opportunity to communicate effectively with potential customers. Although it is often frustrating to reach the customer's voicemail, there is no harm to leave your name on the tape and a brief description of what service or product you are offering.
Print media: Catalogues or brochures (e.g. about your products, services or company) are another old-school tool to increase awareness of your portfolio and your brand. Well-designed print media can reach and convince many customers.
White papers and case studies: Presenting independent opinions to the client on specific topics is a proven, yet expensive, tool. Once you know your potential customer’s issues, a carefully written paper will increase their interest in certain subjects and therefore he/she will want to discuss possible solutions with you. Additionally, you can create case studies on relevant topics or projects that you have done that may benefit the customer.
Fairs: Although this is the old world of advertising and marketing, many companies still use fairs to present their products and services and get to know their customers. They also provide an opportunity for networking (see above).
Social media: Social media is one of the favourite methods of many young salespeople. Both in B2B and B2C, it makes it possible to connect with large numbers of customers and increase awareness of their own products and services.
Digital marketing: The Internet has opened up new ways for us to communicate within the business world, through podcasts, blogs, online videos, and other channels. Although creating this content takes time, perseverance and, above all, commitment, it also offers the chance to reach a large audience.
The eight customer acquisition methods listed here can be used differently, depending on industry, market, product or customer segment. However, these methods only become useful if you have considered the story of the company, product and/or service before. You should think about how you solve your customer’s problems as a company/freelancer and why the customer should buy a product or service from you, and not from your competitors.
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This article was published in the Freelancing.HK-News 60.