The Dos and Don'ts of Selling to Clients

The Dos and Don'ts of Selling to Clients

Freelance Switch posted an article I helped write recently.  Here's the link:

And here's the article:

Do you have loads of clients fighting with each other for the chance to hire you? If so, you can skip this article. If not, you likely spend some time selling yourself to potential clients. So read on, because we’re going to talk about the dos and don’ts of selling.

I wanted to get the scoop on selling from one of the best, so I went to Andrea Decker. Andrea is the Consulting Director here at our company, Element Fusion. Our consulting team spends all of their time drumming up business and Andrea is the most experienced and most prolific sales consultant we have.

So here they are – the dos and don’ts of selling – each summarized in a sentence with quotes from Andrea to further clarify.


1) Listen to your client.
The single most important thing you can do to make a successful sale is listen to your client. Understand how his business works. Understand what pays his bills. Then simply present a solution that makes it easier for him to keep doing what he does best.

2) Build a relationship and demonstrate your expertise.
Business owners don’t usually want to become experts. They just want to know an expert they can trust – one who really understands their business and is interested in building a long term relationship.

3) Present solutions to your clients’ problems.
I don’t make sales. I do my clients a favor by introducing them to solutions that will help them harness the power of the web for their business/organization. If I can present a solution to my client he will be grateful and it is less like making a sale and more like entering into a partnership.

4) Recognize the point when you’ve won them over.
You’ve won them over when they start asking questions about the solution instead of asking questions about you or your work. You’ve moved from mistrust to trust. At this point, the rest is easy.

5) Communicate in the way (email, phone, in person) your client prefers, not the way you prefer.
Each method of communication is only as strong as the preference of the recipient. If you know a guy is too busy to meet but he is a telephone person then you should call him.

6) Appeal to both emotion and reason.
People buy on emotion but justify their decision with reason. Both are significant. You must inspire their emotions but also give them solid evidence that you are the right choice. You only hurt yourself if you don’t deal with both sides of the decision making process.


1) Don’t try to make a sale without first building trust.
The worst thing you can do is try to make a sale or push someone into a decision without building trust. Build relationships instead. (see #1 and #2 on the “do” list)

2) Don’t waste your time with clients who don’t fit you.
Another bad thing to do is to waste your time on someone who doesn’t fit you well. You may need the business really badly and so you go after everyone no matter what, but the truth is that taking clients who don’t fit you will be worse in the long run because they will drain your time and keep you from finding the ones that fit.

3) Don’t waste money (and paper) on marketing materials.
All I need is a net meeting tool and a demonstration website. That’s about it. There’s no sense in killing any trees for marketing because as soon as you put ink on paper you’ll want to change it up. I like to stay as paperless as possible. Naturally, there are some types of businesses that might require printed materials but if you can avoid them, I would.

4) Don’t set unrealistic expectations.
Your goal is to have happy clients who pay your invoices. It’s extremely important to set honest expectations up front. To do this, you have to get very specific in defining the scope of your proposal. This will take more time at the beginning but will save you five times the effort on the back end trying to defend an invoice or correct a misunderstanding. Plus, it will protect your reputation.

5) Don’t nag, but don’t give up too early either.
Sometimes clients really are too busy to focus on your solution. So a ‘no’ might just be a ‘not right now.’ You don’t want to nag them by calling too often. So instead, find out when it would be ok to contact them again. Then, get a good reminder system and use it faithfully. Don’t get behind. Don’t end your day until everyone you were supposed to contact that day has been contacted.

Tim Wall is Director of Product Marketing and Andrea Decker is Consulting Director for Element Fusion, a leading web company and creator of several web-based software products including Light, the content management system for freelance designers.

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