Whether you're a photographer, website designer, or software developer you can always find somebody willing to buy your services and get the ball rolling.
When founder, Chris Sanford started selling his services, he had no experience, no portfolio, no references, and worked from home. What he had was an open ear with a bit of sales experience. That's it, and that's all you need.
Here is a strategy to scouting, pitching, and closing a local business on a professional service and using your amateur status as leverage in the deal.
The first thing I want to say is that to do this successfully, you must have a total reality of where you are in life and where you want to go with your service. Keeping your feet on the ground is the best way to land great deals that have more residual value than face value. By that, I mean you might have to take a few sacrifices and maybe even offer free services in order in get your foot in the door and display the value that you bring to the table.
Right now, you are nothing and deserve nothing until you make something. If you can accept that and toss your ego to the side, you can make a great name for yourself and place a high value on your personal brand.
1. Scouting and Identifying Your Client-
While finding a client to serve, I highly recommend avoiding classified listings like craigslist or job openings of the like.
Stick to small, local businesses as these will build your reputation and allow you to expand outward with ease. Start by looking at the businesses you personally buy goods from and maybe have a first name basis with the owner. Plus, scouting is better done when you can look someone in the eyes.
The key businesses to look for would have these attributes:
- Good Product
- Low to Medium Foot Traffic
- High Competition
- Not Online (or Google business isn't claimed yet.)
These attributes reveal very important indicators of why that business might be struggling. If they have great product but low foot traffic, that can fixed as easy as listing the business on Google (or making a website), adding pictures and incentivizing reviews from current customers. Flyers throughout the neighborhood will drive first time customers at which point you can offer them a gift for a nice review which will lift your search ranking and get the business seen alongside some much-needed social proof.
If the business is slow and the owner isn't running the counter or sweeping the floor, leave immediately. This owner is more than likely not passionate about his own business or he's an idiot for not picking up the slack on his own thereby wasting money. Either that or they own multiple businesses and are too hard to get ahold of.
If you walk into a slow business and the owner is there at least a few days a week sweeping and taking care of customers, you have someone that will listen to you. These owners are driven and ambitious.
2. Researching Client's Business and Competition-
Once you find a prospect, start to research where they receive their current traffic and where they fall behind in gaining new customers. If they have little to no reviews online, find a way to get them reviews. If their website is a piece of crap, build them one before even pitching them (at least a mock-up). If their social media is outdated and not fresh with content, offer to take over the social media accounts.
While doing this, it is helpful to look at their competitors and see how they are successfully driving traffic and converting customers. Mimicking is not looked down upon in the business world.
Google everything you need to know.
3. Pitching Client-
Before you pitch, you have to prime.
Learn about the client himself. Stop by a few times just to buy something and say hi. Compliment him on his products and talk about how much you hate his competitors.
Okay, so when is the right time to pitch him?
The more you talk about his business and how much you believe in it, he'll eventually ask about you and what you do. This can happen at the first time you meet him or a even as long as a month after stopping by his shop.
This is where you tell him what you do (what you want to offer him), how it can potentially benefit him, and outmatch his competitors. I've found it helpful to name competitors. For example, "A business listing can really help bring in some reviews 'So & so' uses it to post current pictures and gain reviews." or, "Your website isn't as nice as 'So & so' and that's probably why they're beating you."
You can tell when you hit a sweet spot or something that's been on their mind because when you mention it, it'll raise their eyebrows. That's when you know.
4. Closing the Deal-
If you have no credibility to your name or if you lack examples previous work, you have to offer him a deal he can't refuse. The first project is never the biggest so start small, cheap and fast. Offer to do something quick and maybe even free in order establish personal credibility. This way he'll never ask for your portfolio because you are now friends. However you should't hide being an amateur. When uncovered this could destroy your credibility. Instead, offer to do the work so you can put it on your resume. Use your amateur status to justify the low price.
Sometimes a low price can scare someone as it can be seen as cheapy and half-a**.
Showing initiative is the key to winning the heart of a business owner. Tell him what he needs in order to grow and why.
Do what you have to do to close the deal, so you can start preparing for the next one. If you prove yourself, you will naturally become the contractor they go to for all of their marketing needs.
5. Building the Client Relationship-
When given an inch, take a mile. If they simply need a day of photography, suggest you post them to a local listing afterward. Once you post them on business listings, suggest a social media account. When social media is showing an upward trend, suggest a website as a central location for the all customers to go to. This is of course a simple example of utilizing your trade while it leaks into other aspects of marketing.
Relationships are the most important asset of any contractor as they provide word of mouth that can only lead to bigger and better projects.