DEV Community

loading...

Learned HTML/CSS then started freelancing - how I closed my very first client for $19,950 USD from a cold call

coder_sales profile image CoderSales.io Updated on ・6 min read

Ok so first thing first, I used to sell advertising for a living. And just like anything else (like coding, for example) the more you do something the better you get. Way back in 2013 I answered a CraigsList ad on being a ‘Sales Superstar’. I really needed the job and had no plan B. So I interviewed and got the ‘job’. I put that in quotes because it was commission only and I had no prior sales experience (at all) but had to make it work. It involved picking up the phone and cold calling 100+ times a day, getting through to a decision maker, holding their attention and making a proposal. Then closing. Oh yeah… I was selling full page ads in a magazine. AND COMPANIES BOUGHT. Companies would buy full page ads from cold calls. I couldn’t believe it. Why is this important? Because if companies & businesses like US Army, Mattel Toys, Cleveland Clinic and LiftMaster can buy from a cold call… guess what? Companies will buy websites from cold calls too. Crazy? Yes. Doable? Yup.

So here’s how.

First thing first. ALWAYS TALK TO A DECISION MAKER. When your income is on the line as a freelancer, why would you spend your time talking to someone who can’t make the decision? Which leads me to my next point… a CEO of a company wants to talk to a CEO of another company. Birds of a feather, right? So when starting out, you’re NOT a freelancer. You’re a CEO of an agency and are presenting an idea that will completely change their digital identity & footprint. You’re going to improve their customer’s experience on the website, increase sales/conversions and boost traffic from their target audience. You’re not just developing a website. If you present this idea to a Marketing Manager, what if $19,950 is out of the budget? What if they don’t even have a budget? Always go to the top. When I landed my first client, I cold called him and he was driving back from a hardware store - I completely ignored the fact that there was a Marketing Manager on the site’s ‘About’ page and just chatted (NOT pitched) about the idea of re doing their website for more conversions. He loved it. 20 minutes into the call, he already had ideas on the layout and what keywords he wants to rank for - I still have the handwritten notes to this day. I sent a quick email to the Marketing Manager (with the CEO cc’d on it so she HAD to respond) setting up a time and did a Zoom call.

Turns out, before the Zoom call the CEO couldn’t make it BUT did have some questions. And questions are good! Can the site do this or do that etc. I said “what did you guys have in mind?”. Ask open ended questions and let the prospect get ideas and start spit balling them to you. Get them emotionally involved in the project. Also, there was a very specific keyword that they wanted which I included in the Statement of Work. No problem. With margins like $20K on a 5 page website, I could simply contract SEO on it.

Which also leads to knowing at least some SEO. Be able to hold a conversation about it. You’re going to make them an incredible site from a front end perspective BUT thats not enough. At least when charging $20K+. It has to solve a problem and in this case, that company wanted more traffic along with a new site. No problem. The capital was coming in which in turn gave me the resources to find the assets for SEO. Plus, I really wanted to learn SEO.

Next point. Have a plan for the presentation. I learned in selling advertising a 5 point roadmap - the (rapport) intro => the idea => your expertise => how this will solve their problems => finally the close. During the idea phase, you want to ask questions about the business (which you should already know a few things about, assuming you’ve niched down) and get ‘they why’ on a new website. Why EXACTLY they’re looking for a new website. Another reason to go to the CEO - generally speaking, a Marketing Manager will not have this answer because they don’t have a vested interest. Especially NOW (end of 2020 and COVID) revenues are everything. Build your presentation around their ‘why’ and solving their problems. One thing this company said was that their competitor’s product wasn’t that good but they just market a lot and have a perceived image to the market place. The competitor had a great site, lots of traffic and a good following. I said well, the most important part of your marketing piece (website) is a great start and here’s some ideas for it… I laid out about 5 ideas as I did lots of homework on the industry and used the answers they gave me earlier in the conversation as ammo. Learn to listen. Learn to listed well.

Get their timing too, “when are you wanting a new website up and live” and “what is your budget?” have 3 pricing options ready; one low value option ~$7500 that doesn’t really offer much, a ‘middle’ option for $19,950 then a high end option for $ 44,950. The idea here is to get the prospect the most value with the middle option as the lower one is almost a waste of time and the high end one is too much in $$ and development time. Don’t stick to these price points though, ask your prospect and play off their answers for timing and their budget. I sold ads for almost 6 years (3 time salesman of the year) and if a company REALLY wants something like a new website, they’ll find the funds. Which is why you talk to a CEO.

When prospecting, ask yourself can a local cake store afford a $20K website? That’s a whole lot of cakes they have to sell to make that ROI! OR can an industrial company that happens to by HQ’d in my city but has a national reach afford a $20K site? That’s basically 1 sale/conversion they have to make that will pay off the site you make for them. You want to talk to that CEO.

Also, be sure that on the call with the CEO, you qualify them! You want to make sure that:
-they are in fact the CEO so use LinkedIn or look up press releases about the company
-they have the budget. They have the $$ to support what you’re going to provide for them and can pay you. ALWAYS TAKE 50% DOWN BEFORE STARTING.
-They have the need. This is why having a tool like SEMrush is so important. It’s not enough saying something stupid like “I’m going to code you a mobile responsive website.. now give me $20K” you also have to show data on their site. This will also present you as the authoritative figure AND hit both sides of the prospect’s brain. The left side AND the right side. Show the analytics of their site compared to their competitor’s and then present how a website you’ll develop for them will bring more traffic. You know the saying, ‘men lie, women lie, numbers don’t’ well challenge them and show the data. The NEED is in plain sight by doing so.
-timing. The magic ingredient. With timing on your side, deals happen. The first client I had, there was a huge trade show exactly 2 months away and the new website was going to deploy just in time. The deal happened in 2 phone calls. Ask what their timing is and when they want it up and live. Assume the sale.
-lastly… what if anything is standing in the way. Is it $$? Is it timing? Is it something else? Are they just getting proposals? You HAVE to ask these uncomfortable questions to get to the root of their ‘why’.

I will say this, as the calendar turns to 2021 and things are looking better for businesses and the overall digital space, you have to stand out in a crowded area. Sales is the most important factor of any business and at some point, you WILL have to sell yourself. Don’t verbally vomit on your prospects but rather listen to what they’re looking for. Stop focusing on the latest frameworks and listen to your prospect’s needs. Focus on conversions and generating sales with new websites.

At that point, your income will increase.

www.codersales.io

Discussion (22)

pic
Editor guide
Collapse
pipe2path profile image
pipe2path

Great post. Congratulations on your sale, you must a good salesperson. Most software developers myself included are not good at sales. What would you recommend we do to maybe improve in that area? Any particular websites, podcasts come to mind?
Thanks.

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
CoderSales.io Author

Thanks! It took me about a year and a half of getting kicked in the teeth to actually figure out what I was really doing (during a phone conversation with a prospect) then the 'switch flipped'. Just like anything else, I recommend doing prospect meetings as much as possible. Do homework on the company you're about to talk to and ask lots of questions. Learn to listen to what they're saying between the lines. And, check out codersales.io for help and blogs - also, look for our new free Facebook group!

Collapse
ghana7989 profile image
ghana

Yeah Exactly we need some tips

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
CoderSales.io Author

Ask lots of questions... then ask more. Ask why the company is interested in a new website and what that will ultimately solve. Nobody just buys a website. There is a particular reason and it's up to you to find that out. Find the real 'why' and you'll have a deal.

Collapse
bketelboeter profile image
Brian Ketelboeter

Congratulations on your accomplishments! Sounds like your experience in sales taught you a lot! I could use lessons from someone like you.

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
CoderSales.io Author

Thank you, it took a long to of blood, sweat and tears to figure things out and I'm still learning. Feel free to go to codersales.io and check out our resources for more help.

Collapse
bworwa profile image
Benjamin Worwa

So you basically sold air. You didn't had the skills you were selling nor could guarantee the results you were promising. All you had was $19k and somehow you thought that would solve the problem, plus you'll learn something along the way. That's not ethical in any way, I don't think that client would've handed you those $19k if you honestly had said "hey I'm not an agency, I'm a freelance that's learning and wants an opportunity to do something great while gaining experience along the way".

Anyways, SEO is moving away from old practices like keywords and moving into AI territory, predicting chances of click based on your behavior, profile and demographics.

Collapse
eissorcercode99 profile image
The EisSorcer

My dream in one article. Thanks for the motivation!

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
Collapse
warpspeed17 profile image
Warp Speed

Hi! Would you like to partner?
My email: warpspeedm@gmail.com

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
CoderSales.io Author

Thank you for the offer but we do not do those kinds of partnerships.

Collapse
rmarzooqurglam profile image
rmarzooqur-glam

How do you get paid for cold call work, up-front/after work, or is there some more nuance to it.

Collapse
warpspeed17 profile image
Warp Speed

I am web developer specialized in e-commerce. I have contacts with web agency in Ukraine. I worked as sales manager for them on commission.
They paid after they recieved payment. If client makes 50% down payment you can get commission from that.
They paid 20% from that.

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
CoderSales.io Author

Thanks but no thanks. Good luck.

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
CoderSales.io Author

Good question. ALWAYS 50% down. Then after the initial development phase, get the next 40%. Finally, right before deployment and migrating from staging to production server get the last 10%. This way it protects you as the freelancer to be paid, keeps the client invested and if the ghost you on the last 10% of the project you still have your $$$.

Collapse
kirbyshabaga profile image
Kirby Shabaga

I love this!

So when starting out, you’re NOT a freelancer. You’re a CEO of an agency and are presenting an idea that will completely change their digital identity & footprint.

Collapse
jaloplo profile image
Jaime López

Literally, one of the greatest articles I've read ever. Thanks for it and for showing your experience!!!!

Collapse
dhruvgarg79 profile image
Dhruv garg

Very interesting post.

Collapse
twitch0125 profile image
Kaleb Ercanbrack

Could you give us the link to the site?

Collapse
droidmakk profile image
Afroze Kabeer Khan. M

Wish, I could do the same and get started. But it's rather a very competitive market.

Collapse
coder_sales profile image
CoderSales.io Author

There's no better time to start than right now... I know that's corny but there really is no 'perfect' time to start. Pick up the phone (or send cold emails) and just start getting kicked in the teeth over the phone. Learn from your mistakes and record your calls. The perfect way of standing out from the crowd especially now in the gig economy, is by properly presenting what problems you will solve. I'll tell you this: when you present your pricing and its double, triple or quadruple more than other quotes, that CEO is going to want to know why. This puts you in a different category and you get taken seriously. Do you think a CEO wants the Honda Accord of new websites? Or does that CEO want the Bentley of websites? You just have to give him/her a good reason as to why they should choose you.

Collapse
olivierjm profile image
Olivier JM Maniraho

Great article, It is exactly what I needed to hear.