If you decide to go into consulting or freelance programming, guess what? You have to worry about something called sales. That means you have to get jobs that pay and collect the money for your work.
Most programmers just want to program, so running a business part-time or full-time can force them to do all sorts of tasks that they don’t want to do, and selling is one of the biggest obstacles for programmers and non-technical people alike.
However, if you read the book “SPIN Selling,” you can learn something interesting about selling. The hardest way to selling is to get in someone’s face and try to intimidate and force them to buy. That’s the hallmark of a horrible sales person. The simplest way to sell anything is to find the people who want your product or service.
What’s harder? Selling water to people in an airport or selling water to people crossing the desert who have run out of supplies?
The secret to selling isn’t to waste your time looking for customers. To make selling easy and profitable, you want to get customers to come to you because they need what you’re selling.
So how do you get customers to come to you? What won’t work is wasting money on advertising because advertising goes all over the place and rarely reaches the people who need what you’re selling. The first step is to identify your ideal customer and then go out looking for those ideal customers.
Rather than approach your ideal customers, let them approach you. In “SPIN Selling,” the author’s research suggests that the more you can identify a customer’s problems, the more likely you can find a solution for that problem.
If you write custom database programs, the first thing to do is figure out who needs custom database programming? While every company could use custom database programming, there’s always a certain person who can approve or disapprove the hiring of custom database programmers, so that’s the type of person you need to identify and target.
Once you know who your target customer really is (it’s not just a company but a specific person in a company), find out what problems they would like to solve. Ideally, the more painful the problem, the better. Now offer to solve it for them.
This type of approach means doing research. Research your potential customers, find out what they really need, and who’s really able to hire you or not. This obviously takes time but it will lead to a much better result than wasting money buying advertising and hoping for customers to call you. You have to find your customers, understand their problems, and show them how you can solve their problems.
This involves talking to people and negotiating your way through contacts to finding the people who can help you. That means calling or talking to many people, which is something programmers and engineers typically try to avoid. That’s what makes it so difficult for programmers and other technical people to go into business for themselves because they prefer doing the technical work and avoid doing the necessary sales and prospecting work.
Yet if you fail to sell or look for prospective customers, your business will die in an instant. The other alternative is to partner up with someone who can do the selling while you do the programming. In either case, the answer is always understanding your customer’s problems first before trying to sell anything. It’s not always fun, but in the long run, it’s a lot more lucrative.
Selling is a skill, but make it easy on yourself. Find the people who want your products or services and focus only on those people while ignoring the rest of the world. You’ll be much happier, richer, and less stressed out selling in this manner.