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The Writer As Salesperson

Writer as sales personBy Helen Kaiao Chang

As a writer, I never thought of myself as a salesperson. But these days, I’m honing my selling skills.

Working with a veteran sales coach, I’ve developed several tools that are now landing me great clients. One of the most important is a sales script.

This journey started about two years ago, when my client list dried up. I had spent the previous nine months working on a couple of major projects for one big client. When the book and workbooks were done, I didn’t have much other work.

It was the classic business pitfall. I had focused so much on production, I didn’t bother with sales and marketing. When that one major client went away, my income dried up.

Around that time, I also launched a website www.ghostwriter-needed.com targeted at my ideal clients. To my amazement, I started getting responses very soon after. I had a steady stream of inquiries.

I was very excited to talk to these new potential clients. But the conversation generally went something like this:

Potential client: “I want to write an X. How much will that cost?”

Me: “For that type of project, it will cost between Y and Z.”

Potential client: “Ok, I’ll get back to you.” Click.

And I would never hear from them again.

After several times, I realized this wasn’t working. I was like a fisherwoman, surrounded by fish, but unable to catch anything. I had tons of client leads, but no sales.

I knew I had to learn how to sell and close a deal.

But I hate sales!

Yeee-uck! Sales! I hate sales! I’m a writer, not a sales person! I shouldn’t have to sell! I don’t want to sell! I thought.

But I also have to eat, I told myself. I don’t believe in being a starving writer.

So I took several classes on sales and marketing through SCORE ( www.score.org), a low-cost national business training group. Fortuitously, one of the trainers of the sales class was a former magazine publisher who had run a very successful publishing company. At the end of the class, I asked him to be my coach, and he said yes.

I had known that SCORE offers free coaching services to entrepreneurs of all industries, but I never imagined I would find someone appropriate for writers. I was amazed by my good fortune.

Over several months, my coach helped me develop a sales script. I have learned that it’s not so much about selling, as it is about truly understanding a person’s motivation, wants, needs and resources, and how I can best serve that person. The secrets of selling can be applied across all industries – including writing.

Working with my script and refining it over the last year, I have been able to connect with strangers on a very deep level, completely understand a project, provide a quote that makes sense, and yes, close the deal.

To be sure, I already knew much of this intuitively. But the sales script now gives me a structured way to ask questions, so I can offer new clients exactly what they want.

Although I am mostly a writer, understanding sales and having a script is enabling me to serve more people, while fulfilling my life purpose.

What’s on your sales script?

Read more wisdom from Helen.

Helen Kaiao Chang is a ghostwriter, editor and journalist, specializing in business and motivational topics. She may be reached at: www.ghostwriter-needed.com

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Hi everyone,

    Thank you for all your wonderful comments. As I explained, I developed my script over the course of a year! I am still tweaking it! It is not just a few paragraphs that will fit into one blog post. I figured I could write more specifics another time.

    But before I ever wrote a script, my biggest hurdle was just getting over the idea of myself as a salesperson, which is what this blog was about.

    My sales script works for me, but it won’t necessarily work for you. Do you offer ghostwriting services? Do you write books? Are you specializing in business and memoir topics? If not, then my script might not work. If you are working with publication editors, it’s a different script, because they have different concerns. That’s why I gave resources you can go to to develop your own script.

    And yes, Nita is correct in that I ask a lot of questions. The questions change depending on a potential client’s needs.

    As I mentioned, I thought I would write more about my script in another blog, but you will still need to develop your own. And by all means, please feel free to share what works for you.

    Warm wishes,
    Helen : )
    .-= Helen Chang´s last blog ..Jan 14, Freelance Ghostwriters at Your Service =-.

  • Amy

    I’m a newbie working on honing my sales/marketing skills in order to segue from “building clips” and my portfolio, to pursuing and landing more quality, paid assignments. I too was hoping for some guidelines in how one goes about developing a script, and maneuvering the conversation to a positive closing. Approaches may be somewhat personal, but perhaps there are some universal tips and you could explore this topic more for us in future blog posts? …without giving away your Score coach’s entire service for free. Tks for the articles.

  • No argument here. I just saw the title from your email and thought it would provide should useful insight for writers trying to sell themselves. Lord knows a lot of your readers would love such an article, and from my decades in sales, I thought I could add some value. Unfortunately, having successfully sold enough of my work to be fully booked for the next two months, I don’t have time to contribute a full article.

    I’ll keep an eye out for you though, and contribute when I can.

    Have a great day all!


  • ???? Am I missing something? Other than plugging herself and Score, and sharing what sounds like a diary post from a day in the life of Helen, this doesn’t tell us anything about how to sell writing services – except that we need a “sales script.”

    Where’s the sample sales script? Or analysis of the elements, strategy, and tone of the sales script. Before I click to read “more wisdom from Helen,” would someone convince me there’s any to begin with?

    IMHO, there’s a tad more to it than emailing some canned dialogue.

    • Anne

      Ron, at the risk of starting an argument, I see Helen’s article more about an attitude than actual instructions – sorry you don’t like it.

  • I bet you knew it all intuitively too, Helen. It takes someone pointing it out sometimes, though.

    My sales script is a list of questions for the client. With every one I ask, I get info, sure, but the goal is to ask questions that show the client I’m up for the job. Asking project-specific questions, more detailed as I go, I’m able to convey my level of expertise (higher than the client may think) and leave an impression that this person is the one who can do the job correctly.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..Wearing the Wellies =-.

    • Anne

      Asking good questions… lots of them… yes.

  • Thanks for your insights into your sales approach Helen. Totally agree that putting the word out about your business is an essential aspect of running your own business, whether it is a freelance writing or other type of business.

    It’s also about understanding the requirements of your client and then tailoring your services to offer a solution which best suits them. You have got to be providing a service that helps them move forward with their business or the goals that they are trying to achieve.
    .-= Nita Wired Web Writer´s last blog ..Your Subscription has been confirmed =-.

  • Great post Helen! I’ve tried for years to get freelance writers to understand that like it or not you have to “sell” yourself and your business. This applies to any business these days … even my dentist has told me he had to take some sales and marketing courses to stay in business. Thanks for sharing this great info! *SmiLes* Suzanne

    P.S. How do you like the Thesis Theme? I use it on some of my sites as well 😉

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