Freelance Sales Techniques: The ‘Yes’ System

As a freelancer, you don’t just have to be good at your particular craft – you also have to good at finding new work and new clients. A large part of this is a good sales technique. Today I’d like to introduce you to a sales method called ‘The Yes System’.

Before you think this is going to get complicated: It’s not. The ‘yes’ system is very easy. It’s not really a ‘system’ either, more of a small change to the way you approach clients from the outset.

Also: I’m not saying that this approach always works, I see this more as adding to your business toolbox as a freelancer. The more techniques you know, the more experienced you get and the more effective you will be at finding and keeping business.

The original freelance client sales approach

Let me know how close this is to your current approach:

You: Hi! My name is Sue – I’m a freelance writer. Do you need any writing done at the moment?

Client: Not right now but give me your card, I’ll be in touch.

Client:…. nothing for weeks.

If you’re lucky, this client will think of you when they next need a writer. Actually, if you’re lucky they will realise that they need ‘a writer’ in the first place! Maybe what you think of as a writer to them is a blogger or a content creator or a copywriter.

All in all, this solution to sales is pretty hit and miss. You will need to speak to lots of prospective clients in order to land a project because timing is so important. If they were looking for just the right kind of freelancer when you spoke to them, you might get lucky.

The ‘Yes’ system alternative

The aim of the ‘Yes’ system tries to tilt the sales conversation in your favour. The approach is very simple:

Your strategy is to start the conversation with a few questions that you know the client will say ‘yes’ to.

How would you put this into action? I’m writing this on a cold December morning, so I’m thinking that a potential ‘yes’ client conversation would go like this:

Me: It’s absolutely freezing today, isn’t it? (Yes)
Me: I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas already – hasn’t time flown? (Yes)
Me: I imagine you’re already in the run-up to the January sales? (Yes)
Me: Are you doing a double-sided insert again like last year? (Yes)
Me: I have some spare capacity coming up and have just worked with xyz on their sales material. Why don’t I come round tomorrow for a chat to look at what you’re doing (Yes – hopefully!)

I can see some differences to the traditional approach:

  • You get the client to agree with you right from the start.
  • You manage to discover whether certain pain points exist (preparing for sales, a busy time)
  • You lead from talking about their problems to offering them a solution. As they’ve said ‘yes’ consistently so far, they are more likely to say ‘yes’ to your solution as well.

Of course, on a more basic level, you are also addressing a client’s direct needs, rather than just saying ‘I need work, do you want to hire me’.

When you read some more in-depth material, such as the ‘Yes Set’ introduction, they even talk about putting your clients into a kind of trance through these simple ‘yes’ questions. Personally I think that this is going a bit too far but your mileage may vary. What’s certain is that there is a clear psychological underpinning to how this works.

It reminds me of a practical joke we used to play as kids:

Q: What colour is this piece of paper? (white)
Q: What colour is the wall? (white)
Q: What colour is your shirt? (white)
Q: What do cows drink? (milk!)

Find freelance clients - the 'yes' sales technique

Don’t be silly, I don’t drink milk!

In essence, by asking ‘yes’ questions, you are conditioning the client to saying ‘yes’ to you – and switching their brain round to saying ‘no’ to your last question, the one to get them to agree to a meeting, is harder than for them to say ‘yes’ again.

Why don’t you try it out at your next meeting? Report back with results! And if you liked the ‘Yes’ sales technique, a big favourite of mine is to ‘sell something small first’.