Austin L. Church's 14 step sales process

Some of our best notes (plus Q&A!) from Austin L. Church's workshop on a full freelance sales process.
Austin L. Church's 14 step sales process

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At Moxie, we never set out just to be an app for freelancers. Instead, our goal is to help freelancers get the things they need. We know it can be lonely running a solo business. We’ve had the same conversations year over year with extended family who have no idea how we make money. 

We also know that while no one majors in freelancing at a university, there are over 70 million people who freelance in just the United States. And we have seen the way freelancers look out for each other. If you ask another freelancer for a tip on how they grew their social media account, they’ll probably tell you. That’s the generous spirit that drives Moxie workshops. Freelancers who have faced the struggle of finding more clients and kept going are more than happy to share how they did it. 

This week, Austin L. Church took us through his sales process - from before the first client meeting through a quality discovery call and follow-up to closing the sale. And he generously shared his 14 point checklist for his sales process (that he credits with his growth in recent years). And now we want to share it with - no gatekeeping among friends, am I right?

  1. Send an intake questionnaire
  2. Book a short 30-minute discovery call
  3. Send a welcome deck or “see you soon” video message
  4. Prepare follow-up questions before the call
  5. Discovery call
  6. Ask 6 questions, get answers, take tons of notes
  7. Quantify value and/or capture benefits in their words 
  8. Educate prospects with new ideas and perspectives
  9. Schedule the follow-up call at the end of your first call
  10. Send a recap email
  11. Create a proposal - a story of transformation (with your help)
  12. Follow-up call
  13. Close the project (or the door)
  14. Focus on 26% gains

Want to know more about the 6 questions Austin uses in his discovery calls? Or not sure why 26% is a magic percentage of gains? Watch the full replay on our YouTube channel. Or find out more directly from the source at

At the end of the workshop, we did a live Q&A session and had SO many incredible questions. We didn’t have time to answer them during the workshop, so we’ve captured Austin’s answers below the jump. If you’d prefer to watch his answers, you can learn more about discovery calls here and more on Austin’s overall sales process here.

Jump to:
Do you give verbal quotes on discovery calls?
How do you handle schedule a call with other decision makers?
Is it possible to lose momentum by waiting too long?
What are the most important things for a first pitch call?
How do you avoid talking about rates during a discovery call?
How do you quantify the work you do from a number standpoint?
Do you send a proposal for productized services?
When is it right to bring on contract support v. pass a client to someone else?
Do you have tips on closing consulting retainers?
Do you recommend building a list of leads?

Q) People often want me to give verbal quotes on the discovery call. I hate doing that as I usually underbid and don't have time to research anything yet. Do you do that? How do you give them some ballpark estimate of rates without boxing yourself into a low rate or price yourself beyond their budget?

A) No. I don't ever give a quote during the discovery call. I just say, 

“I need some time to gather my thoughts and think through our conversation and actually put together an estimate that I'm confident in.So hold tight and then I'll come back to you with that pricing structure.”

Even just having that language, knowing what you're going to say is important, going into the call so that you get caught off guard and end up underquoting right now.

Keep in mind that if you're on a call and someone gets really pushy, 9 times out of 10 they’re price shopping. The reason they want a price from you is they know they're either going to go get bids from other freelancers or they've already gotten them.

They're just essentially trying to commoditize you and compare you, strictly based on price, to other freelancers who may have half your experience in a tenth of your talent. <tweet-link>By no means do you have to give a quote during discovery calls.<tweet-link>

Q) If and when a prospective client needs other decision makers or team members to evaluate and or approve the proposal, how do you handle scheduling the second call where you review it if you have multiple people involved? Any tips? 

A) You know how I send that recap email after the discovery call? Ideally, I've scheduled that follow up call in the last five minutes of the discovery call. When I send the recap email, that's when, you could say, “will there be anybody else involved with this decision? If so, it would be good for them to be on the call where we discuss the proposal. Let me know so I can go ahead and add them to the invite.” That's the way I would handle that. 

Q) Is it possible to lose momentum with a client by waiting too long or boxing yourself in by going too quickly?

A) I don't fully understand this question, but I will say that if the project loses momentum, it must not have been that important to the client in the first place. Or it could also be the client is firefighting. They've got higher priorities, and that's when you make sure that you have some sort of process in place for following up with people to whom you've sent a proposal at least five times.

I have this principle: <tweet-link>silence always means yes until you get a clear no. Never misinterpret someone's silence as a lack of interest.<tweet-link>

That's why you keep following up, whether it's every two weeks, whether it's every month. You keep following up until they say, “We've gone a different direction” or “we've put the project on ice or canceled it.”

I don't think you can box yourself in by going too quickly. As long as you're confident that you know what the project is and you have that transfer of belief that I talked about. That is, you actually believe this transformation is important for the client. In that case, why wouldn't you move quickly? 

Q) As a newbie to the professional freelance world, I was at an agency then grad school. What are the most important things for someone on their first pitch call?

A) I would say the pressure's off. It's not a performance. You're not on stage giving an audition. You're facilitating a process of self-discovery. If you show up with that attitude and posture of, I'm here to serve, I'm help you here to help you get clarity, and if there's a fit here that will become obvious to us both. If there's not a fit here, maybe I can still send you in the right direction. I've used that language when inviting people to discovery calls.

“Hey, my goal is not to sell you something you don't need. My goal is to figure out what the project is, all of its edges, and then to figure out what the path forward might look like. And then if I'm the right guide to help you down that path, wonderful. If not, again, maybe I can refer you in the right direction.”

The pressure's off. That is what I would suggest you remind yourself of. 

Q) I've had a couple of prospects stop communicating really quickly when you wouldn't give them an immediate estimate of what I would charge to edit and rewrite their content. I didn't want to give them an hourly rate, but I didn't know the size of their projects. How do you avoid talking about rates and pricing during the discovery call? Especially if they ask multiple times during it? 

A) Their poor planning does not constitute an emergency for you. In fact, when clients have a lot of urgency and they're putting pressure on me to give a price really quickly, again, it means they're just trying to compare you purely based on price, which isn't fair.

It's never an apples to apples comparison, right? Oh, this freelancer charges $250 per blog post and this other one charges, you know, $500 a blog post. What if the one who charges 500 is like 10 times better, right?

If they ask multiple times, that just sounds like pressure. And again, it's important that you be a good fit.The best freelance clients, they're not just looking for a service provider. They're looking for someone who's a good fit.

For example, a good fit culturally, like, we have a really laid back vibe on our team and we're interested in working with people who fit that. Or everyone on our team is funny. We want someone who just loves humor. Or we are very energetic and driven, and we don't want someone who's laid back.
I would say it's a red flag if they don't know you super well and they're just asking, “Hey, give us a quote. Give us a quote, give us a quote, what would you charge?” That just sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, because realistic and reasonable clients understand that the size of the project dictates the scope and therefore the price.

If they keep being pushy, they'd probably be pushy and unrealistic for the duration of the project, and that's when I would say, see ya, I'm out.

Q) How do you quantify the work you do from a number standpoint? Can you go into calculating value a bit more? 

A) Obviously calculating value is easier if you are working with a sales focused organization. I'm a writer, so I'll use writing examples.

Let’s say for the company you’re pitching, a lead is worth $10,000. They close x number of leads. You could say, “If I help you improve, then my effort would be worth x% of that value.”

However, most of us are gonna quantify value using emotional benefits. For example, with a website, a big part of the value of websites is people want a website that they're proud to share. So it's less like, yes, it would be great if my website drove leads, but an emotional benefit is pride. That's where I would recommend that you focus first. If your work isn't very intimately tied with sales, then you can talk more about clarity, confidence, pride.

There are some other benefits, like if you're able to work quickly, then speed or convenience. I call that the Applebee's effect. If you've ever eaten at a restaurant called Applebee's here in the US, you'd know, it's not like the food is award-winning. 

So why do people keep eating at Applebee's? 

Well, there's one in most every major metropolitan area in the United States. So it's convenient. 

Convenience is a huge part of working with freelancers. Clients can get what they need, when they need it.

There are also functional benefits. If you're a writer and you're good at editing and proofreading and you deliver very clean drafts, then clean writing is a functional benefit. 

The benefit of that is, your clients won’t be embarrassed by typos or they will put out work that builds their reputation with brand content that makes them look good. That's where I would recommend you focus when you're quantifying the work you do really dig into the functional benefits and emotional benefits.

If you can get into an ROI tied to like dollars, that's great, but there's a lot of power in something like peace of mind or relief or even that feeling of momentum. You finally have your content marketing humming along and won't that feel great?

Q) Do you still send out a proposal for productized services or let the landing page do the work?

A) With productized services, I'll just show you an example. I have a productized service called One Day Brand Sprint.

When I have a discovery call and it becomes clear to me that they have a bunch of needs under the brand umbrella, and I'm pretty sure that we can knock out most of them in a day, I don't send them a proposal. I might just attach my One Day Brand Sprint deck as a PDF to the email and say, here's the recap email and what I would recommend.

If you do have a productized service, go ahead and just create a deck or a presentation, and then you can often just close the deal in the email thread.

To answer that question simply, no, you don't have to send a proposal for productized services, but do have something like a sales deck that explains what that product or service offer is.

Q) As a brand manager, I see chaos sometimes when people hire a bunch of different people. When is it right to bring on additional contract support versus passing them off to someone else? Do you ever offer to project manage the freelancers you bring in so that everything is cohesive? 

A) Short answer, yes, I will offer to do this. Especially if I can see that my client internally doesn’t have the right people in place necessarily to manage the project or collaborate effectively.

They kind of want me to just remain the single point person, and then they would love it if I could just sort of deliver the goods to them without them having to kind of add complexity on their end by talking to a web engineer or talking to the WordPress gal or talking to the identity designer or whatever.

Would they prefer to work directly with each of the specialists or do they just want one point of contact? I'll just ask. And I think if you're willing to project manage, you can certainly charge for that. That's incredibly valuable. 

It all goes back to, what will clients be most interested in buying? What will serve them best? Sell them that (assuming you want to), and then whatever extra value beyond your specific skillset you provide, charge for that too.

Q) Do you have tips on closing consulting retainers? 

A) One tip that comes to mind is that I'll say, let's start with like three months, or let's start with six months. I don't necessarily sell open-ended stuff. Let's see how we work together. And then after x number of days/months we'll reassess.

I typically have roadmaps, specific things that I'm going to help them do. Certain things in month one, certain things in month two, certain things in month three. Definitely sell them on a consulting engagement tied to a roadmap. It's going to be pretty clear what they get out of it.

A roadmap with certain outcomes tied to a consulting retainer, I think is very, very powerful and attractive.

Q) I'm currently reading a very cheesy book about cold emailing in which it's recommended to get someone on Fiverr or Upwork to build a list of leads for cheap. Is this something you recommend?

A) I do recommend cold emailing, especially if you've got a juicy offer for that very specific audience and you are constantly testing the different aspects of each email.

Are you tracking opens?
Was the subject line effective at getting people to open?
Was the hook effective for getting people to keep reading?
Was the body effective for getting people to the call to action?
Did they actually respond? 

Every element of the effective email needs to be tested until you start to get better and better results. Then you're still gonna have to follow up with people anywhere from 5 to 10 times. Having that tracking layer on top is very, very important if your cold emailing efforts are gonna work.

As for list building, by all means hire somebody else to help you build the list, but it will be much, much more effective if your list is highly targeted.

So I'm a writer and brand strategist. I want to build a list of small up and coming outdoor camping, hunting, fishing brands that I think would be cool to work with because I love being outdoors. 

Be very, very targeted with your list, then have that very, very targeted offer, and then do the tracking thing with cold emailing. That's how you're gonna see success here.

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Michelle Lee
Michelle Lee
Michelle Lee worked in marketing and promotions for radio and event coordination for non-profits. Today, she uses those skills to sell the day’s schedule to three tiny humans. Michelle gets most excited about helping people reach their fullest potential and finding a G-2 .38 pen.
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