The usual freelancer sales process, full of promises, tears, and lost productivity:
- Client contacts you via email or phone
- You spend a couple hours on the phone with client, talking about the work you'll do for him
- You'll probably do some research (hours++), and have another call and/or the worst: an in-person meeting (hours+++)
- You then spend a couple of hours coming up with an estimate
- You deliver to the client your rate, the estimated number of hours, and an invoice to get started
- You never hear back. ARGHHHHHH
That time  is lost time, it's never coming back. And, it's not billable. It's definitely enough to make you hate this game and never play again.
The problem? You were playing the client's game, and not your own. Many clients act like a vampire, stealing your productivity and kicking the tires. The best solution for the kicking-tires-vampire problem: limit your time with non-paying clients.
Best way to limit your time with non-paying-clients? Ask clients to pay for something small before asking for the cadillac.
Bringing a client on board starts in the initial contact, not after the sale. Your initial contact sets the tone of the process, as well as who is the driver. (hint: you want to be the driver).
The overriding goal of your sales process: I am the expert, I will run this show and solve your problems for you.
After the initial contact from a client, your next step is a 30 minute call to determine if they are the correct type of company for YOU to solve their problems. It is timeboxed to 30 minutes because you are important and do not have time to waste on clients you cannot make ecstatic.
Give 2 possible times to the client, a couple of days apart from each other. Usually, you would ask "what time works for you?" which has the downside of making you appear like you are not-important. More importantly, it makes the client look at their calendar and make a decision.
As a consultant, the only decision they'll need to make is "which of my awesome tiers of solutions should you choose from my super awesome proposal?". You will take care of the rest.
During the call, you'll ask them the following questions:
- How they got to you
- What problem they want to solve
- How they make money
- And "if I could wave my hands and make you happy, what would be different about your life?"
From here, you book a fact gathering workshop. In your workshop, you'll produce several artifacts (deliverables):
- A list of user stories documenting what users will accomplish on your application
- Price per Feature you are comfortable estimating
- Sketches and/or wireframes of the system
If the project is $50,000 or more, you should charge $5,000 a day for this. Seriously -- and $5,000 is not obsurd, it's consistent with the value you're providing for the client.
If it's under $50,000 you should spend about 1-2 hours on the workshop and likely nix the price for it.
The idea is a) get paid for creating proposals and b) get the customer to pay you for something small. You then deliver exceptional value. End game: client will pay $50,000 after paying $1500 and having a good experience.
Create a three tier proposal based on your newly super awesome proposal process.
Send to the client, and offer to walk them through the proposal. Walking through the proposal is key, should be done in 30 minutes, and you can ask: "What is our next step? I have availability to sign a client and I want it to be you; I'm confident I can change your business for the better with this project."
The Sales Process, enumerated
- Determine how you can calculate the return on investment for the client.
- Determine the budget the client has in mind
- Enumerate the main problem that caused the client to call you
- Restate the value you'll bring to the client
- Ask for the business
(notice all the numbers are filled in! No "..." here!)
 Total hours: 6-10 :(