How to make yourself "backable"

7 Steps to Getting Prospects to Take a Chance on You

Experienced and new web writers face the same challenge. How do you convince prospects to take a chance on you?

It’s easy to believe you need to have the right samples, the right amount of experience, the right website, or the right client list to make the case for a new client to hire you.

In truth, it doesn’t matter if you have stacks of samples or none at all. Each time you deal with a prospect, you start fresh.

What you need is to make yourself backable.

In Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You (2021) by Suneel Gupta with Carlye Adler, the authors outline seven steps to persuade people of your potential.

Let’s have a look…

Step 1:  Convince Yourself Before You Seek to Convince Others

When you’re thinking about putting a proposal before prospects, ask why they should accept what you’re suggesting. This is the first step in becoming backable. You have to back yourself!

One way to do this is benefit-stacking. Benefit-stacking is when you list as many benefits as possible that your prospect will gain from doing business with you.

Especially search for profound benefits. Do that by answering these questions:

  • How does doing business with you serve the world?
  • How do you make your prospect’s life easier?
  • How will you help them look better in front of their stakeholders?

Step 2:  Cast a Central Character

The rewards go to those who do the work. One piece of work you should do with every pitch you make is creating an avatar for two people:  a) your prospects; and, b) their clients and customers.

As Gupta puts it:  “Great storytellers don’t just focus on a central character, but also a central reader.”

Tell the story of how what you’re proposing will serve the needs of your prospect’s clients. And, I mean, really tell a story. Give it a beginning, middle, and end. Make a compelling character — your prospect’s customer — the star. And cast your prospect as the essential guide who leads the customer to success… using your proposed strategy.

Step 3:  Earn Your Insights

What do you do when you want to know the answer to any question? If your answer is jump on Google and search, you’re not alone.

But you need to go further to convince your prospects of your proposal’s worth. Do some footwork and find insights from doing deeper research. When you have deeper knowledge and understanding, that comes through, and you become more backable.

One of my niches is the mental-health sector. To gain insights for a proposal for a health provider, I could join relevant groups on Facebook and find 15 people with a mental illness willing to talk to me about their concerns.

What I’d learn would tell me far more about what really matters to my prospect’s clients than I can learn reading blog posts or news stories.

Step 4:  Make Your Idea Feel Inevitable

When you present an idea as inevitable, you create within your prospect a fear of missing out if they don’t accept your proposal.

How do you prove your idea is inevitable? It’s a three-step process:

  1. Make a strong case for what’s already happening.
  2. Highlight the trends that show where what’s happening now will be going soon.
  3. Conclude your presentation of this information by explaining why your solution is obviously necessary.

Let’s look at an example of doing this as a web writer.

First, explain to your prospect that Google is continuously updating its algorithms to provide better results for searchers. As a result, what ranked yesterday may not rank today.

Second, more people than ever are using their mobile devices to search the internet. Google is adapting accordingly with updates like Mobile-First in March 2021.

Third, to keep ranking in search results, you need a web copywriter who knows about Google’s changes and about writing for mobile devices — one who has the skills to guide you through keeping your content relevant and making it mobile-friendly.

Step 5:  Change Outsiders Into Insiders

You want prospects to be able to put their own stamp on your proposal, to feel some ownership of it. After all, what’s more backable than your own plan?

Let me give you an example of how I do this.

My main niche is the franchise industry. To reach prospects, I begin by doing a quick site audit. I then direct mail them about what I’ve learned from the process.

Essentially, my letter says, “I audited your website on your behalf. You scored 63 out of 118. Curious to find out what your score means? Set up a meeting with me today to discuss my findings.”

When the prospect gets on the Zoom call with me, I share my screen to show them two things:  their website and the spreadsheet with my site audit checklist.

As we talk, we work through the checklist, and they can give feedback on what they think. My prospects know their site and intent better than I do, after all. I involve them in filling out the checklist.

Gupta explains the power of this:

“We’ve been told that creativity is a two-step formula:  a great idea plus great execution. But there is a ‘secret step’ in between. This is where you turn outsiders into insiders, so that when your idea reaches the execution stage, you arrive together. Nearly every great movement, organization, and campaign can be traced back to this secret step.”

In other words, make your prospects feel like co-owners of your proposal. If it’s their idea, too, how can they say no?

Step 6:  Practice Being Mighty on Any Stage

What does this mean, and how do you practice? Being mighty simply means being brave and doing your best no matter the size of the opportunity or the audience.

As far as practice goes, Wealthy Web Writer and AWAI give you plenty of opportunities, especially if you’re a Circle of Success member.

You can participate in competitions, spec assignments, and (for COS members) copy makeovers and peer review sessions.

You have everything you need, with what you’ve got right now, to get brilliant at presenting ideas to prospects.

Gupta puts it like this, “For backable people, no venue is too small for an exhibition match.”

I used to belong to Toastmasters (the public speaking club), and I heard a speaker teach the idea of being mighty on any stage. No matter how many people turn up to listen to you, bring the same standard to your presentation that you would if you were in front of a crowd of thousands.

Put as much effort into preparing your $100 pitches as you do your $1,000 pitches.

Create a group of other copywriters where you can share your proposals and pitches with each other. Practice your delivery. Give each other feedback. Sometimes you’ll hate it. But you’ll grow.

Step 7:  Surrender Your Ego

It’s easy to think your pitch is about you. After all, rejection can feel personal.

But it’s not really about you. Your proposal is what counts. Your message.

The final step in becoming backable is shifting your prospect’s attention from you to your message.

How do you do that?

First, avoid the easy pitfalls. Show up on the call looking polished and professional. Make sure your proposal contains all the elements your prospect will expect. Remove errors and typos.

Second, ask your prospect questions. Focus on their goals and pain points. Ask questions that will tie those goals and the relief of their pain points to what you’re proposing. Also ask questions that will guide them to summarizing your proposal. When they understand what you’re offering, it’s easier for them to back it.

Finally, ask them if there’s anything you’ve missed. If you have missed something, your professionalism in handling it can be a make-or-break moment.

So, now you have seven steps for winning prospects with your proposals.

These steps apply whether you have samples, whether you’ve worked with the client before, and whether you’re naturally confident or you must manufacture courage.

In any case, you’re ready to get out there and start sending pitches and proposals to prospects. And remember, the more pitches you send, the more projects you’ll land!

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Daniel G. Taylor

Daniel G. Taylor lives in the coastal city of Geelong, Victoria, Australia. He works as an online copywriter for mental health organisations, writing websites, content marketing, and social media.

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