I recently posted a freelance web development project on a web development job board. Most of the responses, unfortunately, were perfect examples – of what not to do.

Since a lot of sales these days start with “virtual” contact, it’s instructional to see how these guys blew it – and what you can do to make sure you do it right.

You don’t want to do these five things.

1) Don’t send an email filled with typos. Most of the messages were, unfortunately, filled with typos.

The customer’s reaction: I’m not just looking for someone to fix one site. I’m looking for someone who can be a potential long-term vendor, someone I can refer my clients to. If you don’t even pay attention to details when you’re trying to impress, no way am I going to trust you with my own sites or refer you to my clients.

Remember: Potential customers always decide that if there are mistakes in your selling messages, there will be mistakes in your work.

2) Don’t be a nuisance. Several candidates went beyond their initial response via email, and started using other channels to bug me – including Skype, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I was just starting to go through all the emails I’d gotten (in other words, I was at the beginning of my buying process), and these guys were pinging me every two seconds, trying to close the sale. Their own behavior – failing to follow instructions, exhibiting inappropriate behavior, and stepping over the line – automatically put them on the reject list.

The customer’s reaction: Back off! Just because you need to make a sale now doesn’t mean that I am ready to buy.

Remember: Give them space. They’ll think more kindly of you for it. Travel through the sales process at their speed, not yours. Besides, if you appear to be desperate, they will decide you are hurting because you don’t do good work.

3) Don’t fail to read the RFP. The job posting was clear and concise. I said what I wanted and what I expected from them (send me an email with link(s) to your work and be prepared to provide three references). Even those who included a link to my original job description (not really necessary) failed to read what I had written or follow the instructions.

The customer’s reaction: If you can’t follow instructions at this stage – when you’re trying to impress me – I will expect you won’t be able to follow instructions when it’s time to get the work done. You’re failing before you start.

Remember: At this stage of a customer’s buying process, you are hanging by the thinnest of threads. Any small infraction is going to cause the customer to reject you. There will be hundreds of other responses to chose from. Do exactly what is asked for.

4) Don’t provide more information than requested. I made it clear I was only interested in WordPress developers. But once a salesperson has a warm lead on the hook, it’s tempting to send even more information. It’s a waste of effort. I wasn’t really interested in the sites they had created using other methods.

The customer’s reaction: You have just un-sold me, by raising questions that I didn’t have until you exposed me to the additional info. For example, if you do more than WordPress development, does that mean that you are not as good at WordPress as you are other types of platforms?

Remember: One of the key characteristics of a solid salespeople is they know when to shut up. Give the customer exactly what they ask for, no more.

5) Don’t screw up my name. Personally, I don’t get offended if someone calls me “Kristen” or “Kirstin.” I just correct them and move on. But if you’re selling to someone, you’ll want to get their name right. And if they do give you their name, don’t start off your email with “Dear Managing Person.”

The customer’s reaction: Oops. Wrong name. Such a simple thing – and they screwed it up. I’m not about to trust this company with something complicated and important!

Remember: Before you hit the send button, stop. Look at your email one more time, and read it as if you’re the customer seeing it for the first time. One mistake in an email can lose the sale. Not making the effort to find that one mistake will mean your entire effort has gone to waste.


It’s pathetic how often salespeople screw up these bare-minimum basics. If manufacturing operations were run like these sales efforts, our toothbrushes would fall apart in our hands, our smart phones would barely light up, and our cars would consistently sputter and rattle.

If you want to sell more, run sales like a factory. Invest in ongoing training, constant quality control, time/task studies, and continuous improvement. If you are not doing these things, one of your salespeople has just sent out an email that would horrify you if you saw it. Do not expect them to get this right on their own.