Podcast 46: Selling web design services

Paul Boag

This week on Boagworld.com, we discuss how to sell your web design services, the pros and cons of HTML emails and we review the .net web design magazine.

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Selling your services

You may build the best websites in the world but if you do not know how to sell your services then nobody will hire you. That is the sad state of the world. Web design is competitive marketplace and simply being a great developer or designer is not enough. You also need to know how to write good proposals and come across well in presentations.

That is why in this show we take a long hard look at the sales process and how to become more effective at promoting yourself. Below is a rough outline of what we covered in the show:

Play to your strengths

It is easy to bite off more than you can chew when pitching for work. Do not pitch for contracts that are too big for you and avoid relying too heavily on outsourcing, as many clients are uncomfortable with this. In particular Marcus recommends that you never promise something unless you are 100% sure that you can deliver on it. Failure to deliver can seriously undermine your company’s reputation.

Focus on a specific market

Marcus and Paul both heavily favoured identifying a sector in which you have some good case studies and focusing on winning work there. Given time you can build up a strong reputation in that sector which will in turn attract more clients. Clients seek out web design companies that have experience working on similar projects so this approach works much better than the scattergun mentality applied by many agencies.

Care for your existing clients

Marcus reckons it is ten times easier to win work from an existing client than it is to win from a new one. He has a good point. Not only is it easier to win new work from a happy client but they will also recommend you to others. It is vitally important that you keep existing clients happy because they should be the lifeblood of your business. If you are in the position of having to constantly find new work then you are doing something wrong. Concentrate on nurturing your existing clients and then you will quickly find new business coming to you.

Know when to walk away

It is the hardest thing in the world to do, but it is important that you know when to turn down work. There are times when the clients requirements are unrealistic or the job is simply too big. On other occasions, the chance of winning a job does not justify the investment involved in pitching for it. There is a natural tendency to want to run after every piece of work, but sometimes you just have to say no.

Question the client

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a brief supplied by a client. Asking questions and making suggestions is a great way to build a relationship with your clients and make you stand out from the crowd. Of course, ultimately it will allow you to put together a better proposal that meets the client’s needs even when they are not fully expressed in the brief.

Write a good proposal

Marcus provides a huge raft of suggestions for writing a good proposal including (but not limited to):

  • Make sure you carefully cover any special requirements requested by the client (financial reports in your business etc).
  • Respond to the brief by taking each of the issues raised on a point-by-point basis, rather than using a standard template for all your proposals.
  • Be detailed but don’t overdo it (nobody will read a 100 page document).
  • Include screenshots and diagrams but be wary of file size if you are intending to email the proposal.
  • Provide modular pricing so people can choose which functionality to include.
  • Always include relevant references.

Ensure your presentation is slick

The presentation is the last obstacle to overcome and so often it can be where mistakes are made. Ensure your presentation fits into the time available with ample left over for questions. Remember, by this stage the client has read the proposal and know what you are offering. The reason for the meeting is to ask questions and have a chance to find out if they feel they can work with you. Everybody prefers to work with people they like, so be enthusiastic, helpful and professional. Be prepared to discuss prices and timescales but do not promise things you cannot deliver.

Questions and comment

On this week’s show, we have a great question from Aaron about building HTML newsletters with web standards. This sparks an interesting debate between Paul and Marcus about the pros and cons of HTML emails. The conclusion was that if possible send plain text emails and link back to a webpage containing more information.

For more information on the pros and cons of HTML emails read Paul’s post on the subject.

Also in the show

Also in the show, Paul recommends the .net magazine on web design, highlights two new courses on accessibility from the RNIB, and introduces a new sponsor in the form of RightCart (possibly the easiest to implement ecommerce system ever!)