Podcast 46: Selling web design services

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!)

  • Gilles

    Hello Paul and Marcus,
    I’ve discovered this great podcast of yours a couple weeks ago and can’t believe my luck. It is brilliant and quite unique in terms of the topics covered. I am listening to other web design podcast (webblast, diggnation), which are interesting or fun, but nothing so focussed and well done as this…
    I teach web design at a small university in the East of France (in French and English), and I’ll have my students work on abstracts of the podcasts this year.
    This being said, I wanted to react to Ryan’s reproach on Paul’s pronounciation of the word ‘beta’ in yesterday’s podcast. Paul’s version (the long ‘i’ sound) is given as the standard pronounciation for British English by Jones/Cambridge Pronouncing Dictionary, while Ryan’s (the ‘ei’ diphtong) is the proper General American pronounciation, which I believe should hardly be imposed as universal… with all due respect to the American dialect. This is taking us very far from web design, but it provides with an excellent example for my course on the pronounciation of English… See, your podcast is a gold mine for me!
    Many thanks for your work, and the invaluable the British humour!
    Gilles – France

  • Hi Guys
    I have one more question about selling your services.
    Other than referrals and your website how do you get the opportunity to present proposals to clients.
    Do you cold call etc? Or will you be covering this sort of thing in your future marketing podcast.
    Nice podcast as always.
    I was thinking… people could play the diggnation drinking game with boagworld as well. Drink when the conversation goes off topic.
    Although, you’re not nearly as bad as those guys…yet

  • Ed

    A great podcast. Very informative.
    Just a little nugget here from the bottom of an email from Friends Reunited which was in plain text:
    “This email looks boring because these days a lot of emails containing pictures get stopped by your email providers. Sorry.”
    Russell, if you are interested in cold calling, you may be surprised, shocked, appalled or pleased to learn that there is in fact a cold calling podcast! You can check it out at coldcallingpodcast.com. I’ve listened to a couple of episodes and they seem to know what they are talking about.
    I don’t particularly like being cold called, but these guys seem nice enough, and cover information that could be useful in other situations too.

  • Hey Ed
    I am surprised, shocked, appalled to hear about this podcast.
    But, I have to admit a guilty secret that I am in fact intrigued.
    You I want to be aware of not only the NICE ways to get interest in your product or service, but all the dirty little tricks (THAT WORK) too. he he.
    mu ha ha ha.

  • Beny Ginzburg

    Dear Paul and Marcus
    I have been listening to your pod cast since the 5th or 6th episode, including the 1-5 shows that I downloaded after hearing you for the first time. It’s a top pod cast, a weakly pleasure. I’m a former photographer going into web design, I could not find a better source of general design & accessibility info than your show.
    So, thank you both for this exceptional show.
    BTW- I’m listening to all shows from beginning to end, no questions on topics that already have been discussed from me.:)
    all the best
    Beny Ginzburg

  • Great podcasts: I would like you opinion on “is it a good idea to incorporate a blog on the site?… pros and cons”: unless you’ve already adressed the subject and I missed it… any way… thanks

  • Billy

    Awesome podcast, as always.
    Let us boycott the English language, and always pronounce “beta” as “bee-tah”, and scoff at those that pronounce it “bay-tah.”
    The part about HTML-or-not for email newsletters was excellent. On the subject, did you know that it is much easier to attach many photos to an email (attach, not actually put it into the email itself) in Hotmail (through IE, doesn’t work in Firefox), than it is, through Gmail? That is crazy!! (but a good crazy).
    I also liked the part about directing new users to your website. That was a necessity, and had to be addressed somewhere in the podcasts.
    The Rightcart concept is great, but their website is a bit unaccessible. Or maybe I’m just incompetent. :)
    Great job, Paul and Marcus!

  • I’d also be interested to hear whether you beleive that the traffic a blog and or podcast drives to your website is worth the time and effort. As opposed to paying for a marketing solution.

  • Mike

    Not related directly to this podcast, but all of them so far…
    In every podcast that you talk about your design process you mention that you start out with pencil and paper by scetching you ideas out. But you don’t use just any paper, you have a template that you have created that shows browsers resolutions and even has “a nice little dotted line where the page fold will end up”. Is there any change you would like to save us a bunch of time in creating our own template and share that resource with us?
    Keep up the great podcast.

  • Matt Hawes

    Paul, thanks for the episode answering our questions about the sales process. I also wanted to comment on your sponsorship. Excellent!! The Rightcart bit was more like a recommendation than a advertisement. I thought it was helpful. It’s a tool that I can use. I was not aware of the service, so thanks for letting me know about it!
    Marcus, I feel so happy whenever I hear the theme music. I know that I am listening to the podcast when I hear it, and it makes me excited about what I am listening to.

  • Matt Hawes

    I’ll be saying “bah-tah” from now on.

  • Aussie John

    2:50 Accessibility Courses
    4:50 Show Notes
    Q & C
    6:10 Comments, Beta
    9:00 Question, HTML Email Newsletters
    16:45 Selling your services
    18:50 Play to your strengths
    19:45 Don’t over extend
    23:43 vertical sales
    28:22 Consider existing customers
    30:20 Existing clients
    32:49 Ask for references from clients
    33:20 Be prepared to walk away
    35:35 Marketing. no, Pitching. no, Marketing.
    36:50 Now its pitching.
    38:56 Read the brief and ask questions
    41:20 Answer the brief
    45:10 Dont re invent the brief
    46:28 Use Relevant examples
    47:07 Be detailed
    49:30 Pricing
    51:00 Presentations
    56:30 DotNet Mag
    49:48 Pod Vine, Head scape
    1:01:58 right cart

  • In this podcast, Marcus mentions that you should stick to the brief, what should we do when the brief is very, well…. brief :)
    There is a particular project I am pitching for, the brief is literally a one page document that doesn’t really say much about what they want. I have ideas for their project, is it a bad idea to apply for this project and add my own ideas for the site?

  • Beta is in britain pronounced Beeta
    On dictionary.com it says:
    Ponounciation [bey-tuh or, —–>especially Brit., bee-Beta is in britain pronounced Beeta
    On dictionary.com it says:
    Ponounciation [bey-tuh or, —–>especially Brit., bee-<——]

  • Hey Marcus and Paul,
    I don’t usually listen to podcasts but I came across your shows and think it is great work you do, very informative and gives me something to do (and learn about!) while I’m working.
    Thanks for being so generous and sharing your knowledge, and thanks for using proper English. My American friends love to make fun of things like “colour” and “cheque” I do say “Bay”ta though… forgive me for that. :)
    Anyways, you guys have a new listener – keep up the good work.