Selling your services

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Web Show we are once again joined by Dan James from Silver Orange. This time we are going to be discussing how to sell your services.

Skip to the discussion or this week’s links.

This season of the Boagworld show is sponsored by Template Monster and Lynda. Please support the show by checking them out.

Paul: Hello and welcome to Boagworld.com, the podcast for those involved in designing, developing and running websites on a daily basis. Joining me, as always is Dan James. Hello Dan!

Dan: I’m a regular now. I kind of like this.

Paul: You are! Two weeks on the trot. Well it just seemed ridiculous not to have you back as we pretty much started moving into this subject last week didn’t we?

Dan: We did yeah.

Paul: So we thought we’d get you back and carry on. You’re not the only person on the show. We also have Grandpa Lillington.

Marcus: Grandpa, that’s me yes.

Paul: So you’re a Grandad! Congratulations!

Marcus: I know. How cool is that?

Dan: Wow, congratulations.

Marcus: Yes, my little Granddaughter was born on Sunday. She still doesn’t have a name yet. So ‘baby’ was born on Sunday.

Paul: They had nine months to decide on a name.

Marcus: They can’t agree, that is the problem.

Paul: What are the options? I’ll decide.

Marcus: Oh there is all sorts. No, I am not going down there. I am bored of it, so bored of the naming. But she’s lovely. Very sweet, and mum and baby are very happy and healthy. And they are living at our house for this week as well, so that’s interesting.

Paul: Oh that’s nice.

Marcus: She’s a very super quite little baby. She makes the odd squeak, but she’s not a howler in the middle of the night.

Paul: Oh there’s time, give her time.

Marcus: Oh yes, there’s time. But by the time she really gets her lungs going they will have moved into their new house. So it will be fine.

But I do have to pull you up on something here. Dan isn’t here because of the discussion started last week – you couldn’t find anyone else!

Paul: No! That’s not true.

Dan: I am just unintelligible for no-one I guess.

Paul: Ahh poor Dan. That’s just totally unfair.

Marcus: No, that was a dig at you, Paul, not at Dan. It’s lovely to have Dan on the show, but you’re just incapable of getting anyone in.

Paul: No, he was just my second choice.

[Laughs]

Dan: Well I had a full week to learn about the subject, so I’ve processed as much as I can.

Paul: So, Marcus, why did we go ‘congratulations’? It’s like you haven’t really done anything have you? You’ve just got older.

Marcus: Well my offspring, my little baby girl has had her own baby girl. The generations are rolling on.

Paul: It’s just a sign that you are really old.

Marcus: But I am not really old. Because I started young. So it’s kind of cool from that point of view. I’m not this ancient one – partially decrepit but not completely. That’s one of the good things about starting young, and so did she. It’s obviously in the blood.

Dan: I think the congratulations are that your genes have passed on to an entire new generation.

Marcus: Exactly. Exactly that. The generations roll on.

Paul: Ok, I presume that’s a good thing then isn’t it? You don’t die out?

Marcus: Yes, maybe.

Paul: We need more Lillingtons. Will she be a Lillington?

Marcus: No, she’s not. But that’s ok.

Paul: It’s kind of what you do isn’t it. The real congratulations is essentially on having all the good parts of parenting and none of the bad. Because that’s what being a grandparent is about, isn’t it really?

Marcus: Yes. When you are a parent you don’t know what’s coming. These two are blissfully ignorant really as to what’s coming up for the next ten years at least. I know all that and I haven’t got any of it. Well the odd little bit. But yes, exactly, I am really excited.

Paul: You hand them back, fill them with sugar, hype them up and hand them back.

Marcus: At the moment it’s taking turns to cuddle her while she is asleep which is kind of nice. Awww.

Paul: And then on the other hand you have got Dan with Evie who’s at the ‘I-am-into-everything’ stage.

Dan: Yes. At the moment she’s into not sleeping. She’s never been a good sleeper so from the first night in the hospital until now when she’s almost 20 months old, she hasn’t slept a full night yet.

Marcus: Well I think that young baby (who doesn’t have a name yet) who will be like her mother who slept through from 2 weeks old.

Paul: See no one’s going to like your daughter if that’s what happens.

Marcus: Well my son made up for it, because he wasn’t 20 months, but he didn’t really sleep until he was about a year old.

Paul: That explains Dan, why you look so sleepy in your Skype picture right now.

[Laughs]

Dan: I am. You can understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

Paul: Yes it really is.

Marcus: Absolutely yes.

Paul: It’s horrendous. So what else has been going on? It’s hot.

Marcus: Is it hot? I bet it isn’t hot for you Dan? What was it? Twelve degrees last week and raining?

Dan: No, we’re just finally getting a summer here now. So it’s twenty-one degrees here today. Yesterday was miserable and raining.

Paul: But twenty-one, that’s nice. That’s a nice temperature.

Marcus: Yes, we’re at thirty today which is just too hot. Because we don’t have any air-con because we don’t need it. And we’re in this little glass bubble which is getting hotter and hotter and hotter.

I am not going to complain about the nice weather. I am not. It’s wonderful.

Paul: I am just really pleased that Dan used real money then. He used Celsius. Proper country, you see?

Marcus: We use both, don’t we? Hey, it’s ninety today, I am fine with that.

Paul: Did you see the hilarious tweets? You know they just passed the gay marriage bill in America? And all the anti-gay marriage people went on twitter and said ‘Oh this is terrible – I am moving to Canada!’

Dan: They will be sorely disappointed when they get here.

Paul: I know, because you’ve had gay marriage since 2005 haven’t you?

Dan: Yes, 2005 it was legalised. But it was almost never an issue. It was just a formality we had to go through.

Paul: It was so funny. See you are going to get all these weirdos coming up to Canada and then being stroppy.

Dan: But then they will fall in love with us because of our free healthcare.

Paul: Which is true.

Marcus: That is probably not a place to go, Paul.

Paul: Is it not? Can we not talk about this?

Marcus: Politically dangerous.

Paul: I don’t care.

Marcus: No you never have done. I had to edit bits out of last show. You started saying things that I thought ‘Oh I better edit this out’.

Paul: What did I say?

Marcus: I couldn’t tell you that, because then you’d say it again!

Paul: Oh no, that would be awesome, tell me! I love being politically incorrect. It’s awesome. At least I haven’t punched the producer like Jeremy Clarkson.

Marcus: No that is true.

Paul: So there we go. I went to London. I went to a swanky Adobe event. It was very posh.

Marcus: You’ve sold out Paul.

Paul: I have. It was awesome. It was really, really good actually. Shame I don’t use Adobe software, but there you go.

[Laughs]

Marcus: Oh sorry.

Paul: What? Have I put my foot in it again? Shouldn’t I have said that either?

Marcus: No, no, not at all. I do like it when you start saying the wrong things about huge corporations.

Paul: It was quite interesting as I actually said on the stage at one point ‘I’ve managed to offend Adobe and I’ve managed to offend Creative Bloq who were in the audience’. But apparently they both thought it was funny. But of course secretly I am on a blacklist now. So there we go.

Dan: So what wisdom were you imparting on Adobe?

Paul: What was it I said that offended them? I am trying to remember. It was an Adobe event – they launched their latest version of their software which is all work flow stuff which goes from your mobile device to your desktop and all this kind of stuff. And as part of the launch event they had three different speakers of which I was one. I was talking about the new skills every web designer should learn and how we shouldn’t spend hours, or people say ‘I haven’t got time to learn new skills’ and sales was one of them, which we are talking about today. Then I was going on about how much time people spend on things like Dribble. And then in the next breath I realised that Adobe have just launched their equivalent of Dribble. So instead of just quietly moving on I said ‘Or for example like the Adobe new community thing’. When I should have just kept my mouth shut.

Marcus: Yes. That’s ok.

Paul: Anyway, what are we talking about today?

Marcus: I don’t know. Too tired and hot and……

Paul: Oh man up!

Dan: Well the cold Canadian remembers. Its sales today. How to sell yourself and your services.

Paul: You’re just reading the show notes.

Marcus: Oh yes, show notes. I ought to look at those.

Paul: See, now this is why I am going to replace you with Dan. Because he’s on top of things.

Marcus: Because he clicked on the link a minute before I did?

Paul: No, he said he’s had all week to research this.

Marcus: Lies.

Paul: And I believe him.

Marcus: Lies, all lies.

[Laughs]

Paul: Anyway.

Dan: I am just installing IOS 8.4 anyway…

Paul: Oh yes, I knew there was something else we were going to talk about. IOS 8.4 – I have 24 minutes to go. So Marcus. You should care about this. You know all about 8.4 don’t you?

Marcus: 8.4?

Paul: Why is 8.4 good?

Marcus: Is it to do with the music thing?

Paul: Oooo. Well done.

Marcus: The music thing, yes. I never really got on with the idea of subscribing for music. It just doesn’t fit with my brain so I don’t care basically.

Paul: Well it’s free for three months.

Marcus: Yes, well I will do that.

Dan: Do you have a record library?

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: I bet it’s Vinyl as well, isn’t it?

Marcus: I’ve got a lot of Vinyl, most of which from when I was a kid.

Paul: Do you have a wind up gramophone?

Marcus: I don’t have a wind up gramophone Paul, no. But I have got a record deck and there’s nothing more fun I think than getting a load of friends round, having dinner and having too much to drink and getting the Vinyl out, it’s brilliant. It’s wonderful.

So yes, I also buy stuff from iTunes, lots and lots of music, but the idea of paying a set amount for music doesn’t compute with my brain. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it just doesn’t compute for me.

Paul: You think it would be a lot cheaper mind, if you are someone who buys a lot of music.

Marcus: Hmm do I buy a lot of music? Well how much is it? Is it £5.00 a month? £10.00 a month?

Paul: Something like that. $9.99 USD.

Marcus: I also like the idea of having my copy of something. Even if it’s a digital copy it’s mine. Which is bizarre. Well it’s not bizarre. That goes back to it’s bizarre to want a digital copy, but it’s not bizarre to want a nice album with wonderful artwork.

Paul: No, that I can understand. I can understand that. So Dan, what about you?

Dan: Do either of you use a current streaming service? Like Spotify, rdio or Pandora?

Paul: I use Spotify.

Marcus: I don’t. No.

Dan: I use rdio and I love it. Since I switched over to that I’ve listened to a lot more music just in general and I have found that the discoverability of music has improved for me, rather than just having an album and wondering what to buy next. I am able to mine my social network, for recommendations.

Paul: That’s why I like it a lot. Because I am not a very musical person if that makes sense. Yet on Spotify I follow certain people and they tell me what to listen to. And I listen to it. Which I guess is a bit like listening to a radio show really but without the ads and interruptions.

Dan: One of the most interesting things is that Apple seems to have—and I think the Verge said this in an article—they have basically distilled the entire music industry down to a feature on the iPhone.

[Laughs]

Paul: That is quite scary when you say it like that.

Dan: Yes, they are just trying to sell more iPhone and so have put the entire music industry on it.

Marcus: I have a habit of—and it is usually in those situations that I described—I am into having a listening to music session and I think ‘Oh I’d love to get that and I’d love to do that’ and I don’t. I am arguing with myself now. Before iTunes came along I would forget all the things that I wanted to buy but actually now I look up on iTunes and go ‘I want to buy that, and I want to buy that’ usually in those situations.

Paul: So basically you buy music when you are drunk.

Marcus: Yeah.

[Laughs]

Paul: Fair enough.

Marcus: But where I was going with that is that where I think a streaming service would be good for me is where I think of an old band – it would be great to just search on that old band and listen to everything they have ever done without having to buy it. That would be cool.

Paul: Well you have three months to try it out now don’t you?

Marcus: Mmm I do. So 8.4? I need to go and wreck this connection and start downloading it now.

Paul: Absolutely. That’s what I am doing.

Marcus: Well I am in the office. You know what the office connection is like. I won’t be doing that.

Paul: So talking about all you can eat, and all you can eat services I meant. We’ll talk about Lynda, our sponsor. Lynda is one of our sponsors on the podcast and they have over 3000 all you can eat, help yourself, on demand video courses on business, creativity, technical skills, all of that kind of stuff. It’s a great place for learning new skills and you pay one flat fee and then you get everything. So my latest challenge has become find out what the topic is for the show and hopefully Lynda won’t have anything on it. One day I will come on and say ‘And Lynda has nothing on this’.

Marcus: Sounds like a google whack.

[Silence]

Paul: That sounds very rude. A google what?

Marcus: That’s when you type something into google and only one result comes back.

Paul: Ahh, never heard of that. Whack.

Marcus: I think so. Dave Gorman is the person who did a whole TV show on it.

Dan: I always hate when that happens, and the one result is your own website.

Paul: It’s very embarrassing when you google something and you come back as the result. ‘Oh where did I read that article?’ and so you google it and it’s like…. Yours. That happens to me quite a lot. I’ve reached that kind of age.

So this week’s challenge was ‘Do they have anything on sales?’ Of course they do. They have loads.

*The value of effective sales processes

*The science of sales

*Forecasting sales

*Reviewing your sales activity

*The element of effective sales processes

*Sales skills fundamentals

It goes on… so they’ve got loads. Thousands of videos for you to check out and you can learn at your own pace. Do bits or entire courses or dip in and out, it’s up to you. And it’s all for that flat fee. And you get ten days free trial. So like Marcus and iTunes music, you can try it out and see what you think just by going to Lynda.com/Boagworld.

A discussion about selling your services

Paul: So, we’re talking about sales. Yay! I don’t know why that’s exciting.

Dan: That wasn’t a very good sales pitch right there.

Paul: Is it not? No. Alright, let me try again. See what we think.

One of the most fundamental aspects of our job as professional web designers is the ability to bring in work. You can be the best designer in the world but if you can’t convert those leads that come in, then you are going to fail. And so this week we are talking about the vital subject of sales.

Is that better?

Dan: Much better.

Marcus: See, it had a little bit of snake oil dripping off the side of it, I think.

Paul: Ahh I have been called that before.

Marcus: You have. It’s true.

Paul: A snake oil salesman.

[Laughs]

When I saw him recently, and yet again this was a guy called Mike McConnell who was one of our clients. I saw him quite recently and I said to him, I obviously reminded him of this deep insult and he said it was a compliment. But I don’t know quite what he meant by that. He was very unconvincing.

Dan: Maybe he’s a connoisseur of snake oil?

Paul: Could be. See look, Chris Scott is now Skyping me. He knows I am recording a podcast. Tell him off.

Marcus: Yes because he can hear me talking. Stop talking to Paul, Chris!

[Laughs]

Paul: We’ll punish him by getting him in on the podcast, which he hates.

So first question.

‘It is frustrating when somebody takes an interest but then never seems to commit. How do you encourage them to actually sign on the dotted line?’

Now this week I am just going to ask questions, because you two are the experts in this area.

Apparently I am a snake oil salesman so I can’t be very good, can I?

Marcus: That means you are excellent.

Paul: No it doesn’t. That means I am slimy and obvious.

Dan: I think to answer the question, it depends really on what you are selling. If you are selling a service or something a little bit more nebulous then it’s a gentle push and nudge and you ask a lot of questions and see what their hesitancies are and see if you can address those. If you are selling a product you can be a little bit more aggressive – you can push people to sign.

It really depends. In my line of work I am mostly selling custom web solutions and that’s a very gradual dance that you have to go through.

Paul: I like what you said there about finding… in sales terms it’s called ‘objection handling’ isn’t it. Finding out what their problems are, and then removing them one by one, until they have no reason not to sign.

Marcus: I object to objection handling. My feeling is that if someone isn’t committing, obviously there are varying degrees of that, but my feeling is generally they are probably wasting your time. In the things we do. Also, many people ring up just to see what your approach is. How much you charge, that kind of thing. I am being overly cynical on that particular response, but I think often somebody who has just got an idea and wants to try it out, it’s never going to go anywhere. So chances are that it’s a best bet to wander off and look for something else.

Dan: And even if you did manage to strong arm them into signing up as a client, is that really the type of client you want? Someone you had to manipulate into being your client?

Paul: But you say that Marcus, yet some of our clients take… we’ve had clients that have taken two years before they sign. I am thinking of the law firms in America and that kind of thing.

Marcus: I guess—there’s another question further down isn’t there, I can’t remember what is was—but I took this as the kind of person who keeps saying to you ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, it will be next month’ or ‘I need to speak to my boss about it’, that kind of person. Rather than ‘this is a genuine opportunity but we need to get all our ducks in a row before it can happen’ type of thing. I fully expect things to take a very long time to happen. But there is a difference between that and this kind of thing that you think ‘well is this ever going to happen?’ and being able to recognise the two is important.

Paul: So how do you recognise the two?

Dan: You say a really big number and if they keep talking to you then you know it might actually go somewhere.

[Laughs]

Dan: I am only kind of half-joking.

Paul: Right. Ok.

Dan: There’s a lot of people, I am not sure how often it happens with you, but everyone needs a website. So you get all ranges of people approaching you and asking if they can procure your services and it takes a long time in conversation to suss out if they have $200 or $200,000 to build. You can kind of tell sometimes based on the organisation, but sometimes it’s just someone who is wasting your time and you need to move them on to someone else.

Paul: That’s interesting because the question then arises—which is something that me and Marcus disagreed about back in the day—should you post some kind of ballpark figures on your website to give people a sense of what kind of size projects you take on?

Dan: The way we would frame it would be… when we started our company we basically said flat out we don’t take on projects less than $15,000 CAD. Now that’s fluctuated a little bit since then but that’s a really good watermark for people to judge against and say ‘Hey this is the company for me, or this isn’t the company for me’.

Paul: Marcus, in the past you’ve disagreed with that.

Marcus: I still do. I don’t think the website is the place to make that statement.

Dan: I agree with that wholeheartedly. I would never put that in writing somewhere.

Paul: Ahh ok.

Marcus: I try to have that conversation very early on when I am talking to somebody. With the majority of enquiries I will have the conversation and I’ll say ‘I apologise about being frank and up front, but we need to talk about money’. That kind of thing. And I’ll do it then. There are some clients where I won’t do that, because I can make an assumption that a budget necessarily isn’t an issue for them. But for most people it is, and for us it is. You’ve got to make sure that you are both in the same ballpark otherwise you are both wasting each other’s time. But I am not keen on putting it on a website.

Paul: Why not? Both of you said no to that. Because surely it saves an unnecessary conversation if they are thinking about a £500 website and you are talking about £15,000.

Marcus: I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like it’s making the right statement? A bit wishy-washy answer, but that’s what I mean.

Dan: I think for me, it’s because we are selling custom solutions, we are not selling widgets. As soon as you write a firm number down people then anchor against that number and say ‘Whoah, it says $15,000 on your website, when it’s going to cost $30,000’. A lot of people will ask how much does a web site cost. And my return is how much does a car cost? You can buy a cheap $10,000 Ford or you can buy a Lamborghini for hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you are selling custom work it is extremely hard to frame that conversation without actually getting into the nuts and bolts of what you are building.

Paul: The follow up to that is do you always ask clients what their budget is? Do you start by saying ‘Look we don’t do anything less than $15,000’ or do you say ‘What kind of budget do you have in mind?’

Dan: I’ve done both to be honest. I only say that we start at a certain budget if it’s someone I am unsure of and it seems likely that they don’t have a budget that would be adequate for us to meet our minimum. I am suspicious if 3M calls or General Motors and say they want to build a website (which neither of those companies have done) then I wouldn’t ask that question because obviously that would be foolish. They understand the cost of those type of things.

Paul: Sure.

Marcus: Yes, exactly. That was what I was saying earlier. Some clients ring up and it’s not an issue. But you have to have your radar out for others.

Paul: Now I think the question you were referring to earlier is ‘What should I do with leads that seem to go cold?’ When do you give up on a lead? Do you give up on a lead?

Marcus: That’s interesting actually. My opinion on this one has changed slightly lately. Because I have been of the feeling that unless somebody says ‘its dead’ or if it’s the kind of lead where you think it’s a genuine opportunity then I think you should keep regular contact. What that regular contact is I am not sure. Maybe it’s if you’ve had an initial flurry of proposals and then it’s gone a bit cold then maybe every three months or six months put yourself a reminder to talk to somebody. However I know because I have a current client who basically I have been speaking to somebody for about eight or nine months about a definite project I know they want to work with us on. I have an in via someone else they know in another company and I basically got a message from that person to say ‘Can you stop hassling? This is a genuine thing. You’ll be the first to know if it goes away or if it happens. But stop bugging her’.

So that was ah ‘Oh ok!’ I thought I was being very polite as well. But yes, by a rule of thumb if you think somethings genuine keep in contact, but be genuine. ‘My calendar has popped up to give you a call or send you an email, so just contacting you to see if there is any news?’

Dan: I usually ask so if I am in regular contact with someone I would just say ‘Hey would it be ok if I called you back in a month and checked in on this?’ If they say no, then I don’t and if they say yes, then I do. More times than not, they are actually glad for you to check in so they don’t have to remember something.

Marcus: Good point. What do you think Paul?

Paul: I am a great believer in keeping in touch. Keeping relationships going. Coincidentally I didn’t plan this, but I’ve literally just today posted about sales and marketing on the website and one of the things that I do in there is that I quote some statistics from the National Sales Executive Association which say that 80% of sales happen after at least five interactions. Yet only 25% of sales people bother to make a second contact with a prospect. I just find that horrifying. That only a quarter of people, sales people bother follow to up on a prospect. That just blows my mind.

Marcus: Yes, it’s strange isn’t it? We’re much niched in what we are selling, as Dan said, you are selling custom bespoke development work and you are providing a service to your clients. It’s not the same as selling a car. So I can’t really comment on that. The idea horrifies me.

Paul: But then in our situation, we are talking about web services.

Dan: I think it’s the fear of hearing ‘no’. For every ten calls you are going to make, you are going to hear nine ‘no’s’. That’s why you don’t make more calls, it’s because you are scared of being rejected.

Paul: Yeah. That’s one of the pieces of advice my Dad gave me when we first set up Headscape because he’s got a background in sales. His words were ‘You follow a sales lead to destruction’. So you keep going until they actually say no to you. And I actually think maybe that’s a bit of an extreme way of putting it, but the sentiment of that I think is fairly solid. And in this article I was talking about the trouble is it can become a state of mind if all you’re focused on is getting them to say yes, to win the work, then the result of that is that you are always feeling like you are being rejected. Every call where they don’t say yes is a rejection, a failure on your part. But what’s worked for me really well over the last few months is for me it’s become as much about as keeping in contact, finding out what they are doing. Because a lot of these organisations I am beginning to work with, I am actually really interested in the journey that they take to be able to get the project approved. All the internal discussions, talking to their managers, so when I get in contact with people it’s partly because I want to see whether the project has come to anything, but it’s partly curiosity to find out what they are up to. And that’s helped me, because you don’t feel like it’s always about ‘I need to get a signature on the dotted line on this call’. It’s about keeping in contact, building relationships. And I think that kind of shifts it. Does for me anyway.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: Your silence says that neither of you feel like that. Which is fine.

Dan: I think that’s the same as what we have been saying. And that’s largely because you are not selling a widget, you are selling services. And when you are selling services it’s very rarely a short interaction. It’s often a long term relationship. Silverorange has had customers for over a decade. Fifteen years for one customer in particular. So that is a relationship in every aspect of the word. So I feel the same way, it’s about going on a journey with them rather than trying to sell them something and moving onto your next prospect.

Paul: Yes, absolutely. Next question we’ve already answered. ‘How do we balance being a nuisance with keeping in contact with a lead?’ I think Marcus you brought it up earlier, and Dan I think you answered it when you said ‘Ask whether you are being a nuisance, or ask if they mind you calling back etc’.

Dan: Ask which form of communication is best for them – calls, email or showing up in person.

Marcus: That’s a good point actually. It’s surprising the amount of people who love email. Just that’s what they want. You are bothering them if you ring them up, but they are happy to have a linked feature on email.

But I just want to go back to what you were saying about what your Dad told you Paul. I agree with that, I never really thought of it like that, but I don’t let anything go until I have basically said ‘Is this dead?’ I won’t make the assumption that because nothing has happened in two years then it’s dead. Because there has been more than one occasion when things have taken years to come to fruition. You need to basically ask people ‘Am I wasting my time, should I move on?’ And they’ll often say ‘Yeah actually this isn’t happening’.

Paul: Also the other good thing that I always find that keeping in contact with these people is that they move companies. And sometimes, where they weren’t able to get something to happen in one company, they are in the next. We’ve had that on numerous occasions.

Marcus: Mmm. Definitely.

Paul: Ok this is a good one. ‘I’m a one man band. Do I need something like a CRM to track my sales leads and to remind me and to manage all that kind of stuff?’

Marcus?

Marcus: I don’t use one.

Paul: What do you use? Tell me about…. I’ve been working with you for thirteen years and I have no clue how you remember to follow up on all these leads.

Marcus: I write things down Paul. And I re-check.

Paul: That’s boring.

Marcus: Also I’ve got a very good memory.

Dan: He’s a responsible adult who does his job.

[Laughs]

Paul: Who knew? I could have never of guessed.

Marcus: I’ve only got, we only work on a finite number, not as few projects as Silverorange do, we’ve only got eight things on the go at any one point, something like that. And as probably a similar number of enquiries to deal with so it’s never got to the point where I think ‘Oh I’ve forgotten about that’. I never thought that ‘All this time I am spending on entering information into a CRM I could be doing something else’.

Dan: Have you ever used a CRM?

Marcus: Tried to and I was keen for a while then it just got ignored.

Dan: I was anti-CRM for a long time. For the exact same reason. It seemed the administrative overhead of using it wasn’t worth the return. And then I guess this was back in the fall I started doing some sales approach for a client of mine because I had some free business development time. This was cold calling hundreds of people and I started using Base CRM and I was blown away. And this isn’t a plug, I am not paid by them at all, I pay them to use their product. It was absolutely phenomenal. The way it works is that all communication just flows through there. It hooks into your Gmail so it pulls it all in so you can pull up a lead or a customer and see every bit of communication you have had. You can also make calls through there and they record the calls and you can play them back later.

I am the same way, whereas I typically rely on my own calendar and email to do something, but I could immediately see the value of it and it was extremely well done. I used Salesforce once before and it just seemed archaic and web 1.0 but this looked like a tool that if you were to build your dream communication tool with clients, that is what it would look like. It is phenomenal.

Paul: Without getting petty and competitive, Pipedrive is my version of that. Because I felt very much the same and when I set up after leaving Headscape and I didn’t have Marcus to do all this stuff for me, I actually quickly felt quite overwhelmed by it. Marcus I think that you are being a bit… to say that you only have eight opportunities on the go at any one time is rubbish because I’ve sat down with you before when we used to do sales reviews and you’d have a couple of sheets of A4 of various opportunities, let alone the contacts you want to keep in with and remember to say ‘Hi’ to.

Marcus: I do keep a list in Trello.

Paul: There you go, so you do have something.

Marcus: Yeah, but that’s just a list. It could be written down. It’s not a CRM is it?

Dan: You could write them down and listen to Vinyl while you are doing it.

Paul: Well he is a Granddad. You can’t expect him to change now.

Marcus: Exactly. I guess if the tool’s really good then I am likely to use it. We tried a couple of things over the years and I’ve just find it a bind. Like this is adding to my job and I don’t want to do anything extra and so I stopped using it.

Paul: I think there are a new generation of tools now. I looked at Base, it was one of the ones I had a go with, but it just didn’t quite fit my personal mental model. It was obviously really good. But Pipedrive, it did fit my mental model which is that you split it a couple of ways. You have a pipeline in terms of cold/tentative/looking good/wants a proposal/proposal submitted etc which I think Base does as well doesn’t it? But the other thing it also does is that it allows you to specify and see a timeline of months. June/July/August/September etc so I can see what projects might come in at any particular month and I can see whether I reach capacity or not. Which for me as an individual is a bigger deal than it is for you guys.

It’s all the extras, the fact that it pulls in all your emails, you can make notes, you can assign activities and tasks and that is nice that Base records calls, although a little bit freaky.

Dan: Yeah, that’s a little bit weird, but they are clear on the privacy around it.

Paul: But yes, there are tools out there that I think are worth investigating. And it’s also I quite like being able to look at statistics as well. I am a bit of a statistics junkie. It keeps me motivated. So being able to say ’this week I’ve won x number of deals and made this number of phone calls and that kind of thing’. But that’s just a personal peculiarity on my part I think.

Dan: What I like about the new generation is that you don’t have to change how you work and I think Marcus is alluding to this, that he has a system that’s working well for him. And what I liked about Base was that—and I am sure Pipedrive is like that too—is that I can still use email, I can still use my calendar but it plugs into those things and there is this great tool I can go to, to look at that is a really focused sales tool that can pass out all the other information from my calendar and my emails and just process the sales stuff itself.

Paul: Yes, which is so nice. I am a sucker for new tools, but this one is one that’s stuck with me.

Ok what else have we got? We won’t expect Marcus to change because he’s too old.

Dan: I think he’s going to be trying it this afternoon by the sounds of it.

Marcus: No I am going home to see my Granddaughter, very shortly.

Paul: Which is much better. I fully support that decision.

‘How do I encourage existing clients to recommend me?’

Marcus: Do good work for them.

[Laughs]

Dan: Definitely true.

Marcus: Basically.

Paul: Well also, is there not a place for actually asking them?

Dan: Yes, what we’ve done in the past is two things. One is to ask for a recommendation letter which we sometimes include in sales material in an approach we send out to someone. And then the other one is to ask them to be a reference call, just like if you’re applying for a new job. I’ve actually been in a new sales process with a new prospective client and say ‘Hey why don’t you give this other client a call?’ And they’d chat without me present about us and that has gone superbly well for us in the past little bit.

Marcus: We tender for quite a lot of public sector type work where they insist on that and we have some lovely clients who regularly say nice things about us. I know for a fact that we won work on the back of some of the references that we’ve been given. But you’ve got to be careful that you don’t ask people too much.

Dan: Do you folks ever go after work, or are you reacting to work that’s coming in?

Marcus: Pretty much reacting. I have never been a big fan of banging the phone and doing cold calling, I think you are really wasting your time and life, I think it’s just soul destroying. People don’t invent work if you just happen to phone them up, for you. So there has to be a genuine project in the future coming up to make it worthwhile speaking to somebody. So I think it’s about ensuring you are going to be recommended by the people you work with. That is the single, in the type of work we do, referrals from existing clients saying to their friend ‘Oh we’ve got this web project coming up’ and they say ‘Oh we worked with Headscape or Silverorange and they were great’ is going to get you more work than anything else. The second one is doing things like this podcast, where you can come across as somebody who knows what they are talking about and who might be quite nice to work with.

But chasing work, because we’d like to work for Coca-cola… I just…

Paul: I have to say I’ve started to give that a bit of a go.

Marcus: Really?

Paul: Kind of. In a loose sense. I’ve taken a couple of different approaches. There was one of my clients I was talking to who works for a major charity and we were just chatting and he said that he came from another major charity. A charity that I really like and I’ve got a lot of time for and I’ve got a lot of respect for and I’d love to work with them. So I left it for a while and let the relationship improve and for me to deliver some stuff and show my competency and stuff. Then one day I did drop him a line and say ‘Is it worth me reaching out to the people we previously talked about? Is there anyone I should talk to there?’ And actually that’s turned out really well. I haven’t yet won any work from them but I am talking to them and there’s a relationship there and hopefully when the appropriate time comes something will come of that.

Marcus: There was a connection there. You’ve made a referral happen, which is great. But you need to have a story of some sort otherwise…

Paul: Yes, the other little technique I’ve used once or twice is there’s a company that I want to work with, I’m vaguely aware of the person that’s worked there as I know them on Twitter or I’ve seen them at some conference, but I don’t really know them. I know their email or how to contact them. What I would then do is write a blog post that mentions them in passing as an example of what I am talking about and then I will email them and say ‘Oh I thought you’d like to know I mentioned you guys recently’. And sometimes that’s kicked off a conversation that has been quite interesting. I wouldn’t say it’s won me loads of work and I am now sitting on a big pile of cash, but it’s been worth doing.

Marcus: That’s a little bit manipulative.

Paul: Is that a bit manipulative.

Dan: A little bit, but if it’s successful, right? All these people who are listening to your podcasts and who have been mentioned in your blog posts are now going to be a little bit suspicious.

Paul: Yeah. But Dan, to some extent the whole of our podcast is like that. We get in experts, we’ve got you on the show and that is helping cement our relationship. It’s all about how you choose to word it, isn’t it?

Dan: It is, it is.

Paul: Is this a manipulative attempt for me to build a closer working relationship with Silverorange that maybe one day I’ll do something with you, or is it just us keeping in touch because we think alike? It all just depends on how you word it sometimes.

Dan: I think it also has to do with the intention behind it. If you are doing this because you intend to somehow exploit a relationship in the future, then I think people can feel that and see through that. But I think if people are doing it for the other reasons you’ve mentioned then it definitely is the right way to go about it, in my opinion.

Marcus: Dan does the same sort of thing as us and so does most the other people that have been on this series for example. But if Dan was the web manager in a client that you’d like to work with, but then that might be a little bit different maybe?

Paul: But we’ve done that.

Marcus: Yes, which is why I am stopping myself mid-sentence. And they’ve never spoken to us never again. That’s not true.

Paul: And also that you’ve got to remember that my situation now is a little bit different. So potentially one day I might work with Silverorange, I doubt it but it’s now something that’s possible. And also the other thing you can say and this was particularly true in the early days of the podcasts was that when we started to have guests on, we became experts via association. We look cleverer because we’ve had Geoffrey Zeldman on the show, or Dan James or… whoever/

Marcus: In the same breath Dan. You and Geoffrey.

Dan: I know. My heart just skipped a beat right there.

[Laughs]

Paul: But you’re right Dan. It’s about intentions I think a lot of the time and going back to that blogpost example, I wouldn’t specifically write a post with the intention of getting in there. The post has to have value itself. The example has to be relevant. But it is an excuse to say ‘Hi’, an excuse to make an initial contact. And I don’t feel that’s bad. But perhaps my moral compass is screwed?

Dan: No I don’t think it’s bad at all. You are ok Paul.

Paul: I get the Dan James seal of approval. Marcus on the other hand…

Marcus: I am tut-tutting internally.

Paul: Yeah.

Dan: Now I have to cycle back to the cold calling, so Silverorange went through a period—we no longer do it as we have changed our business model as we discussed last episode—but I went through a period where I was approaching companies who had never heard of us and trying to convince them to enter into a commission deal with us. So I’d had a whole formula of how I would evaluate companies including how usable their website was, the age of the company, types of product they sold. And I would do all this research, probably a week of work on each company and figure out who to approach and use Linkedin to figure out who are the people who are active on social media. Who are the movers and shakers in that company? And then I would actually write a letter and FedEx that letter overnight to that person, including with the letter would be a little package of preserves, so Strawberry Jams and Raspberry Jams from a local company on Prince Edward Island where I lived. And I would co-ordinate with a local bakery for the person who is receiving them to deliver freshly baked croissants at the same time FedEx was scheduled to make a delivery to that person. And I had a one hundred percent success rate talking to the individual I wanted to talk to. Not all of them turned into business obviously, but it started the conversation off on such a positive light that I was able to talk very freely and openly with them about what we were trying to do and what kind of relationship we were trying to build and the business model we were selling.

And I think every single one of them left with positive feelings of us. Because it wasn’t a hard sell at all and it was for me just a really good reminder that you can spend a little bit of money on your sales process and you can really get good connections out of it.

Paul: I am blown away by that. That’s a lot of effort that goes into that. There’s no way Marcus could be bothered to do that.

[Laughs]

Marcus: To be honest, I never really needed to? There aren’t clients out there that I am itching, thinking I wish we were working with them. I don’t think like that. It’s more a case of…

Paul: I’ll take your money, thanks?

Marcus: I’ll take the opportunity, thanks, if the opportunity is there. I’ve always enjoyed the ‘we’re going to win this piece of work’. If it’s a real piece of work, if we win it it’s probably going to turn into years of work with that particular client.

What a wonderful thing to do, but I’ve never been in a position really where I’ve been inclined to do that. Maybe I should have done.

Dan: The market we were going after there were older companies who had dated websites who didn’t even know that they needed a new one. And we were making a bet on the increased sales online that we could provide to them. So those people aren’t out looking for new websites. You have to march through the front door with them.

Paul: That is true and that’s probably an audience that a lot of web design agencies aren’t going after. Because of the effort that’s involved in it.

Marcus: I am impressed Dan, as well.

Dan: It’s a great technique. Even if you are just looking to impress someone, it’s a great way to do it.

Paul: Ok we’ll wrap it up at that point otherwise we will end up going over time.

Dan: Oh we’re not going to talk about my favourite point?

Paul: Ok, screw going over time. I don’t care. Go on then, the last question.

‘Prospective clients always want to haggle over price. How should I handle that?’

So go on, what were you going to say on that Dan?

Dan: What I have always tried to do was figure out why they are hesitant on price. It might not be a dollar value ultimately, it might be a dollar value this month, or a dollar value this quarter. And if you don’t ask enough questions then you might not be able to come up with creative solutions to them. Or maybe they only have $10,000 this year to spend, but next year they will have $20,000 so maybe we can spread out our billing over time to help solve their internal budget problem?

And I think in our industry there is a lot of, I did a whole talk at The Future of Web Design, we spend a lot of time working in creative space doing graphic design or coding which is a creative endeavour and then we use these old stodgy business practices where you pay me this amount or I don’t do your work. And I’ve always become a fan of coming up with creative business models to solve these problems. Spreading out contracts over larger periods of time which is one. We’ve actually gotten equity in sales from clients before. They say ‘we can only afford 75%’ and we say ‘Can you give us the other 25% in equity or shares?’ That’s worked out pretty well for us in the past. So there’s lots of different ways to get money and you just have to figure out what are the ways that have the least resistance to them?

The example I used as an individual was that I bought a car from a car dealership back five or six years ago. The car had to be ordered in and it was going to take three or four weeks and they couldn’t move on price. Just as I was leaving I thought what kind of things don’t cost him much money but could be of tremendous value for me? And I asked ‘Well could I have a vehicle for three or four weeks while I wait for it, off your lot while I wait for it?’ And they said ‘Sure, no problem’ and passed me a set of keys. So that type of thinking can go a long way to solving problems for clients and closing a deal.

Paul: Yes. I think we are quite unimaginative when it comes to this, aren’t we Marcus.

Marcus: I get people haggling over prices very rarely. I think it’s because of the type of sectors we are working in. It’s very much like ‘We’ve got this budget, we are going to spend all of this budget but we are not going to spend over this budget’. And I know that upfront usually, so for me the issue is ensuring that we can do what they want from that budget. So it’s the same sort of thing, but round the other way. So I tend to not have to get into haggling over price, but when I do I will certainly bear your words in mind.

Because it rarely happens I am normally like ‘Oh well, alright. I am sure we can do something’. But maybe finding an alternative is the way to do it.

Paul: I mean we do modular pricing don’t we? So that if they need to reduce the price, they can reduce the scope of what we are offering. Which is always an important thing.

Marcus: I am always surprised more people don’t do that. Why wouldn’t you? Why would you come in and say ‘This is the price’. But that reminds me, I was speaking to somebody who does do that. I always thought it’s almost like logical to provide a breakdown of your prices. But Ryan Taylor was saying they just say ‘This is how much it is going to cost and we’ll deliver it to you in x amount of weeks’. I am struggling to remember why that was a good thing.

Paul: I think it was to stop them dropping certain pieces of functionality. Inevitably if you go modular they will go ‘Oh we don’t need the usability testing’.

Marcus: ‘We can project manage it ourselves’ that sort of thing.

Paul: I think what he was saying was that I got the impression that he had core and optional elements. He wouldn’t show you the different things. Because we were asking, how do you get the client to pay for project management? He just hides the cost and gives them one figure. Which is quite understandable.

[Music]

Paul: Hey, before we wrap up, we must mention our other sponsor. Because I am contractually obliged to do so, and because they are also awesome, which is Template Monster. They’ve provided a lot of the questions which we’ve talked about this week. They’ve also helped pay for the transcription, as does Lynda actually, which is really important.

So, one of the things I like about Template Monster is that it solves a problem that every web designer has. And I had it this week. I had a friend of a family ask me for ‘We need to redesign our website, is there anywhere we can go to get something really cheaply done, can you sort us out please?’ And you just want to go ‘Oh F-off’. But you can’t do that to your Mother’s best friend. It’s just not done.

So these days I point them towards Template Monster, especially if they are after inspiration, ideas, point them towards them something like that works really, really well.

If you can’t avoid producing a website for family which, let’s face it, none of us can from time to time. I mean I have produced our local school website, our local church website, my friends Bar Mitzvah’s website (I made that last one up). You end up having to do these things, so for crying out don’t waste a lot of time, go and get a template from Template Monster. Go and whack it on a WordPress installation, job done. We’ve got better things to do with our life.

And they’ve got an amazing selection of templates. Pretty much every category you can imagine. Forty-six thousand templates. Also, on another note it is worth checking out their blog as well. They’ve got a really good blog covering lots of things. They’ve got tutorials, articles, lots of infographics and a great email newsletter. So they’ve got some really good stuff going on there and they can solve some really let’s face it – painful problems for us. So go and check them out at Boagworld/TemplateMonster.

Marcus, take it away!

Marcus: Ok a very quick one. A very old one as no one has sent me any jokes. Please send me jokes. So a very old one but a very goody one.

‘Two cannibals are eating a clown. One looks at the other and says

“Does this taste funny to you?”’

[Laughs]

Dan: Is that your first joke as a Grandfather?

Marcus: It is! That’s pointing the way, isn’t it?

Paul: Yes, very much so. Excellent, well thank you very much guys for joining us. Dan thank you for being so very willing to come back and I do promise you weren’t just because I couldn’t find anyone else.

Marcus, congratulations on becoming a Grandad. Go forth and be Grandparent-y.

Have a really great week guys and talk to you next week.

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