It’s been a while since I last blogged – perhaps too long. But I was having a conversation with Jen Coomer, who oversees our new client relationships here at Atilus and I think we struck upon something very worthwhile.
This blog isn’t for just anyone, it’s primarily focused around our internal processes and therefore probably good for other agencies – although I think the general gist of what I’m about to present is useful for any sales team or person/company trying to increase sales – or any potential client of Atilus’ weighing us against our competitors for that matter. With this in mind, if general sales articles don’t interest you, if you’re not a web design or digital agency, you can probably skip this one as there aren’t any juicy tips on design, or strategies for closing more business on your website.
But, if you’re like us – frustrated with constantly quoting, proposing, and developing potential client relationships – that lead nowhere – read on.
First a little bit of a backstory:
At Atilus, we’re blessed. Through our own marketing, advertising, branding, SEO, and a myriad of other channels we’re handling about 3 – 5 new leads/day. Unfortunately, the number of those that meet our requirements and we’re able to close, is a small percentage of that. And, it’s this ongoing work that this post birthed an idea:
What decisions/processes close business?
We’ve been getting a lot of questions on a couple of different things, but one thing that has continually cropped up is the following brought up during a sales discussion:
“I’m looking at a few different firms…” says potential client.
[ANOTHER FIRM?! Really?! Are you TRYING to make us jealous… because it worked. How dare you talk to any other firm!!!]
Immediately, be it over the phone or in person – our posture changes. We get sad, angry, defensive. I can’t speak for Jen, but for me personally I tense up and feel like throwing the papers in front of me and screaming… “what!? We’re not good enough for you?! After all this… why don’t you just TRUST me/Atilus!?”
Of course, I jest, but the feeling is there and the lack of connection is disheartening. So today during a sales training/meeting we decided to really try to work this out and here’s what we’ve come up with:
Successful Sales Comes Down to Meeting ALL Needs/Requirements on Both Ends
That’s a really simple and clear statement, of course it’s true. But it hints at the breakdown that’s required to fulfill one another’s goals.
I’m going to detail out exactly what this means for your firm below, but that’s it at its core. Does your firm meet the client’s needs and do they meet your own?
Detailing Out the Tenants of a Successful Sale
The Big 5 Elements of a Successful Sale in Web Design & Digital Marketing
1) Money – This one is simple. You have a price as a firm. You’ve worked hard to get where eou’re at and build a process with (X) employees at (Y) rate, so your cost is (Z). If the cost is NOT in your clients’ budget – no sale. End of story. If this basic hard requirement can’t be met on both ends, it’s not a good match. As much as we’d love to help clients with a budget of $500 on their site, the sales process ALONE costs our company more than this – so out of the gate we’re not a good fit for this kind of client.
Tips: Qualify as quickly as you can. We have an email we send to all prospects that asks for budget and hints at our own general pricing to qualify ourselves against them with no hard feelings. No amount of cajoling, trust, words, etc. can take a client with a $500 budget to a client with $15,000 so be wary and respectful of both of your positions.
2) Time – Similar to the above, but I would say generally much more aloof and ill-defined is time. How much time does the client have to solve this problem? Is the problem big enough that they need it solved immediately, or do they have time to ruminate and waste your own time? The closer the problem is to needing to be solved immediately, the more likely a sale will close successfully.
In my experience time is a tricky one for many reasons. Clients typically say (and act) during the sale as if time is of the essence. The RFP has a deadline, “we must make a decision by Friday,” but once the project actually begins this quickly changes. Hell, we’ve even had RFPs (with deadlines) delay recently in order to get the decision makers together or hold out for late responses – never a good sign. Once any work is put on the client to assist (provide review, copy, etc.) deadlines quickly get passed and projects that should have taken 2 weeks take 20.
Regardless, it’s our responsibility to define the timeline upfront – particularly for the sale itself – how quickly is a decision going to be made on this matter? If we’re able to get everything in alignment (we’re the right firm, right price, etc.) will a decision be made by next week? If this is loosely defined, closings will (occasionally) happen loosely.
Tips: Learn what the major goals are through listening, and apply those to time constraints. For example, say a client is really upset with the functionality of the site throughout something like – “If we’re able to find alignment on skills, pricing are you looking to get started in the next week in order to help resolve your sites (insert poor functionality).” It also doesn’t hurt to simply ask – “how quickly are you looking to make this change, transition, etc.”
3) Trust (Technical Ability)– I had a new client referral come to us a couple of weeks ago. It was a friend-of-a-friend situation. I nailed the sales meeting, was helpful, listened, understood exactly what needed to be accomplished in order to make this company happy and help them with their major initiatives. But it wouldn’t close. After some sales ninjutsu, it became evident this client knew NOTHING about our firm – other of course from our meetings. She hadn’t seen our website, hadn’t seen our team, the other projects we were doing and had some major concerns on whether or not we could ACTUALLY execute what was being requested.
I asked for this information, got it from her, and then presented her with solutions – here’s who we are, what we’re about, what we’ve worked on in a similar capacity. It overcame her fears, and she’s EXTREMELY grateful to be working with us and loves what we’ve done for her so far.
What’s important here is that your own marketing, advertising and branding matches and propels all of these discussions. In a perfect world
Tips: Come prepared to talk about yourself and your company, what you specialize in, how that’s related to this project and how you can uniquely assist. Over time, through your own marketing & branding, you can also communicate this to your prospects.
4) Sales Process – Items 4 and 5 overlap a bit. This one is straightforward – has the sales process been clear, easy, and have you (the sales person) met all of the objectives you’ve set forth – including the deadlines? Although in some sales circles, mistakes are okay – hell even encouraged as a “technique” – I have to err on the side of caution and reason here and say – Your potential client is evaluating you at EVERY turn during the sales process. They’re looking at every i and every t, making sure each is properly dotted and crossed respectively – because, as an outsider, there’s not much else they can use to truly evaluate you, your company, your team.
Tips: Everyone is different, but reflect back on the most important or often asked questions – make sure those are a part of your sales process, and make the process as simple and seamless as possible while achieving all of the other objectives (most importantly #5 below).
5) Listening & Presenting the Right Solution – All things being equal this last step, in my opinion, is also the most important. And, to me, it’s one of the simplest (at least in theory). In practice it’s quite difficult both intellectually as well as from a margins perspective. Getting to the right solution in a packaged solution can be hard unless you’ve really refined your marketing. For us, listening and presenting the right solution is exactly why we started our company. Let’s dive a little deeper…
What’s the “Right” Solution? – This brings to bear all of the above steps and silos. It takes a modicum of understanding when it comes to the tech, an understanding of time, and understanding of the monetary requirements to present the right solution, but taking the time to define and recommend this will set you apart from your competition and is what we try to do on every project. Here’s an example to help demonstrate all of this coming together and what the final “right” solution can be:
We recently received a referral from a longtime personal friend (not business related so there wasn’t context for the potential client to truly understand us this will be important in a moment). I went out to meet with the business owner. It was a great preliminary meeting, she shared her technical goals, short term goals, etc. and explained where she was at. Since it was a personal referral and we hadn’t yet gone through qualifying, I did explain how our pricing worked, and generally what a project like this would ball park.
It went okay – it was a little bit outside the budget, but not so much that it was a complete NO. Check.
Next we moved on to time. She had the time to dedicate to the project (as did Atilus) and the problem her new website would solve was VERY important to moving and scaling as she needed with the business. Check.
Sales Process – went very well. No hiccups or problems. Check.
Presenting the right solution – this went well. After a technical evaluation of another 3rd party site that had been developed (where the developer disappeared) I put together a summation of all of the pieces in a coherent final cost and solution. Check.
She responded immediately to this by saying she wasn’t sure this was in our wheelhouse having not worked on other sites like hers.
Boom – here I think we presented the right solution, which we both worked on getting to together, but I had skipped the technical step – why is Atilus good at what we do? What do we do? Is that similar to what you need us to do? So with an in person meeting in our office, a quick meeting with the team and a laundry list of our accomplishments and how they relate(d) to her project – the deal was closed.
Tips: Presenting a logical solution, that’s within the budget (or has options) does a lot to demonstrate commitment, listening and other things – but even the most care provided at this step can be useless if you haven’t hit the other silos listed.
So that’s it… follow the above 5 areas – make sure they’re properly “full” in your clients’ eyes, and you should be able to help them with their next project.