Along with the flurry of new technology on the Internet comes the need for new sales methods. The sales consultant has the difficult task of filling a traditional sales role, like selling widgets, with an amorphous product. In this case, it’s an undefined web presence.
The ‘ambiguity gap,’ as I like to call it, makes it difficult to sell the benefits of a product that doesn’t yet exist. So selling a web consulting project requires a different approach. It forces the product-driven sales person to reevaluate the importance of relationships. As the web matures, it will become increasingly difficult to walk into a sales call ignorant about the details of the prospect’s business, listen a bit, and try five or six hard-core closes to seal the deal.
With this new paradigm emerging what’s a salesperson to do?
Well, try a new approach to successfully sell a web site consulting project. This approach mirrors the steps required in larger sales. But this method is often ignored because the cost of a web site can often be under $20k.
Following are some of the key considerations in selling your web consulting services.
Do the groundwork. Don’t plan on fielding a call from a prospective client and then strolling into the office and handily getting the sale.
Research not only what technologies the company has implemented, but also what their competition is up to. Bring ideas to your prospective client at the first meeting. Don’t be afraid to share ideas. True you haven’t signed a contract yet. But such a negative attitude may cost you the sale.
It’s critical to enter the meeting with the goal of forming an open, honest, and mutually beneficial relationship, so that the client will follow your lead. Also, don’t just tote the ideas in your head, have your graphic design team or programming team spend a few hours to develop a custom presentation or set of storyboards for the prospect. This demonstrates that you are truly committed to working with the prospect.
Nope this is not revolutionary stuff I’m suggesting. But it does help to make your product tangible and allows you to bridge the ambiguity gap.
Listen First, Sell Second. Instead of walking into the prospect’s office consumed with closing the sale just listen. Understand that although this may not be a high-ticket item, it may take numerous meetings to close the deal.
The Internet is very complex to the novice user. By rushing to the close, you only enhance a prospect’s confusion. By listening both to what is said, and not said, you gain a better understanding of needs.
Although your firm’s goal is to make the sexiest sites on the web, your client’s goals could be completely different. For example, they might be more interested in reducing their cost per lead, for example.
Nix the Buzzwords. Don’t impress your prospect with fancy lingo. DHTML, ASP, and Java are a foreign language to most people. If they are meeting with you, chances are they are reasonably confident in your general programming and design abilities.
Go Back and Brainstorm. Again, you’re not selling a tangible product, like software. After your meeting, take your insights and share them with your team. Then all of you can brainstorm ideas that have real value for your prospect.
Don’t propose a bunch of bells and whistles that just increase bandwidth noise. Rather, create a business solution, something with which the client can realize sufficient ROI in two years. Again, this helps build trust, which will make future recommendations more easily adopted.
Follow Up. This idea is the pinnacle of a lot of sales training, but this is bigger than creating a follow-up trace in your contact manager. Instead, call your clients and listen (funny how that keeps coming up). See how they are doing. Do more research and suggest other things they could be doing to improve their site, maybe banner ads or targeted search engine key words.
Selling web development projects requires a combination of standard sales technique and the recognition that this is a new medium. Educating your prospect and building trust may be your best tools in sealing the deal.