Miles Burke

Thoughts on startups, small business, marketing & more.

Tag: sales

Grow your own Sales

Many people I’ve spoken to recently have repeated the same words: new enquiries are down, because people are wary of starting new projects in the current climate. This is an excellent opportunity for you to increase your focus on sales, and there’s no better customer to sell to than an existing one.

Ask any successful salesperson and she’ll tell you — it’s cheaper and often easier to sell to an existing consumer, than to sell to a new one.

Think about it. With a new prospect, you need to build a relationship, gain their trust, explain the merits of your product or service, prove to them you have the skills and reputation, and that they stand to benefit from what you can offer. Then, you still need to procure that sale — a lengthy process indeed.

With an existing client, you’ve already achieved the above (I hope!). You can skip most of that, and jump straight to offering solutions to their requirements.

“But we only built their web site a year ago,” I hear you say. Start by looking at your current offerings, and see if there’s a service or product that you’ve developed since you last spoke to them that they may be interested in.

Then, consider what else they may need.

Perhaps they’ve created dozens of pages of bad content in the content management system (CMS) you installed for them. You could approach them and suggest you edit their copy. Maybe they’ve lost their way with search engine optimization, and you need to help tune their web site back to perfection.

Does the client have an email newsletter? You can design and develop a system for them to be able to send regular newsletters out. Maybe they started small on the Web, but now could be a time to speak to them about adding ecommerce or installing a CMS, so they can take care of maintenance themselves.

These may often seem small compared to your standard projects, however a handful of these jobs can easily fill gaps in your schedule, and help you touch base with a rejuvenated customer.

Let me know how you go. I’d be interested to see what products or services you create as additional extras.

This post first appeared as part of Issue 438 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

Secrets to a Great Sales Proposal

Egomaniacs who are their own favorite topic. We all know someone like that, right? But are we in danger of coming across that way in our sales proposals?

Pardon, I hear you cry! How could we sound like this? Well, for a start, do you spend the first few pages covering all the awards you have won, and the bright history of your team? How far into the document before you learn what the prospect wants? Are the prospect’s objectives even covered in your proposal?

I’ve read many sales proposals from web companies over the last decade or so, and it still amazes me when I come across this type of example: a mind-numbing twenty pages in length, with pages 1 to 16 about the web company, and page 17 the first sign of discovering what the prospect wanted.

How did I get my hands on this proposal? Well, our company won a job, and the client gave me this blundering document to show what not to do in business. We shared a laugh reading through the novel-length sales pitch together—where they also took the liberty of misspelling the client’s name on the covering page!

The secret of successful proposals is to focus on what the prospect wants to hear. They want solutions to their problems, benefits for their projects, and most of all, they want to be convinced that you understand what they need. Sixteen pages talking about yourself (especially at the beginning) is subconsciously stating that you believe you are far more important than their project!

You should mention who you are and what you do, but after their project details, and one or two pages should suffice. Or perhaps make it a separate document entirely.

Make sure you’ve included the basics: timeline, budget, and deliverables. Reiterate your understanding of the prospect’s requirements, and make sure your proposal clarifies how your solution will help them.

Spell-check, then spell-check again—misspelling a prospect’s name is just plain lazy. Use short sentences, avoid long paragraphs, and keep the entire proposal succinct; a technical specifications document can run to dozens of pages, but a sales proposal shouldn’t. Speaking of technical, don’t get all abbreviated on the client. The average prospect doesn’t know what half the abbreviations we use mean, and we shouldn’t expect them to, either.

Sell benefits, not products. You may have a great content management system, email gateway, or other product, but talk about the benefits of these, not the product features.

Include testimonials or links to similar projects if you can. This shows you have a proven track record, and understand their requirements.

If you lack any design skills, ask a colleague to give the document some sparkle, and then use this as a template. A polished document is clearly marked with headings, sub-headings, and block quotes (if required).

Conclude the proposal with a call to action. Don’t just end it with a price for the job. State what the terms are, and make it easy for the prospect to action the starting process. For example: “Send this page back, signed and dated, and we can commence immediately” is far better than a dollar figure on the last line.

This post first appeared as part of Issue 417 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

Break Your Own Promises

A few weeks ago–September 5 to be exact–I ordered myself a shiny new car.

The experience went along these lines. First, I did lots of research and decided on my ideal vehicle make and model. Then, I went to the only dealership in my city that sells this type of car.

I met one of the salespeople, we took it for a drive, I looked at all the options and discussed all the features, and pretty much made up my mind. This process took a few visits, and then we got down to negotiating the two big questions: cost and delivery date.

Those of you who’ve worked in the Web for some time will have become accustomed to expecting everything instantly, as I have; however, when we reached this stage, the salesman had some bad news.

He first started by saying that it could take anywhere from two to six months to take delivery of the car, depending on the model and options that I decided on. After a few phone calls, he was pleased to announce that he’d found the exact model and options I wanted on the other side of the country, and that he could offer me a six-to-eight week window for delivery.

I was crestfallen–I wanted the car right then, or next week at the latest. Then I realized this really did boil down to just my own impatience. I decided to go ahead with the purchase anyway, given that I was already in love with the features and the idea of driving the car, and placed my order.

I’ve been thinking about this experience over the last few weeks, in terms of what a close analogy this situation offers to most web site projects. I’m talking about the common scenario where the client (in this case, myself) becomes sold on the concept of you doing the work, loves the options you’ve offered them, and they want the finished product right now–but of course, it’s impossible to have that site or feature built until after their ideal deadline.

I felt for the poor sales guy at the dealership, who could see my disappointment, and resigned myself to the fact I wouldn’t be getting behind the wheel of this vehicle until mid-to-late October.

So you can imagine my delight when I got a call last Friday to say I could pick the car up the following Tuesday, only three-and-a-half weeks after I placed the order!

Not only has it made me super-pleased with the product, but very appreciative towards the sales guy and the dealership. The cynic in me wonders if perhaps they always intended to have the car sooner, but they always add some leeway to their timelines, just in case.

The result of this situation is that they have broken their own promised deadline by weeks, and their business now has a very big fan. With that in mind, look at your own projects–how hard would it be for you to add a few weeks or a month to the deadlines you promise, and then work hard as you can to meet the original date anyway?

We’ve all heard that cliché about under-promising and over-delivering, but when you’re the client, it certainly feels like a great result! Try this theory with your next project, and let me know how it goes–I’m very confident that your next client will become your biggest fan if you manage to deliver quicker than planned.

This post first appeared as part of Issue 416 of the SitePoint Tribune, a very popular email newsletter that I am co-editor of. Thanks to SitePoint for allowing me to reproduce the work here.

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