Two simple ways to sell design services with ease

For years, I would go into sales meetings with nervous apprehension, not knowing what to say in order to convince clients that they should choose my company to design their new website or other marketing materials.

My plan was to introduce myself, hand the client a business card and folder with some literature about our company, try to seem like a nice guy, and wait for questions, in the hopes that the client would respond favorably.  I wanted to be seen as an expert, but didn’t know how to make that happen.

Fortunately, many clients did hire my company, and as my schedule filled up with numerous concurrent projects, I had less time to waste in meetings and on phone calls that might not lead to new work.  Being busy led to some unplanned changes in how I approached sales opportunities and managed my company.

First, to save time, I developed processes for just about everything:  I started building a code library that would enable us to more rapidly deploy functionality on custom websites.  I began using a calendar to schedule regular blocks of time for my various responsibilities, which included packing all of my meetings into one or two days a week.  And I took the time to think about our company’s process for designing and building websites, as well as what makes our company stand out from others, and I figured out how to articulate that information to prospective clients.

This, along with the experience and insight I gained from collaborating with and hiring other designers and developers, helped me to (a) become a better designer and developer, and (b) realize that I was, in fact, very good at what I do.  As a young entrepreneur, I suffered a bit from impostor syndrome — the fear of being exposed as a fraud.  After I got over this, it enabled me to focus less on convincing others of my abilities, and more on helping people solve their problems, which is why prospective clients come to us in the first place.

So, I stopped bringing fancy folders to sales meetings and I started asking questions, instead of waiting for clients to ask them.  I found out what I needed to know, walked clients through our design process, and made it very clear why they should hire us, without being so concerned about whether they actually did.  And suddenly, I felt much more comfortable in meetings, and it became a lot easier to close the sale.

Looking back, I realize that these two simple changes made a substantial impact on my company’s success, and more specifically, on my ability to sell design services to clients:

  • Having a process, and selling that instead.  Anyone can claim to be a designer, and even if you’re talented, it doesn’t mean you hit the mark every time.  Most prospective clients, on some level, are concerned about whether the designer they hire will be able to turn their ideas into a great design that achieves the client’s objectives.  Having a process tells the client that you have a formula that assures a successful outcome, even if things get rocky along the way.
  • Interviewing clients, not vice versa.  Most clients will have questions, and it’s important to listen to and answer them.  However, the purpose of a sales meeting is to help both parties determine if they would be a good fit for each other, and many clients don’t know how to go about doing that.  In many cases, you can answer a client’s questions and concerns before they’re asked, by bringing up discussion topics and ideas that you prepared in advance for that client.  This also helps to demonstrate the thinking and effort that goes into your design work, and makes it clear that you’re interested in what matters to the client.

Of course, doing these two things is not a recipe for instant sales success.  But by demonstrating expertise and a concern for clients, it gets a lot easier to sell design services and maintain a positive and productive relationship well after the sale.