When I started my business, one of the hardest things to overcome was getting another person to hand over their hard-earned money in exchange for my time. Although I knew how to build a basic website, design with Photoshop, or come up with creative marketing ideas, I had no idea how to convince others I was worth the investment. I began by coming up with ideas to promote myself and my business, most of the ideas failed, but some worked surprisingly well. In this blog post, I would like to share a few of my failures and successes.
Door to Door
My first attempt to sell websites was going door to door. I created a simple flyer with a couple sample packages, picked a local area with businesses, and off I went. I walked into the business and asked "Do you need a website?" and almost every answer was either no or that they already had a website. I went to about ten places and got discouraged when not even a single person seemed remotely interested. This was my first attempt and my first failure.
Looking back at my "door to door" strategy, I can see a few reasons why it did not work. For starters, I asked, not commanded. Every business needs a website; it's not a question. Going into a store and asking a question prompts either a yes or no response. When I asked the question "Do you need a website?" the owner interpreted "Do you need a website from this random kid?" and the answer is going to be no 99% of the time. A better opener would've been "I checked out your website, and it could be improved." or "I noticed your business does not have a website." Both of these are not questions, and they will at the very least start a conversation where you could later offer your services. Another issue with this technique was that I instigated the conversation about the website services rather than the other way around. When someone asks you for a service, you have a much higher chance of converting them into a customer. I now start a conversation with a target and work in that I make websites, if they need a website they will ask for one, if they don't need a website, they weren't going to be a client anyway. I learned this many years into my career, and I'll explain more about it later in this post.
The next lesson in sales I had been completely on accident, and it resulted in my first few websites. I just had to let people know that I was creating websites. When I started my business, I was ending my senior year of high school and for graduation, I received many gifts, mostly money, from family and friends. When I wrote thank you letters for all the money gifts I wrote something like this:
Thank you for the money, I am using it to help get my new web design business off the ground.
After sending these out, my uncle contacted me asking if I was interested in doing some maintenance on his site. Boom! I landed a client!
The next client was my hair stylist. One day, when getting my hair cut, I told her how I was starting a web design business and then she asked if I would do hers.
Unknowingly, I was becoming a salesman. I was putting my name out there with simple conversations or letters in a way that didn't pressure customers. The customers asked me for the services rather than me asking if I could work for them. Because the lead had asked for the service it made converting them into a paying customer a hundred times easier.
As a college freshman, I joined a fraternity called Alpha Epsilon Pi a.ka. AEPi. AEPi was the Jewish fraternity on campus and it just so happened to have many business-minded students that came from families that owned businesses. This helped me build a network of people that just so happened to be my target market. While everyone was partying and just relaxing, I saw these parties as an opportunity to get some new business. When people asked me about myself I would be sure to tell them about my business and some of my recent projects. I quickly became known as the kid that does websites and pretty soon I had done websites for about a third of the AEPi chapter. To date, I estimate that about half of my clients root in some way to these college parties.
College parties ended up being the best place for me to network and let more people know that I did websites. I was able to meet many people every night and although many of them were intoxicated, many would remember me and follow up with me about getting a website. It also helped that I was the only web guy in the fraternity so when someone needed a website I was often the only choice of people they knew.
Getting People to Ask Me For A Website
This took a lot of practice but after years of selling websites, I learned how I could get a completely random person to ask me to help them with a website. I have been in line at Chipotle, and the person next to me will ask me for a business card, or I have been at a family party and come home with multiple leads. To make this most efficient I thought of steps in my sales process and after doing it hundreds of times it just became part of my everyday conversation.
Step 1 - Introduction
Just saying "Hi, my name is Brandon" and a quick "How are you?" is the easiest and simplest part. Getting to know the person's name and memorizing it is super important. You would be surprised about how far remembering a person's name goes, especially when so many others have forgotten.
Step 2 - What do you do?
This is pretty "L.A." of me but I often create conversations with "What do you do for a living?" This will tell me, right off the bat, if they are my target demographic for a client and gives me an opportunity to tell them that I am a web developer. What a person does for a living could give you a good idea about what type of personality they have.
Step 3 - Relatable
It's important that the person you are speaking to feels like you understand them. Based off of the person's career I often share an experience that is similar to theirs to show them that I come from a similar place. What's great about this is that you could twist almost anything to an experience you have had whether it be the exact same experience or an experience that your best friend told you about. The important part isn't that you have 100% in common with your target but to be on a similar level with them.
Step 4 - Show Experience
One of the easiest ways to show both experience and that I relate to the target is to say something like "Oh, I recently did a website for a client in the same industry." For some reason, people love working with website developers that have worked in the same industry. To be honest, I have no idea why. A website for a construction company is almost the same as a hair studio and requires the same skill level, but customers feel more comfortable if you are "specialized" or at least "experienced" in their space. I like to take advantage of this and talk about a past client that was in a similar field, even if sometimes its a bit of a stretch.
Step 5 - Contact Information
By this time in the conversation, if the client needed a website they will ask you for one. If they don't want or need one, you weren't going to get them as a client anyway. If they show interest in a website, you should exchange contact information. A business card is, of course, a huge plus if you have one.
The first impression is the most important. Over my years in business, I have spent time and money to improve everything about my first impressions to gain an edge in sales. Here are a few things I have invested in to improve the first impression:
1 - Dress for the Job
Dressing for the job means to dress how the best of your industry would dress. Often, the only difference between $20/hour and $100/hour is if the person is wearing jeans or slacks.
2 - Business Cards
The first priority of business cards is to have your contact information. Remember that at the end of the day, a business card is a calling card. That is all. Do not over complicate it with something overly creative. My second priority is high-quality printing. Sure you could save a little by getting cheap business cards from an online company but spending a few bucks more on something that lasts and is the first opportunity to show a potential client the quality of your work is huge and well worth the extra $50 to $100. A well designed and printed card will show a client that you are serious about your business and it is more than just a side job or a hobby.
3 - Personal Hygiene
It's absolutely important to be clean. Make sure you smell nice, have decent hair, and your nails are trimmed. Some businessmen even get manicures. Having clean hands is arguably most important since much of the sales process involves people looking at your hands as you make gestures in conversation.
In conclusion, the sales process has always been a work of love for me. I have spent many hours thinking of new ideas and strategies to sell for both my business and my clients' businesses and I foresee many more hours of thought still to come. The sales game could be frustrating, unrewarding, and demoralizing but those days where your strategies actually work are the most satisfying and fulfilling moments that give me a rush like no other.
If you are interested in speaking to me about this privately feel free to schedule a call via Clarity.