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Design Selling 101

Newcomers to the freelance life often believe that the success of a graphic or web design business lives or dies with their design skills. This is partially true. After all, if you are not a good designer, you’re going to have a hard time being successful on your own.

But the truth of the matter is, your skills as a designer are second to how good a salesperson you are. Because if you cannot sell, you might as well give up your freelance dreams. Get hired somewhere and earn an hourly salary to design all day, while someone else handled the selling part.

There’s nothing wrong with that scenario. Many designers spend their entire career working for someone else, and they’re delighted doing so. Running a home-based design business is not for everyone. However, if you do give it a go, you better feel comfortable selling because your business will depend on your skills as a salesperson.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Good marketing can sell a bad product, but bad marketing cannot sell a good product?” The same applies to home-based or freelance design businesses.

Someone good at selling, but a mediocre designer can still make a living as a freelancer. However, a fantastic designer that has no sales skills will have a difficult time staying afloat.

Become a good seller.

So how do you become a good seller? Like with everything else, it comes with practice and experience. Although being a people person does help. Let’s break it down.

First, you need to get the notion out of your head that selling is about making a sale. It’s not. The sooner you realize this, the better you’ll be at sales. Selling is not about the exchange of money for services, it’s about giving a client relief and lowering their anxiety when it comes to spending their money.

Clients come to you because they need something. It’s that “problem” that your job as a designer is to provide a “solution.”

However, even though the client realizes they need something from you, they feel a reluctance to part with their hard-earned money to get it. If you can put them at ease with that notion and make them realize what their money is buying, they’ll be more willing to spend what is necessary.

Putting the client at ease.

How do you put a client at ease? The core principle of successful selling is making the client feel cared for and appreciated. When someone feels cared for and appreciated, they let their guard down and open up, and become much more receptive to ideas.

If you offer a client a solution to their problem, and you make them feel cared for and appreciated in the process, it becomes much easier to lead them through the sales process.

The sales process.

Let’s break the sales process into basic components.

Imagine the sales process as a video game. In a video game, you can’t just turn on the game, jump to the final level and expect to win. Video games are designed, so every level along the way equips and better prepares you for that final level and victory. The same principle applies to the selling process. You can’t win over a client by jumping to the final level of the sales process (which is price by the way).

Before you discuss price, you need to lead the client through the various levels of the sales process. Think of these levels as objection points. Obstacles to overcome before moving on to the next level of the “video game sales process”.

Level one is: Trust.

If you cannot get a client to trust you, there’s no point moving forward because you’ll never make the sale.

Think about it. What was the last thing you purchased from someone you didn’t trust? I can’t think of anything. However, I can think of several things I did not buy because I didn’t fully trust the person doing the selling. It’s the stereotypical used car salesman. No matter how much they smile and say the right things, you always wonder what they are not telling you.

So the first level of the sales process is getting the client to trust you. How do you do that?

There are many, many ways to get someone to trust you. Here are the two most important ones, especially when pressed for time, such as on a phone call.

1. Listen more, talk less.

Trust is about focusing on what is important to the client and less on what’s important to you. If you can prove to the client that you care about their concerns and genuinely want to help them, they’ll trust you more.

2. Address their pain points

When a client comes to you with a design project, they imagine it will fix the overarching problem they’re facing. However, there may be many pain points to that overarching problem you need to address.

A client may say they need a website to promote and sell their services. But there’s sure to be some underlying issues they may not be talking about. Things like.

  • a lack of brand awareness for their services
  • increased competition
  • negative publicity
  • low conversion rates
  • dwindling sales

As you’re listening to the client, try to pinpoint their various pain points and be sure to acknowledge and comment on them. Clients will appreciate the added attention and quickly realize you care about them, and not just the sale.

Level two is: See if you’re a good fit.

Once you’ve established trust, it’s time to move to the second level and see if partnering with this client is a good fit.

Just because you’ve helped other clients with similar problems doesn’t mean you are the right person for this particular client, or that this client is the right fit for you. Establishing your compatibility continues the trust-building process.

Tell the client that before you proceed any further, you need to determine if you are the right people to work together to solve their problem. Ask them questions in a mini discovery process sort of way, learn more about them and their business. Find out what results they are expecting from you and from the services you are to provide. How will they deem the project successful?

A great question to ask is, what might prevent them from seeing the results they expect if you provide them exactly what they’re asking for? This sort of question forces them to look internally. What happens if you design the perfect logo, website, poster, etc. and yet they still don’t see the expected results?

Asking this question shows them you care, and are more interested in their success than you are about making the sale. Questions like these help both of you determine if you’re a good fit to work together. If you can show you’re a good fit, they will be more open to whatever you propose going forward.

Level three: Objections.

Level three and beyond is where things get a bit more challenging to explain. Once trust is established by showing the client you care for and appreciate them, and you’ve proven that you are a good fit to work together, It’s time to dive into the project itself.

Up until this point, your conversation was mostly about the client and their business and a tiny bit about the services you can offer them.

If you followed the sales process correctly, you should find it much easier to discuss the design project because you’ve established a level of trust and a connection with the client through levels one and two.

Your job is to now lead the client through whatever “objections” they may have regarding their project and your services and putting them at ease for each one.

Because every client and every design project is different, I can’t guide you through level three. Sticking to the video game analogy, there are no “cheat codes” for this part.

But by openly listening to your client, determining their pain points, and their concerns, you should be able to address any objections they may have as you discuss how you can help them achieve their desired goals.

The Final Level: Price.

That brings us to the final level, price. This is where the video game analogy falls apart because, unlike a video game, this last level is the easiest.

By this point, the client should be fully engaged and ready to work with you.

  • They’ve developed trust in you.
  • They know you understand their situation.
  • They believe you have the solution to their problem.
  • They know you care for them and have their best interest at heart.
  • They view you as an asset and a wise investment.

Price is now just a formality.

Provide the client with a reasonable quote for their project and chances are they won’t hesitate to accept because you’ve shown them the value of your partnership.

That’s the power of the sales process.

Conclusion

What have we learned?

People have been conditioned not to trust salespeople. So the trick to good selling, it to not sound like you’re selling. If you can establish yourself as an asset to the client, an investment and not just an expense, you’ll have a much higher chance of closing the sale.

I read this quote on an article written by Scott Hoover, he credits it to someone named Steve: “Sales is leading people to a solution favourable to you, via a solution that is favourable to them.” And that translates to a successful sale is a win for both parties involved.

You complete the sale by building trust and showing the client you appreciate and care for them and their success. And they return the favour by accepting the price you present them.

As a bonus, when done correctly, these selling tips can help transition you to a value-based pricing strategy because the client will see the value in hiring you and will be willing to pay for the investment.

What does your sales process look like?

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Tip of the week Matching addresses

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If the address is 123 North Main Street on Google my Business, don't write it 123 N. Main St. on the website. The two need to be identical in order to take advantage of Google's ranking algorithm and place higher in the search results.

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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com

 

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