About a year ago, I offered a friend of mine some consulting in exchange for customer research. Essentially I wanted to work with him one-on-one to help him grow his business to see if my strategies and techniques were transferable. In return, he let me use his story in my content and he also wrote about the experience.
My friend, Devon, was producing projects for around $5,000, but he wanted more.
His basic offer was for websites made by a web designer.
Which is what I think a lot of us offer. Someone calls me for a website, and my gut reaction is to say, “sure, I make websites! Here’s how much it will cost…”
And this was exactly what Devon was doing. He was selling websites—which makes complete sense.
Stop Selling Websites
The first thing that I taught Devon was how to sell a vision. A website by itself is a commodity. I can get a website from company A or B and they are probably going to be relatively similar if they are about the same quality company for the same price. This is where price pressure comes from: the commoditization of websites.
In order to leave the world of commodities, you have to sell something bigger than a website.
When Apple sold the original iPod, they weren’t selling an MP3 player (those were already on the market), they were selling 5,000 songs in your pocket. The simple shift in value statements changed the game. The net result was that Apple’s product not only cost a lot more, but it became one of the first devices to be sold worldwide with universal love.
Apple proves that with the right vision and value statement, you can sell the same thing for a higher cost at a higher demand.
This is why I started selling Online Businesses. The Online Business Ecosystem is a diverse set of online strategies and tactics that help drive business. The website is the central headquarters in this matrix so, in essence, its the most important asset to invest in.
I teach my customers about how a website’s objective is to do something with the traffic it receives—this is called “conversion.” I also teach them how to amplify their investment by driving more visitors or “traffic.”
All non-website properties help to make up the existence of the ecosystem—supporting it and nurturing the growth of a business. For instance, it doesn’t matter what your website says if the review site your customer is searching has the wrong web address…or worse yet, it’s cluttered with negative reviews.
So Devon stopped selling websites. He learned to sell online businesses and have the Online Business Conversation with his prospects early and often.
Invest Time Over Time
When I met Devon, he was struggling to break into that $10k magic-zone. He was selling like most of us learn to: A prospective customer would call or email him. He would set up a call, learn about what they wanted, and he would provide an estimate for exactly that.
Then the potential client would either:
b) Drop off the radar
This happens because there is no relationship in this model. But we don’t build relationships by talking about our kids. We build relationships by increasing the number of interactions we have before we ask someone for money.
Instead of investing two hours up front to satisfy a curious notion by a non-buyer, I trained Devon to spend only a limited amount of time with a prospective customer up front. Quickly move to a scheduled qualification meeting three days out. Then move into a multi-meeting discovery phase. Then propose a solution. Finally, after all of that you, get to the proposal.
This sales process took the Online Business Ecosystem paradigm and allowed it to sink into the prospective customer. They now knew they didn’t need a website, which is one goal of spreading out your interactions. Give a prospect more time to get to know that you show up on time, have an agenda, and are ever more curious to learn about their business with each meeting. By not selling right away, you build trust.
Which comes in handy when it’s time to say, “You need something much bigger than a couple thousand dollar website.”
Become Ferdinand Magellan
The final key teaching I delivered to Devon was that of Discovery (with a capital “D”). I taught him that his customer’s business, although it might be in a familiar industry that he knows, is uncharted territory. No one really knows everything about a business (including the owner).
When I first met Devon, he did very little discovery. It was all reactive, “what would you like me to do?” This concept of spending at least two complete meetings dedicated to walking through a client’s needs changed the game.
By going into a customer relationship with the simple goal of helping the prospective client learn about what is going on in their Online Business, you can deliver value in a way that your prospect probably hasn’t seen before.
To say on the first interaction: “I don’t know if I can help you. I need to spend time with you and do some research and figure out if I can have the impact we both want,” is an amazing wake up to someone being thrown low dollar bids, left and right, by other web firms.
Discovery inherently moves the conversation far away from the technological details. It removes our desire to explain what responsive design is, or how cool the CMS widget is that I have fallen in love with. Although those topics might come out naturally, we lose the need to present them. They become part of the greater conversation of how a certain problem will be solved.
The Proof is in the Pudding
One of the first things that Devon and I did was to create a one-page focus plan. I remember that one of his goals on the plan was to score a $10,000 project early in 2013. It was only a month after setting the goal when he locked in his first $10k. Then he wanted to do three. Then it turned into, “I just got a $20k project.”
Devon texted me the other day letting me know how things were going. It was one of those messages where my face lit up in a big, fat smile. I showed my wife and said, “Check this out, Devon has been just crushing it this year!”
How cool. Not just because he’s stepped up and made his goals happen, but because Devon has created his own enterprise for himself and his family that matters a lot more than the money. He can work from home, take care of his new twins when he needs to, and start building wealth for himself and his family.
I love to build things. But I also know why I do this. I want to provide for my family while making the world a better place.
I’m glad that the work I do has a positive impact on the people around me. I know his story certainly makes an impact on me.