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How to Explain Paid Sales Discovery to Your Web Design Prospects

This year we started charging for discovery work. Not only has it improved our bottom line, it’s allowed us to increase the value of our projects, and work side by side with better clients for longer periods of time.

If you’re not familiar with the term “discovery,” it’s really just the process of you using your expertise to uncover your client’s business pains, and developing a course of action to solve them.

Think of it as a project of its own–one that’s centered on asking the right questions, and translating the answers into an actionable plan.

Discovery = Consulting

Chances are, you’re already doing it, you’re just not charging for it. Don’t view yourself as a consultant? Maybe you should start charging for sales time.

Here are 3 reasons why you should start building discovery into your projects right now:

REASON #1 – Discovery is a product your client is already used to paying for

I’m willing to bet that most of your prospects are actually quite familiar with the concept of discovery, they just don’t recognize it. Ask yourself, “has my client ever done any of the following?”

  1. Sought advice from a doctor.
  2. Hired a lawyer to read a contract and recommend a course of action.
  3. Hired an architect to draw up plans for a building, then had the building built as a separate project.
  4. Had an accountant come into their business and audit their books.

If they’ve done any of the above, then discovery won’t be a foreign concept to them, or even one they’re uncomfortable with. For a variety of reasons, many business owners don’t view creatives, copywriters, designers, or developers in the same way as the professions listed above. But the fact is we are professionals, with professional experience, charging professional rates–we just need to do a better job reminding them of that.

REASON #2 – Discovery removes the risk for both parties

A thorough discovery process removes the risk for you and your client. You both get the benefit of seeing how the relationship works in a 5-10 hour project, rather than blindly entering into a 100 hour investment and hoping it works.

You get paid for your time and experience, and can spot red flags that might keep you from committing to a longer project. You can also decide if the execution of the plan is something you’re even interested in (that’s right–you can and should turn down business that doesn’t fit).

Best of all, the client gets a real product in the end–an actionable one. If you’ve done your job, they should exit the discovery process with a plan in hand (sometimes with your pricing attached), that they can have you, or anyone else execute. There’s no obligation for them to have you do it, but chances are they will. At this stage you’ve most likely met with them 10 or more times and built some trust. What are the chances they are going to shop around?

REASON #3 – Selling discovery doesn’t have to be awkward–FAQs you can use

The FAQ’s below will help you better assert your role as a professional adviser, and make selling the discovery process easier. Feel free to adjust these to fit your business, but the core concepts should work for most professions.


This is a series of consulting sessions, where we map out the specific scope of your project. You benefit from our 10+ years of experience building successful online businesses, as well as our dedication to staying on top of the best practices of our industry.

The entire purpose of discovery is to make sure the project plan will serve the goals of your organization, be it increasing revenue, donations, email signups, or creating efficiencies that save you time. We want your entire investment in the final project to be well utilized and for you to see a return.


When we’re done, we will have created a visual mind map of all the goals of the project, and a plan for achieving them (our proposal with pricing). You might think of this like you’re hiring an architect to draw up the plans for a building. Once you have those plans and estimates, you can make a better decision on how and when to execute the project.

At the end of these sessions, you own the plans. We can then execute the plan for you, you can hire someone else to do it, or you can decide it’s not a worthwhile investment to move forward. Our goal is to bring clarity to this decision, but there’s no obligation on your part either way.


You’re hiring us on an hourly basis to do this discovery work, and our hourly rate is $XXX/hr. This process usually takes anywhere from 5 to 10 hours, depending on the scale of the project. We start by billing you for 5 hours, and add additional time if necessary. Of course, if for some reason you don’t use the 5 hours, we will refund any of the time you haven’t spent.

Here’s the best part–if, in the end, you choose to have us execute the project for you, this discovery fee will be applied to the balance of the project.


1) There is no way we can give you an accurate quote (on time or price) without knowing the full scope of the project. This way we can avoid surprises for either party.

2) This process puts a value on our years of experience in building successful online businesses, and how that can positively impact the planning stages of your project.

3) In our experience, most clients have an idea of what they want but don’t actually know what they need to achieve the goals of their organization. You wouldn’t walk into a doctor’s office and tell him what you need without letting him run some tests, assess your situation, and make a professional recommendation. We’re professionals as well, so think of this as a similar relationship–only less invasive!


If you’d like to start, we can send you our next available start date, bill you for 5 hours, and then set up the first meeting!

Four Final Thoughts

1) Some prospects will walk when you present them with this. That’s the point. You want to work with people who see your value and are willing to invest.

2) You might have noted that I offered to apply the discovery time to the balance of the final project if they choose to have us execute their plan. This is optional, but it’s a helpful sales technique (not unlike waiving a startup fee) to get a prospect to move forward. If you’re really building a high-value project via this process, that 5-10 hours should be a small amount compared to the larger project.

3) Wondering what gets done in that 5-10 hours? For that, you’ll need to dive deeper into the elements of the discovery. Use the More Deals Higher Prices course as a starting point to develop your own discovery process. Quick tip: Mindmeister is a great tool to get everything out on the table and to present the client with a visual representation of their goals.

4) A thorough discovery makes the execution of the project easier. You’re intimately familiar with the business and its goals, expectations are clear on both sides, and it leads to a smoother project overall. Yeah to fewer landmines!

Please let me know how this works for you in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

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