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The Questions that Get the Sale

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, selling websites isn’t that different from selling print. If you know the right questions to ask and you listen to the answers to gain a full understanding of the client’s needs, web solutions can become a very profitable line item for you...


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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, selling websites isn’t that different from selling print. If you know the right questions to ask and you listen to the answers to gain a full understanding of the client’s needs, web solutions can become a very profitable line item for you.  After you have decided to take the plunge and start offering these services, here are some questions that will open the door to more website sales for you.

#1: Start with the goal.

When talking to a potential website client,  start by asking them what the goal of their new website is. This will give you an idea of what the focus of the website will be and what elements you may need to add to a site to make it work. If a client’s goal is to reduce support calls, then you can start thinking about adding a searchable knowledge base and adding downloadable manuals or videos to their website.  If their goal is to increase sales, then you know to focus on ecommerce or calls to action that would help build an email list. Having a goal means you can measure the successfulness of the project upon completion.  This simple question also gets the client talking about how they will use the website, what value they place on the web and possible some concerns they have in their business.

Questions that help establish the goal: You don’t need to ask all of these, but keep them in your back pocket as questions that will help you gather information.

  • What is the goal of your website? (the obvious question)
  • What is it that you’d like to see accomplished?
  • Talk to me about the expectations for your new website.
  • What’s the most important priority to you with this? Why?

#2 Find the pain.

Every small business has some element of pain in their day to day operations. Whether it is increased competition, sloppy procedures, or just the need to distribute information in a more efficient manner, finding the pain and eliminating or reducing it will elevate your estimate from just a website proposal to a business solution they don’t want to live without. I met with the owner of 15 chain restaurants between Seattle and Portland. Every night, his restaurant managers would call their sales numbers to an answering machine. The next morning, an admin assistant would retrieve the numbers from the answering machine and write them on a piece of paper. She would give this paper to the CFO, who would then input them into excel and run the sales reports for the week or month. The possibility of error in reporting was so high that they almost never had 100% accurate sales figures. This was an obvious source of pain for the owner as he wasn’t confident in their numbers. The simple solution was to allow the managers to login to a web interface and log the sales numbers themselves. Each day a report was automatically generated based on the manager’s input and emailed to both the owner and the CFO before they even had their morning coffee. Uncovering the inefficient processes and proposing a solution that solved the problem was the difference that turned the tide from a likely no sale to a very profitable project.

Questions that help find the pain: Again ask these at natural points in the conversation. Many of these would be follow ups to the questions above.

  • How does that process work now?
  • What challenges does that process create?
  • How does that affect your productivity/sales/profits?
  • What other issues are important to you?
  • What would you like to see improved?

#3 Establish rapport, trust and credibility.

We all know that people do business with people that they like and trust. Establishing rapport with a client is an important step in getting them to do business with you. Many of your web clients will be people that you have worked with in the past on print projects. So the rapport may already be there. If you are working with a new client on a web project, the best thing you can do to establish rapport, trust, and like you is to listen to them. We have all been in the room with the person who is texting, reading or is otherwise preoccupied while we are talking. Not paying attention when your potential client is talking to you about their problems is a great way to kill a sale. When you ask questions, make sure you are actively listening to the answers. If you don’t understand what they have said or need to qualify it more, don’t be afraid to ask them to explain it again. I usually say “I want to make sure I really understand what you are saying,” then I ask them to either rephrase what they have said, or I repeat what I think I have heard and ask them to verify if my understanding is correct. I have never lost a sale for asking too many questions.

The quickest way to gain trust and rapport in today’s crazy busy workplace is to show you understand, empathize, and can provide solutions. Adding value brings instant credibility and trust. As the relationship grows, there will be plenty of time for small talk and developing the bonds of friendship.

Questions that help establish rapport:

  • Have you had problems with…? How did you solve them?
  • Why do people buy from you?
  • What kind of challenges are you facing?
  • What trends are you seeing that encourage you or worry you?

Just reading this article, you’d think that this could be advice for selling anything… not specifically websites. And that is true. Getting the prospect to talk about what they are looking for, what their problems are and what their perspective is will give you the majority of the details you need to build a solution.  It is your job to then fill in the details of the solution.

If they talk about  documents or information that can only be accessed by a few, you might start thinking about document management systems or creating secure user pages.

If they talk about challenges in communicating with customers on a regular basis, you would start thinking about an email marketing solution, blog or news manager.

If they talk about putting their brochure or sales material online, you think about how many pages it is and how long it would take you to convert those from a spreadsheet, PDF, or other file to a text page on a website.

If they talk about surveying clients, getting estimate requests or collecting data, then you start thinking about a form builder tools, survey applications, and pricing programs.

Selling web solutions doesn’t mean you need to be technical and understand every nuance that goes along with building a website. But you do need to have working knowledge about the solutions you provide. If you haven’t pulled the trigger on adding websites to your offering, I suggest you read “Is it time to add web services to your repertoire?” to see some initial steps that you should take when making the decision.

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