Selling Website Design: How to Overcome the 3 Most Ignorant Objections
December 31st, 2007 in Business & Process
by: Matthew Griffin
Selling web design for the past seven years has given me the opportunity to hear every objection imaginable. Some are practical—"The price is too high". Some are emotional—"We don't want to hurt our other designer's feelings". But they all add up to a big NO. The strategy I've developed through this process, however, is not designed to turn every NO into a YES. When I make it my goal, instead, to turn every ignorant NO into a YES, I win on every level. Some people just don't like my style and letting them go is the best thing I can do. But if I leave a meeting rejected because I was unable to articulate the workings of my industry, there's a problem.
Now I'm going to set aside the practical and superficial objections (get a book about sales for those) and just focus on the three most common ignorance based objections I've encountered. Prepare for these and you'll rarely leave a meeting unsatisfied with your pitch.
1. Our target audience doesn't use the web
Of course, you know this is baloney, but it can be hard to disagree without being patronizing. There are two keys to overcoming this objection. The first is to do your homework. See how many searches have taken place on Google and Yahoo for keywords related to their industry. Print out what you find and whip it out at the meeting. That way you are pointing to a third party as the expert on the subject. Second, make sure you have a short story about an unlikely web user. My current favorite is about my father-in-law jumping on wikihowto.com to find out how to change the ballast in a fluorescent light. It makes it personal.
2. Mike's nephew built us a website a few years ago and it's doing fine
Just calm down. He has no idea how insulting this is and it's up to you to help him see that web design is way past the high school phase. My favorite tactic here is to turn the tables on him—gently, of course. For example, if he's in the steel industry, ask him if he would recommend Mike's nephew to supply some steel pipe. Next, you can hit on some important web design issues that Mike's nephew will more than likely overlook. Have these prepared beforehand—don't try to wing it. When you are finished, they should know exactly what makes you different from a pimple-faced high school geek.
3. We have a brochure. Can't you just scan it and put it online.
This isn't so much an objection as a damper on the project. It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about what the web is and what it can do. If you can't overcome this type of thinking, you will easily fall into a pattern of building websites that don't do anything and don't cost very much. The quickest way to move past this hump is to remind them of why they continue to return to the same sites everyday. Whether it's Yahoo or MSNBC or any other major site, they will quickly see that they enjoy using them because the content is fresh. Next you may want to point to a website that offers helpful downloads and contact forms. How helpful would irs.gov be if you couldn't download forms and talk with the IRS? This should spark some imaginative embers and get some ideas flying. When that happens, you've won.
These examples are representative so you may run up against a slightly different version of any one of them, but the suggested preparation will remain the same. Also keep in mind that high pressure sales will hurt more than help in the long run. A client who is bitter about getting suckered into buying something they don't want will end up being a bad client. Work on the ignorance-based objections instead of every objection and everyone will be happier.
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