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Making your sales process work: Insider tips from Step 5 Creative

Two years ago, the digital agency Step 5 Creative was trying to meet a minimum of five projects a month.

Now, they’re creating over 400 sites a year and have more than 200 clients on a monthly retainer.

Co-founders Ryan Shannon and Adam Heffelfinger chatted with us about the sales process that helped them get so successful. Plus, all their best tips on everything from cold pitching prospective clients to standardizing lead follow up.

Take an inside look into how they grew their business - and the strategies they used along the way. Ryan and Adam cover:

Finding web design clients

Mastering the cold call

Following up on leads

Making your sales pitch

Standardizing your sales process

Finding web design clients

What is your strategy for finding clients?

Ryan: When we first got started, it was a lot of cold calling, cold emailing, knocking on doors and putting ourselves out there.

We had the phrase one hundred to one - you have to talk to one hundred people in one day, to get one person interested. And if you can get ten people interested, you can convert between two to five.

Adam: At first, we were just trying to do five to ten website projects a month. Every month we’d have to find those clients. Then the next month, we’d have to start over again - from scratch.

After a year, I told Ryan, "Listen, I can’t sell ten website projects a month and start over every month."

That’s when we had to rethink our business model.

Ryan: After four years of using that original sales model, we now do a lot of residual-based, so clients are paying for monthly services.

Adam: We also decided we should start offering monthly services on top of web design. In the last two years, we went from having zero people on any kind of monthly retainer, to now over two hundred people.

In the last two years, we went from having zero people on any kind of monthly retainer, to now over two hundred people.

How would you compile a list of potential leads to cold call or email?

Adam: We’d go to different directory listings and look at companies that had old or outdated websites.

We also targeted certain types of websites and people out there who weren’t working with us. Our two biggest advantages were that we could offer a personal touch, and our pricing would be better.

That would be the starting point of who would eventually be a client for us - and we went heavily after those people. We needed to send out two hundred emails a day to people with outdated websites to get a couple responses back.

Mastering the cold call

What is your secret to successfully making a cold sales pitch to prospects?

Ryan: We go in as a resource and try to uncover something simple, so we may say something like: "We noticed some of your site content is a little outdated," or "There’s something that would make a better call to action for your website." Start off with something simple like that.

Adam: Another tactic that we use is mobile websites.

There are so many websites that we took over that weren’t mobile friendly. All it takes is asking a potential client: "Did you know there are actually more mobile visits to websites than on desktops?"

So that’s an indirect way of saying their site’s outdated without being offensive.

Ryan: It’s really easy to find websites that we can help with. We never want to approach someone who has a website that looks like they spent $5,000 plus on it. But if it looks like their site hasn’t been touched in three to four years, usually we can help them out with it.

What do you need to be aware of when making a cold call?

Ryan: When cold calling, you need to understand you’re catching them off guard.

And people are afraid to say the word 'no.' When you ask them if they want to move forward, nine times out of ten, they’ll say yes. But you need to understand if they’re serious about this or if they’re just window-shopping.

At the beginning, we wasted a lot of time on this. We spent a lot of time working on leads that were dead pretty much from the start, but we thought they had a chance.

Now we’re better at asking the right questions. And now, whether we get a ‘no’ or a ‘yes,’ it’s a positive thing, because we clearly know whether we need to invest more time in following up or not.

What types of questions do you ask to understand if they’re serious?

Ryan: We tell them we’re a local business and that we’ve seen their website could use a few things that we can help with. We ask, "Can we be a resource?"

If they have time, we ask them:

  • When was the last time you updated your site?

  • Do you currently work with a web professional?

  • Is this something that’s been on your mind? Did I catch you off guard?

We try to figure out their mental state. From that point, we want to close the call with getting an appointment set up the next day.

If I say, "I’ll give you guys a couple days to look at it," then they’ll say, "Ok, great."

But if I say: "How about we meet tomorrow at 10:00 and go through everything I just sent you?" They may answer: "No, I can’t do that, but I can do 1:00.”

Then you have some sort of commitment level, and you can walk them through the finish line.

Step5 Creative web design agency

Following up on leads

Walk us through what you do once you get a lead.

Adam: We try to set up a phone call with them right away. Usually only fifteen to twenty minutes maximum.

During that first phone call, we’ll describe:

  • How we can help them out

  • What our process is

  • How the whole project will work

  • Timeframe

  • Pricing

If they want to move forward, that’s great. But typically they don’t on the first call.

At the end of the first phone call, we ask them, "Do you want to set up a phone call for two to three days from now to touch base again and see if it’s something you want to do, or if you have any questions?”

If they say yes, we’ll do a call or email, depending on what they prefer.

What’s your biggest tip for keeping track of your leads?

Adam: We always make sure to input every lead and track all sales. For instance, every time we have a phone call with someone, we put that person in the ‘Contacted’ column. We’ll include some notes about how the phone call went, and any specifics about what they’re looking for, features they need, and what we quoted them at.

What if a potential lead doesn’t answer?

Ryan: You always want to continuously follow up. Call, email right away. Say, "I just want to do my due diligence and get back to you right away."

Do you have rules about how often to reach out?

Ryan: There’s no secret recipe. Some people will get super annoyed when you call them the next day. Other people love it.

If you get them on the phone or they respond via email, we try to get something out of them.

Whether it’s "Yes, let’s talk right away," or "I don’t want to talk to you until next Tuesday at 1:00."

People might want to talk that day or not until next month. Or for another eight months.

And that’s the hardest part of sales. There’s this psychological game, because you don’t want to ruin it by pushing too hard. But you do want them to commit enough that you can walk them through and close.