How to sell a website to a client
Determining how to sell a website to a client in your niche requires a well-defined process and workflow that every website professional needs to refine for their own company.
If you are just starting out, or have been at it for years, sales is the one “how to” that is the most important and most subjective. You can’t avoid that “sales” is the cornerstone of your revenue, so why not take the time to make sure that process is the best it can be?
Selling your web design services doesn’t exist in just one phase of the project cycle, but starts with the first interaction your potential new client has with your website. It goes far beyond the proposal phase to when they send that initial deposit for the project.
How to sell web design services in four stages
Systematically, the process of selling websites to clients can be broken down into four stages. When these phases are properly managed and executed, figuring out how to sell web design services becomes that much easier.
- Phase 1: Creating a lead funnel.
- Phase 2: Screening the lead.
- Phase 3: Delivering the proposal.
- Phase 4: Following up to win the bid.
We’ll explore these phases and the steps you can take to sell a website to a client within each.
Phase 1: Creating a lead funnel
This is the phase where your potential new client first comes to you and ends when you schedule a time to talk about the project.
Selling your web design services begins with a well-designed lead funnel.
A lead funnel is used to determine where your potential client is in their buying process, so you can better tailor your messages to them.
It involves using your website, public profiles on social media, available downloads or resources, as well as any well-crafted auto-responses you have in your inbox for incoming leads.
For this phase, there are three important aspects you’ll want to focus on.
1. Make it clear what you do — and do it well
Think about value and what problems you help solve. Your online calling card isn’t just your website; make sure your LinkedIn profile, your business network groups and additional social profiles — even your email signature — accurately reflect your expertise.
This value should shine through in a one-line, unique value proposition (what it is you offer that’s unique) on your website, the title on LinkedIn and that final call-to-action (like “Reach out for a free consultation”) under your email signature.
Making it clear what you do and that you’re good at it will naturally result in more lead referrals.
2. Create a simple way for leads to get to know you — and vice versa
Allow leads to download a valuable piece of information or access a video series about their niche — all in exchange for their email.
Use a WordPress plugin that creates a popup on your website. Within that popup, insert a form to capture their name and email in exchange for a PDF download of helpful information that will solve a problem. This opt-in process helps you better understand what your lead is interested in.
Focus on what information your ideal client would want to know, then dangle it in front of them. This enables them to get to know and like you before you ever ask them to trust you and hand over cash to build a website.
And once you have that email, you can start an outreach process.
Related: 25 ways freelancers can generate an abundance of qualified leads
3. Define your process for reaching out to leads
Now it’s time to determine the best way to reach out to the lead to offer value and continue the get-to-know-you stage of the sales process.
You’ll want to follow-up with an automatic email that’s triggered by the form submission with a “Hello, and thanks for stopping by to get the download; here’s a little about us” message to keep the conversation going.
Be sure to let them know you’re available for questions. The best leads are the ones that are ready to make a decision and move forward, but you never want to push someone who’s not there yet.
During this stage of the outreach, your goal is to ensure this lead is ready to explore the details of creating a website. If so, they’ll engage with your outreach and move on to the next steps with you and your company.
Related: How to create a welcome package for your web design clients
Phase 2: Screening the lead
This is the phase where you begin to interact with your potential new client and ends when you determine if you’d like to work with them and present a proposal.
Let’s clear up an important myth: You can’t accurately quote a small business website prospect based on an email and a website example they send.
You must understand their needs, budget and timeframe, and the resources they already have in place versus what you’ll need to contribute to make it a reality.
Because everyone’s goals are unique, dedicated conversations are required to ensure you understand every aspect of theirs and why they need a new business website.
And there are several critical steps that can help you manage this discovery process.
Related: How to use a discovery phase to save your clients from themselves
1. Establish a barrier to entry with client boundaries
Your time is valuable, even if you need the work!
You want to sell websites to local businesses and other clients that have a reasonable budget based on their needs and are ready to move forward, not time wasters.
Clients need to be screened to avoid leads who will turn out to be bad clients, such as those who don’t follow your process, don’t have the budget, or have unrealistic expectations.
The best way to accomplish this is with a barrier to entry: Will they follow your process? Test and find out.
The best barrier to entry is an intake form with questions about their needs. If the lead is able to cogently respond to your questions — and thus assure they are potentially a viable client — you can feel comfortable proceeding with a call to connect.
Questions should include:
- What is your budget for this project? (Be honest so we can honor the budget you’ve set aside.)
- What are your goals for this website?
- When do you need the site to be live?
Related: How to improve your web design process
2. Book an initial meeting on your terms
Define the terms of this first meeting to gather details for the proposal, since this document will list everything provide and how much it will cost. Without an initial meeting, you won’t have enough details to write your proposal.
Provide a booking calendar link in which you take their number to call them, send out the calendar invite, and create the video meeting link if needed.
Note: A phone call should always be sufficient for an initial meeting to gather what you need for a proposal. Any client who wants to meet in person can do so once the project has been greenlighted, and you can frame that meeting as a paid discovery session and include it as part of your full proposal.
In-person meetings that occur before a check has been written should be reserved for significant, high-value clients, so make that call at your discretion.
Just remember this phase isn’t a job interview; you are a service provider following a distinct process. They need to follow your prescribed steps in order to receive the most accurate quote and and a site that meets their needs.
3. Take notes to repeat back the language from your potential client.
In the meeting you’re looking to not just gather details from the proposal, but also the language they use to describe their company, their target audience (the type of visitors who will be interacting with the website) and their needs, so you can repeat this back to them in the proposal copy.
It’s helpful to record the meeting if you have trouble remembering or are not good at taking notes.
Make sure to note their pain points and how they describe them, as well as how they describe the intended audience and what the site needs to achieve. All this comes back into play when you draft the proposal.
Related: How to set expectations with your clients
Phase 3: Delivering the proposal
This is the phase where you provide your full proposal on what it will take to build their website and ends when you hit the send button.
By now, you’ve discovered that the proposal isn’t the only phase that sells your website design services, and that the initial two phases are instrumental in establishing that you are someone your potential client wants to work with.
In this phase, you’ll focus on three important aspects critical to creating a successful proposal.
1. State the objective, target audience, client needs and your solutions
Using the language from your initial meeting, the proposal allows you to show your future client that you understand their needs and the highlight value you bring via your solution.
Refer back to your notes/transcript from that meeting so you can restate their objective, target audience and needs in their language, and respond with your solution to those needs.
The technology is secondary to what you’re trying to accomplish and your solution.
You can mention a certain WordPress plugin if it fits into describing the solution, but otherwise avoid tech specifics unless the client has requested them. Rather, explain what it is the technology will achieve.
2. Make pricing secondary to the solutions you are providing
You’re not pricing for the client; you’re pricing based on the solutions they need and the value and expertise you offer.
If you are just starting out, your price will likely be different than someone with more experience. If you’ve been at it for years, your price will reflect your efficiency and expertise.
And if you are just starting out, think about pricing as not just the time and resources it takes, but also what the deliverable provides for the client.
For example, if this website is going to bring the client $10,000 worth of business a month, investing $10,000 as a one-time fee to create the website gives them a high ROI (return on investment). You just need to make sure you are creating a site that will indeed provide the means to generate that $10,000 each month.
This returns the focus to needs and solutions, rather than how much someone can afford.
In time, you’ll begin to determine the minimum cost for your team and their time to execute all the solutions you are providing.
Focus on the solutions first and foremost, not what you think the client will pay and work backwards.
Related: How to raise your prices and get better clients in 8 steps
3. Bite off only what you (and the client) can chew
Instead of chasing the big-ticket payout, work with the budget the client has to deliver the best product they can achieve for that budget.
This is why addressing the budget early on is important.
You aren’t asking the client about their budget to see how much you can get, but how much of their goal you can accomplish right now within their budget.
If the price is too low for their needs, the build will be stressful and you won’t retain them as a client that could lead to more work (and potential referrals).
If it’s a large project or the client is not sure or clear about items, focus on a proposal for just the first phase of the project.
- Phase I could be an MVP (“Minimal Viable Product”) version of the website.
- Phase II could be the eCommerce that they can move forward with once the MVP is live.
- Phase III could be SEO once they’ve refined their copy.
This way, you can deliver and close out phase I, keeping projects wrapped up and clients happy.
Related: How to close a deal successfully with a better proposal process
Phase 4: Following up to win the bid
This is the final phase, where you remain in touch with the client. It ends when they agree to the proposal and send you the initial deposit to get started!
The most nerve-racking time for most website professionals is after the proposal has been delivered and before for the client has accepted.
The reality is, however, that on the client’s end, the reasons they don’t sign off immediately can vary. At this point, it’s not always possible for you to know for sure why they are not moving forward.
In following up, focus on these three important aspects:
1. In the first 30 days, only reach out with value
You are the person who’s bringing the expertise and solutions to the client.
Send out an email after a few days, then seven days and then 14 days, all with a piece of information. It could be an article on what makes a great landing page, or how a website is displaying something the client wants to emulate.
Don’t mention the proposal; showing up in their inbox is reminder enough that the proposal is waiting.
After about 30 days you can then require a hard yes or no on your proposal, so your team can focus on moving forward with other proposals and clients.
You run a business, so the client needs to give you an answer one way or the other in a reasonable timeframe.
Related: How to follow up with clients
2. Only take the deposit when the client is ready to begin
When you sell a website, explicitly detail the payment schedule and only begin when you receive the first payment.
A common payment schedule for website builds are 50% to begin the project (make sure they’ve signed the proposal) and 50% when the website is ready to go live (only go live when you receive final payment).
Delays are sometimes a good thing. You don’t want to start with a client who isn’t ready.
So don’t rush to get that deposit check until the client is ready. Get the deposit when the project is ready to begin, which is why those initial steps are important.
If the client isn’t ready, put the brakes on.
Send an email stating that you’ll follow up in a set amount of time, then set a reminder for yourself. This is the best way to avoid open projects that can go on for a year, 10 design passes, and other time suckers that tie up your resources.
3. Don’t adjust your pricing, process or timing for fear of losing the job
Only adjust your pricing, process or timing when it makes sense for the project.
If the client pushes back on one aspect because you misunderstood the request or they are going to do more work on their end to save some cash, it makes sense.
If you feel comfortable with the price you’re proposing because it’s what it will take to achieve their goals, you’ll feel better on sticking to your guns when they reply or push back. If you don’t take the time in that initial phase to understand their goals, your pricing estimate will be built on quicksand.
How to sell a website to a client — and build a relationship
Selling a website to a business should always be focused on establishing a positive relationship so that it grows into ongoing work and referrals.
Businesses need web designers and developers on an ongoing basis, so by positioning yourself as someone who offers valuable solutions from the start, you are securing future work.
Throughout the process and phases of selling website design services outlined above, strive to set the expectation that the partnership will grow into an ongoing relationship.
As you prove your worth by delivering on your promises, it will encourage the client trust in you.
And remember that if you notice pushback from a lead in any of the phases, you always have the power to refuse to move forward before you cash the initial deposit check. You want to work with the right business for you, and not every potential lead turns into a good client.
Use these phases to not only sell website to local businesses, but to create a process in which you also determine if this client is right for you. Refine the stages over time, developing customized processes, language and templates.
In doing so, you’re sure to see your sales increase — and stress levels decrease.
Related: How to perform a website launch and handover
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