How to sell websites to small businesses

Listening is key

It’s not often that I get to write about one of my favorite topics, but today is the day that I get to do just that. At OSC Web Design, we primarily deal with small businesses, and they’re not only our bread and butter, but they’re also my favorite type of clients to work with. So when you’re determining how to sell websites to small business, don’t get caught up in the pitch.

Small businesses aren’t just a number, and they’re not just another site or design project — they’re real companies.

The site you build can drastically help or hurt their business. For this reason, it’s important to take each project seriously and look at all the ways you can help.

How to sell websites to small businesses

  1. Find your potential clients.

  2. Identify their needs or pain points.

  3. Demonstrate your capability.

  4. Present your solution.

  5. Price your project appropriately.

  6. Ensure you get paid on time.

  7. Be an ongoing partner.

Let’s go through each one of those steps in more detail.

1. Find potential clients

How To Sell To Small Businesses ClientsFinding clients can be one of the hardest parts of the process. When we deal with small businesses, we often work with the owner or main decision maker. They typically don’t have a ton of time to devote to the website — after all, they’re running a business. That’s why it’s important to take as little of their time as possible throughout the web design process. Be prepared to take on the brunt of the work.

Join local groups in your community to get your name out there.

 

As you’ll probably discover, word of mouth will most likely be the No. 1 source for getting new clients. A great way to jumpstart that process is to team up with the right companies to get your foot in the door with potential small businesses. Opportunities, like presentations or meet-and-greets, could arise, and you’ll have the ability to demonstrate what you know and why hiring you would benefit their business.

Editor’s note: Want more tips and tricks for lead generation? Check out this article to see how you can drive more traffic to your business.

2. Identify their needs or pain points

Once you have the meeting set up, go with the intent to listen to the client’s needs — not sell them on your product. If you walk in that door with the mindset of, “I’m going to sell xyz service,” then you’re doomed to fail. Every client is different, and although you might be able to bucket them into certain groups, it’s important to listen to their needs before offering a solution.

Take a step back and look at their needs from a wider lens:

  • Are they a small business?
  • Do they just need an informational website or do they need eCommerce functionality?
  • Do they need photo galleries, an events calendar, job application forms, SEO?

I like to go even deeper and find out why they are in business:

  • What got them started?
  • Why does the business mean so much to them that they’re willing to make an investment like this?
  • What is wrong with their current website (if they have one)?
  • How would a new site eliminate pain points?
  • What can this website to do make their lives easier, as well as market their business?

For example, if you’re working with a service company, adding a simple “Free Quote” form with detailed features — like the ability to upload photos of a proposed project, along with other key questions that can help your client determine if the lead fits their business — can really benefit their company. They get an idea of the scope of work beforehand, leaving them with more time in their workweek to accomplish other business-related tasks.

It’s important to understand their needs as it will shape your negotiation, proposal and their website.

3. Demonstrate your capability

How To Sell Websites To Small Businesses CapabilityBuilding rapport with your clients is huge. Do what you can to inspire trust. There are plenty of web design companies out there, so how can you demonstrate that you’re the right person for their project?

The answer is simple: Relate to their experiences. Personally, I have a background in entrepreneurship, and I can typically relate to my clients’ experiences and work ethic when it comes to running a business.

Find common ground with your clients by showing you understand where they’re coming from.

 

Now, I would never recommend fabricating stories for the sake of making the sale. Remember, these clients have worked hard to get where they are, and they want to know you’ve done the same. Even if you’re past experiences aren’t the same, you can demonstrate your hard work and dedication — something they’ll definitely appreciate and understand &mdassh; by being honest.

At the end of the day, they are in business to make money. Explaining how this website is going to benefit their bottom line and how you’re going to find ways to promote their services really goes a long way. Let your work history and tailored solution speak for itself.

4. Present your solution

Now that you know what the client is looking for, it’s time to shift your conversation to how you can help them. A web design portfolio, as well as testimonials from similar companies and pain points you’ve previously solved, can go a long way. And don’t forget to listen for other opportunities. Are they low on time and don’t care to write? That sounds like a great segway for promoting your SEO and content services.

Walk through the services you offer, and be candid with their needs.

 

Sometimes, it’s worth saying, “It doesn’t seem like you need XYZ, but we do offer it in case you’re interested in the future.” Who knows, they might be interested in learning more, and they’ll appreciate your honesty and willingness to be an ongoing partner (more on that later). Or, it’s possible that they haven’t even considered that service yet, and once you explain the benefits, they’ll want to capitalize on your expertise.

It’s perfectly OK to allow the client to up-sell themselves, but it’s equally important to note what you’re not including. This shows them that you aren’t trying to rip them off by providing everything under the sun, but rather are only interested in doing what’s right for their business.

5. Price your project appropriately

How To Sell Websites To Small Businesses PriceNow that you have all the details you need, it’s time to head back to the office and come up with a game plan — one that involves cost. If you’re not sure how much you should charge to build a website, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Do you have packages that are already priced and fit this client’s needs?
  • Do you bill hourly and feel that this client might need several revisions?
  • Are you doing on the side, or are you a full-time agency with multiple employees that can handle their business on time and efficiently?

All of these factor into price. At OSC, we developed the Casco Bay Package, named after a local bay that we love. Our pricing is fully transparent and right on our demo sites. This allows the clients to view pricing whenever they want — even before meeting with us.

6. Ensure you get paid on time

Your clients run small businesses, money is tight, and they hold onto it with an iron fist. Now the question is, how do you get what you agreed upon in a timely manner? Your contract has the potential to evolve over time — possibly because a client made you aware of something you missed — and you don’t want to be taken advantage of due to a loophole.

Take your time and research proposals.

 

There are some great ones out there, and although I don’t recommend the copy-and-paste method, it’s good to take elements from multiple sources and create one that fits your business.

Depending on the type of project, how well you know the person, and how large the project is, you might have to break down the payment into multiple installments. For the majority of our clients, we break payments into 50 percent down and 50 percent before launch.

This seems to be standard practice, but you need to find the right type of payment plan that works for your business. Can you turn around sites in 10 days, or do you need two months? If it’s two months, will you need a steady cash flow, and is three payments of 33 percent better for both you and the client?

Ensuring the client knows what will happen if they don’t pay on time is important.

You can do everything from stopping the work in progress to adding an additional fee — as long as it’s in the contract (and not buried). If there’s anything I know as a small business owner, it’s that we don’t like to be blindsided. Don’t do that to your client, and you’ll have a customer for life.

7. Be an ongoing partner

How To Sell Websites To Small Businesses PartnerWhen working with small businesses, it’s important to keep their story top of mind. These entrepreneurs aren’t just a number — this business is their lifeline. Be a partner. By taking the time to understand their problems, you can offer up not only short-term solutions and services, but long-term opportunities that will maintain your client relationship over time and avoid the one-and-done project churn.

Getting started

Learning how to sell websites to small businesses can be fun and exciting. Sure, it might be daunting at times, and getting in the front door can be hard, but once do, creating a posting relationship is key. You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Location! Location! Location!” for brick-and-mortar stores, but in this instance, your takeaway should be, “Listen! Listen! Listen!”

Make sure you write down your clients’ wants and needs to hit the key points in their proposals. Show them you’re listening. Structure a deal that they can handle, and ensure your pricing is fully transparent. Don’t try to pull one over on them — that will only create a negative impression and result in bad word-of-mouth results. Follow through on your promises and contractual obligations, and deliver an awesome website.

And when you’re done, don’t forget to send them a link to your Google reviews page and ask for a testimonial. This is a great way to spread social proof that you are doing your job (and doing it well). Small business websites can be a blast to create, and most times they’re more rewarding than a larger job. Watch their business grow, and they’ll be a client of yours for life.

Jesse Fowler
Jesse Fowler owns and manages OSC Web Design, a web development agency focused on small businesses in southern Maine. OSC looks to educate small businesses on their marketing efforts and help them make informed decisions when purchasing a new website. Jesse loves spending free time with his daughter, rock climbing and traveling as much as possible.