Providing a great content management solution is one thing. Convincing customers to buy it from you is another. Successfully selling a Joomla-based solution involves both sales fundamentals and a message that speaks to Joomla's strengths while thoroughly satisfying a prospective client's needs.
Joomla solutions providers come from a variety of backgrounds, and many operate as small- to medium-sized businesses. Sales may be one of the more recent skills these entrepreneurs have acquired: They may be self-taught, or taking on sales duties with only tertiary experience and an unstructured method. Common sales concepts may be new, and the subtleties in mannerism and approach that enable a successful sale may emerge only by accident.
Like many Joomla solutions providers, the market for Joomla services lies strongest in the small- to medium-sized business space, for a variety of reasons. These customers require a specific message that speaks to both their needs and their industry, which can vary widely for clients of generalist agencies that provide Joomla as only one part of the total Web site solution.
The Sales Process
Both large and small solution providers benefit from a planned, established sales process that is designed to generate new business. No matter the organization, a solution-oriented sales approach will begin with leads that come in from various sources; these leads are contacted and qualified to determine if they are likely sales prospects; and the prospects are engaged, quoted and successfully sold on a solution (or not).
The concept of a "sales funnel" describes the number of dwindling potential customers as they move from lead to prospect to customer: Many leads will be disqualified, leading to fewer prospects. Even fewer of these prospects will become actual customers. For this reason, it's important to always try to keep the sales funnel full with potential customers at all levels, resulting in regular new business.
Keeping track of lead information (and resulting prospects and accounts) is greatly aided through the use of a customer relationship management (or CRM) system. A leading example of this is the software-as-a-service salesforce.com and its brethren. Many other closed- and open-source options are available, including a CRM system that runs on Joomla (http://crmery.com).
Leads can originate from a variety of channels, including self-generated, word-of-mouth and RFP sources, as well as from marketing activities like advertising, trade shows, Web sites and direct mail. Information about a lead might be as little as an e-mail address, or a lead may arrive with extensive information about the potential customer, including buyer influences, competitors, previous project information and other details.
Prospecting is the process of reaching out to leads to determine if a sales opportunity exists at the potential client: If it does, that lead becomes a sales prospect, and the salesperson can proceed to push the potential customer toward becoming a client. A lead is most likely to turn into a strong prospect both when the client needs a solution, and when the work opportunity represents a good, profitable fit for the solution provider.
Prospecting is one of the most difficult parts of sales, as this is when door-slammed-in-face moments are most likely to occur. Cold calling is difficult and requires a good attitude, and sometimes, a thick skin. One key to successfully reaching out to potential customers is getting a brief, well-honed message in front of the right people. For most solution providers, the ultimate goal of prospecting will be to schedule a face-to-face meeting with the potential client.
Sales Messaging That Works
For a generalist service provider slinging Joomla as a solution, tailoring the sales message to each specific client is critical for a successful sale. The client must become engaged by the value proposition, which varies according to both the client's industry and the specific circumstances surrounding that client. (More specialized service providers may reuse a set of common sales messages for the same class of client.)
Conducting a feature/advantage/benefit exercise can help to hone a sales message. The feature is what the service provider delivers to the client; the advantage is what the feature allows the client to do; and the benefit is what the client gains as a result of the transaction. This may be thought of as a sentence: "Because of the [feature], you can [advantage], which means [benefit] to you." For example, in the case of Joomla, a sales message could be presented as: "Because of the Joomla content management system, you can now easily manage your site's content, so you no longer have to hire a specialist to do so."
Brevity in sales messaging is extremely important in the prospecting stage. No matter whether the first prospecting contact is an e-mail message or a phone call, communication must be very brief and to-the-point. If a lead seems interested, the primary goal is to schedule a meeting where the potential client and the service provider can sit down face to face.
Depending on the client, how Joomla is presented may vary widely. Many small- to medium-sized companies will have no idea what Joomla is, or even have heard of a "content management system" (much less the "CMS" acronym). They may require a more simplified, less technical message, such as "a Web site you can update yourself" or "an e-commerce shop for your products." The primary idea is for the solution provider to present its biggest benefit for that particular client's known or assumed needs.
Structure of a Sales Meeting
Once a prospective client agrees to a sales meeting, one's foot is in the door, and a service provider can look forward to fully presenting its business and services. Different salespeople will use various procedures for structuring these sales meetings, and indeed, the circumstances surrounding a specific client may necessitate making changes to a standard process.
One established method for structuring a sales meeting/process is the A.I.D.I.N.C. method (also called "integrity selling"). It stands for Approach, Interview, Demonstrate, val"I"date, Negotiate, and Close.
The approach is simply some introductory chit-chat to get the client comfortable and the lines of communication open and flowing. Discussed topics don't have to (and probably shouldn't) relate directly to the business at hand.
The approach is often a good time to gauge personal mannerism factors which may help leverage a successful sale. There are benefits to a client-specific manner to improve empathy and communication – things like lots of eye contact, speaking the client's name aloud, and low-key, well-nigh-unconscious adoption of a client's posture, manner and dialect.
In the interview, the service provider queries the client about business needs and project requirements. It is often good form for the service provider to have at least some prepared questions, and to demonstrate knowledge about the client by asking about specific project needs or business environment issues unique to that client. The interview may also touch on other areas with only a tertiary relationship to the proffered solution, but that may have a big effect on the project (for instance, if the client has specific technical requirements, plans to involve another vendor in parts of the project, etc.).
An effective sales demonstration will illustrate to the client that you have the capabilities and capacity to deliver a quality solution. It is often a very good idea to demonstrate solutions that are similar to the client's needs, including solutions that you have provided in the same industry or even to a competitor of the client. This includes demonstrations tailored to specific client budget levels: In other words, show comparative examples of what the client can expect to receive in specific price ranges.
The validation phase of the selling process queries the potential client's response to see if it looks like the solution (and general pricing) is going to be a good fit. The validation phase may also be a good place to engage in some inspirational speculation and think about ways that the solution will deliver future benefits. The validation stage is a great point to get a gut feeling for whether the sale will move forward or not.
The negotiation stage deals with hammering out service details in terms of deliverables and costs, as well as resolving any final client concerns or objections. The art of negotiation and contract negotiating issues for Joomla is its own topic beyond the scope of this article.
Many times, a generalist Joomla solution provider will engage in project quoting and negotiation after an initial sales meeting: The variance and potential complexity of a Joomla-based project often requires careful planning and costing before presenting a flat-rate quote to a client.
A sales process reaches a closed state once the final agreement or contract is signed between the service provider and client. If all of the preceding steps have gone well, the closing will be just a formality, as all questions have been answered and concerns addressed.
Especially for generalist Joomla solution providers, this A.I.D.I.N.C. method may span over multiple meetings and sales calls with a prospective client.
Clients may have different motivations for pursuing a specific solution, and both the business needs and the individual desires which influence purchasing decisions should be fully understood. On an organizational level, it's helpful to identify if the client is in a growth or troubled state: If they are, they have an immediate need for a solution, which makes the sales process that much easier. More difficult to sell into are "even keel" business environments, where no immediate need presses upon the client: They figure, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," so a successful sales message must be effective enough to pierce through this presumption.
One effective way to augment the chance of a successful sale is to sell directly to the motivations of individual buyers at the client. In other words, the solution should appeal to what an individual stands to personally gain – in addition to the overall organizational and business benefits the solution brings. A good way to uncover these individual desires is to simply ask buyers at the client how your solution could help them. Of course, this type of sales messaging may not be present in official communications or agreements, but it can be an important and very effective subtext to help support a successful sale.
Depending on the client and the service package, the sales message might need to be tailored for different individual buyers at the client. In other words, the boss who is paying for the CMS implementation may have a completely different set of expectations and success metrics than the person who is using the software on a day-to-day basis. These buyers can fall into the following roles:
The fiscal buyer is the person who, at the end of the day, approves the sale and writes the check for the solution provider. Depending on the client and the job, engaging the fiscal buyer may be an integral part of a successful sale, or it may not be necessary at all. It often never hurts to seize an opportunity to make a favorable impression on a fiscal buyer, even if they're distant from the sales process.
An evaluating buyer is a person who qualifies the solution and ensures that it fits in with what the client needs. The sales message must satisfy the requirements of the evaluating buyer, and the messaging may vary widely for projects that mix both discrete technical services (such as server configuration, Joomla installation, etc.) and high-touch creative services like graphic design.
The user is the person who uses the solution on a day-to-day basis. Often the user is not directly involved in making the sales decision, but their feedback can be important in terms of qualifying a solution.
An adviser is your "buddy" at the client: a special individual who could fall into any of the above three roles. An adviser is sold early on your solution and can serve as a valuable source of information throughout the sales process. An adviser can often reveal weaknesses in your pitch as perceived by other buyers, information about competitive bids, and other valuable information.
Especially at small- to medium-sized businesses, one person may fill multiple buyer roles. Understanding who has what buyer role, and the business and individual motivations of that buyer, will help to hone a compelling sales message for that particular buyer.
New versus Recurring Business
Generating new business is an essential part of any sales strategy, as new business expands revenue opportunities and prevents a company from being overly dependent upon the work from a single client, or from a small group of clients. The health and stability of a company will often benefit from diverse sets of revenue, so it's important to continually pursue new client opportunities.
That being said, working with existing clients can be a great way to generate recurring revenue, and it's a lot easier to sell new work to an existing client than to cold-call a stranger. Plus, once a relationship is solidified, a client will naturally look to an established service provider as their first choice for meeting similar needs.
A Joomla Web site does require some ongoing care and feeding (both for content and technical updates), and this can be a compelling reason why a client would engage a solution provider on an ongoing basis. A generalist service agency may also provide other services (for example, print design), and opportunities may pop up for bidding on other media and marketing work for an existing client. Telling clients about your other work and projects will let them know you provide these services, keeping you top of mind for their next project.
The following are some sales tips that come from years of this correspondent's experience in sales, as well as the feedback from sales professional Bruce Hollett and members of the Chicago-based CMS Agencies group:
- Facial hair is a no-no for salesmen in nearly all sales environments. Psychologically, it sends a message that the salesman has something to hide. – Bruce Hollett
- Sometimes, cold calling a business before they open in the morning results in connecting straight through to a high-level manager or C-level boss. These folks tend to be workaholics and may often arrive earlier than receptionists and other staffers who typically pick up the phone. – Bruce Hollett
- Always remember the names of receptionists and assistants to specific buyers at the client, and try to get on their good side. – Bruce Hollett
- Sometimes it's best to stay quiet and just let a client speak about what they want during a prospective client interview. – Richard Dale
- "LinkedIn is gold" for researching buyers at specific potential clients, and connecting with them via LinkedIn groups in the buyer's area of interest. – Bruce Hollett
- Dress appropriately for a sales call: Business casual is pretty much the standard for many different types of clients nowadays. – Bruce Hollett
- Joomla solutions sales often involve selling a level of trust to the client: Many clients that are a good fit for a Joomla solution will not have a sophisticated understanding of Web publishing, content management systems, or even the fundamentals of marketing. So what the client is sold on is their trust that you will do right by them.