I’m an introvert by nature. Big introvert. I’ve always been one to be very firmly rooted in my comfort zone, only stepping out slightly when absolutely necessary.
My introverted nature made it very natural for me to be a developer. I was able to spend hours every day by myself… just me and my code. It was easy. Development truly is a wonderful career for introverts.
Starting an Agency
Building my own product companies over the last decade gave me vital experience with marketing in addition to the usual dev work that I was used to. Marketing has been an acquired skill for me, definitely not something that I was naturally good at. I’ve had to learn, and continually get better at, SEO, PPC, email marketing, and social. I’m still really bad at social, which might somehow relate to my introversion.
Over time my skills grew to the point where it made sense for me to start doing digital marketing work for friends and, eventually, some clients. That’s where Deep Field was born in 2012. It grew pretty slowly at first while I was still putting 90% of my focus on my product businesses. Beginning in 2015 I shifted my focus to Deep Field and it has really taken off since then. It’s now my full-time job and employs several people. We’re growing quickly, and that growth is tied directly to my improvement in selling to clients.
Sales has always been just about the last thing that I thought I would enjoy doing and spending my time on. Back in my development days I would have been terrified and shocked if you would have told me that I would have to rely on my sales skills in the near future to survive.
By no means am I a master salesman. I’ve never read a book about sales tactics. I’ve never taken any classes or attended seminars. Honestly, I’m probably still well below average. But, I’ve gotten sooo much better over the last 18 months that I feel my story might actually be interesting and/or helpful.
When I first started talking to potential clients I had lots of insecurities, which led me to consistently underbid on projects. I was insecure about the quality of the work I would be able to provide. I was afraid of bidding too high and not getting the work. I’m generally a very confident person, so these insecurities were something that I hadn’t really experienced before.
Over time these insecurities faded as I gained more experience. I knew that I could get great results for clients, and I got more used to asking for bigger fees. My confidence has increased dramatically, which leads to more clients, better sales, etc. Virtuous cycle.
How did I overcome insecurity? Other than experience, it was learning from other agency leaders (hello Brennan Dunn), what worked for them and how they overcame similar roadblocks.
My Sales Approach
I’m not even sure if these are strong enough at this point to be called tactics, but these are the things that I try to emphasize when I’m in discussions with a potential client.
Honesty. I’m always 100% honest with clients. If they come to me with a project that I don’t think will be successful, I let them know as soon as I come to that realization. Honesty is always the best policy. It builds trust with the client when they realize that I’m not just looking at them as an ATM machine. The current project might not make sense, but in the future you can be sure that client will keep me in mind if something else comes up.
Trust. This one’s really simple. Just do what you say you’re going to do. I haven’t always been great at this. I’ve overcommitted at times and not been able to deliver. However, I’ve noticed that I’ve been more successful as my delivery has been better. It builds trust with the client, leading to longer and better relationships.
Say Yes to Everything. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with this long-term, but so far I have made an effort to say yes to absolutely everything a client asks for. If it’s something you’re equipped to handle, great. If not, you can always hire someone to handle it for you. You can always charge accordingly. This doesn’t mean that I accept every job or client that comes my way; that’s hardly the case. But I do make an effort to assist my clients with whatever their pain points are.
Leaving the Comfort Zone Behind. Phone calls. I’ve always avoided them like the plague. Whether it was an existing client or a potential client, I didn’t want to actually have to speak to them. My introversion was still strong in this area. Then, one day about 6 months ago, I decided that I would be different from many other agencies and actually look forward to speaking on the phone. That particular change in mindset has gotten me excellent clients that I wouldn’t have won otherwise. Phone calls are now part of my marketing strategy… I want to speak to you. Email is great, and Skype is acceptable in a pinch, but phone calls really help me convey myself to clients better than any other form of contact.
I’m sure that a year from now I’ll be able to look back on this post with amazement at how basic it is. I’m getting better at sales every day, and inching away from my introversion at the same time.
This post originally appeared on Medium.