I am the president of a creative and branding agency based in South Bend, Indiana. While we have one nationally recognized client, most of our projects are in the $10,000 range, which isn't enough. How do we obtain projects in the $25,000 to $50,000 range? Not being a salesperson, I just don't know the best approach.
—Deb S., South Bend, Indiana
Ah, the ever-elusive higher-dollar contract. It makes sense, as you've been in business for almost 15 years, to be ready for bigger and bigger deals. You're surely not the firm you were even five years ago, so your project scope, complexity and contract sizes should grow. What's stopping you from bringing in more $50k projects? Here's what I recommend.
1) Start selling. Above, you say you're "not a salesperson." As president of the company, you need to embrace that you ARE a salesperson, simply by the fact that you're asking me about sales. When you're a business owner, your first and main priority is revenue, period. Many of us have an aversion to selling because we think that doing so means we have to become someone we don't want to be — pushy, slimy or manipulative. While you do have to be direct and assertive, you don't have to be slimy. The best sales people also have the highest integrity.
Sales is a numbers game. You’ll need to find enough prospects who can afford projects in the $25,000 to $50,000 range, and determine how many you need to have conversations with to source enough projects. It takes as much time to sell a $10,000 deal as a $50,000 deal (or a $100,000 deal). Which brings me to my next point ...
2) Work through your discomfort. It’s time to work through whatever mental dissonance you experience when you say to someone, "Our projects typically range in size from $25,000 to $50,000." Practice by yourself in front of the mirror, substituting $50,000 for $100,000, and then $250,000. Notice how uncomfortable you get. Ask yourself why. Then ask, is that "why" really true? Repeating this exercise will help you see how your own discomfort with even voicing certain dollar amounts are what's keeping you from asking for greater sums of money.
3) Find three or four websites of agencies you seek to emulate, from anywhere across the country. Pay close attention to the language they use and how they package their services. Consider updates to your homepage, services page and team page to reflect trends in the industry. Appearing current, polished and credible are essential to competing in today's marketplace. I noticed that your team page lacks photos and contains only one-sentence colloquial bios of your service leaders. Your clients are investing in your talent. Make sure they appear worthy and competent on your team page. Invest in professional headshots — they pay for themselves in spades.
4) Build services for where the money is. "Brand strategy" and "website development" only happen within companies every couple of years. Repackage your services to serve more ongoing needs like "advertising campaigns" and "email marketing," categories where companies have regular and ongoing budgets, for which you can negotiate retainers. While you may already offer these types of services, it's not readily apparent from your website.
5) Now, get out there. Successful salespeople spend at most 50 percent of time behind their desks. The other 50 percent should be spent meeting with prospects, taking them for coffee or lunch or at networking events. Higher priced deals happen through personal connections and networks. The "big boys" (and girls!) you seek are hobnobbing at events. Go find them.
Good luck, Deb. We believe in you!
This piece originally appeared on DailyWorth in September of 2013.