Prospect Meetings – Pace Yourself

Get yourself informed about the prospect and what he expects before you start the pitch. You can then deliver a much more measured delivery.

carsalesman1The ‘running off at the mouth’ that is often employed by web designers both at web design meetings and on their websites is meant to impress upon the audience how much they know.  All it does is impress the audience how disorganized (and sloppy and illiterate) they often are.

It’s a balancing act. You don’t want to sit there and say nothing – the prospect does want to have an opinion about you other than ‘taciturn’ (or ‘chancer’ – even worse). On the other hand, you mustn’t dominate the conversation and sound like a car salesman.

The trick is to be friendly but sound profound. Not easy and you have to think on your feet.

Get Your Position Right – Right from the Outset

It’s important to create a hierarchy. Who are you?

Are you the guy who is going to jump at every phone call demanding yet another change? Or, are you the consultant who will dispense his manifold skills to their advantage and to whom they will prostrate themselves?

Are you the maid or the doctor?

It may sound arrogant but it has consequences later on. If you come across as weak, submissive and pliable, you may get the gig but you will get communications that will have that expectation – how high can you jump? Why are you not adding all this extra stuff to my website – now!


Alternatively, if you are the doctor, it will be – ‘What do you think of this?’, ‘I understand it may cost more but how about adding these?’ The consequence of the ‘consultant’ position is, of course that you can charge more by reason of your professionalism.

Of course listen to the prospect and be adaptable. Be pliant but not pathetic.

Webbie Qualifications

I don’t like regulations but it is a problem that there are few real yardsticks of website designers’ performance out there. Most website designers are self taught. Only a few will come through existing courses (subject of another post). Prospects in my experience pay more attention to you personally than to your portfolio.

SImilarly, this poses a small problem in that prospects pay more attention to you, your appearance, your knowledge and authority than to a piece of paper. Which may be worthless.

Tell Them

  1. A little about the company background and perhaps your own background as it relates to the business;
  2. Tell them why you love designing websites;
  3. How many sites you have designed and for which big important clients;
  4. The types of sites – marketing, database, CMS, eCommerce etc. and their uses
  5. Your SEO skills that get your clients cash;
  6. The way you go about developing your websites;
  7. Things you can do to marketing websites to increase their pull – social bookmarking, newsletters, blogs, client lists, testimonials etc.
  8. Special services like hosting;

Answer any questions promptly and then resume. Make sure that your tone is knowledgeable but informal. Cut the anecdotes – they distract people and waste time. They don’t want to deal with Victor Meldrew. Nor do they want to deal with Justin Bieber.

Bye Bye

farewel1Be aware of meeting fatigue. People being distracted, looking at their cellphones, what’s going on outside the door. Paper shuffling.

Time to wrap up and go. In my case usually between 45 minutes and an hour.

Do not make them sit there while you go over your last 9 points.  They will think that if they give you the gig you will micromanage it to death. Use the space they will give you to speak to get the main points over then talk about their own requirements.

Have a list of less than important items that can be left off if there is no time.

  • In my case – web design courses;
  • Control panel uses;
  • Anecdotes;
  • How busy – or otherwise – you are

Time to go, thank them all, get out and thank them again in an email. If you agreed to quote then follow up a few days after it’s submission.


Aspects of Tourism Website Design Usability – a New Page

I had toyed with this in tourism website design for some time. I have a client who is wanting to redevelop his two BnB websites. Rather than talk to him, it seemed easier to put a rough idea of the sort of things he might consider when we get going.

I always think an example is useful. In this case, I chose, a website that was put together (for a real establishment) by myself without any reference to the establishment owners. In fact, they were completely unaware for many months. I wanted to put together the sort of website I would have if I myself owned a BnB in St. Lucia.

sample home page01

St. Lucia is a good example of a tough neighbourhood. It’s a small spot and over the last few years, more and more BnBs and guest houses have opened, making the slice of the pie smaller and smaller.

My experience of the tourism niche is that it is difficult to break into existing rankings. I have two sites there and both are at or near the top of Google but that I believe is not because they are fantastic websites but because that have been there for years. The two websites are and – quite ordinary websites that are very successful for their owners. These two websites are however, well put together with nothing fancy – Google friendly.

stluciawilds used ‘st’ lucia guesthouse’ as  main keywords and started at SERP #30, went up to a very respoectable #20 after two months and then I tried to put the emphasis on ‘bed and breakfast’. It went down to #50 and was currently at #30. Serves me right for fiddling.

I was then approached by an SEO firm that offered free SEO. Over the last six months has risen to #3 and gets 800 visitors per month.

So, not a stellar success without SEO assistance but not shabby in a very competitive little corner of the market. It’s also interesting to observe the very different SERPs for ‘guesthouse’ and ‘guest house’. Most people use ‘guesthouse’ but a lot of exposure is being missed as ‘guest house’ and adding this phrase to the existing website seems to make little difference.

So, take a look –

Prospects – What to Take to the Meeting

Don’t get caught having to ask the prospect for a pen – or directions to the loo.


I see young web designers always carry a laptop/tablet to meetings. What for?

I have loaded my portfolio onto a laptop with the idea that prospects will be able to browse through them. Or, I can quickly lay my hands on a specific example of the sort of website they might be wanting.

It doesn’t work. However, I still take the netbook to show that I am something to do with computers. There is simply not the time to fire up the Internet and scratch about for the site you think they may be interested in.  They’re usually not, after 5 minutes of frantic searching. Then the battery goes flat.

Murphy’s Law will also ensure that if you want to show the prospect one of your sites, there will be a great big error on the page you choose. Even worse, a 404.


I used to print screengrabs of my portfolio and put them in transparent pockets. The screengrabs were printed on coated paper for colour density and simply glued on the page.


Lately, I upgraded the folder. I either printed my own postcard sized screengrabs or got them done at a Postnet. And stuck them on black card. And bought a plastic comb binder. And put a transparent sheet as the front and back cover.

Now they look presentable. I also made sure that the visually appealing sites were at the front. As new sites arrive, I can print grabs and add them.The folder of screengrabs always gets attention if you remember to leave it out on the table. And you can still lay your hands on that site.

Company Profile

What else? A company profile is worth putting together and leaving behind. One thing that is useful is a file of AWStats printouts to show the prospect what he can expect both in terms of traffic and general information.


Also take any relevant emails – they’re more useful than you think.


bagsI also take an exercise book and couple of pencils. I bought a very fancy plain paper, leather bound book in India. Very striking. I usually make notes in it and prospects do remember that book. It’s got a huge clasp on the front that presents a massive lump that is almost impossible to write on. But they remember that book.

Business Cards

bcardEasily forgotten. Have one ready to produce in your top pocket. Don’t rummage around in your wallet for some filthy, dog eared scrap.

Hundreds of books have been written on card design.  Mine is simple but unique.

Your Bag

As long as it’s not shabby and unprofessional, anything will do – even an old leather briefcase. I use a black nylon laptop bag that will take the laptop and also has a bunch of pockets for things like a laser pointer, the cellphone (ALWAYS turn it OFF) and car keys (don’t have them bulging out of your pocket). I also have a simpler document bag, also black and nylon for short non-prospect meetings. In both bags is a supply of business cards. I also put my wallet in the bag and try not to look like a refugee from a shoplifting trip.

OK, You’re cool and out the car. Carry your bag in your left hand. You’re going  to shake hands. Prospects will not like to shake hands with something that’s hot and very sweaty.

Your Cellphone

SWITCH IT OFF! Before the meeting. Not even on silent. SWITCH IT OFF.


  1. Business cards
  2. Portfolio folder
  3. Empty bladder
  4. Computer – perhaps
  5. Pen/pencil
  6. Notebook
  7. Email correspondence
  8. Critique of his present website if any
  9. Suitable bag
  10. Quotation – if you’ve already quoted
  11. Company profile
  12. Phone (switched off)


Prospects – Meetings 101 or Why You Were Invited

Un-ideally, and usually, the meeting  takes place after you have submitted the quotation. In other words, your prospect has shuffled a bunch of quotes together and for reasons unknown, you have ended up on his little pile.

Why You Are There

The reasons could be a low price (Ugh!) or, you hope, the professional service you offer. Or anything else. But, you need to go into this meeting with a good mental picture of what you quoted for and the amount you quoted. Take any emails because for sure, he will have them. Look through the correspondence in relation to the quote. Have I missed something?

angrymanIn most cases it’s the price that got you there and not your fancy quote form so expect some horsetrading.

At the meeting, additional functionality/pages will be brought up either by your prospect (to squeeze the quote) or yourself  (to increase the quote).

The Curve Ball

He has had the chance to look at several quotes and thought to himself – “Hmm, didn’t think of that!”, “Ooh, I want LOTS of those!’ or “That would be nice”.

He will try and get you to commit your price to this additional functionality, which may be significant – (“Oh, we thought we’d have a database driving those extra 20 pages”).

Your Response

Resist, although things may may otherwise going swimmingly. There are probably a bunch of people round the table BTW so there may be a little pressure. He may ask you there and then – “Well, how much extra do you think this will cost?”.

interrogationResist – although there may be some pressure. Tell your prospect that you need to evaluate the new spec. and you’ll submit a new quote tomorrow.

Tell him that your quotations are prepared very thoroughly. Get your breath back when you get to the office – and don’t leave it too long before reissuing the quote. I have done this and even got mixed up with what client wants what.

When You Get Back

No matter how much you impress him with the approximate-ness of the figure, this figure gets itself set in concrete between the meeting and your quote submission. What you’re going to do is have a relook at the quote, add stuff from the meeting and have a REAL thorough inspection of the existing website in case that content is going to be reused.

The devil is in the detail. Too true.  I have found some horrific stuff in the basement over the years.  Some little, weeny text link leads to a whole new 30 page website.

quote_timeOnce you have done this, put the quote together making sure that the new stuff from the meeting is itemized in there together with the unpleasant discoveries from the resent website.

If there was stuff discussed that was optional, include them and quote for them separately so your prospect has a choice.

Cover Yourself

In your quotation make sure you specify exactly what you are going to do for what fee and that extra pages/functionality will be quoted separately.

Don’t submit the new quote ‘tomorrow’ – leave it a day or two. Chances are, he will be seeing other webbies so get your quote in after theirs JUST after, before he chooses. Otherwise he may use your quote to get a lower quote at a subsequent meeting.

Next Post

What to take to the meeting.

Prospects – First Contact

Know thine prospect! It pays to find out as much as possible about a new prospect before a) you answer him and b) you see him.  This is not possible with . . . 

… the Phone Call

Wow! you’ve got an enquiry!

phoneTypically it’ll be “I’m looking for someone to design a website – do you do that sort of thing?”

Of course we do! But you need some info before you know whether you can really answer the question in the affirmative.

Firstly, listen. Listen to what the prospect is saying. Very little probably – he’s waiting for you. But, you still need some information from him –

  1. What is the prospect’s business (a lot are reluctant)?
  2. Does he already have a website?
  3. If so what does he think the shortcomings are (other than ‘old’)?
  4. How long has he had the site?
  5. If you can, get the developer’s name from him (also reluctant).
  6. What does he expect from the new website (er, updated)?
  7. Does he have any specific requirements or just a general ‘improvement’?

Beware! You get the ‘Our website designer never answers our emails’.


Lots of reasons for this – he’s rubbish or he’s fed up with his client’s continual amendments. The latter reason is usually because he’s underquoted and not been clear/firm with his client.

The answer is usually the second reason which will tell you that your prospect may be a micromanager and will have paid little for the site (inspecting it will tell you).

… the Email

If you’re lucky, the email may have an attached spec – but that will probably be incomplete however the email is likely to have been written by the guy wanting the site. And, at least you have something in writing.

I get a high number of emails with no contact at all other than the email address. If there is a phone number, ring them and see who it is you’re talking to. You’ll also get a good idea of want they want and they have had the opportunity to talk to you – and you can give them tips over the phone.

Time Wasters

bored-man-300x230Sometimes you’ll get the written equivalent of the phone call – ‘Can you give me price on a website please’.

Someone has been told to get three quotes – ‘Give me a price – any price’ – although they have someone in mind anyway.

Worse you travel 50kms and get – ‘Oh, Brandon has just stepped out’. How interested can he be? He may have delegated but the guy:

  • has no idea what Brandon wanted and
  • couldn’t give a shit.

starYou’ve just wasted two hours that you could have done something else in.

I now try and do some digging on the phone before a site visit is brought up. From the digging I can get some idea of the extent of the prospect’s interest so when it arises I can tell them I’ll see them or that I am too busy but they can come around (subject of another post). I usually get it wrong.

 Is there Already a Website?

badsiteI try and establish if he already has a website – sometimes the prospect will tell you that in the email signature. If he does, I go to it and take a look and appraise the website objectively.

It may be crap but the reason for the crappiness may not be the webbie’s fault. He may have been told to do things the way they are. However, it is possible to see shoddy implementation of standard functionality – which is a webbie problem.

The name of the web designer may be below the footer. It may be hidden so do a Ctrl-A and see if anything magically appears.

The more informed you are before you see a prospect, the better the questions you can put and the more readily you will have how you can help him at your fingertips.

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