Episode #90: Selling by Helping With Nick Gulic

Confident designer talking to client.

Do you have trouble charging more for your work? Does the sales process make you nervous or feel sleazy? Do you need more confidence when talking to prospects? Nick Gulic, who regularly sells $10k and $20k brochure sites, talks about his sales process and selling by helping.


Nick Gulic.Nick Gulic is a business coach for web designers. He created the Sell by Helping course, which teaches you all about this approach to selling so you can make more money without being sleazy or slimy (and yes, it really works!). Nick runs Creative Click, a Sydney-based web design agency that focuses on delivering results for growth driven businesses. His personal website is nickgulic.com and he can also be found on Twitter.


Show Notes

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Getting to Know Nick

Colleen Gratzer: Welcome to the podcast, Nick. It’s great to have you here.

Nick Gulic: Hey. Great to be here.

Colleen: I thought we’d start off with a couple of funny questions.

Nick: Sure.

Colleen: One is location specific to you, and that’s: Would you rather fight a koala or a kangaroo?

Nick: Oh. Probably the koala. Kangaroos are big and strong. They’re actually really not as cute as TV shows make them seem. They’re mean. They’re a little bit scary. They look really like they work out.

Colleen: I’ve seen memes of them with boxing gloves on.

Nick: They’ll come to you and then kick you in the chest and claw you.

Colleen: Oh, wow.

Nick: Yeah. Small kangaroos are fine but keep your distance.

Koalas are cool. They’re not aggressive. But they’ve got chlamydia—koala chlamydia.

Colleen: Oh my God. That’s crazy!

Nick: I know. Koalas are weak, man. I’ll take a koala any day.

Colleen: I thought I had seen a picture. I don’t know if it was doctored or anything. But is it true they can stand on their tail?

Nick: Yeah. That’s how they kick you. They lean back on their tail and they kick you with their legs. That’s how they fight.

You can YouTube “kangaroos fighting.”

Everyone’s jumping off the podcast now to go watch kangaroos fighting. But yeah.

Colleen: Okay, I definitely have to look that up.

On another note, what is your favorite software or app that you just cannot live without—whether it’s related to business or web design?

Nick: I can’t live without the browser. That’s the one thing that I need to use no matter what.

Most other apps are accessible in the browser. So with no internet, I will die. What a cop-out. What a cheap answer.

Colleen: Okay, I just want to let the listeners know that we’ve known each other for, I think, maybe five years now from WP Elevation originally.

Nick: Yeah, that’s right.

Colleen: I know that you regularly land $10,000 to $20,0000 brochure sites.

Nick: Yes.

Colleen: That’s awesome. You’re the perfect person to be talking to about this because so many creatives really dread the sales process. I used to dread it.

They feel that selling is them against the client. They have to convince them to work with them.

We’ll get into why sales aren’t about that at all. I thought we’d start off by talking a little bit about the mindset around sales first.

How Nick Has Excelled in Sales

Nick: There’s a story with all this, right? I used to be an accountant.

Colleen: You did? I didn’t know that.

Nick: Yes. A lot of people say, “What? You?”

Yes. I used to be an accountant. I worked in an office and I did all that stuff—the tax returns and things like that.

Colleen: Ugh!

Nick: I would meet with clients. It didn’t really suit me well. I was good with the numbers part, but I found it boring.

I moved into a role with an accounting firm, where I was kind of going out and getting them clients. Not a lot of accounting firms did that.

Most clients would get referred to them, and they’d meet with one of the partners.

My job was to get them clients. I had no idea how to get clients and how to do sales. I’d have sales conversations, and I just kind of copied the person who was doing it before me.

It didn’t really work out for me, and I just went, “You know what, this isn’t for me.” I don’t care anymore.

I’m just gonna talk to these people. I’d ask them questions about what they were doing and how they’re doing it, and ended up mapping out solutions and saying, “Hey, this is how it could work.  We could do this for you.”

Then they would sign and I went from getting 3 to 5 clients a month. Then I started getting 10 clients a month and then I was getting 30 clients a month.

Colleen: Wow.

Nick: Pretty much everyone I spoke and I’d do that for would sign, so they were like, “wow.” And that grew into a multi-million dollar business.

A Different Mindset With Sales

Nick: I started looking at going, instead of me trying to convince them to give us money, I approached it like my job is to map out a solution.

I started looking into things that are called “solution selling.” There’s also one called SPIN Selling. It’s a book by Neil Rackham and it’s pretty good.

Colleen: I haven’t heard of that one.

Nick: Yeah. It’s old but it’s good.

The mindset for me was, “Okay, my job is not to get them to buy. My job is to recommend a solution.”

Ideally, the solution is gonna be me. But you know what? Sometimes it’s not. That’s also powerful.

It’s telling someone, “No, this isn’t a good fit. I think this is what you need instead.”

My number 1 mindset is: it’s about finding solutions for people rather than convincing them to buy.

Then there’s don’t be desperate for the sale. You need to be willing to push it away. Otherwise, you lose all authority and all respect, when you’re recommending, “Yes, you should totally give me money that you don’t have.”

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Focusing on the things that people care about. That’s a big one.

A lot of people think that, “Hey, everything I have in my process is what that client cares about.” They don’t.

Understanding is you find a solution, make sure that solution is something that they care about, don’t be too desperate to get the sale.

They’re the three mindset basics.

I actually cover that in my course too. Those three points are in the first module. That’s the mindset for me behind sales.

Colleen: Yeah, I think a lot of creatives—and I used to think this too—think the goal of a sales call or meeting with someone that you don’t even know is to end up with a project. A lot of creatives will think that.

Then they get upset and think that anything less than that is a failure. “Oh, I’m not good at sales, because…”

It’s really just their expectation was too high. They were expecting something that was too high.

They’re expecting them to turn around and just start working with them.

The other thing that happens from that is they lose confidence and that hurts their self-esteem.

I think there’s a lot of reframing: What is the goal of a sales meeting? What is the purpose of having a call with a client?

Nick: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Though you can definitely meet with someone and get a sale straight away. That happens all the time.

You need to be outcome independent. Don’t stress about the outcome itself.

Focus on the stuff that you can really control—following a process and having a conversation and trying to help someone.

Selling and sales is literally a transaction. It’s getting a transaction to happen.

There are multiple ways you can go around doing that. You can take the approach of convincing and stuff. But for a lot of people, it’s not natural.

For some people it is and that’s great. That’s what they’re made for. You could throw them into a used car lot and they could just get sales. Some people would die in that situation.

For a lot of creatives, that isn’t who they are. The personality of a creative is not this super outgoing, smarmy, sleazy type of person.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: No, that’s not who we are.

I might seem rather outgoing. I am not. I am super introverted.

I stay at home. I don’t go out. I don’t like to go out of the house too much. I don’t like big crowds of people. I get very nervous.

Colleen: I’m like that too.

Nick: That’s who I am. I just have a process and my process is one that doesn’t require me to be super outgoing.

There are different ways you can approach sales. It’s just that the way I approach sales works for me. It works really well and it’s working for other people that I talked to as well.

Why Designers Think They Can’t Charge More

Colleen: Some of the other mindset issues and self-limiting beliefs that I hear from designers—which again, I’ve also had in the past as well—are:

  • “Oh, I can’t charge more,” or
  • “My clients aren’t going to pay what I really want to charge. I can’t find those clients,” or
  • “I need more experiences or more skills or I need to get one more certification” or
  • whatever it is that they think they need, in order to charge more.

Nick: Sometimes that’s true, but usually it’s not.

The biggest one is, “People don’t pay that much in my area.” I hear that all the time.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: I hear people in the UK… It seems that every single web designer in the UK is complaining about how their clients don’t want to spend money.

One of my higher-paying brochure sites that I’m still working on right now is a client in the UK.

It’s not that people don’t pay. You need to understand that people pay for what they value.

If someone comes to you says, “Hey, I need a website” and you say, “What color do you want the banners?” and start talking about that, you are an order taker.

They don’t value that because you’re just a commodity like everyone else.

Colleen: Yes.

Nick: But if someone comes to this, “Hey, I need a website,” and you say, “Well, why do you need a website? What do you want to do?”

He starts finding out that they have this business that does a million dollars a year. They want to try to double that business over the next three years.

The website is a critical part of it, and you say, “Well, so you want to basically generate a million dollars more revenue with this website?”

“Cool. It’s gonna be $20,000.” I wouldn’t say it should be $1,000. How’s $1,000 gonna make you a million? That doesn’t work that way.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: There are people who will do it for $1,000. But it’s probably not going to be the best outcome. You need to shift away from being the same as everyone else if you want to charge more.

You don’t have to or people don’t have to do any of that if they’re comfortable. It’s a big thing.

Sometimes I talk about sales stuff, and people get really offended.

Colleen: Offended?

Nick: It’s when you say something that’s counter to what people do, they feel the need to justify their process.

It’s fine. You can do that if you are happy. I’m very blatantly, “This is not the only way to do things.”

The way I do things is not the only way. It’s the way I do it.

If someone comes to me and is struggling, it’s what I’m going to recommend doing because I see that it will work for them.

People don’t have to land $10,000 sites.

There’s one of my coachees. I mean, I never know what to call them…

Colleen: Mentee?

Nick: Yeah, whatever it is. I say “friends.” I call all of them my friends.

One of my friends hadn’t closed a site in a year. Then he got a $5,000 brochure site—a 5-page brochure site for 5 grand U.S.

He was very happy with that. It’s great. The money is dollar values and things don’t matter. It’s what you’re happy with.

If you’re happy making $1,000 for a website, then make $1,000 for a website. That’s okay.

If you want to get more—if you’re not happy with it—that’s when you need to change something to make it happen.

I’ll say, “Hey, this is how I do it, or this is how I recommend doing it.”

People feel the need to justify. You don’t have to change anything if you don’t want to.

But if you do, then focus on moving away from being like everyone else.

Solutions, Not Deliverables

Nick: Don’t just take orders: “Okay, cool. Let me process your order. What color here? What shape there?”

Colleen: Can you get fries with that?

Nick: Yeah. “How many pages do you want?”

That sort of stuff, in my opinion, is irrelevant to identifying a solution for someone.

Instead, you need to know who your audience is. What are you trying to do with them? How do you make money? How can I help you make more money?

That’s fine. People almost always care about it.

Not all websites need to be this lead-generating machine. Some people care about how they’re being perceived, but you find out what they care about.

If you can find a solution that will help make that reality, then you’re going to stand out versus every single order taker that is out there.

There are people who are, “How many pages do you want?”

You’re already standing out there and that’s when you can start to charge more. When you’re giving them something they want that other people can’t give.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: That’s kind of how I look at it.

Colleen: Yeah, yeah. Same.

When you’re in the order taker position, you’re not leading the conversation.

That’s why you’re being hired. They might come to you and say, “Okay, I want this color, or I want this many pages or whatever.”

They need to be led. They have their own ideas, but that doesn’t mean that you have to just shut up and take them.

They’re not stepping up to the McDonald’s counter ordering things off the menu.

You’re the one that needs to say that’s not a good idea and why.

Talk about your actual needs and what we’re trying to accomplish and figure out if that’s even where the direction you should take.

Lead the conversation and actually step up and be the expert.

Nick: Yeah. Well, imagine if you went to the doctor and said, “Hey, doc, prescribe me some antibiotics right now. I need antibiotics. Can you give me a prescription?”

They’re gonna tell you to get lost. No way.

Colleen: Well, in the United States that actually happens. That’s what the patient…

Nick: What?

Colleen: Yes, Big Pharma markets to consumers. They have been for years. That used to be illegal.

That actually happens in the States. That’s what they…

Nick: Oh, man. Well, okay. I really need to change up my stories because I use that story a lot.

In Australia, if you go to a doctor and try to tell them what to do, they’re going to tell you to get out of their office.

If you go to a doctor—an ethical doctor—you’re going to go in and say, “Hey, I’ve got a headache,” and they’re going to ask questions about it. They need to diagnose before they can prescribe.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: I kind of treat it the same way. If someone comes to you and says, “Hey, I want a website” it’s because they think that that is going to solve—that’s the prescription they think they need for this—the problem they have.

But they’re not medical professionals.

Web MD or Dr. Google is not enough to figure out what you really need.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Just because someone comes to me and says, “Hey, I need a website,” doesn’t mean they actually even need a website.

I knock back heaps. Sometimes they do need something. Sometimes there’s not enough value in what they want to be worth me getting involved.

I know how much I need as a minimum for it to be worth my time. Then I recommend something else.

Some people just want someone to say literally, “I’ve got this vision. I need you to execute my vision.”

Great, go to Fiverr or Upwork, or go to any cheap freelancer because you don’t need anyone expensive.

You just give them the instructions and they’re going to follow them. It may or may not be the best outcome, because you don’t really know what you’re doing.

But if that’s what people are looking for, that’s an option too.

Not everyone needs to be diagnosed. Some people don’t like help. Some people don’t want to be diagnosed. They just want to find the commodity. You need to not be desperate for the work.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: If you take those people on, you’ll hate life.

You’re just going to follow instructions. There are going to be unlimited revisions. The revisions gonna come out the butt.

Colleen: Yeah.

Nick: It’s a neverending story and they don’t want to pay for anything, because they can get it for cheap already.

Colleen: Yeah, I mean, I had to at some point change my contracts—a long time ago—because I had a client—who I really enjoyed working with—until she did this.

She was, “Oh, okay. How many drafts do we get?”

I said, “Three, so you get one more.” and she’s, “Oh, okay, great. So I’ll find some changes to make.”

She felt like she was going to get her money’s worth only if she actually used up that other round of revisions.

Nick: Yes. I don’t do rounds of revisions, I’ll say unlimited.

Colleen: You say unlimited?

Nick: I say unlimited. People are like, “What? How can you say unlimited?”

It’s because I know that the most revisions I get are two, and that’s very rare.

If someone does dramatic changes and then contradicts themselves later, I stop them and I pull back. We reframe the entire conversation back to goals. I’m there to hit goals.

I’m not there to change colors and things. I’m there to make something happen.

I’ve had that happen. I’ve had people not abuse the unlimited revisions, where they kept doing revisions and they kept changing and changing, and I’ve literally restarted the entire project.

It’s when you charge enough that you can afford to do that.

Just as a heads-up for everyone, a lot of things start with “I can’t afford to do that.” It’s because you’re not charging enough.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Or you’ve charged a really low amount based on time or something.

But if something’s going to take you two weeks to do and you’ve charged $10,000, and then you need to do something else, that’s going to add a couple of days.

It’s not the end of the world. You’ve got enough buffer to compensate for it.

It’s also very rare for that to happen if you are really good at managing your clients during the process. But it’s a whole new topic.

Price versus Profitability

Colleen: You were talking before about some people might be happy about just getting $1,000 or $5,000 for a website.

I know people who have charged five figures for a website, but they weren’t necessarily profitable.

I think that’s a big thing too. Are you more profitable at a lower price point or at the higher price point?

It really depends. You have to make sure you’re covering all your bases.

Nick: People who do e-commerce sites… I have a client, a longtime client, and I’ve built five websites for him.

They wanted to add e-commerce to a site. I quoted for me to add it. It was an existing site—high performing. The conversion rate is through the roof.

I suggested extending that site with e-commerce and gave him a quote.

They said, “Oh, we’ve got a quote for a third of that.” I had a look, and it turns out this person had quoted to actually build a completely new website with e-commerce.

“If I was building a new website of e-commerce, my price would have been more than double. It’s actually one-tenth of what I would charge you.”

They say, “Are you trying to rip us off?”

“No. I know what’s involved in doing this stuff. I know how it’s performing.”

I’m really curious. How are they gonna make money?

Colleen: Right.

Nick: It ended up being something—I think $3,000 or $4,000—to build a whole new site with e-commerce.

Colleen: What?

Nick: That’s low for pretty much anyone you talk to.

Colleen: That’s crazy.

Nick: When you’ve got a site that is processing this much, you don’t mess around with that too much.

But, anyway, what you see a lot in groups is people talking about these projects they’ve landed and the numbers behind it.

They’ll say, “I’ve just landed this $30,000 project,” which sounds really impressive.

People go, “Oh, man. I don’t land $30,000 projects. I wish I’d land $30,000 projects.”

You need to see what kind of project it is. I can tell you now, a $30,000 project that is a brochure site is highly profitable, but a $30,000 project that is e-commerce is getting slightly less.

$30,000 project that’s a membership site with subscriptions and all this stuff is starting to lose profitability.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Sometimes, they’re building a web app that should have been more than double the price.

Profit is more important. I tend to stick to brochure sites, because I know I can get them done fairly quickly and easily and deliver a really good outcome.

My strength is related to outcomes, getting more clients. Generally, that area is where I play and where I perform the best.

Development or building something custom is not what I’m interested in. It’s a hard-to-measure outcome for me versus I can see that people are getting more clients and making more money.

That’s kind of where I want to play. I usually won’t take on anymore. I won’t take on membership sites and even e-commerce. I don’t really…

Colleen: Yeah. I don’t mess with those either. I don’t want any part of that.

Nick: Yeah, yeah. I do sometimes, but the only for the right kinds of clients. It’s gonna be really high, I think. So identifying what’s profitable for you is really important.

Colleen: Yeah.

Nick: Just because someone has big numbers doesn’t mean that they’re profitable.

Colleen: Exactly.

Nick: I know people whose agencies do seven figures a year, and they make less money than I do, and less money than you do, probably less money than most people listening.

Just because turnover is big doesn’t mean profit is big. You’ve got to just design the business for yourself and what you need.

Don’t worry about these big arbitrary number goals. They’re irrelevant.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: We’re throwing some big numbers around here: $10,000 for a brochure site and $20,000 for this and $30,000 for that.

Don’t worry about it. Those are just numbers that we’re using and that we work out.

It doesn’t mean you need to like it. You could be more, you could be less.

I’ve got a student—I’m going to say student, friend, or the person I’m coaching—who is landing brochures sites twice what I charge. That’s amazing.

I’m pumped. How good is that?

Colleen: That’s awesome.

Nick: Yeah. That’s great. I don’t need to charge that much. I’m happy with what I’m charging.

But he wants to charge more and he’s doing it. It’s working and people are happy, which is really important.

His businesses are hugely profitable. You get to design the business for yourself. You can charge heaps less and still make huge profit.

It depends on your process, on how you work and depends on what your goals are in life.

Colleen: Totally agree.

Nick: Yeah. Don’t let other people decide your goals for you.

Colleen: Right. You never know what kind of expenses they have or where they live and what the cost of living is and all that stuff.

Nick: Yeah.

Price versus Value

Colleen: We were talking before about price and value. I think that’s a great topic to cover—the difference between price and value when we’re talking to clients.

Nick: It’s a huge topic actually—value. Price is what you’re charging, right?

Value is tricky. People get—again, sometimes people get a little bit offended about when I say… But value—you don’t decide what the value is, the client decides.

Whatever they decide, they’re right, because they’re the person who has to pay.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: You might think it’s worth more and you might think the value of what you’re doing is $50,000.

But if the client thinks its value is $10, then the value is $10 for that specific client. It’s unique to everyone.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Value is literally perception.

In a sales call or a sales meeting, what you’re hoping to do is to help this client, raise the value—perceived value—of what you’re offering to higher than the price you’re charging.

If the value is more than the price, then they’re going to pay. It might be just a little bit more. It might need to be heaps more. It depends on them.

But value is literally just perception. It’s in the person who’s buying, not the person selling.

Value is not something you decide. Value is something the client decides.

Your job is to help them realize the value of what they’re doing and believe a certain value figure, and raise it if you can.

Colleen: Right. You can’t just tell them. You can’t just preach to them, “Hey, this is how it is.”

Nick: Yeah. Sometimes it is as simple as saying, “Hey, you’ve got a multimillion-dollar business. You’re looking at growing 20% a month. It’s a big growth thing. Sorry. You need to be paying more than that. How could you think it’s okay to pay this amount for a website?”

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Sometimes people determine value based on previous experiences.

I get that. “Oh. alright, it’s a lot more than I expected.”

Then, “Okay. What are we expecting?”

“Oh, well, you know, the last guy was blah…”

“But were you happy with the results?”

“Well, no.”

“Do you think if the last thing that you bought wasn’t delivering, do you think that maybe you need to pay more for the next one to get results?”

Colleen: Right.

Nick: And they’re, “Oh, actually, yeah, that makes sense.”

Sometimes that’s enough. It’s definitely a tricky area. That’s the job of the sales meeting.

Colleen: Yeah. You say in your course budgets are BS. They’ve come up with this number that they may not really have any education behind coming up with.

Then they’re coming to you with it. A lot of creatives feel, “Oh, I’ve got to fit my price into that number.”

No. You’re the expert.

Nick: Yeah. I don’t ask for budgets early on.

A lot of people will have, for example, an intake form where you’ll ask the budget.

I don’t really ask that because what they want to pay is irrelevant to the solution.

Colleen: Right. I stopped asking it too for that reason.

Nick: I’ll judge what they should be paying, in my opinion, based on their business and what their goals are, and how much they’re generating and how much they want to generate and stuff like that.

Everyone has a perceived value—again, I’m saying based on previous experiences.

They’ll say, “I want to spend $2,000 on a website.”

If they put $2,000 in on a form, you’re going to turn around and say, “No, that’s too low.”

Then they’re going to say, “Okay, well, I’ll go talk to someone else,” or you’re going to try to come up with a solution that’s going to fit close to $2,000.

Instead, if you talk to them and go, “Cool. What are you trying to achieve?,” you kind of unpack it for them and say, “You want to make $X, you want to do this. You want to do that. In order to do that properly, you should be spending time with this.”

They’ll say OK.

I had someone who said, “Oh, man, my last website cost me $5,000. I cannot believe it cost me that much. It didn’t really get me where I wanted to go. They ripped me off.”

I was like, “Good news, bad news. Good news: I can deliver something that’s going to get you that outcome. Bad news: it’s going to cost you $12,000.”

He said, “That’s fine” and signed straight away.

If I’d asked him for a budget at the start and let that influence my conversation. I probably would not have gotten that client.

There are plenty of businesses that go in with an actual budget, a solid budget. But even then, sometimes that budget isn’t high enough.

People look at it and go, “Ah, man, it’s not enough for what they want.”

It doesn’t matter. Once they understand the value of what you’re doing, that budget magically stretches.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: That’s the big thing. “Oh, the magic budget, eh? It will be whatever it needs to be.”

Colleen: Right.

Nick: I don’t know about you, but when I go shopping for clothes or something.

I want to buy a pair of shoes, in my head, I would say, “Oh, you know, 100 bucks. This is pretty fair for shoes.”

But then I’ll go and find a pair of shoes that are amazing and it’s $200, and I’ll buy them.

Colleen: I’m too cheap to spend that much on shoes.

Nick: Well, in Australia, stuff is a lot more expensive. Getting shoes for under $100 can be tricky, especially if you want brands like Nike or Adidas or whatever for sneakers.

For example, in your head, you might have a number and then you see the thing you want.

I want that, and you’ll pay more. The budget was just an arbitrary number you set based on previous experiences.

Budgets aren’t that important, in my opinion, and people might disagree, and that’s cool. You can disagree.

Colleen: It’s just like you said, it goes back to that perception of value too.

I think in the sales call, the way that you come across, not just what you say, but the way you come across, how confident you are, and how much you convey to a prospect that you are confident about being able to solve their problem…

I think that goes a long way. Like what you said, “Oh, well, before, I invested $5,000 and now it’s going to be $12,000. Well, now I feel better about what this person is going to offer me.”

Nick: Yeah, exactly. That’s part of the whole increasing the value. There are 1,000,001 people who can build a website.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Building a website isn’t worth much. Sorry, people who just build websites. I just build websites too.

But if you can build a website that will deliver an outcome that’s worth something to people, if that’s what they care about.

Part of that sales meeting and part of your process is getting them to understand that you can help them achieve their goal.

Step one is understanding what their goal is, what they actually want to happen.

Then you need to educate them on how to make that goal a reality. How you can step in and do things—sort of things that generally other people are doing wrong.

You can tell them, this is what’s going to cost to do it and they would be okay if you’ve done everything else right. That’s usually fine.

You just handle a few objections, like the sales term—“objection handling.” It just means answering questions. They have questions, “Oh, well, what about this?”

You show them how it’s handled, then great. Once, you’ve answered all the questions. They would say, “I’m happy with the price. I’m happy with what’s going to happen. Let me sign off on that.”

And bang, you’ve got yourself a client.

Confidence is something that even if you’re not confident naturally, it can come with time. It comes with practice.

It comes with repetition. It comes with having a process to follow.

Colleen: Definitely.

Nick: It doesn’t matter what you do.

You either have a process to sell, or you’re going to be following your prospective clients’ process to buy.

Colleen: Oh, my gosh. That’s 100% right there! Yes.

Nick: Right? Yeah. I prefer to follow my process, because it means I can run the sales meeting in a way that allows me to unpack value.

It allows me to present what I’m going to do for them—assuming it makes sense to do that. It allows me to present in a way that shows the value well.

If I’m just answering their questions, if they’re just going to ask me questions—Can you do this? Can you do that? How much does it cost to do this?—the odds of them seeing the value in what I do is pretty low. It’s going to just be the value that they assigned to it already.

Colleen: That’s just an interview.

Nick: Yeah, that’s just an interview. Unless they’re asking you questions that allow you to really demonstrate value, which isn’t gonna happen or is very unlikely, then you’re probably not going to be able to do much. It becomes a price comparison.

Colleen: Yes.

Nick: Most situations like that are just a price comparison. They’re like, “what do I get for how much?”

Colleen: Right, exactly.

Nick: If I’m delivering at a website for $10,000 and you’re delivering a website for $5,000, you’re going to get that job because they’re both websites.

But when they talk to me, they say, “You know what? This guy’s talking about helping us generate more leads and has a track record in generating more leads.”

That’s going to be $10,000 generating leads versus your $5,000 website. Then there’s a much better chance that I’m going to land that $10,000 lead-generating website because that’s what they care about. That’s what they wanted.

Colleen: Oh, yeah. In my whole career—in almost 25 years—I lost more jobs based on having a lower price than I did…

The prospect would tell me. I would ask for feedback, and they would say, “Well, everybody else is in this other range and you’re over here, down here, so it came across as if you weren’t really sure what all was involved.”

A lot of designers are always underpricing, thinking that the clients are going to care about price, that’s the number one thing.

Most of the time that’s not the number 1 thing that they’re pricing on, unless, like you said, you take it down to order taking stuff and not the expertise and not the value.

They end up just pricing themselves too low to even be considered at that point.

Nick: Yeah. It’s amazing how many people I talk to and they’re going over a price for a proposal. They’re deciding on whether to increase it by an extra couple 100 bucks or an extra $1,000.

“Dude, add another zero.”

Then start looking at it and “Oh, actually, this might be too high.” An extra grand is rarely a thing.

A lot of times it’s not that big of a deal, unless you are literally going to be compared based on the whole commodity level of it.

Then, of course, being the lowest price is potentially in your favor.

The downside of being low priced is that you get compared to people at low prices.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: I might do the sales meeting around what they’re valuing and how we’re going to make it happen.

But at the end of that, I talk about my amazing process and then I put a price tag on that. It might be $3,000.

Then they have some person they met with who is local and says, “What do you want? A website? How many pages? Cool. Here. It’s $3,000.”

They compare me with them.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: That’s kind of insulting based on the process that I have.

When you’re getting compared with someone at that level, you might even win it. But that’s who you’re playing against at that level.

If you’re doing a proper process and doing things properly and you’re proud of what you do, I don’t know… My ego doesn’t want me to be compared with those people.

I want to be compared with the higher-level people. I want to charge at the higher-level prices because my work is worth it. Results are worth it.

Skill does come into it to a certain point, right?

Colleen: Sure.

Charging More for Your Work

Nick: Yeah, there’s a lot of courses out there and a lot of programs and things that where they’re like, “No. Your skills are irrelevant. You’re good enough already.” Sometimes you’re not. Sorry.

Colleen: Right. Sometimes you’re not.

Nick: Be honest with yourself around where you’re at. If you don’t feel confident, sure, go out and improve your skills.

It doesn’t mean you can’t charge a bit more than you are now. Often we are our own harshest critic.

I still am very, very hard on myself with design. I’ll do a design that I despise. Then I’ll show another designer—a really good designer—who says, “Wow, that’s really, really good work.”

And I say, “Really? That looks terrible to me.”

But you know what? Maybe I’m just being really hard on myself. Don’t… How do I say this in the right way?

You can usually price more. Usually, most creatives are very hard on themselves, so you can usually price more.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: If you’re sitting there and going, “Man, I deserve $20,000 plus for something…” but everyone says you’re struggling to get off $1,000. Maybe you’re not, I don’t know.

Be realistic around where you’re at. If you can’t design, if you don’t know design principles but you’re selling design, then maybe that’s something you need to fix.

Colleen: Yeah.

Nick: If you can deliver a result, if you can design a website and actually improve conversion rates, that’s something to believe in.

If you can’t and you’re like, “Well, I have no idea how to improve conversion rates,” maybe that’s a skill you need to improve on.

You do need to have some skill to charge, especially a premium, but it doesn’t mean you can’t also still go down the process of problem solving and recommending a solution.

It just means that maybe your prices won’t be as high and that’s okay. You don’t need to charge top dollar for everything.

But if you improve your skills, if you’re confident in the service you deliver, then yeah, why not? Why can’t you charge top dollar? Why can’t you charge as much as you’re comfortable with and happy with?

Or why don’t you charge as much—even more than you’re comfortable with—and maybe be a little bit uncomfortable. That might be important to do to break through a mental barrier, because a lot of times, people are saying “No, the client wouldn’t pay that.”

Who are you to say what the client is going to pay?

Colleen: Right. Don’t make up their mind for them.

Nick: Yeah. Don’t make up their mind. They haven’t even looked at your proposal.

I usually don’t price before I get to proposals. I don’t send a proposal and they discover the price there. That’s usually bad news.

Colleen: It shouldn’t be a surprise. Right.

Nick: Yeah. That’s when you get sticker shock and stuff. That’s not a good thing.

Who are you to decide what the client is comfortable paying? They might surprise you.

I remember, early on, a lot of people told me, “You need to charge more, dude. That’s not enough.”

I was like, “Really? What? Really?”

Pricing and all that is just a matter of perspective. Value is a matter of perspective. You don’t need to overcharge. Just find a price point where you feel it’s worth it, that your work is worth that and charge that.

If it’s higher than you have been, if it’s higher than clients have been accepting, then maybe you need to look at the way you run your sales meetings and fix that and change something there to help highlight the value of what you’re doing.

Diagnosing, Not Solving, the Problem in the Sales Process

Colleen: Something that I think a lot of designers do—because, again, I’ve done this—is they feel in a sales meeting that they have to do all the talking. It’s not about them. It’s about the client.

The other thing is they’re doing all the talking and it’s almost like they feel that they need to have a solution ready to go on the sales call.

You’re not even at the stage where you can even start… Like we were talking earlier about prescribing solutions, we can’t even get to that point in the sales call.

Nick: No. You need to diagnose, right?

Yeah, it’s hard, right? I get what people think. They get nervous. I think it’s just nerves.

Colleen: Yeah.

Nick: That’s right. I used to do that when I go into meetings. They will position it as the pitch. You’re pitching.

If you’re pitching, who does the work? You or the client? You do the work because you’re pitching. So don’t pitch.

I know you’ve had you had Blair Enns on your podcast before.

Colleen: Yeah, yeah. I was just thinking about Win Without Pitching.

Nick: Yeah, Blair Enns is amazing. Win Without Pitching is a book that I recommend. I have a sales course and I recommend the book to anyone who asks, How I improve my sales?

I tell people to read that book. Dude, read the book. It’s a book. It’s 20 or 30 bucks.

Get the book. Read the book. It’s Win Without Pitching by Blair Enns.

It runs through how to actually go about the process. I don’t follow everything he says…

Colleen: Yeah.

Nick: But most of it. The stuff I don’t follow it’s not because it’s not true and not factual. It’s just that I don’t need to follow that specifically. It’s worth following that.

But don’t go into meetings thinking that your job is to pitch. That’s the mindset shift I was talking about.

Go into the meeting thinking, “I need to solve a problem for this person.”

How would you solve a problem normally? You need to listen first and understand what’s happening, understand what they’re trying to do and what they’ve tried to do. Then you can start educating them on how it all works. Then you can make a recommendation.

Because you’ve understood, you’ve listened, because you’ve educated them on how things work, then your recommendation holds a lot more weight.

It’s not like when they go to speak to an SEO person: “Hey, listen, I’m trying to grow my business.”

“SEO, do the SEO. Come on. Give me money for SEO.” That’s what they’re going to do. That’s what other people do with website stuff.

Your competitors are doing that. Don’t do that. The people who make real money don’t do that.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: Don’t be desperate for the sale. Take your time. Listen to the person, right? Give a recommendation.

It’s not, “Hey, buy my stuff.”

It’s, “Hey, you know what? I recommend… You’d probably benefit from this based on these reasons. Now, if you’d like to do that, we can do that. Here’s how much it’s gonna cost you.”

Then, “You know what? That makes a lot of sense. That sounds like it’s going to solve my problem. I believe what you’re saying. Let’s do it.”

That’s a big thing. I think people are conditioned that when they go into sales meetings, that it’s a pitch, it’s convincing time. If you’re convincing someone, they think you need to talk to do that.

No, sometimes just the listening part is worth so much more, not just because you hear what they’re actually saying but because they’re getting the opportunity to talk.

They’re getting the option to talk about their business and what they think. Sometimes that gives them clarity as well.

Colleen: Oh, totally.

Nick: Especially when you ask more questions. When you start asking clarifying questions, it can take them into new areas of thinking.

This is a concept called the light-bulb moment. It’s when someone’s saying something to you and things just click.

A light bulb goes off, like in the cartoons, “Ding!” idea.

That’s what your job is. Give people those moments in sales calls. They start getting that and they get clarity around what they’re doing: “Oh, my gosh. Oh, that makes so much sense why it didn’t work before. That’s what this person was telling me. Now I realize how much my old person screwed me over by not following this process.”

Stuff like that happens. They start learning these things, and they get this clarity.

You’re the one giving them those light bulbs. That’s what causes sales. You’ve brought them into new ground. You’ve caused the transformation.

They’ve learned something. Even if they walk away with you not getting the job, you’ve transformed something for them. You’ve taught them something. You’ve caused light bulbs to go off, so they think highly of you no matter what.

I’ve had recommendations from people who I didn’t do work for, because they were in a position to be able to do it.

Actually, one of my bigger brochure sites was from a referral from someone who I didn’t do work for. That’s great. That’s because I follow my process. I give them those light bulbs.

It’s the light-bulb moments that are what you’re there for.

If you could do that, instead of just talking the whole time, it will make your life a lot easier. It will help you close more sales.

It’ll help you charge more money because you can. You can. These people trust and believe you understand you know what you’re talking about.

Colleen: Right. You’re no longer this short-order cook or the person that is just, like I said, “You want fries with that?”

I’ve had some clients where when I asked them a couple of questions in the introductory call. They’re like, “Wow.”

Like what you’re saying, it made them think of all these other things they hadn’t really thought about.

I’ve had so many people say that was business therapy. There wasn’t even a discovery call. Those were just a few questions on the first call.

It’s really interesting how that goes.

Nick: Yeah.

Colleen: Well, I’d also say that when you sell by helping in this manner, you’re also ending up with better clients.

They’re not trying to negotiate your rates. They’re not trying to tell you what to do, and they actually take your advice. Don’t you think?

Nick: Yeah, yeah. That was actually one of my initial… When I first did this “what is this all about?” You need to sell in order to get work. You get work in.

If you’re doing work, if you have an agency or if you’re a freelancer, your life is getting more work.

The problem is sometimes you get clients who don’t take your advice: “No, I really want to do a blue text on a black background.”

“No, we’re not going to do that. That’s bad. Dark blue on a black background. No, we’re not going to do that. That’s terrible.”

And they would say, “No, that’s what I want.”

I don’t want those situations. I don’t want clients telling me what the design should be. I’m the professional in this.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: That’s my job. Let me do my job. If you follow this process, and people see that you are the expert, they let you be the expert.

Colleen: Exactly!

Nick: That’s really important, right? If you want to be someone who just does whatever they want, then you’re not really the expert. You’re the hands. You’re the machine. You’re the robot that does the thing.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: People don’t value the automation. People don’t value the robot. People don’t value the person at the end of the line.

The value is all in the person at the start—the person who does your ideas does the strategy, who does the thinking. That’s where the value is.

That’s what people really pay money for. As much as they think what they’re paying for is someone to design a website.

They’re not. They’re paying for someone who likes to come up with what the design needs to be to get a result.

Colleen: Or something that they don’t want to hear. Sometimes they need to hear what they don’t want to hear.

Nick: Yeah. I remember I got contacted by someone. It was a startup. Startups are a bit iffy for me because usually they don’t have a lot of money. But that’s fine. I’ll still give them advice.

I had a meeting. I was talking to them. They’re telling me about their business and where they’re at. They don’t have any clients yet.

I asked, “Cool. So how you getting clients?”

They said, “Well, isn’t that what the website does?”

“Nope.”

“What do you mean? Good websites get clients.”

I said, “They do, if you’ve got traffic going to the site. But how are you going to get traffic to the site?”

Then they say, “Oh, can you just run Facebook ads?”

“Do you know how to run Facebook ads?”

I replied, “No. So how’s that gonna go? Do you have $5,000 or $6,000 a month to pay someone to manage and run Facebook ads for you? Good ad people are expensive.”

“No, no. We don’t really have much money at all.”

I just told them how to go get clients with referrals and through word of mouth. No website. Don’t worry about a website. You don’t have a business yet.

They all rapt. They said they’re gonna come back. They never do at that level, when they’re that small.

I could have tried to sell them a website, and they would have paid maybe something small. But why would I do that? That’s not the right solution for them.

I think the whole “sell by helping” concept… The core part is helping. You’re trying to help people.

If you can guide them to the right solution for them, you’re doing a good thing. When your focus is doing that, you take a lot of pressure off.

There’s a lot of pressure. Going into a sales call is a lot of pressure.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: If you’re like, you know what? It’s not a sales call and I’m just trying to figure out what these people need, automatically, you’re relieving a lot of pressure.

Colleen: Yeah.

Nick: You’re helping people. You’re doing the right thing. It’s not as much pressure. You’re not that focused on “I need to get a sale.”

Colleen: Right.

Nick: You’re not desperate. You’re not coming across… Desperation comes across in the meeting too.

Colleen: They smell blood in the water. Sharks smell blood in the water, right?

Nick: Yeah. I can tell when I’m talking to someone who needs the sale. I know that I can get favorable terms by pushing back a little bit. Sometimes I will, depending on what it is. If I feel they’re trying to overcharge, then yes, I definitely will.

Price is based on perception, right? I might think that they’re trying to overcharge and they might be losing money. That’s what happens.

You need to take that pressure off. Focus on helping, do the right thing, guide them to the right solution.

The people that you do recommend solutions for that involve you, they’re going to look at you very differently, and you’re going to have a lot more authority in that relationship.

Like you were saying, it helps you do the work you really want to do and have less pushback on stuff from them and charge more.

How many people say, “Oh, none of my clients want to pay that much”?

But what are you doing in that process? Are they coming to you saying, “I want a new brochure”?

“How big? What colors? What do you want it to say?”

“OK. Here you go.”

They’re not going to pay that much for it because it’s not worth that much. You’ve just done what they asked for. Anyone can do that.

Colleen: They just ordered a double quarter-pounder with cheese.

Nick: Yep, that’s it. You’ve just gone and given them a burger that they asked for.

But if instead, they say, “Hey, you know what? I’m hungry. What do you recommend?”

“Well, what do you like normally?”

You start asking questions and you make a recommendation, and they look at you differently. You know food. You’ve made a recommendation.

Someone who works at McDonald’s—do they know food? I don’t know. They might. But I’m not going to go and ask them for eating advice, what I should eat.

Colleen: No.

Nick: You don’t want to be the McDonald’s worker. You want to be the person who likes to recommend what they should eat.

Then you’re seen as someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Colleen: The nutritionist. The gourmet chef.

Nick: The gourmet chef. The nutritionist might recommend things I don’t like, so I’ll go for the gourmet chef. Give me something tasty, dude.

Sell by Helping Course

Colleen: Alright, let’s talk about your course. I know you gave a presentation at the Agency Transformation conference.

Nick: Yeah, that was a year ago. That triggered all this actually.

Colleen: Yeah. I know. That triggered all this and you got a great response to that. It was amazing.

I know many people have said how many amazing results they got when they started implementing your advice just from that one talk.

Now you have a course on it. Let’s talk about your course and how you can help.

Nick: That whole presentation was a last-minute “Hey, Nick, can you speak at this event?” I asked, “What topic?” and they said “I don’t know, whatever you know.”

The only thing I really think I know is sales.

“OK, present on that.”

I just did a presentation about how I structure my sales meeting, my framework for a sales meeting. Because it is a process, 100%. Process is everything.

I mentioned my process and how it works and why it works. Everyone was, “This is amazing, so good.” I had a lot of people say you should do a course and I still wasn’t going to.

Then I had one person send me a video saying, “After the presentation, the next sales meeting I had, I closed it in the meeting. It was a brochure site for $9,000. That’s a good amount. I hadn’t closed many deals before that for a while. I was getting a little bit nervous. Normally, I don’t close in one meeting. Normally, it takes a couple meetings before I’m at the stage of doing a proposal.”

That’s really inspiring. A lot of people messaged me saying they were really inspired by it. It’s been good.

The course itself is basically how I structure sales meetings—the mindset, then the stages of the meeting. There’s a couple of little bonus things like, if you’re a web person, how to sell care plans and more stuff that I just add as I go.

There’s going to be some meeting checklists coming soon, as soon as I finish doing them, and a couple other things.

Colleen: The mindset stuff is so important. I remember Blair Enns saying, “You can teach somebody to sell, but if they’re not in the right mindset, they can’t just go and implement it and have it work.”

Mindset is everything.

Nick: Yeah. The mindset is my approach. Everything else is just the steps I go through. But the mindset is the approach.

I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging or anything. I’m really wary of that sort of stuff.

But I have had people message me and say, “Lesson 2 on value. Holy crap. That changed everything for me.”

I’ve had messages from people who’ve just done the first module and then gone and closed better deals. That’s great to hear.

There are things that I have in my processes that other people don’t always have. Mindset is one thing. That whole approach is one thing that I don’t see a lot of people talking about with sales.

Colleen: Right.

Nick: They talk about being solution focused or whatever to a certain point, but I think the whole helping is really important.

I would really like it if something that I’m doing is causing positive change in an industry or in the world, if possible.

If I have more people do my course or listen to something I’m saying, and then go out not engaging in unethical marketing practices, if they’re focusing on helping people rather than just getting to give them money, that’s a positive change for me.

The side benefit of people doing that is they can usually charge more. They can close deals better and work with better quality clients.

It’s a win-win for everyone. I think I’ve got a coupon set up for your people.

Colleen: Yeah. It’s creativeboost, all one word.

Nick: It’s 20% off. It’s $100 off at the moment for that. Any coupon will apply on top of that. But that will probably end at some point this year.

Colleen: OK, great! If you’re interested in the course, go to creative-boost.com/sbh as in “sell by helping.” That’s an affiliate link, and I’ll make a buck or two if you enroll.

But I can tell you I’ve been inside the course and it’s got great stuff, and I know Nick and all the helpful advice that he gives. So I highly recommend it.

Thanks for coming on the podcast, Nick. This has been so helpful.

Nick: It’s been a pleasure to be on. It’s good to actually finally talk in virtual person as well.

Colleen: Right. It is. Alright. Thank you.

Check out the Sell by Helping Course

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