No, that’s not a typo.
2,000+ websites in 5 years.
That’s about 400 websites per year.
33 websites per month.
Or about 7-8 websites per week.
You could say, we know a thing or two (or 133 even) about how to sell websites.
Not shitty, cookie-cutter websites either.
Proper, affordable, results-driven, optimised, CMS websites, to really awesome clients who truly value what we do.
Do we have a huge team with an army of people offshore?
Nope. A team of around 20 with the majority in Melbourne.
Are we an el cheapo website sausage factory?
Hell no. I’m mildly offended you asked. Our minimum site is $2k but most are around $5k. We strive for 100% client satisfaction every day and although I won’t say we’re perfect, we sure do deliver pretty compelling results for clients and we go the extra mile when it comes to tech support.
Do we have a huge sales team?
Nope. Our sales director Simon, has personally sold over 1,000 of these websites himself.
Are we insane?
Quite possibly. 😉
What would possess a company to challenge the industry norm and deliver agency quality websites at a really affordable price?
One that gives a shit about small business; that’s who.
We created Web123 back in 2009 because I was sick to death of developers ripping me off and charging through the nose for simple CMS sites. They’d go MIA all the time, constantly hold me to ransom and were bleeding my profits dry.
It was wrong.
What started off at $3k for development, soon grew to $9k and then $15k for a basic site and I had to turn down about 30 website clients per year in my first design business because they had a $3k budget total.
What ever happened to looking after the little guy? 🙁
Most of the world’s businesses are small businesses. There’s about 28 million just in America, and yet everyone wants to chase the $20k+ market and leave the little guys to fend for themselves?
So we set out to build a software that would automate the build process to save 40+ hours in development work by creating sites using a template base.
And not long after, Web123 was born.
At first, we thought we’d sell millions of websites and be like the Aussie version of Wix.
How wrong we were. (We were so naive it’s hilarious to think back now.)
When we launched, we waited for the onslaught of users and got nothing but crickets.
We had one guy build a site and it was so ugly that we had to redesign it for him free of charge because we couldn’t bare putting our name to something so bad.
Our egos were toast.
It was a full year of intense work, 100+ hour weeks, and weekends with plenty of late night pizzas (and the accompanying waistline to go with it) all…. for….nothing.
But we dusted ourselves off and got back up pretty quickly.
We got busy surveying our database of prospects and existing clients to find that what they actually wanted, and found that it was really just someone to hold their hand.
They wanted support.
Plus of course a website that worked at an affordable price.
But they felt like a fish out of the water. Alone, stupid and frustrated with the whole process of building a website. Then after it went live, they felt like they were entirely on their own.
We believed that after launch is when the real work begins so taking all this feedback into consideration, decided to do everything opposite to what was traditionally the industry norm.
We were the first in Australia to invent ‘unlimited tech support’. Something we still offer to this day.
We went back to the drawing board and rejigged our website to change our messaging and buy process.
And luckily we used our builder to our advantage so all was not wasted. We just chose to have our designers use our new technology rather than our clients.
Simon (co-founder of Web123, our sales superstar and my partner in crime) got to work with this new angle to get some sales runs on the board.
He was a man on a mission.
He went hard.
He hit the streets slipping flyers under business’s front doors after hours.
He got busy cold calling his butt off and learnt pretty quick how to sell websites over the phone.
He hit the networking events connecting to everyone he could.
And the result after 12 months of downright roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-dirty-hustle?
Was our first 300 website sales.
Most of those were in our hometown of Wagga Wagga… with a population of just 60,000 people.
(That’s cryptic code for “Don’t tell me you can’t sell a lot of websites if you come from a small town and people don’t like to pay what you’re worth. That’s BS and it’s all in your head — it’s a story you tell yourself to make excuses as to why you can’t because your fear has gotten the better of you.”)
Not long ago we were averaging 30-40 websites per month; I think our record is 48 sites in one month.
One day Simon actually closed, and took payment, for 10 websites in one day!
That was a great day.
We drank a bottle of Dom Perignon that night to celebrate. (No one since has beat his record so I haven’t had an excuse to wet my taste buds with more Dom unfortunately.)
Fast forward to now and we have a pretty sweet monthly recurring revenue (MRR) web business which has allowed us to:
- dial down our new sales somewhat to free up resources (we now do 15-20 p/mth instead of 30-40)
- focus on building out the SEO arm of our business,
- and invest quite a lot of money and resources into bringing Foxley to market.
Has it been easy?
But has it been worth it?
Would I do it all again?
So, here are 133 lessons we’ve learnt selling and delivering over 2,000 kickass websites in 5 years:
1. Sell on value, not price.
2. If prospects don’t buy, it’s probably because they didn’t see the value. Refer to #1.
3. Educate, don’t sell.
4. Actually, give a shit. Like deep down, care immensely until it hurts that your client gets an ROI of the site you deliver.
5. Master the art of the anti-sell.
6. Swim against the stream. Don’t just sell how everyone else is selling, step outside the norm.
7. Don’t talk technology. Clients don’t care about the platform. Get over it. Build a bridge. Do whatever you’ve gotta do but don’t mention bandwidth or the fact that clients can take their site and “host it elsewhere”. Why would they want to do that? You’re priming them to think they might want to leave you one day. Why? And it’s not true anyway.
8. Do talk results. Clients want a website to make money. It’s really as simple as that.
9. Strike while the iron’s hot. Call people within 10 minutes of receiving their quote request, quicker if you can.
10. Send a proposal the same day or even better, send it within an hour of hanging up the phone.
11. Template proposals so they take 10 minutes or less to produce.
12. Follow up, follow up, follow up. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Keep checking in until you either get the sale or you get a “no”.
13. Install YesWare to use with Gmail so you can see when prospects open your proposal emails — this is one of our secret weapons to closing so well.
14. If you get a “no” find out why and record it in your CRM.
15. Measure your lead to sale conversion rate.
16. Don’t do meetings. (And if you do, batch them into one day and do them on your schedule.)
17. Never use jargon. If you do, and I hear you, I will pull your undies up over your head and give you an A-grade wedgie as punishment.
18. Focus on building rapport first and foremost, the sale will follow.
19. Don’t take every sale. Saying “no” to those that aren’t a fit is good for business.
20. Talk about strategy!
21. Sell clients what they want but give them what they need.
22. Don’t discount.
23. Systemise your sales process.
24. Learn to love cold calling. We cold call and offer free website audits which we’ve systemised into a kit that is so easy your Grandma could do it. I’m currently making the kit available for you to use and it’ll be finished soon. They take 10 minutes to do and most prospects love that you’re helping them so much so that they feel obliged to give you something back = sales. It’s the law of reciprocity. Google it.
25. Give away 50% of your ideas.
26. Ask for the order. Don’t be afraid, it’s just a question “So, are you ready to get this show on the road?”. It’s surprising how many designers I know don’t every ask for the credit card or payment to get things underway. What’s the worst that can happen? They might say “no”. So what. Find out why and move on.
27. Niche. You’ll make more money.
28. Have targets each month and record your progress every single day.
30. Make it fun! Let your passion shine through and have a laugh.
31. Get clarity around what you want to be known for.
32. Differentiate. As cliche as it sounds, and as hard as it is in this industry, be different.
33. Be 100% unapologetically, authentically you (it’s an easy way to be different).
34. Tell 5 stories in 1,000 different ways.
35. Always be selling your ‘why’.
36. Get clear on your ideal target market.
37. Become a content machine.
38. Lead by example. People want to follow someone. Be that someone.
39. Think outside the website box. The Web is changing. Think online courses, mentoring, membership systems, SEO, recurring revenue, retainers, marketing, sales funnels, landing pages, synergy products/services etc.
40. Be a coach / mentor / authority. You know your shit and you only have to be 1-2 steps ahead of your ideal audience so punch fear in the face and just do it.
41. Send a weekly email. Period.
42. Spend 80% of your energy on sales and marketing.
43. Stop relying solely on word of mouth but DO create a referral strategy.
44. Pick one marketing channel and do it really well. Video, email, blog, podcast etc
45. Do regular promotions.
46. Install live chat. (Read an in-depth post I wrote about the types of leads you can get on live chat here.)
47. Listen to your clients and create products that solve problems. We have over 60 products now and most of them were born out of client’s needs.
48. Spring clean unprofitable products or products that no one enjoys.
49. Work hard to increase your monthly recurring revenue (MRR).
50. Build in bi-annual and annual refresher products you can sell on autopilot.
51. Clearly define your process to clients. Then do it again, and again, and again all the way until the end.
52. Create a flowchart for your process to make it easier to communicate.
53. Do a strategy call upfront.
54. Ensure your project managers (or yourself) know enough about digital marketing to produce websites that actually work.
55. Work out a killer conversion strategy with them to bring them leads.
56. Make it easy.
57. Send clients a Budget & Timeline Agreement.
58. Empower your clients with knowledge.
59. Don’t make them feel dumb.
60. Find a great CRM (and make it your bitch).
61. Document everything. After every phone call, follow it up with an email of what you spoke about. Always cover your ass.
62. Keep records of every conversation and communication in your CRM.
63. Create email templates for repeat tasks.
64. Value your time. If you don’t, they won’t.
65. Have penalty rates for slow clients. Even if you don’t enforce it, have it anyway.
66. Explain how many revisions are left at each round of concepts. Don’t do more than three per project or they pay per hour.
67. Do time tracking. Non-negotiable.
68. Pinch agile methodologies for managing projects.
69. Have regular team huddles.
70. Put your projects on the wall.
71. Keep staff accountable to project timeliness. (In other words, don’t let staff hide lagging projects that lag because of you. I learnt that the hard way.)
72. Design matters a lot — but so does conversions, usability, content, SEO, UX, marketing and more than anything… RESULTS!
73. ‘Pretty’ design means shit.
74. Master blending marketing AND design skills to get results.
75. Avoid wireframes for sites less than $5k.
76. Learn how SEO affects the design, or vice versa.
77. Practice how to write great headlines using formulas. Your clients will love you for it.
78. Learn how to write effective button copy. Refer to #77.
79. When a client says they’ve done a design themselves, or their friend’s nephew did one in Publisher, run a mile. Seriously, I mean it. Give them their money back on the spot and just run. I also learnt this the hard way.
80. Get really good at ‘selling’ your concepts.
81. When you send a concept to a client, explain ‘why’ you designed it the way you did and always refer to the discussions in the initial strategy session to avoid unnecessary changes.
82. Try to avoid saying “No” to clients. Always try to find a compromise like: “We can’t really do that within your budget but what about we do this instead which won’t cost you any extra?”
83. Learn how to be assertive.
84. Avoid scope creep by constantly educating clients on what’s involved.
85. Listen to your gut. I repeat… LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. 99% of the time, it’s right.
86. Sack D-grade clients. They will suck you dry.
87. Spring clean unprofitable clients on a regular basis.
88. Have clear boundaries.
89. If a client asks for Facebook mixed with eBay and has a budget of $5k, please, pleeeeeeease, don’t take their money.
90. Know that they’re not always right, but they’re always first.
91. Go the extra mile. There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
92. Don’t forget about existing clients. A) to show you adore them but also B) because you’re sitting on a goldmine of opportunity and the majority of hard work building trust is done.
93. Reward loyalty.
94. Have a referral program in place.
95. Only hire A+ team players.
96. Have a rock solid recruitment process.
97. Hire on attitude and values — train on skill.
98. Make self-education a requirement of everyday work.
99. Learn what drives each person separately. Different people like to be rewarded in different ways. Not sure? Just ask them.
100. Celebrate the wins, big and small. (We have a brag wall in our office and do a big company clap of hands when someone does something good.)
101. Train your team well in the first 90 days especially.
102. Build a culture people jump out of bed to be a part of.
103. Set 90-day plans with your team where each person has 5 goals and 5 stretch goals to achieve each quarter, ensuring they align with your overall business goals.
104. Make them accountable.
105. Reward your team.
106. Empower your team.
107. Listen to your team. Ask them regularly where you can improve.
108. Encourage failure. It’s through failure, we learn.
109. Don’t run accounts. Get clients to pay cash upfront. You’re not a bank. Other industries do it. Why not us?
110. Keep your finger on the pulse daily. Get your bookkeeper to generate daily reports that outline how much you’ve invoiced that day, month to date, how much cash you’ve banked, where sales are at, what’s outstanding etc. Don’t do it weekly or monthly, do it daily. It’ll keep you on track to sell more, trust me.
111. User your power wisely. E.g. Have a website deactivation process in place for difficult clients who don’t pay.
112. Find an insanely good bookkeeper. Like I mean an amazing superstar. They are worth their weight in gold. Full stop.
113. Always run a profit report on every project. If you don’t know how much you’re really making, how can you know what to charge?
114. Don’t do contra deals.
115. Create a ‘Go Live’ checklist.
116. Pre-empt the questions you get after a client goes live and create a resource to answer them before they get a chance to ask you. E.g. “Why isn’t my site showing on Google yet?” is a prime example.
117. Congratulate them on their achievement! Setting a new site live is a big deal. Celebrate it with them.
118. Inform them of next steps. How can they get traffic? What can they expect? What happens now when the real work begins?
119. Systemise anything you do more than twice.
120. Learn how to delegate. (Swipe a copy of my free Delegation spreadsheet here.) Revisit this spreadsheet every month to see where what else you can delegate in order to keep growing.
121. Get with the times when creating systems. Procedure manuals are so 1990. Create a free Google site and create video systems with your iPhone or screencast tutorial videos explaining how to do things, with a bullet point outline of each task underneath.
122. Be super organised. (Join my private Facebook group of digital rockstars here and watch my tutorial “How I Plan My Day & Get So Much Shit Done”.)
123. Work smarter, not harder.
124. Send clients a small gift or card to congratulate them. (Something I used to do when I was small but something I’m bringing back this year.)
125. Check in regularly with clients 30 days, 3, 6, 12 months after they go live. (Even if it’s an automated email, do it.)
126. Automate your testimonial process.
127. Create a weekly follow up sequence for clients after they launch. (I’m currently white labelling my 52-week client email campaign for you to use. Watch this space.)
128. Confidence is key. Do whatever work, course, program, practice — whatever it damn well takes — to master this. I assure you, when you do, and you can walk into a room and speak with confidence, or pick up the phone and sell yourself like a pro, success will surely follow. I can’t stress how important this is when selling.
129. Get out of your own way. Stop making things harder than they need to be.
130. Conquer your fear. Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. True story.
131. Take unstoppable action. Decide. Believe. Achieve. And don’t let curve balls throw you off.
132. Be consistent. Success is lots of little daily habits or rituals done repeatedly over time. Focus on making small improvements over time and you’ll be amazed where you’ll be in 5 years.
133. Meditate. I know it sounds a little woo woo, but business (and selling 2000+ websites) is crazy hard and not for the faint-hearted. If you want to win, get your head right by meditating every morning and night. You have the answers already within you, they’re usually just so stuffed down in madness and busyness each day, they never see the light.
So there. You. Go.
I’m exhausted just typing it.
And actually, I could keep going but 133 seems like a good number.
If you asked me how many mistakes I had to make to learn these 133 lessons, I seriously couldn’t tell you.
Perhaps even 5,000?
The important thing is that it’s every ounce of blood, sweat and tears I’ve shed over the last 13 years doing websites for small business is now going into the Foxley platform so you don’t have to go through the pain that I have.
Finally, we’ll have a system that is built for the real world problems that clients face getting a website, and we as designers face trying to deliver what clients want, within the timeframe and budget they demand.
That can only mean higher productivity, faster turnarounds, more volume, less headaches, more control, added flexibility, more profits and better results for you and your clients.
Say “hello” to Foxley.
Foxley is the world’s first universal system designed specifically to build an awesomely profitable web business.
It’s a web builder, marketing scorecard, client management dashboard and business toolbox packed with resources to make building websites and dealing with clients a walk it the park compared to what it’s like now.
And it’s got “gamification” which actually makes website fun.
It’s like all the best things we’ve learnt from doing 2000+ websites in Web123 is now being packaged up and systemised in Foxley. Like my life’s work, or our entire company’s experiences are now being brought to life in a new and revolutionary offering.
How’s that for working smarter, not harder?
If you want to join the next generation of web design, Foxley has been unleashed with a mission to create a digital rockstar out of you.
What have you learnt selling websites? I’d love to know. Let’s keep the list going and see if we can crack 150! Add your lesson/s in the comments below…