how not to sell your design services

How not to sell your design services

This week’s post is a short one, but I wanted to share something significant that happened to me today. I learned an important lesson about marketing, sales and how not to sell design services… All in one mighty swing of the axe.

The story

Last week I drafted a post that never made the cut. I was concerned about the number of free business and design resources readily available online. And I was beginning to wonder if our industry was on a downward spiral that would end in the commoditization of our services (a little dramatic perhaps). The question I wanted to ask in that post was this;

“Why as an industry do we continue to give our services away for free, in the vague hope that someday, somebody will buy our product or service?”

Just to clarify, I was talking about all these little teasers we use to create excitement around our businesses; Whitepapers, guides, ebooks, free one on one consulting, templates, portfolio sites, PSD and Sketch resources, icons etc. etc. The list is a long one. I know the theory behind why we do this, but I was beginning to doubt it all just a little. However, today the business gods smiled upon me…

The real story

We’re trying to buy a house. In Spain this is no easy task. The banks have closed their doors to anyone other than the uber wealthy. We’ve managed to find a place we like. The price is great, the location is pretty ideal, it has a pool, and what will be my outdoor office. Say no more…

To those of you in the States or Canada it’s just a house, but for those of us in Spain and maybe the rest of Europe it’s called a “Canadian style house.” What does that mean? It’s built of wood. There are only two companies in Madrid who build these kinds of houses.

Unfortunately the house has one problem, and that problem is in-wall heating. As it’s a wooden structure it means that any wall space with a radiator suffers from a nasty lip as the heat pushes the boarding outwards.

So we contacted the larger of the two construction companies to see what our options were and what solutions they might offer.

Their summarised response was as follows;

“Oooh, heating in the walls is a terrible mistake! That’s gonna cost you a lot of money to rectify. You’d be better off building a new house. Come visit us and we’ll show you some plans.”


Seriously, their solution was to build a new house! We rang to ask about a heating problem and their advice was to buy some land, get planning permission and build a house!

As a sales tactic this fails on so many levels that I’m at a loss for words. (but as you’re reading this I’ll do my best)

The hardsell reaction

In a matter of minutes the salesperson lost me for ever. When somebody tries to hard-sell, the natural reaction is to push back regardless of what they’re selling. It’s instinctive. We don’t care what they have, we don’t want it.

The salesman could have saved the situation if only he’d done one thing; tried to help me. Instead he went straight for the jugular and lost me forever. It turns out that all those free consulting sessions, guides, white-papers, templates, portfolio sites, PSD and Sketch resources, icons etc. are what people want, even need to make an informed business decision. Myself included.

It was a sharp lesson. As customers we all need to know we’re in the hands of people who have our best interests at heart, regardless of the payoff.

I’m glad it happened. It’s reinforced my belief in the need to provide value before anyone will or should consider buying my services or products. I want folks to know I’m the right person for the job before they’re clubbed over the head and dragged off to the sales room.

Good luck.

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photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

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