Apples and Oranges: Sales Process

Design doesn’t sell itself.  But, having the wrong Sales Process for the wrong type of project doesn’t work either. Unfortunately, very few people in the design world talk about this, and the fact of the matter is that sales – whether externally or internally – is a core design skill.  Design that isn’t sold is as bad as design that isn’t done.


All sales process include four overarching processes: Qualification, Rapport, Education, and Closing.  The possible project’s size determines what, if any sub processes are needed to get to the close.  Generally,  the bigger the project,  the longer the sales cycle and the more sub processes you need to run in each step.

You can, a priori, decide that you don’t want to take certain projects.  That will make your sales process more efficient by choosing to ignore opportunities. Personally,  I like a wide variety of projects because I enjoy the challenge of figuring new things out, and I like a variety of different kinds of clients.  If all I did were one type of project, I would go insane.  So for me,  it’s vital that I understand immediately how in-depth the process ought to be for a prospective client.

When in doubt, I err on the side of over qualifying, building too much rapport, educating too much, rather than the opposite.  I love longer sales cycles because it allows me to make a stronger case for myself and build an actual relationship with my client, which is vital to the success of a project.

That doesn’t mean short sales cycles are a bad thing, though.  On small budgets you simply can’t afford to spend hundreds of hours convincing them to sign.  That constraint, however, doesn’t excuse you from going through a process,  in order, with out rushing.  It simply means that your qualification criteria need to be clear and your understanding of how this project may benefit you need to be checked against profitability.

Maybe the most difficult balancing act in the sales process is to maintain a sense of urgency without annoying a prospective client.   Yes, we want the sale, but it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.  This is also why we are continually marketing ourselves – so losing a big prospective client is not the end of the world.  If we are continually adding new prospects to the pool, we won’t fish ourselves out of work. By having other activities that you need to be doing, you won’t spend as much time obsessing over one particular client.

Investing in your sales process is a direct investment in your success as a designer, and ultimately your client’s projects will be better for it.

Simple Content Models

Content Modeling is not complicated.

Content Modeling is – well, exactly that.  We’re going to basically start writing our site before we even dream of how it’s going to work.  Here’s three simple ways to get started with Content Models.

Start with a conversation

Do you start your sales calls with a deluge of information about your company? No? So why are so many sites organized along the lines of “Kitchen Sink HomePage – About Page – Product Page -FAQ – Contact”?  Writing for the web is not the same as an in person conversation, but the insights you get from talking to real live customers should inform how you organize and write for your site.


A web site is the perfect place to get the perfect response to sales objections front and center.  Every single time you hear a pattern of objections you should be figuring out a method to overcome those objections on your site.  If you need a place to start with web copy, look to the things that have held back your business in real life.

Venn Zen

Make two lists: Everything your team wants on the site, and then everything your customer wants on your site.  If there’s a union (things that show up on both lists), congratulations!  Those get top priority.  The next tier of information is what the customer wants, and the last tier (if you even need it) is what you want. Remember: to benefit you, the site must first benefit your customer.

When taken together, these three models form the backbone of an effective site or application.  It also prevents your site from looking, feeling, or being cookie cutter, even before the first sketch is drawn.

Thinking Mobile

Your people are mobile. The only question is: are you?
Mobile State of Nature

The only statistic that matters: 100% of your people are on the mobile web.  A billion more people will come online in the next five years and smart phones as a technology will get down to 10 dollars.

The mobile web is nasty, brutish, and slow, to paraphrase Hobbes.

This makes designing for the web very simple: it either works on low powered devices with small screens on bad connections or it doesn’t.  If we take that as an operative given, the implications are that:

  • Content priority matters more than ever
  • It better be damn enjoyable to read that content
  • Part of that enjoyment is that the perceived experience of the site is fast.

Simply put. If you focus on getting the right content done the right way for your audience, and present that in the right context for them reliably fast, you win.

And if you don’t you’re losing trust and money.



My wife have been married one year today. I’ve never been happier and I know that our lives will only get to be better.

To my wife; I adore you. You’re my person. Your love and support are seemingly unending, as is the joy in our life together.

To anyone reading this; here’s three things I’ve learned from a year married to the right person for me.

Embrace the Nonsense

When I got married, my wife and I received a ton of advice.  Far and away the best advice we got was from my friend Josh and his wife Shannon.  Their advice on a happy marriage was simple:  Embrace the nonsense.

Our first year of marriage has been truly blessed.  Even the hard things for us weren’t really that hard in the grand scheme of things.  But what made it great and enjoyable was embracing the nonsense of a mad world.  More than that, we embraced each other’s nonsense.  Life is a lot happier when you laugh with someone else.

Flowers are cheap

I read this in Ben Horowitz‘ awesome book,  The Hard Thing About Hard Things, which I suggest you read too (and buy, because all proceeds go to improving women’s lives around the world).

In his twenties, Ben worked for a hot mess of a start-up.  They were so broke they couldn’t afford air conditioning.  One day, his father came over to watch their kids and asked Ben:

“Do you know what’s cheap?”

Ben had no idea what he was talking about, so of course he said, “No, what’s cheap?”

“Flowers. They are really, really cheap.” Ben’s dad went on.  “Do you know what’s expensive?”

Again, Ben had no idea what his dad was getting at.  “No, what’s expensive?”


The point is, in a marriage, the most corrosive thing you can do is put your desires over the needs of the marriage.  Having the right kind of ambition – to have a wonderful marriage – means considering your spouse first.  Making decisions through that prism is not easy – you literally have no practice at it before you have an obligation like marriage.  But simply thinking about how to be the spouse your spouse deserves (and then acting on that) goes a long long way.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts

Being on the same page is not easy or simple to do.  But getting on the same page of what we want together has made our marriage delightful so far.  Because we have the same vision, it makes decisions and actions easier to take.  Because we’re on the same page it’s easier to trust and talk about difficult things.  We get to do things together and it’s a lot less scary.  It’s great because I know I have someone with a different perspective and skills that I can rely on, and getting to be that for someone is really special too.

Happiness, like love,  seems to be more of the acts we take than the attitudes we hold.  I wish you the kind of happiness I’ve been able to find.