I Am My Own Worst Critic

February 22, 2016
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I’ve had two really bad performances in my career as a tech professional. One was with about 8 stakeholders from an association in New York (a well-known association) where I presented with my Director of Strategy at the time (who totally saved the presentation) and the other was yesterday at WordCamp Miami. Of course, I am my own worst critic, so it probably wasn’t as bad as I thought is was. But I know how good I can be (*insert humility here)!

My talk Coffee’s for Closers (but only if you have an established sales process didn’t get bad reviews. In fact, I got about a dozen positive tweets and a few people reached out to me to ask where they could find my slides online. Which I think is great and I appreciate everyone who said something about the talk, and everyone who sat in on the talk. But I really think people thought it was good because my slides have some really great content. I talk about Pre-sales activities, Engagement, and Post-sales. I grid out the four essentials of each stage and it’s compelling information especially for the small agency or freelancer who is unsure of their sales process or even how to start.

But I felt like my speaking style was hurried, rushed, uncomfortable. And it’s absolutely killing me today! I. Hate. This. Feeling. But, there is a silver lining. And if I can take a line from Elisha and Elyssa (@WhollyART) who have an awesome website (WhollyART.com) dedicated to positive principles, that “you need to love yourself ” and I do, I’m just a little upset with myself right now! Which I feel will give me the strength to continue speaking at events like these. Because I’m better than that!

I’m also trying to take another principle from @WhollyART and write in my genuine voice. I’m laying my cards out on the table and telling everyone that I absolutely hated my talk, and feel really embarrassed about it. And now it’ll be online for everyone to see. I also got asked a few really great questions that I’d like to take this opportunity to answer because I don’t feel like I gave the greatest answers yesterday.

So, let me see if I can remember them all:

  1. What’s the difference between a $2,500 project and a $15,000 project?
    • The answer is about $12,500 (*insert sarcasm). But in all honesty, I’ve worked for a small agency that charged $2k to $10k and I’ve worked for a large agency that’s charged $50k to $300k. The biggest difference I see between the two agencies is process, plain and simple. With the smaller agency, clients had a little more say in the project. I know that sounds weird, but clients would come to us with their IA already set in stone, they would have ideas for designs, etc. With the large agency, the process of delivering projects uncovered all those things as the project progressed. For example, the large agency would test information architecture and refine it before we implemented it. Our design process started with IA, went into wireframes, style tiles, and then mockups. The development was based on user stories. It was a more in-depth process, discovery was imperative with the large agency, while the smaller agency would usually start by putting together a few different designs. Which isn’t necessarily bad, just different. I think the main difference is process.
  2. How do you talk about money with a client? What if they won’t give you their budget?
    • Talking about money with a prospect or client is absolutely imperative. You can’t be afraid to ask them about their budget. I generally ask in a very nonchalant way “is there a number range we’re trying to stay between with this project?” as if the question is just routine and no big deal. Some times I actually get a “yeah, our budget is x-amount of dollars.” But more often than not, I get a “I’m not sure what our budget is quite yet.” or “we’re really unsure of what things like this cost, so we’re open in terms of budget.” — So, what I generally do is say “well, typical projects of that scope and size usually cost between $25k and $75k (big range), but you’re probably going to fall somewhere around $50k, give or take. Is that something that your team would be able to spend?” And if they don’t balk at the price, then continue with the conversation. If you can hear their jaw drop, maybe they’re not the right fit.
  3. If you’re a small agency and growing, what type of person should you hire to start a sales branch of your business?
    • This is a great question. So, there are a few different choices.
      • 1. The top salesmen from one of your competitors – offer them more money and they’ll come work for you. But you’ll need to have leads and resources to give this person, but they will sell, sell, sell for you.
      • 2. A sales manager or sales lead from any company in the tech industry – this person will know how to manage other people and manage sales. They’re able to think “big picture” stuff and have leadership skills.
      • 3. The failed entrepreneur – this person has failed in their own business, but they’re fighters and will do everything it takes to get the job done. They’ll work late hours, they’ll learn marketing, they’ll look for partnerships, they’ll cold call people, they will do everything in their power to be successful. I’d pick this guy.
  4. What if a client tells me their budget is $15k, and they want to do a project that I know will only take me $5k to do it. Do I charge $15k, or do I charge $5k?
    • This is another interesting question. But I would do everything in my power to get as close to their budget as you can (obviously, without being unethical). Most likely, agencies can charge higher rates. This depends on a number of different parameters including market size, location, type of client. But if a client comes to you and says we want to do this project and our budget is $15k, then you come back and say “I’ll do it for $5k” – that client is going to start to wonder why things are so cheap. That’s a huge disparity – $10k between those two numbers. Now, it wouldn’t be that much of a difference if your client had a budget of $100k and you came at $90k. But telling a client that you’ll charge them $5k when they already told you their budget is $15k, will make your client shop around to other agencies. There is always that possibility that they will think you’re missing something. And this is a classic example of value perception. They already value that project that you’ll potentially do at $15k (that’s why they gave you that budget), they don’t see the technical side of things, they see a number. And when you come back with $5k, that value (no matter what the actual value is) to them doesn’t seem valuable at $5k. When a client gives me a budget on a web service project, I try to get as close to that budget as possible. And obviously you want to add value (which you can do) but maybe it’s time to revisit your rate.
  5. What are the features you want to look for when shopping around for a CRM for a small agency or even just one person?
    • When shopping around for a CRM you want to look at a few different things. The two most important things are a ‘Contacts’ list and a ‘Deals/Opportunities’ list. Without these, there is no CRM. You need a place where you can keep track of your contacts and all their associated data – phone number, email, company name, etc. and a place to keep notes on them is great too. You also need a ‘Deals’ or ‘Opportunities’ list so you can keep track of what stages opportunities are in so there’s no confusion what you need to do as the deal progresses. Other things I look for are features that log activities, you want to be able to log the emails you have with someone or the phone conversations, etc. HubSpot has a great feature called Sidekick, which will let you send emails right from the CRM, check it out! Also being able to create tasks for yourself, and schedule upcoming calls and meetings is something else you want to look at.

If I’ve forgotten any, I apologize! But I want to take this time to say thanks for all who came to my presentation.

I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I know a number of people who have had horrible speaking experiences and end up never speaking again. I cannot be that person! So, I’ll get back on the saddle and give it another shot. But before I do I’ll be reading a number of public speaking books and I will definitely be prepared for the next talk I give! Upwards and onwards!

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