For the first few years of Finsweet, I was the sole salesperson.
In 2021, we welcomed Jay Wolff to the team with the goal of taking over my sales efforts completely. Within a few months, he was promoted to "Head of Agency" and has been successfully driving the growth of Finsweet Agency ever since - all without my help.
In 2023, we plan to scale our sales efforts. One efficient person can’t manage it all. With an increasing number of leads and growing service offers, we need a team to manage it all.
Jay said this:
If they were a salesperson, we wouldn’t hire them. We’re hiring creators for our sales team, not salespeople.
This mindset is wonderful. I love it so much that I needed to talk about it in this article. I will break down this comment and explain why it’s the premier strategy for website design and development sales.
Salesperson vs. Creator
A salesperson is someone who has experience in selling [something]. They are an expert in "selling." They have a strong understanding of sales techniques and strategies, and can effectively communicate the value of what they're selling to potential customers. Give a good salesperson a product or service and they will learn how to sell it.
A creator is someone who specializes in creating [something]. They have experience in creating. It may be a fun personal project, a client web project, a website, an application, a business, or anything else that requires creativity and skill.
A salesperson is typically skilled in closing sales, but may have little to no experience in creating things in the website world. In contrast, a creator is experienced in website creation but may have less experience in closing sales.
If we want to sell our product or service to the world, who do we hire? The person that can sell? or the person that can create?
In most industries, the answer to this question is clear: the salesperson.
Jay believes the answer for our industry is different. I agree.
Salespeople may be a good choice when a product or service is well-defined and has clear specifications. They are skilled at learning the specifications and benefits of those products or services and communicating them to potential customers.
Websites and website sales are not like that. They are far from that.
Websites require customized strategies and project plans that are tailored to the specific needs of each client. There's no specification sheet that we can refer to when scoping a custom web project.
We're creating highly personalized proposals and project plans that are tailored to each client's use case. We gather information from our leads and use that to craft a specification sheet that outlines the details of the project.
That's why selling web projects requires a different skillset than selling traditional products or services.
So, if we want to sell websites and applications to our leads, who do we hire?
We want to hire the creator.
Keys to successful sales for web agencies
Solve the lead’s challenges and erase their doubts
When a lead comes to us, they have:
- Challenges with their current website and/or challenges with the new website they want to build.
- Doubts about how Webflow as a platform and Finsweet as an agency can solve these problems.
We are highly likely to convert this lead to a Finsweet client if we
- Create solutions to the challenges.
- Demonstrate how Webflow can support these solutions and Finsweet will implement these solutions.
The create and demonstrate part of the sale process is a special type of knowledge and skill.
In the world of web development, the options for solutions are endless. With such vast possibilities, it's highly valuable to have knowledge gained from hands-on experience.
This type of knowledge and skill comes from experience in doing, not experience in selling.
Now, let's explore some practical examples to prove this theory.
Give direct, actionable, relatable experience in implementing
These examples present a challenge and ask you to pick which person you would rather speak to about the challenge.
You want to add a Hubspot form to your Webflow site.
Do you want to speak with the person who
- A) Has seen Hubspot integrated with Webflow many times and can show you several examples of websites that have Hubspot forms, or
- B) Has implemented a Hubspot form in Webflow themself and can walk you through the setup.
You want to integrate RandomApp API in your Webflow project.
Do you want to speak with the person who
- A) Confirms that APIs can be implemented in Webflow and that RandomApp API qualifies as an app that can be integrated, or
- B) Says they have integrated many APIs and breaks down the steps they would take to implement RandomApp API.
You want to create a CMS Template page that mirrors content from a different CMS.
Do you want to speak with the person who
- A) Talks about Webflow CMS API and confirms their use case can be achieved because any data can be sent to Webflow CMS through the API, or
- B) Talks about how they have implemented CMS API on other projects, they recommend against this setup using CMS API, and then propose two other options based on their use case.
As you may have guessed, "A" is the salesperson and "B" is the creator.
The responses from the salesperson are based on "specification sheets," providing confirmation that something is possible and that it has been done in the past.
It’s important to understand that the salesperson approach is not bad for the sales process. "A" answers are valuable for leads to hear. A lead wants confirmation that their ideas can come to life and the salesperson information can provide that. Each "A" response can help win the lead to Webflow.
But it’s not the most effective way. It’s definitely not the best way to make the lead passionately obsessed with Webflow. A salesperson will naturally miss the "how" and the unique insight into doing it.
The creator's approach, or the "B" answers, sells the lead on a deeper level. They offer direct and actionable experience to solve challenges and demonstrate how Webflow can support these solutions. The creator can prove it's possible through their experience.
It is crucial to explain not only what is possible but also how to make it happen. Don’t confirm my website can do [this], explain to me how my website can do [this].
To conclude the "Keys to successful sales for web agencies" section
We believe creators are better at achieving the two sales keys of this section — Solve the lead’s challenges and erase their doubts and Give direct, actionable, relatable experience in implementing.
Strategize and empathize with the lead
When leads approach us with challenges and doubts, our objective is to provide an actionable strategy to create solutions for their challenges.
We want to collaborate on the project plan and provide real value to win the lead's trust. A simple "Yes, we can do that" response may not be enough to win their trust. A clear actionable plan is much more attractive.
A successful web strategy is highly dependent on the specific use case and is open to interpretation by the salesperson. It is best handled with critical problem-solving skills, as well as relevant experience, as highlighted in the previous section.
A robust strategy might involve outlining precise steps for implementing the solution or even proposing an alternative strategy that may better align with the lead's goals.
Proposing a different approach when the lead's thinking is inefficient is a pro move. If the lead's strategy needs to be reshaped, and you can explain why and how to reshape it, you can earn the lead's trust and respect.
Having "creator knowledge" gives you a chance to empathize with the lead's request. Living through the experience of implementing the leads requirements is a special type of empathy.
Establishing relatability with leads is crucial. The more relatable you are to a lead, the more the lead will feel comfortable buying from you.
A deep understanding of their project's context and implementation creates a powerful sense of trust during the sales process.
Training someone to sell is easier than training someone to create
Can’t I just train a salesperson to be a creator? Can’t they learn how web projects are built and use that in the sales pitch?
Yes, of course it’s possible. It’s also very challenging, time-consuming, and less likely to be successful.
When it comes to training, it's generally easier to transform someone into a proficient salesperson than to develop their skills as a creator.
Training a salesperson to understand the intricacies of web project development, and incorporate that knowledge into their sales pitch, is a challenging task.
The amount of time it takes to be a quality creator in the web world is significant. Creating a few test websites and understanding the core concepts is not enough.
Actionable experience with many different client projects can not be taught easily. It often requires years of experience to build a resume of successfully launching projects of many different use cases.
The knowledge of the delicate nuances of web building comes from experiences creating. And therefore, it's very difficult to train a salesperson how to think like a web agency creator.
Now the other way around—Is it easier train a creator to be a web agency salesperson? We think yes.
The winning sales mindset is in understanding and fulfilling the buyer's needs, which a creator already possesses the knowledge to accomplish. The key is teaching them how to effectively communicate their expertise to leads and clients.
By teaching sales skills that allow a skilled creator to articulate their problem-solving experiences, they can become a highly effective web agency salesperson.
We believe that teaching the art of communication is more manageable than teaching the depth of experience gained through creation.
Level of sales doesn't matter
Whether you're selling budget-friendly websites to local businesses or securing large-scale enterprise contracts, the approach remains the same:
- Create a strategy to solve the lead’s challenges.
- Demonstrate how you can support these solutions through direct, actionable, and relatable experience.
This creator-sales strategy is effective at all levels.
Concluding with applause
As a salesperson turned creator, I had never considered Jay's strategy until he introduced it to me. The concept of "hiring creators, not salespeople" was entirely new and eye-opening.
Upon hearing it, I became convinced that this approach was the perfect fit for Finsweet.
We’re happy to have Jay’s leadership on our team and we applaud his initiative to grow our sales team with creators.