Episode 18: Ben Seigel on Website Planning

Ben SeigelToday’s guest is Ben Seigel. Counting on fifteen years professional web experience, Ben handles project management, web design and development. He specializes in Craft and ExpressionEngine CMS.

Ben runs the Madison Web Design & Development Meetup and volunteers each year with Junior Achievement. In his spare time, he enjoys bicycling, music, travel, spirited conversation and pretending to do Parkour.

We discuss how Ben got into the web design business, his processes, getting the best results for a project and your client, design simplicity, and three quick tests you can try on your website to see if it meets industry standards for 2017.

In this week’s show:

  • Building awareness of a growing medium
  • Systematization
  • The intake process is all about the business owner
  • Planning isn’t sexy
  • Interrogating a problem
  • Keeping it simple
  • Ben’s top 3 quick tests for your website

Links:

Today’s wine:

  • Bartenura Moscato from Italy, 2016Winemaker’s Notes: Crisp and refreshing, semi sweet, with lingering pear, tangerine, nectar and melon flavors on the finish. Perfect with dessert or fresh fruit, or sipping poolside.

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Ben is a self taught web designer and developer. In the late ‘90s, Ben was running a lawn service and got his first computer to do his books and get online. After learning to code and design in his spare time, he got a job making websites for law firms and, after a couple of years of experience, broke out on his own.

In the early days of his agency, sales and marketing largely depended on running print ads, having conversations with business owners, and referrals to get his business up and running.

Building awareness of a growing medium

At the time, the idea that every business should have a website was relatively new. So it was important for Ben to identify the right businesses to target for his service and draw their attention to this growing online medium.

By pointing to competitors or to other local businesses, people began to get on the ‘idea train’ and understand the value of having a website. As the concept spread, it made the sales process easier.

And by being the person to educate these businesses early, Ben was able to establish himself as an expert and grow a sizeable client base at a time when the industry was growing.

Systematization

As the agency has grown, Ben has systematized processes in the business. One of these is contracting – to make contract and proposal writing easier.

He has created a standard set of feature descriptions and language for the parts of a website. From what clients get for initial mockups and designs to what they’re going to get for a branding design.

For the terms of the contracts, Ben adds a new line or paragraph to his terms and conditions every time he has a bad experience with a client – whether fault lies with the client or the agency – to avoid making the same mistake twice.

Ben’s time is roughly split: 40% on sales, 40% on client work, 20% managing other people.

The intake process is all about the business owner

Being able to translate your expertise into layman’s terms is crucial in the process of selling. It’s not your chance to talk about how smart you are and how much you know about technology, it’s your chance to figure out the client’s needs and what those needs mean to the project.

Don’t feel the need to describe your solution right away; let the client describe their problems so that you can develop the appropriate solution.

Within every organization there is a lot of institutional knowledge that can be hidden. Often people don’t know what they know because they have been working in their industry for so long.

As a result, sometimes what comes out of doing this kind of planning can be not what you expect.

It can even mean you discover that the project they have in mind is not going to give them the required return on their investment, and so you advise them against hiring you for it. This kind of honesty can develop trust; in many respects we are all sceptical around a salesperson’s claim that they are there to help you. Because we’re thinking that they’re just there to make money.

But by showing the value of uncovering this information through the intake process, and having it lead wherever it leads, you’re showing that you really are there to help.

Planning isn’t sexy

We don’t get excited for planning meetings, for digging through company strategy and bringing in employees from across the business to get their input. Site designs, logos, and new technologies are much more exciting.

Planning is hard work. But when you do it thoroughly, you have a defined and structured set of requirements that are based on the needs you have identified.

Without spending the proper time on planning, you end up with cookie-cutter sites with generic designs and copy that don’t deliver the results you need for your business.

Interrogating a problem

Continuing to dig and asking probing questions throughout the process is not only great for building relationships, it uncovers all kinds of unexpected requirements and ideas.

By continually asking ‘what am I not asking you?’ and by speaking to new people within an organization, you can uncover valuable information that can shape a project.

Keeping it simple

Ben likes to keep things as simple as possible when building clients’ websites.

Everyone wants to keep things simple in theory, but in practice, projects can often unwittingly become overly complicated.

Ben gives the example of a restaurant. There are three key things that people want to find out when they are looking for a place to eat:

  • The hours
  • The menu
  • The location

There may be other things that people want to find out, but in its most basic form, a restaurant website should contain those key pieces of information, on a page that loads quickly and responsively on all devices.

Cluttering a page with social sharing features is not a top priority and can complicate the user experience.

Likewise, keeping content within a page strictly relevant its subject is important to the user experience and engagement as a result of that.

Daring Fireball is an excellent example we give of simplicity in design and user experience. In both design and content, this site keeps things minimal, displaying only the content that matters with no extraneous features.

Ben’s top 3 quick tests for your website

Ben advises three things that everyone should look out for on their website in 2017.

  1. Responsiveness — all websites should now work across all devices (mobile, tablet, desktop).
  2. Load time — if users have to wait too long for your site to load, they will leave.
  3. 3rd party tests & feedback — have somebody who is not emotionally invested in the site have a look around your site, ask them to perform some basic use cases and observe any friction or faults that they encounter along the way. This will give you some things to fix to improve your user experience.

You can test your website’s load time here: GTmetrix

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Episode 17: Anil Dash on tech lessons for sales and more

Anil DashAnd we’re back… with Anil Dash, CEO of Fog Creek Software (maker of Fog Bugz and Glitch, and incubator for Trello and Stack Overflow).

Anil’s full bio runs for paragraphs, but a few things beyond his current CEO role:

  • Served as an advisor to President Obama’s Office of Digital Strategy.
  • He’s a big Twitter person (we got introduced by a mutual follower). Time magazine named him one of the best accounts on Twitter in 2013, and he’s the only person to ever be retweeted by Bill Gates and Prince.
  • He helped start the social media revolution with Moveable Type in the early 2000s, and he’s been blogging since 1999.
  • He’s had hardware, software, sales and and executive experience, and he’s a big believer in linking together domains that are often separate.
  • He started his own company instead of going to college.

We cover a lot of things in the interview, but here are some key points:

  • How Anil got past his aversion to sales and reframed his perspective (this sounds familiar on this podcast, but I still love hearing everyone’s personal journey).
  • How he didn’t learn to do marketing until much later, and what he did instead (and how he learned how important marketing really is).
  • The importance of “non-zero-sum” incentives.
  • Taking the concept of “bus-proofing”, so important in the technology world, to the sales world.
  • A simple way to encourage more diversity in hiring, and why it’s good for your company.
  • Why tech is lurching its way to becoming the new “Wall St”, wealthy, powerful, and detested.

The wine…

OK, there was no wine in this episode! Anil doesn’t drink wine. Or coffee. Plus, we recorded in the morning.

Let me know if you think it’s missing.

 

Where to find Anil: AnilDash.com@AnilDashFog Creek Software

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

Get the episode on iTunes (check out the new Apple Podcasts– nice!)

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Summer Reading List

Who doesn’t love the summer? People trying to schedule podcast interviews, that’s who. 😉

Sales for Nerds will be on a monthly schedule because it’s just too hard to coordinate schedules right now.

With that in mind, here’s a summer reading list, pulled from recommendations from past episodes, with a few added bonuses.

Books on Overall Productivity

Sales and Marketing

Organizational and Management Challenges

 

  • Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull on how Pixar works hard to maintain a creative, open culture. Sure, you may not be churning out Hollywood blockbusters, but there are a lot of lessons here on how to create and keep a healthy workplace.

Fun Beach Reads

  • The Three Body Problem (book one of a trilogy), by Cixin Liu. Science fiction that will pull you in.
  • Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight. The memoir of the Nike founder. Surprisingly gripping account.

Nerdier Beach Reads, but not about Business

Summer Wine

I usually prefer red, but when it gets into the triple digits in Texas, some Sauvignon Blanc starts to sound good, like the offerings from Kim Crawford in New Zealand.

016 Maura Thomas on Attention Management

Maura ThomasBuilding on last episode’s discussion of avoiding digital distractions, productivity expert Maura Thomas takes us through attention management.

(Maura is also an author, having written Personal Productivity Secrets, and Work Without Walls. She has her own productivity consulting business, Regain Your Time.)

Maura never intended to get into this field, but she was a “Kelly Girl”, as they were called back then and ended up working at a productivity company with David Allen, (grand)father of Getting Things Done (also known as “GTD” to productivity dorks).

In this episode, Maura dives into:

  • Why we tend to measure productivity the wrong way.
  • Why “time management” doesn’t work anymore.
  • Why the “2 minute rule” has been corrupted into bad advice.
  • How Maura got into productivity by accident and ended up working with David Allen the (grand)father of Getting Things Done. Plus, where she agrees with David (and where she disagrees).
  • The difference between “action” verbs (like “plan”) and “actionable” verbs (“call Joe”), and how this relates to productivity.
  • How to build up your ability to focus, including some specific hacks Maura used on herself when she was trying to write a book or convince herself to exercise.
  • The 3 areas of Attention Management (one of which discussed a lot in the last episode).
  • How being mindful can help you not only be more productive at work, but also in your relationships.
  • How to control your attention for your purposes, while everyone else is trying to steal it.

Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.

Books by Maura:

productivity-guide-work-without-walls-683x1024

Other books mentioned in this episode:

Apps for mindfulness and meditation:

The wine…

verada2014 Verada Tri-county Pinot Noir, (a mixture of grapes from Monterrey, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara).

 

 


Where you can find Maura: RegainYourTime.com, @mnthomas, YouTube, Facebook

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

Get the episode on iTunes (check out the new Apple Podcasts– nice!)

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Listen on Overcast.fm.

Listen on Google Play.


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Episode 15: Jill Konrath on more sales in less time and eliminating distractions

Jill KonrathJill Konrath has written 3 best-selling books on sales, and now she’s out with a new book on personal productivity called More Sales in Less Time, Surprisingly simple strategies for today’s crazy-busy sellers.

As Jill mentions, she didn’t write this book because she started as an expert in this, but “to save my life”, because even Jill Konrath has challenges with getting things done and handling the constant interruptions of modern life.

Here’s a short clip:

 In this episode, Jill talks about:
  • The completely accidental way she got into sales (this is becoming a pattern, right?).
  • Why sales was a great fit for her, against all her preconceived notions.
  • Why she started her own company.
  • How she got overwhelmed with the very technology that was supposed to help her.
  • Why our brain is not optimized for modern life and how it leads us down the wrong path in the modern world. (And what happens to your IQ when you multitask.)
  • The real reason she wrote this book (to save my life)
  • How family emergencies forced Jill to prioritize even more ruthlessly (crossing of the “nice to do’s”, and “like to do’s” and focus on the “have to do’s”. (And why having a “don’t do” list is as important as having a “to do” list.
  •  How Jill used to use her calendar, and how she changed to be more effective with her time.
  • The practical suggestion from Jill’s book that Reuben put into place the next week.
  • The surprising amount of time top sellers spend selling
  • How to use the Pomodoro Technique to get started on tough tasks (Jill says she gets more done this way than with any other technique)

Plus, hear how this interview caused me to violate my own productivity rules. 😉

Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.

Books by Jill:

More Sales Less Time

Other books mentioned in this episode:

  • The One Thing, by Gary Keller (who here in Austin created the biggest real estate company in the world)

Apps mentioned:

  • RescueTime— gives you analytics on how you’re spending your time on your computer.
  • Freedom.to— block websites that can drain your time.
  • Unroll.me— easier management of email subscriptions
  • SaneBox— automatically filters your email for you to show you the most important stuff (personally, I’m generally pretty happy with the way Google prioritizes email)

The wine…

FRAN_2014_CabernetSauvignon_NapaValley_lowRes1
I switched to cab for this one– a very nice 2013 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley cab which was quite good and made me think I need to get back to cabernet sauvignon more often.

Jill enjoyed “something white from the fridge.” 😉 She said she’s not used to having wine while being interviewed.

 


Where you can find Jill: JillKonrath.com, @jillkonrath, LinkedIn, YouTube

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

 


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Episode 14: Marylou Tyler on Predictable Revenue and Predictable Prospecting

MarylouTyler_06B_XparentPredictable Revenue is one of the best books about sales to come out in the past decade. There are so many great things to recommend it, but one thing I love is a book that makes me change my mind. Marylou Tyler authored the book (along with Aaron Ross), after starting her career writing systems code. (This might be the biggest change from coding to sales in Sales for Nerds history.) She’s now got a new book out, focusing on the front of the funnel, called Predictable Prospecting.
In addition, Marylou took this episode up a notch, not just with the great advice I expect, but she enlisted a mixologist friend to come up with a special sangria recipe for you (thanks, Jeff Naples). After a successful coding and sales career, Marylou starting sales consulting for companies like MasterCard, Bose, and Apple.
In this episode, Marylou goes into:
  • How she moved from writing code to sales, and how she used her engineering background to go from “freaking out” to sales success.
  • How she set up a sales process before CRM and relational databases (“anything you do more than once can be part of a process”).
  • How she took the stress off herself and improved sales results systematically. Hint: don’t try to fix everything at once. Focus on what needs attention first and A/B test it.
  • The counterintuitive reason she focused on the top of the funnel.
  • The prospecting differences between inbound and outbound.
  • The key thing that drove her success, and why, after 30 years in the field and 2 books, she’s currently taking 5 classes to get better at it (along with a programming class).
  • How to set up “Question Trees” to improve your conversations and take the stress out of listening so you don’t have to think about what you’re saying next, but you can really listen.
  • How to write great emails.
  • And much, much more.

Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.

Books mentioned in this episode:

 


The wine…

Chateau De GrezelsI enjoyed some Chateau de Grézels 2014 Malbec/Merlot blend, a very interesting french wine that tastes heartier than most french blends (due to the Malbec) and more expensive than its < $10 price point would suggest.

Marylou had some Lost Angels Pinot Noir (along with Jeff Naples’ Sales for Nerds Sangria).lostangelspinot

 

 

 


Where you can find Marylou: @maryloutyler, MarylouTyler.com, The Predictable Prospecting Podcast

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

 


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Episode 12: Caleb Sidel on moving from dev to sales, finding a niche, and more

Caleb SidelCaleb Sidel got a degree from Carnegie Mellon in computer science and mathematics. I don’t know if you can get an nerdier than that. 😉 (He also got a minor in French, which will come into play in a story at the end of the episode where Caleb remembers me not exactly representing Americans well in France.)
Caleb is a partner and co-founder at Strategic Growth Inc, a Salesforce.com implementation partner that has grown rapidly with a core of partners who are responsible for sales and technology. This means a somewhat different approach to sales (and sales training, as they grow the team). Caleb has a long, long list of Salesforce certifications that I won’t bore you with, but he’s deep into Apex code, the Salesforce API, and more.
In this episode, Caleb talks about moving “up the stack”, from implementing features for internal “clients”, to implementing features for external customers, to doing freelance consulting, to co-founding and growing a firm.
Caleb’s tips include:
  • How to find a niche from a technical perspective. We keep talking about the importance of a niche on this podcast, but what if you don’t know what your real market niche is. Caleb discusses why you can find a niche from the technical side in a way that defines your market niche for you.
  • Why all the partners at the firm have to sell (and keep up their tech chops).
  • The importance of passion, not just with your customers, but with your partners.
  • The really simple way they train their consultants to sell.

Plus, there’s that embarrassing story about me. 😉

Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.


 

Château Teyssier Montagne-Saint-Émilion 2012 bordeaux blend. Delicious. Very french, in a good way.


Where you can find Caleb:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.   Sites mentioned in the Episode:


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Episode 11: Brian Spross on Law, Lawyers, and More

Brian SprossBrian Spross got his degree in Mechanical Engineering, and he takes that meticulous approach to law. Brian’s firm specializes in law for tech firms, and I knew he loved wine, so I thought he’d be a great fit for the podcast.
After all, the legal aspects of business are critical to sales, but even more than sales, something that many technical founders don’t want to consider.
Brian provides some great tips, including:
  • When you need a lawyer.
  • How (relatively) inexpensive it is to set up a company, and why you must, must, must do this.
  • Why people don’t have good contracts in place (and what you can do about it).
  • How the “designed to…” approach from engineering is so useful in law and contracts.
  • Why your technical people need to read (at least) the technical parts of contracts and agreements.
  • Just because you got paperwork from a big, important company, doesn’t mean you have to sign it “as-is”.
  • Red flags for contracts that may cause problems down the road.
  • The simple way to pick your lawyer.

Plus, I recount the painful memory of the one time a client skipped out on an invoice.

Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.


wines_04

The Wine

La Posta Malbec from Argentina, 2014. Another big red, but really nice and smooth as it breathes.

 


Where you can find Brian:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

 

Sites mentioned in the Episode:


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Episode 10: Scott Ingram on the Path to Sales Success

Scott IngramScott Ingram is the host of the Sales Success Stories podcast, which I’ve been enjoying lately. Scott’s interviews bring a lot of very specific, tactical advice which is great for people who want details.
I’ve tried to follow Scott’s lead in getting specifics.
In this episode, Scott explains:
  • How he got great mentors to help him get his network administration consulting company off the ground.
  • How referrals help, but they can only take you so far.
  • Why you should pick a sales process– don’t try to invent one.
  • Why we often fear sales, and what we can do about it.
  • The importance of having a niche (yet again).
  • How he created a great, nerd friendly sales shortcut.
  • Why it’s easy to recall bad salesmen, but hard to recall good sales experience.
  • Why women are overrepresented among top sales performers.
  • The promise and peril of The Challenger Sale.
  • How to align your sales process to you, so you can sell authentically (and why this is so important)
  • The importance of planning and ritual, including Scott’s morning routine (starting at 4:30).
  • Why there’s no replacement for “time in the saddle”

Scott was also super helpful as a fellow podcaster, using his (much nicer) setup, so this should sound better than previous episodes, too.

Get the episode now on iTunes, or listen on Overcast.


2011 Hawks View Cellars California Syrah
The Wine

Hawk’s View Cellars Syrah, 2011. Big red, but very smooth as it opens up.

(@HawksViewWines)

 


Where you can find Scott:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

Books mentioned in the Episode:

The Sales for Nerds Episode with Adam Boyd from Sandler.

The Comodoro Technique, which Scott uses to help him plan.

Need Nudge (relationship app).


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