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Why your web design business needs a good sales process

The honest truth is that business success will take more than your stellar web design skills alone. It will require managing your...

Profile picture of Joanna Kramer


12 min read

The honest truth is that business success will take more than your stellar web design skills alone. It will require managing your operations like a trained salesperson.

Make sure all of your efforts to get new web design clients don’t go to waste. To progress a lead towards a signed contract - without them disappearing in the middle - you need to have a concrete sales process in place. It should be a well-defined flow that responds to each stage of the customer decision process.

The seven-step sales process below outlines how to sell your web design services to prospective clients, so you can end the day with more closed deals. Before we get to that, let’s review what a sales process is and the tools you’ll need.

What is a sales process?

A sales process refers to a set of steps you take to get a potential client to ‘buy'. Or, in this case, to hire your services. There are two points to remember about these steps.

First, each of these stages should be measurable and repeatable. Those are the building blocks for creating a standardized sales process that saves you from having to reinvent the wheel every time a new lead appears.

Second, each step should correspond with a specific moment along the buyer pipeline, known as AIDA: awareness, interest, decision, and action. The best sales processes will be oriented around this buyer sequence, introducing the appropriate marketing outreach based on where the customer is at that moment.

For example, let’s take a prospective client who’s reached the “Interest” stage of their journey. They know they want to buy, but are perhaps not sure about which vendor they trust or the specifics of the website they want. This person might visit your website to get a sense of who you are and fill out an intake form while there.

A sales process is the infrastructure you need to receive and act on this information, guiding them from being interested to decision time.

AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action

Why is a sales process important?

Having a standardized system for managing your leads keeps potential business from slipping through the cracks. Starting a web design business from scratch? Establishing a clear sales process from the get-go gets a good routine in motion.

Each incoming inquiry shouldn’t send you scrambling to draft a follow up calendar, or periodically rooting through your email history to remember when you last contacted them. Your time is more valuable than that.

Instead, precisely map out how a lead should travel through the funnel of your marketing efforts. That could look something like this:

  • To move a web visitor into a concrete lead, think about adding an email subscription pop-up, or intake form to your pages.

  • And to continue a business relationship beyond one project, plan for when you should circle back with this person to stay in touch and re-pitch your services.

Taking a streamlined approach doesn’t just save you time. When you visualize the entire sales process, you’ll be able to see where any breakdowns are happening in your conversion rate from one stage to the next. That way, you can optimize as needed.

Professional tools for managing your sales process

If you’ve been trying to keep track of your leads in your head until now, it’s no wonder if it’s felt like a burden. It’s time to give your sales process a fair shot at becoming the secret to your business success.

You just need the right system to manage it all. With each step designed to be repeatable and measurable, the sales process is a perfect candidate for a standardized workflow. These are our recommendations for the sales process tools you need to stay on top of it all:

Mapping the sales process

One way to outline your process is through the sticky note method. Take a deck of sticky notes, and create a grid on the wall. The top row will have a note for each stage of the sales process. Below each header, write all the action items that belong to that section. Each one gets their own note, as well.

Using sticky notes gives you flexibility to move things around or tweak until you feel you’ve reached an order that makes sense. It’s like a sales process first draft. It’s also what you can use to look for patterns and start creating some order in your operations. For instance: A consistent task in your lead connection stage will be following up with clients via email after the first phone call.

Once you’ve settled on your action items, formalize this order into a sales process checklist or flowchart - whatever format makes the most sense to you.

You’ll keep referring back to this document as new leads enter your sales funnel and you strategize how to advance them to the next phase.

Mapping the sales process with sticky note method

Track every lead that comes your way

No matter the number of incoming leads you have, you should definitely be utilizing a CRM (customer relationship management) system. It’s simply too much to keep track of each person’s individual sales path and follow-up status. Let a sophisticated business solution take care of that for you.

Your CRM should give you the space to input all relevant details on your contacts, from how to get in touch to where they are in the sales journey. It should also let you create tasks, set reminders, and manage your workflow, so you never have to worry about missing a beat when it comes to your leads.

Analyze and optimize

The whole point of having a well-defined sales process and a trustworthy CRM is that you can measure it all. The most interesting questions to pursue are:

  • For those leads that disappeared before signing a contract - why did they not continue along the funnel?

  • How long does it take, on average, to close a deal with an incoming lead?

Taking stock of the following data will help you answer these questions: total leads, number of leads contacted, number you connected with, leads in progress, deals closed, leads lost or rejected.

When all these figures are available, it’s possible to see which phases are serving their purposes, and which could use some strengthening. A good CRM lets you regularly apply these kind of data-driven insights.

While sales are certainly not an exact science, the seven steps in this guide provide a solid foundation to get you started. As you put them into practice, the data you collect will help you shape these recommendations into a custom sales process that works for you and helps you close the deal with more leads.

The 7 stages of an effective sales process

  1. Finding new web design clients

  2. Qualifying your leads

  3. Making a discovery call

  4. Delivering your sales pitch

  5. Addressing client objections

  6. Closing the deal

  7. Following up with your customers

01. Finding new web design clients

The objective is always finding the “perfect client fit.” They are the ones who bode good news for your bottom line, and who will know how to make use of your skills and time. We cover how to do that in our guide, Finding Your Next Web Design Client. To quickly summarize, though:

First, outline your ideal customer profile, running through factors like professional industry, geographic location, and budget. Once this user persona is complete, use it to design your lead generation strategy so you’re targeting the right audiences. Your plan should include online and offline sources, from forums on social media platforms to meetups for professionals or industry conferences.

Lead generation is one of the most important steps of the web design process, as it gets your message in front of the eyes of your most likely clients and helps you filter out projects that aren’t a good match before you’ve invested time in them.

The goal: To make potential clients aware of your business.

02. Qualifying your leads

Thanks to your prospecting, prospective clients are looking up your website and social channels. How are you leveraging this awareness into an active interest in your brand? And - importantly - do you have a way of differentiating between the project requests you receive?

Placing an intake form on your website can help you figure out if you and this potential client could make a good team together. The questions you pose should get at each letter of the acronym BANT. It stands for budget, authority, need, and timeline, and it’s the standard many professionals use to evaluate the quality of incoming leads.

On-site intake form

The most important fields to include are:

  • Contact information and current business website (if one exists)

  • What service is needed

  • Timeline

  • Budget

Many expert web builders make as many of these options as possible multiple choice or a drop-down menu. They find this format increases the chance visitors fill out the form completely.

Continue using the BANT mindset when reviewing submissions. If someone’s listed budget is significantly below your lowest price, or if the service they’re requesting is not something you provide, you already have an answer right there. For leads that do look promising, however, the next round is getting the person on the phone.

The goal: Gauging a prospective client’s interest, compatibility, and business needs.

03. Making a discovery call

Initial phone call

A promising lead has come in, either through your website or as a product of one of your other lead generation tactics. Calling right away comes off as professional, plus gets the ball rolling on this next venture.

Many web designers say they’ve had more success talking on the phone at first - as opposed to email - although this can vary based on your market demographic so it’s worth some experimentation.

The initial phone call is rarely a one-off endeavor. You won’t always get through on the first try. Or the prospect will be busy and ask you to call back. Or, or, or… You get the idea. Here is a suggested timetable for establishing that first contact:

  • Day 0: As soon as you get the lead, call them right away.

  • Day 3: Email in the morning, call in the afternoon.

  • Day 5: Call in the morning, call and leave a voicemail in the afternoon.

  • Day 7: Email in the morning, call in the afternoon with a voicemail.

At whatever point you reach them on the phone, use the time to further explore the answers they provided to your intake form, and to close any gaps in information. Listen carefully to how they present their decision to shop for a new website, redesign, or any other digital marketing service. How are they hoping this service will benefit their business?

The information you gather here will be essential later on, when you develop a sales pitch that wins you this client.

Before you hang up, close by agreeing upon next steps. Instead of the vague, ‘Let’s talk in a couple days,’ set up a meeting to speak and move forward in two days.

In all instances, send a follow up email to recap whatever you discussed.

Discovery call with new web design client

Following up on the unanswered phone call

As we mentioned above, some people won’t answer the phone on your first try. To make sure you still appear on their radar, it’s a good idea to send an email a few days after that initial outreach. Let them know you tried to reach out, and give them a callback number. We also recommend letting them know you’ll try again at a specified time and date, to set expectations.

Some tips to remember when you’re composing your message:

  • Personalize it: Add their name, and a short line that shows you read what they wrote on their intake form, or even that you did some quick research into their brand.

  • Make it easy to take the next step: Consider including a link to a calendar scheduler so they can book a time to talk to you.

  • Finish with a question: Orient the conversation towards next steps and open the door to further communication.

The goal: Move a potential client from showing interest to being decision-ready by listening carefully to their pain points and emphasizing your experience with similar projects.

04. Delivering your sales pitch

Once a client is interested in what you have to offer, your mission is making them see you as a the right choice for their business.

There’s no better way to accomplish that then by hitting the project proposal out of the park.

Background research

A quality proposal weaves in the information you’ve gathered from your initial conversations with a prospective client, any materials they’ve sent, and your own research into their brand. When the prospect sits down to read it, they should easily be able to recognize themselves in the vision you lay out.

To do this, use your first meeting with a client to explore:

  • Their business model, profit margins, and needs.

  • The challenges they are currently facing as a business.

Understanding the backstory that prompted someone to contact you will inform - and strengthen - the plan you present.

Web design proposal

In the proposal, draw direct links between the challenges a client has named and the services you provide. You are offering more than the commodity of a website. You are selling a business solution.

In your initial consultation, as well as in your proposal, continually demonstrate the value you can bring to a client’s brand. Instead of going for the cliche pushy marketing stance, position yourself as an educational resource. Establishing your dependability and expertise will earn the trust of the potential customer - paving the way to a contract.

The goal: Display your expertise and credibility to make the case for why a client should make the decision to trust you with their business’ growth.

Making your sales pitch

05. Addressing client objections

It’s one thing to convince a client of how a new website would benefit their business. Getting them to actually commit to hiring you and seeing the project through will take some additional work on your part. (Try these psychology-backed principles to make more sales.)

Especially when a sticky topic like pricing is involved, it’s easy for a lead to balk and disappear at this stage of the sales pipeline. What’s the process you can rely on here to keep discussions moving forwards towards a signed deal?

Work with the client to identify their hesitations

Clients won’t always come out right away with their objections. They may be embarrassed, or unsure, and find that not responding to your messages is sometimes easier than naming their hesitations.

To avoid this kind of sudden silence, promise yourself you won’t leave a web design proposal presentation without a follow up call scheduled into each of your calendars. That kind of accountability will help keeps the whole process moving forward.

In that phone conversation, reiterate the value you stand to add to their business, as well as what gives you a cutting edge over other competitor solutions. Whether it’s your affordable pricing, the holistic marketing packages you have available, or the design accolades you’ve won that attest to the quality of your work - say it out loud.

If a prospective client is debating between you and another agency or consultancy - or deliberating about the idea of a website at all - this is your time to be clear about your USP (unique selling proposition). What do they stand to miss out on by not pursuing their web design with you?

Sometimes a prospect might just need this final pep talk. Other times, their concerns run deeper. In those cases, continue speaking until you’ve gotten a good idea of what’s holding them back.

What to do in the case of a price hangup

If the obstacle at hand is the price tag, it’s tempting to immediately lower your prices in the name of closing the deal. We say: don’t.

Instead, try these strategies first:

  • Explain the value you bring to their business again. Put concrete numbers on this impact, drawing on the goals you stated in your web design proposal (e.g. Increasing the on-site conversion rate by 20% over the next six months). Connect this back to the business challenges they named, and the role the website will serve in tackling them.

  • llustrate the reverse scenario. Without taking advantage of your web design services, what will the impact be of that lost potential value? Round out this point with numbers, as well (e.g. By not investing in a website, they stand to miss out on 300 new visitors per day).

  • Throw in some perks. Only after trying the two strategies above do we recommend turning to this one. Come up with a short list before your conversation of tasks that require a minimal amount of time, such as compiling a monthly newsletter from their blog posts, or a weekly post on social. Sometimes the addition of these benefits can soften a potential client’s stance on your price, and help them feel they’re getting more value for their money.

The goal: Make it clear why, in a competitive field of other web designers, a client should opt for your brand. Leave them without a doubt about what makes you stand out, and what their business stands to gain by making the decision to sign a contract with you.

06. Closing the deal

Once any client objections have been cleared, you can proceed to the contract stage. The standard document you use should cover all of your bases: pricing, deadlines, client assets, late fees, to name a few.

After implementing all of the specifics you agreed upon throughout your conversations with a client, you can send it along for the signature. It’s also a good practice to include the final web design proposal within the same email for reference.

Set a deadline for when you will need the final signed copy back in your hands - two to four business days from when you send it should suffice. Only once you’ve received it should you commence work.

The goal: The client takes the necessary action to becoming an active customer and proceed with the project.

07. Following up with your client

The sales journey doesn’t close with the signing of a contract. Instead of constantly having to seek out fresh faces to market to - which can drain your resources - turning current customers into a stable source of new business is one of the most efficient methods for finding new clients.

A good sales process prepares you to keep nurturing this lead. Assign the appropriate ‘ask’ to each check-in, and use your CRM to keep it all in check:

  • Before the project ends: Start pitching some of your additional services - known as upselling - even before you’ve transferred over the website. A good time to hand your client a list of these offerings is during the site handover. It’s also an appropriate moment to subscribe the client to your newsletter, if you have one.

  • Immediately after the project: After you’ve wrapped up a project, immediately mail a handwritten thank you note. This gives you a window to ask for a review, or to refer additional clients your way.

  • Months following the project: At three months, six months, and one year after the handoff, send a friendly ‘hello’ message, inquiring how your clients are doing and gently reminding them you’re available for future questions or collaboration.

  • National holidays: These days are an easy excuse to drop a friendly line in a client’s inbox and keep your name on their radar.

The goal: Continue evoking the awareness, interest, decision, and action of your established client for future projects down the line.

By Joanna Kramer

Editor, Wix Partner Blog


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