How to Screw Up a Web Project – During the Sale

GroupThere are many ways to screw up a web development project, and it all starts with not helping the sales managers.

You got this one
When you’re working for a studio, web development projects are team efforts. That team includes your sales staff; they’re the front line. Here’s some tips on selling them out and getting things off to a bad start.

Skip the meetings
After the sales lead comes in, usually a meeting is set up to talk about the project. Go ahead and skip that meeting. It’s highly unlikely that any thing important will be discussed, such as their goals, target audience, and metrics for success. Even if it were discussed, you certainly don’t need this information first hand. Why make informed decisions and recommendations for the project when you can make assumptions and propose template solutions.

Send a questionnaire
Now that you’ve skipped the sales meeting, it’s time to cut corners on the analysis. Nothing spells personalized customer service like a lengthy questionnaire. Be sure to lead off with simple questions to boost their confidence, like their company name and URL. This proves to them that even if the sales person already got this information, you’re just being thorough. More importantly, ask really hard questions that require essays for answers as well as significant research into their sales numbers and web analytics. Customers like to jump through hoops. They probably have nothing better to do with their time any ways.

Copy Paste
Proposals are easy. Just have the sales guy copy some text from the last couple your company sent out and paste it into a new file. Make sure to change the date on the cover and footers. Most importantly, have sales just recycle the last estimate that sounds about right.

Don’t approve the estimate
The proposal is ready to send to the customer, you should review and approve it, right? No, but I can see why you’d think that. You need plausible deniability and a scape goat if something goes wrong. Practice saying, “I dunno what sales was thinking, they just sent it out like that before I saw it”. So, go ahead and be committed to the estimate and time line in the document. It’s probably close enough.

It’s important that the client has expectations for the project and you don’t know what they are. That keeps it interesting.

Send comps
When the customer asks for three or four samples of possible home page designs for their new site, oblige them. Without a proper discovery process, its a shot in the dark, but it’s sooo worth it. They might like yours. Don’t let not understanding how they want the site to work, the target audiences needs, or even what content you’re working with hold you back. Guess.

Have a poor contract
That mumbo jumbo at the end of the proposal probably won’t ever come into play. Go ahead and use lines like “the final payment is due after approval” and see how long it takes before a client realizes the loop hole. Besides, intellectual property rights and limitations of warranties and liabilities are just fancy words that lawyers use.

Take any project
Why be picky when you’re awesome. Your solution can fit any company. You especially want the clients that have a tight budget, pressing deadlines, and a spec that only has one phase. Typically, the client can pick two out of three; cost, time line and scope. As the design and development studio, you get the third pillar of the project. That’s just being greedy, and you’re better off letting them control everything. It’s best to never think about which client’s problems best fit you’re studios skill set and expertise.

Now that you realize you’re in a world of hurt, it’s time to look back at the questionnaire and proposal and start pointing fingers. Maybe you don’t “got this one”, but there’s always next time.

We’ve all made some mistakes. What have you done or seen done by others that’s a sure fire way to screw up a project?

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4 Comments

  1. David Scoville says

    “It’s important that the client has expectations for the project and you don’t know what they are. That keeps it interesting.”

    I like that quote. Thanks, Mike. Great way to sum up bad service. Any new web developer must learn these lessons.

  2. Charles Stevenson says

    what a great article! as a digital entrepreneur, i can relate to all of these mistakes and your sarcasm made my memories of client train wrecks all the sweeter. i will be printing out this article and giving it to our entire team. thanks!

  3. Mike Benson says

    Thanks for the kind words.

    @Charles – Glad someone else could get a chuckle out of the post. I toured your site… very nice. I also added you to my twitter list.

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