How to Make your First Sale & Build your Portfolio

Hello fellow Digital Entrepreneurs,

My name is Nathan Fréchette-Gagnon and I’m the founder & CEO of Marketing Ultimum, a digital marketing company that offers a wide range of digital solutions (innovative Web design, 360º Virtual Reality, social media marketing and many more). In 2017, we can all agree that becoming a web-trepreneur or launching a start-up has never been this popular and this accessible. It seems like everyone’s starting their own business, specially selling digital services. The Web and social media are filled with content, tools, online classes and webinars about social media marketing, e-commerce and affiliate marketing. The easy access to all of this makes it much more possible for anyone to start their own business, and especially to start selling their web services. 

However, most of these resources will teach you about the practical skills needed to operate on the web, drag traffic and convert sales, but what about selling those services in real life? I find there’s a lack of online resources for people who are looking to start a company and get the business skills and insight needed to successfully sell services to companies. Personally, just a year ago, I was working as a salesperson in a furniture store, finishing my psychology degree. I always felt like I had more to offer than what my employers could see in me. I finally decided to quit my job last summer and started selling my services (and others’) to companies and other entrepreneurs. Today, we’re adding our 11th client to our portfolio.

I can honestly say that this was one of the best decisions in my life, and I haven’t regretted it once ever since. However, I had to learn the hard way the business competencies needed to sell services, other than the services themselves. Because I think knowledge should always be accessible, and because I’m a proud member of the Digital Entrepreneurs community, I’d like to share with you what I learned so far.
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This article is about how to use your practical knowledge or skill set, and start selling your services to companies. 
You might be a fierce marketer, a big-data analyst, a graphic designer, a web developer or even a salesperson like myself. Nonetheless, these tips will help anyone who’s looking to start and launch a service-based business. 

How to Make your First Face-to-face Sell?

There are many ways to convey your first sell as an entrepreneur. In this section, I’ll share with you the ones I used to close that first deal. 


A Recent Partnership

First, most of us will team-up with others when starting a project like this, and it’s a good thing. You can use that while selling your service to your potential customer. If you don’t have any website, portfolio, business card or social media account, it doesn’t matter! Most start-up will fail because of the exceeding preparation. You just got to put yourself out there, and here’s how:

A good thing to do is to justify the lack of company features by talking about the newness of the partnership. If you teamed-up with someone, it can be a good thing to say that you’re both experienced in your field, but it’s the partnership that’s new (the company). This can be a good way to justify this lack of features, without looking unprofessional. 

Personally, that’s what I did. I sold my first website to an industrial company without having a website myself, a business card, a logo or even a Facebook page. I just told them that my developer and I were both experienced and knowledgeable in web design and marketing, but since the partnership was new we didn’t have those features yet. We signed the deal. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll sign the first one, but at least you putted yourself out there and the knowledge and data coming out of this experience is invaluable.  Here’s another one to close your first sell, and put all the chances on your side:


The Foot in the Door

The best technique I know to close someone to a service is ‘’the foot in the door’’. One reality you’ll face if you start your own web-company, is the cynicism of many businesses towards agencies. That truth can also apply in all other areas of business; you need to build a trust relationship with your client, whatever the field. When you’re selling services, the interesting thing is that there’s not really a limit to what you can sell to your customer. Services can be down- and up-sold in many ways. Knowing that, the technique I find the best is to offer the best possible first deal to your customer. It might seem evident, but there’s a logic to it. Here’s three reasons to offer your customer the best possible first deal (even if you’re not making a lot of money): 

⦁    If he’s unsure, you can tell him to call your competition to compare prices (most will be satisfied by the confidence you have about your pricing, and if they’re not, well they can check for themselves); 
⦁    You instantly build a trust relationship with your customer. This means you can easily sell him other services afterwards, and he’ll trust that you’ll get him the best pricing;
⦁    Because of the amazing deal, chances are he’ll refer you to his network, and you’re sure to have a satisfied customer. 
⦁    At the same time, it gives you some margin for mistakes, since your client knows he got a great deal. 

All these reasons make it worth your while to offer a very good deal to your customer the first time you sell him. Also, you’ll be much more confident and calm selling your service if you’re sure your client’s getting the best deal out there.


How to Build your Portfolio? 

At the beginning, building a good portfolio is vital for sales and for brand recognition. Being able to discuss how many customers you’ve had so far helps insure your potential client that you know what you’re doing, and therefore it allows you to charge a more expensive fee. 
It’s truly a crucial part, since the more experience you get, the more credibility and selling power you have – especially at first. The wider the portfolio, the better the deal; for you.  There are many ways to build your portfolio when starting a business. Here’s two key points to get those first logos on your portfolio: 

Networking with Entrepreneurs

If you’re new to this, or to the industry you’d like to approach, networking events are the place you want to be when starting your own company. Meeting like-minded people and introducing yourself to your industry’s community can play a big role in putting your brand out there and in finding the right people to team-up with. One of Marketing Ultimum’s first pillar was entrepreneurial networking. The first time I went at an entrepreneurial event, I was looking to learn more about the industry and wasn’t expecting very much. It turns out I met the main web-developer of Marketing Ultimum today, my friend and colleague Jean-Philippe Belley. I now work with him everyday to deliver innovative web solutions to business owners and their companies. You wouldn’t be reading this article if I hadn’t decided to get my brand out there, and meet new people. Now, going to those networking events is central in Marketing Ultimum’s customer acquisition process, and Digital Entrepreneurs is one of our favorite for that purpose!
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Exchanging Value – and Logos

Once you have your focus, and you start meeting new people, you might consider adding team members to your project. If you meet these people through entrepreneurial networking, it might be more valuable than you expected. If you start working with other entrepreneurs, a good way to create win-win value is to “share” the logos and experience. If the person(s) you’re working with already has a company, or is self-employed and operates with a name or logo, you might want to use it. For example, if you’re a web designer and want to work with a photographer, you can sell your customer new pictures for his website and “hire” your photographer. Then, whether you split the check, or pay your photographer by services (i.e. a new web-portfolio!), you’ll be able to place your respective logos, as well as your customer’s, on both of your portfolios! 

In conclusion

There are many things to consider when starting your own company, and making your first sale & building your portfolio are amongst the firsts you’ll have to do. Knowing this, keeping these tips & tricks in mind might give you a hand!
The important thing to remember if you’re in this position is that, whatever the outcome, you’ll definitely move toward your goal by going out there. Whether it’s to expand your network, meet your future colleagues or close your first deal, entrepreneurial events are the way to go. 
However, finding the best events to go to can be hard, and they are not all the same. I recommend going somewhere where there’s as much diversity in the topics discussed, as in the work fields of the attendees. 
A good place to start can be a Digital Entrepreneurs event, where people from all work fields (including entrepreneurship) come together to discuss the future of work, while high-quality content is shared about the best techniques to improve their web strategies! 
It just so happens that the next one is next week, and you don’t want to miss out on this one. 

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Charles Hutin, a successful marketer for small businesses, will come & share how he made over $3M for the companies he works with. He’ll share tips and tricks on how to generate engagement on Facebook to increase sales and visibility. 
Ryan Hilier, the founder of NOVAlex, will explain his story and how he quitted the job he had, to start life as an entrepreneur & aim to change the world!

Finally, I’ll be there as well, learning & networking like you. And, for those of you who have questions about this article or the story behind Marketing Ultimum, I’ll be there to answer them. To get your ticket to the next Digital Entrepreneurs event, and to finally move toward your life or business goal:

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And for those of you who’d like to learn more about the work we do at Marketing Ultimum:

Nathan Fréchette-Gagnon
CEO & Digital Marketing consultant