There are a lot of things we love about running our own business, but sales and business development are pretty low on the list. Even when we're talking with really great potential clients, the sales cycle is hard. Lots of calls with strangers, some of which end up going nowhere, lots of explaining the same things over and over, lots of time and energy that can be hard for a phone-avoidant introvert like myself to muster.
About a year ago, Aaron and I were talking over the meh feelings we had about bizdev and decided we needed to change our attitudes. We can't stay in business without continuing to do sales, so it's our responsibility to make it something that we feel positively about. What could we change to get ourselves excited about the sales process?
We know that lots of sales people work on commission - they get paid based on the contracts they bring in. There are even agencies that pay commissions to non-salespeople: if a developer or designer brings in a client, they'll take home a percentage of the final contract on top of their normal salary.
But if you're self-employed, that doesn't make a lot of sense. The money is already ending up in your bank account, so how would it work to shave off 5% to put... in your bank account? Alongside the other 95%?
Enter: the patent-pending webmeadow funtime guilt-free sales commission lists™. We made up a big list of things that we want, but haven't bought because of a vague sense of inappropriate self-indulgence. The list included things like:
- lap-sized weaving loom
- fancy headphones
- a trip to some sort of warm beachy vacationland in February
- sodastream (bubbles!)
- cinchona bark (so I can use said sodastream to make my own tonic water)
- soft and luscious yarn (of which a knitter can never have too much, even though I already have too much)
- one of those organic mattresses filled with wool and natural-fiber-wrapped springs handcrafted by artisanal fair-trade sleep fairies
- Tom Bihn bags
- 6 months of monthly massages
- a serious for-reals Vermont-ready greenhouse (which are more expensive than you might guess)
We split the list into three groups, which were roughly "inexpensive" (less than $50), "medium" ($50-$250), and "big" (more than $500), and we mapped each group to a size of contract: small projects earn things from the inexpensive list, medium from the medium list, and big projects earn a big prize. When we get the deposit for a new project, whoever did the sales legwork picks an item to order off the commission lists, guilt-free.
A lot of the prizes are pretty small, and buying a new graphic novel doesn't even represent a 1% commission on a $10k contract. But they feel fun and exciting, and it's really helped us feel appreciated for the business development piece of our work. That's a weird thing to say, right? That we had set up a specific process to make sure we appreciated ourselves for our own hard work? If you're running your own tiny shop, I have a feeling you know exactly what I mean.