Our presentation at DNNcon Baltimore
DNNcon was held on April 1 and 2 in Baltimore this year and we had about 150 people attending from all over the world. I was honored to give a talk on Selling DNN. Here's a recap of the talk.
1. We're no experts
We've built over 30,000 DNN webpages in the 8 years we've been using this great development platform. Some of our large government and corporate clients have thousands of pages each on their sites, while other small business clients or non-profits have just a few pages.
Still, we aren't experts and certainly not at the conference to boast. Like most every other speaker, we're all here to share our knowledge to help the DNN community to grow.
Run a User Group - Be an Expert
Many times we don't have to do cold calling. The client comes to us. The biggest contributing factor to this part of our success has to be that we're founders of the Chicago Area DNN User Group. There's a biblical saying that says if you give with a spoon you get with a spoon. I think that since we help promote this free tool and share technical tips and tricks with our local community, that it comes back to us in spades. When people look for DNN developers in Chicago, they google "Chicago DNN" and find ChicagoDNN.org, the user group website, then find us posting there and then call us.
So our advice is to start a User Group in your area or contribute to an existing one.
DNN is a Natural with IT Departments
If you think of Content Management Systems, WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal may come to mind. All those are Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP systems, the bane of many IT departments who standardize on Microsoft. DNN is Microsoft-based, and even if they're not going to host the website, the IT guys like the fact that DNN is built using "the right stuff!"
I spent some time talking about cold calling. First, do your homework. Look at the current website. Most businesses have something. Is it really old? Is it built using a Microsoft based tool like FrontPage or Web Expressions? That can be a plus for telling them they're upgrading to a better MS-based solution.
Ask questions, then sell them what they want. Asking questions keeps you from selling what they don't want. The old school of selling says to create a big presentation, then practice coming up with answers to objections. That puts your prospect in an adversarial relationship and their role in that relationship is to see you fail.
Instead, be a counselor. The Sandler method of selling says you should act like a psychologist on stage - part-time asking questions and part-time emoting solutions. You find their problems by asking questions, then you provide a solution by showing how DNN solves their problems.
- What bothers you about your current website?
- What more do you want to do with your website?
- Do you have thoughts about adding new abilities down the road?
- Do you want to update the website yourself?
- Ever hear of a Content Management System, or CMS?
- What’s your ANNUAL budget for your website?
- Is your website a marketing expense or IT expense or … ?
Erik Hinds, VP and Solutions Architect at Risdall Marketing Group, chimed in at this point of the presentation with his own set of questions that they ask their clients via an intake survey and he was gracious enough to share it with us all. Thanks Erik!
Statistically, you'll run into WordPress most. And here's where I'll commit DNN heresy. Do you know how to build using WordPress? If so, and they ask for a WordPress site, build it. Then you can go find somebody else who might need and want DNN.
If you want to fight against the WP beast, here are a couple tactics. First, can WP easily do what they need? Maybe not. Many times you need a special theme or even a custom theme to get a particular function, so tell the client that. DNN may have a combination of modules to make the job easier and therefore hopefully more affordable for them.
Of course, sow seeds of doubt at least. WordPress was built as a blogging tool, not a website development platform. Many WP sites are abandoned. Both these statements are true without siding with WPers who would say that it's evolved into a very capable tool with millions of running sites, some by very large names. You don't have to tell them that :-)
There are many great benefits to using DNN. But it's not trivial to install and use and upgrade so be careful about that. It's OK to say it makes upgrading easier but there is still an effort. Applying a new skin might give them a new look in one click or it might be an incompatibility nightmare if the new skin has different pane names (likely) or the modules may have incompatibilities.
Give Yourself Credit
Instead of pushing DNN as a commodity, push it as a powerful tool that - IN YOUR HANDS - provides your client the best possible website with the best possibilities for growth as well as daily usage. Structure your offer as a retainer so you can keep the site updated and running smoothly.
You can even keep the fact that's its a CMS from them. Not everybody wants to update their own website. Many people are technically averse. But they're also averse to being ripped off and they may have a preconceived notion that updates are expensive. You can show them how easy it is to change a sentence in an HTML module so they know it won't take long and therefore won't cost much to keep it fresh, and that justifies a nice retainer for you.
We Hope It Helps
Like I said at the start, speakers at DNNcon are here to share their knowledge. We hope this bit of knowledge - is it stretching to much to say wisdom? - gained over the years is beneficial to you. Let us know in the comments section.