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We’re Experts, and We’re Sorry

Why we sell the way we do

The Postlight Sales Pitch

It’s an incredibly anxious moment when you’re sitting on that examining table and the doctor is staring at that MRI scan. The seconds feel like hours. Information at that very moment—whether bad or good—is empowering, liberating even.

Sharing that information can be handled one of two ways:

  1. Blurt out the diagnosis in all its medical textbook glory and tell the patient they’re going to need surgery. To which the patient quickly responds “what does that mean?”
  2. State the diagnosis and patiently describe and explain the implications, options, risks and so forth. In other words, educate the patient.

We are the experts

Postlight sells expertise. In fact, we sell what one can safely categorize “premium expertise.” We’re a full service digital studio that strategizes, designs architects and builds digital products — platforms, apps, tools and the like. And we’re not cheap.

In some ways we’re no different than a clinic, law firm, or management consulting firm. Most often, prospects come to us with a challenge or effort in mind, knowing full well that they don’t carry the specialized knowledge and skills in house. Otherwise they’d just do the work themselves.

Often, we’re in a similar place as that doctor. We can either cryptically tell you what you need without much explanation or we can have a dialogue where we educate and inform.

As a digital shop, we’ve chosen the latter. Not only do we speak plainly and frankly at that first meeting, we often deliver bad news. Or more accurately: not-very-fun news. Rather than just nodding and promising the world, we frame the discussion in pragmatic terms.

  • Here’s how long it will take.
  • Here’s what we don’t know.
  • Here’s the skills we don’t have that you might need to be successful.
  • Here’s what you can get for that money.

Sometimes that means that, at the exact moment when you want people to like you — in the middle of a sales meeting — you are making them squirm. But our job is not to deliver good news. It’s to deliver great products. That sounds really brash and slogan-ey, but in reality it means that you have a lot of awkward conversations. It’s a lot easier to say that than to live it.

Designing conversations

One of the things we’re aiming to do at Postlight is infuse design into all facets of our business. Thoughtful design signals a care and empathy for the consumer. You’ll find a clean aesthetic to our work. We avoid cluttered and busy designs that disorient and confuse. Good design isn’t just attractive, it’s empowering.

We try to apply that same thinking to our proposals and contracts. Our proposals are short and direct. Our contracts are a few pages long. We don’t use many charts or graphs.

We’ve lost opportunities by taking this approach. People like long proposals with tons of bullet points. They like book-length contracts (or rather, their lawyers do.)

But these proposals and contracts are the public face of our company, too. They’re the interface between our business and other businesses. We see it as part of user experience. People should know who they’re hiring and what the terms are.

Sometimes in sales meetings people express a lot of big goals and ambitions. They ask us for a schedule, and how much we’ll charge. And we tell them.

Then there’s usually a long pause.

“That’s going to cost more than we’ve heard from other people,” they say. “And it sounds like it’s going to take longer than we expected.”

And we reply: “We get that a lot.”


Rich Ziade is a co-founder at Postlight.

Story published on Jun 22, 2016.