Selling Drupal - Gaining Trust to Win Projects


Selling Drupal - Gaining Trust to Win Projects

Drupal is a free, robust content management framework that is maintained by thousands of enthusiastic web developers, designers, strategists and project managers. Its advantages over other open-source CMSs and proprietary systems make it the ideal solutions for most organizations looking to leverage years of experience and thousands of hours of free development.

You would think that Drupal sells itself, but unfortunately in an industry and economy where many agencies will tell customers whatever it takes to win a project; selling Drupal can be a difficult task. People buy on emotion not rationale. And for those organizations who don’t fully understand the value of good coding practices and project processes, decisions are often made based on the “look” of the website not the underlying “engine”.

More times than not, a seemingly intelligent customer would choose a Ferrari with a Geo Prism engine rather than a Geo Prism with a Ferrari engine. Why is this? There are a few different factors in making major purchasing decisions, but the main factor is trust. In most cases, trust is based on what you see, not what you are told. So in an industry where many agencies sell on a portfolio of work, if your design is not stellar, then the chances of you winning a project are significantly reduced. This is especially true if you are a development/consulting firm selling against traditional advertising agencies that focus a significant amount of time polishing their portfolio and sales pitch rather than actually focusing on helping customers achieve their goals.

How can the Drupal community gain trust to win more projects? David H. Maister, author of The Trusted Advisor, suggests that there are four primary components of “The Trust Equation”. 

The four components of trust

  • Credibility
  • Reliability
  • Intimacy
  • Self-orientation


Credibility is the one aspect of trust that is most commonly achieved. It requires content expertise plus “presence”, which refers to how we look, act, react and talk about our content. To achieve credibility we must find ways to be credible and also give the client the sense that we are credible. Three tips for enhancing credibility include:

  1. Don’t tell lies, or even exaggerate. At all. Ever.
  2. Speak with expression, not monotonically. Use body language, eye contact and vocal range. Show the client you have energy around the subject at hand.
  3. When you don’t know, say so, quickly and directly.


Does the client think you are dependable and can be trusted to behave in consistent ways? Reliability comes from repeated experience of links between promises and actions. Returning phone calls, keeping meetings, and completing to-do lists are all ways to show clients you are reliable. A good advisor will find a number of opportunities to demonstrate both rational and emotional reliability, by making promises and then delivering on them. Ways to demonstrate reliability include:

  1. Make specific commitments to your client around small things and deliver on them.
  2. Reconfirm scheduled events before they happen.
  3. Make sure meetings have clear goals, not just agendas and ensure goals are met.


Perhaps the most effective, as well as the most common source of differentiation in trustworthiness comes down to intimacy. By this, I do not mean you need to open your personal life up to your client. Intimacy in the business sense is gaining an “emotional closeness” concerning the issues at hand. It is driven by emotional honesty and the willingness to expand the bounds of acceptable topics, while maintaining mutual respect and respecting boundaries. Creating intimacy includes:

  1. Willingness and courage.
  2. The ability to ask questions they haven’t previously heard from other advisors.
  3. The foresight and willingness to take calculated risks.


There is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested in themselves than in trying to be of service to the client. One of the easiest ways to lose a project is by displaying signs of selfishness, a desire to look intelligent, a desire to jump to a solution or a desire to be right. Remember, we are experts in our field, the client sees himself as an expert in his. While the client might be wrong, telling him he is wrong will lead to a lost project. While this may seem to go against the tips for enhancing credibility (above) there are many ways to guide the client to the correct solution without insulting his intelligence. Examples include:

  1. Letting the client fill in the empty spaces.
  2. Using open-ended questions.
  3. Focusing on defining the problem, not guessing the solution.
  4. Acknowledging the feelings of the client.
  5. Trusting in our ability to add value after listening, rather than trying to do so during listening.

So, with this new knowledge, what are the best ways to increase your opportunities at selling Drupal projects? I think the answer is to focus on improving, enhancing and selling yourself rather than selling the product/service. Doing so will not only improve your close ratio, but also offer you the opportunity to increase your rates and build stronger client relationships. After all, it’s much easier to keep a client than it is to gain one. I hope the information I have shared helps. I would love to know if you agree or disagree. Please feel free to leave comments so we can discuss and learn ways to improve our businesses.

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