Paul Swail - Getting Paid To Uncover Value With Roadmapping Engagements

Serverless expert Paul Swail joined me on Ditching Hourly to share how he uses paid diagnostic engagements to help land large projects without the pressure of conducting a single sales interview.

[00:00:00] jonathan: Hello and welcome to ditching hourly. I'm Jonathan Stark. Today I'm joined by guest Paul SW Paul. Welcome to the show

[00:00:07] paul: Hey, Jonathan. Thanks for having me.

[00:00:09] jonathan: for folks who haven't heard your name before. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

[00:00:12] paul: Yeah, sure. So I'm Paul SW, I'm a independent cloud consultant specializing in serverless technologies on AWS. Yeah. So I've been professional software engineer architect for about 20 years. Self-employed for 10 been focusing specifically on serverless for about four years now, I would say, yeah.

[00:00:32] jonathan: How do you find clients just outta curiosity?

[00:00:33] paul: Generally probably majority referrals still. Some through my website were at blog posts or just, yeah, through my website, I but yeah, primarily referrals still.

[00:00:42] jonathan: Cool. And the reason I invited you to come on the show was because we were, there was a thread in slack where I don't remember the original post, but a couple of people were chiming in talking about how they used roadmaps or paid diagnostics or whatever you might want to call it as sort of foot in the door, paid engagements into larger projects.

[00:01:04] And you were one of the folks who had some success with that. So we wanted to share that with the audience.

[00:01:09] paul: Yeah. Yep.

[00:01:11] jonathan: So how does it work when someone comes to you? You get a referral is it over email? Is it over are they texting you on LinkedIn? How does that happen? And then how does that transition into what are your next steps?

[00:01:21] And if that transitions into a roadmap or not, or whatever you call it,

[00:01:24] paul: I. A couple of different types of what we call diagnostic engagements. I will share those. So one, the one is I call an application roadmap. It's for people who you haven't built an app yet.

[00:01:35] So it's for Greenfield projects and the second is an architecture review and architecture and process review. So that's for brownfield app. So people, clients have an existing server app that they need some help with there's performance or something like that. So there's, those are the kind of two offerings.

[00:01:51] They both have their own landing page. The two rights that clients discover me. So if they've discovered me from my website it's usually by the contact form on those, on the landing pages. And, but the process for referrals is kind for those first clients. I would still my initials would, they would get that initial email via the web form and do some initial qualification.

[00:02:12] Inevitably, assuming it looks okay. I would schedule an initial free 30 minute call. I don't, I do like to have that before buying, even though it's a kind of a product of service, if it looks a good just as a, kind of a second level, a filtering but most of my referrals do come via. Clients who aren't aware that I offer these services. They just, somebody has said, Paul does, Paul helps us give the server this stuff and you should talk to him. And they usually so that again, I would set up a 30 minutes zoom call and we would get into it and I would. Uncover at a high level, what their problem is.

[00:02:51] Is it brownfield or Greenfield app? That's on the end. Usually the end is I offer this service. It's good for these reasons which we can get into, but that's the process. So I would then follow up that call. They usually say, yeah, that's great. They ask some questions possibly.

[00:03:05] But then the next step would be I say at the end of the call, I will hand, I will. Send you over the details and the initial payment link. So I, I have a strip payment link to take the initial payment to register. And then that sort of kicks into the delivery process, which is a separate thing.

[00:03:21] jonathan: Okay. Cool. So let me drill into a couple of points there. So how often would you say you have these free 30 minute calls? Like in a month? Are you having two 20

[00:03:31] paul: It's changed a lot over the summer. There were very few and last week there were probably. Four or five just in a week. So it's very like it's probably on average, a couple probably one to two a month, I would say on average, over the course of the year, but it's very spiky around yeah.

[00:03:46] The usual early time early, like February time and and September time tend to be

[00:03:50] jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. That's pretty common. Unless you're in a weird industry, like CPAs where they have tax days but it's pretty common for the time from labor day to the holidays to be pretty good for new business. And same, like after the new year, people like finally get back to work and they're like, oh, I gotta get something done.

[00:04:07] so time to actually do something. All right. Cool. Of the, so of these calls, let's see, averaging, let's say two. How many of them do you filter? And you're like, ah, this is actually not a great fit. Is that common or not common?

[00:04:19] paul: Most, no, almost I would say 75 to, to maybe possibly higher than. It is a good fit. And I suggest the roadmap at the end. Actually, it would be higher than that. I would say it's probably about 90% that where I would actually suggest at the end of it, that they are a good fit for for the roadmap or for but sometimes it doesn't always convert straightaway, even though like on a, in the call, sometimes they say yes sometimes and they go away and. I it's hard to understand, but occasionally, so the actual conversion from the ones who say yes on the call to actually go ahead and pull the button once you've sent them the email with the payment link is I would say it would drop off a slide probably to about possibly out of the whole, the overall total probably be done about 60% from that 60 to 70%.

[00:05:06] But. That's possibly PO my a gap in my closing skills there.

[00:05:11] jonathan: Sure. It's not, it's not bad. For, you get 90% of the people like, oh, okay, this is a good fit. So you're positioned well in people's minds that whoever's referring you or the people who are just coming across your website.

[00:05:21] paul: I stay at the price on the website, but not everybody has seen the website, the webpages. So the price is explicitly stated there and I do explicitly state it on the call just to make sure that's totally crystal clear.

[00:05:32] jonathan: Okay. And how much of an investment are is each one of these things?

[00:05:35] paul: in us dollars roughly 4k there's slight difference between the two places, but around 4k.

[00:05:41] jonathan: Okay. And so you get a lot of yeses, on the phone, you get verbals, but then maybe they don't come through, but then you get 60% of these that do come through. I just wanna speak to what I wanna speak to the doubters, cause I know so many. think that road mapping is like impossible or, oh, that's fine for you because you're famous or you have you're well known or you're getting a lot of leads or you're in a particular kind of industry where it makes sense.

[00:06:07] And how how do you find any kind of. Pushback, do it doesn't sound like it. If your your verbals are so high, are people like, why would I pay for that when you're not even gonna do anything, but look at my code or whatever.

[00:06:19] paul: there are not that specific level of pushback. So one client . I possibly pushed them down the wrong path. They had an existing app. They had a really specific, awkward solution already in their head. And I said okay, we needed in a review first to see if this is the right thing to do, but.

[00:06:36] We end, we did the engagement and lots of red flags came up anyway and they effectively afterwards thought, okay we really want you to do this specific fix that we have identified even though , but there, there are occasional ones where they just want, they don't really want the diagnostic and they just wanted a hands on and I possibly pushed them down the.

[00:06:57] But that was a learning experience that I wouldn't do again. But the benefits that I cite on the call like around, like this is an initial engagement. So you don't need to, you're not committing to longer project. They often came on to the call with the, their in their minds.

[00:07:12] The next step was probably going to be proposal for a big project. Or you're gonna do this on an gnarly business or something like that. They were probably the things in the client's mind when they first got onto the call with me. That initial, so there is the initial, like I had one last week and they were totally sold on the call.

[00:07:30] They just, but they probably, they said, I need to just go to my financial director just to get the sign off on that,

[00:07:35] U that 4k fee. And we'll close that off. Yeah I can't think of any other specific on the call objections that that I've received.

[00:07:43] jonathan: Yep. Yeah. It's, I can understand where the. the idea comes from it's everybody that comes to me knows what they want done already. And it's they just wanna tell me to do it, which kind of sounds like that one with the red flags that, that you were mentioning. So it's interesting that you don't, it doesn't sound like you get very much of that though.

[00:08:01] Am I interpreting that

[00:08:02] paul: Yeah. Yeah. That's fair. Yeah. Yeah. I can't think of anyone's like other, especially the ones in the Brian field apps are probably more likely to cuz they have a really specific issue. I sort of. I call it architecture review. It's a kind of a catchall for I'll help you with the high priority issue you're currently experiencing.

[00:08:18] So they're asks slightly more questions, but whereas the Greenfield have, even though there's so many more decisions to be made there's no specific pressing pain. It's just, we need to build an app and we want your so those type of, if the existing app, they ask, they tend to ask more questions about. The deliver, what sort of recommendations are my process? What they're getting at the end of it.

[00:08:41] jonathan: And what do they feel like they're getting at the end of it? Normally for a roadmap, I would think that the benefit is that, it's like having a blueprint for a house it's gonna be, it's gonna take less work. It's gonna come together more easily, probably higher quality.

[00:08:54] Is it, so is that kind of how you sell it or you don't even, or they just immediately get the idea pretty.

[00:09:00] paul: No, it, yeah. It's no, they don't immediately get the idea. I think it's a big point that I sell is just the actual relationship aspect between me and them. So it's it's just hiring someone in the long term contract that you may not get along well with. It's just a good way of testing the interpersonal relationship between the two of us that

[00:09:19] jonathan: Right.

[00:09:19] paul: if you hit me, you can, I like joke.

[00:09:21] But if you think I. Yeah, I won't say it, but the end you can that's work. That's you don't need to work with me after that. But the actual benefits in terms of the application or in terms of their business it's really that they understand. Because the nature with serverless, it's new for a lot of 'em.

[00:09:38] So they just, even what, they don't know what they don't know. So it's uncovering those so that they can put it into their project plan, and I, this is all included in the report, but just like skill gaps in their current team. So I discuss, so these are the skill gaps that I've identified, and these are online resources that you can use to, or courses that your teams can use to upscale.

[00:09:56] Yeah, just the actual architecture part as well. So what, we don't know how we would put all these different AWS services together. So how well, how would you think this would work? So those are questions, which they may have lower level developers who could go and do that for them in house. But they just don't really know how they would put it all together.

[00:10:14] jonathan: Okay. Yeah. So especially for the brownfield ones, do they generally have an application development team or some kind of engineering team?

[00:10:20] paul: yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's standard. They've usually built it in house and something's gone wrong. Whether it's maintainability or performance something like that.

[00:10:29] jonathan: Okay. And those are the kinds of pains that they come to with they're like the team has tried to deal with the performance issues or whatever, and it's just not going well.

[00:10:37] paul: Yeah. Yeah. They just don't know the best way to approach it. So yeah, the goal is just to give them a prioritized sequence. Like I would do this is how I would do it. And these are the side effects or these are, this is roughly how much effort you might want might take you to do it, one question that they always ask irrespective of what type of, if it's brownfield or Greenfield is, will you be there to support us after this discovery part?

[00:10:59] So I try to make that clear at an early stage saying so are we yes, I will. I do it differently sometimes. Sometimes I, I do it separate from the report a proposal for the major project, the main project, how I can help them during the delivery of it, whether occasionally I say, yeah, I'll actually do part of the implementation, but try not to do as much of that.

[00:11:18] So it's more of different levels of oversight. Tho those kind of engagements on an ongoing basis, but just selling that expectation early probably I would do that in the actual sales call before the, even the roadmap starts.

[00:11:30] jonathan: Oh, okay. So I'm trying to get a sense of how much. How much they're surprised by this 4k thing and then like initial engagement. And then I feel like they must be expecting to spend much more than 4k if they're okay with a 4k initial thing that gives them a report and not like a solution

[00:11:51] paul: Yeah. I think they there's two. I think there's two. They come in with two. Expectations, I think, yeah, that firstly, that the project is gonna be way more than 4k, way more than probably 10 K. That's probably one, that's one of the notes that said, I don't know if I would do a roadmap or a diagnostic if the actual big mean project isn't worth more than that.

[00:12:10] But yeah, the second thing is that. I will be there. They came to me with the possibility of spending more money with me. And I guess that you had asked the earlier question, I didn't think about at the time, but around the objections is that you're not just doing this and then you're gonna clear off, off after the 4k.

[00:12:27] You're just gonna take that and then you'll have another client and you won't actually help us at all during the delivery of it. So that is a, is something which I would also just set, make set that expectation.

[00:12:40] jonathan: All right. So if you're closing like 60% of these, and it seems like pretty much a hundred percent of them want you to stick around during the implementation to oversee things keep everything on track, be available as a resource.

[00:12:54] How many of the 60% actually do turn into that second stage, longer term engagement? And what does that engagement look like? A

[00:13:02] paul: That's very like that's very high. That's probably the highest I'd say, like I can, I'm trying to even remember one, which didn't in some respect, at least the worst case. It's a one month retainer that only lasts. Like I ha I have, I guess there's two sort of generic types. One is Project type engagement which a custom project or straight onto a support monthly retainer type.

[00:13:24] So for the project, I'm calling it a project one it's like your standard three, three three tiered three option proposal. So there, if there was a specific timeline possibly in the project I could say I would, if there's a fee as one of the pro the delivery, like I. Being actively involved in like code reviews for like phase one or something like that.

[00:13:43] Or and then there's like lower levels of just casual slack support, like just slack support, but with no, it's totally reactive. That would be the sort of the lower level. But yeah, that there, there were a few which just went straight from The roadmap to a month at slack monthly retainer, which was quite low level.

[00:14:01] Just just asking me questions over slack, once you hit any blocking issues,

[00:14:05] jonathan: Cool. And are those, so the three tier proposal style, are those fixed prices or is that ongoing month to month?

[00:14:13] paul: They were fixed prices. So yeah, I tried not to put Once it starts go month to month. I try to check that as a separate, doesn't really fit well into it on this I'm saying, okay, I'll do that for six months or for a fixed period of time on top of an initial. Active active work phase where I would say do a development for a certain or for a certain amount of time, or like another thing, like it's exciting thing that I've started doing is offer new development teams, helping them to create candidate profiles for hiring, for, with they're building a new product, then they need more developers for it, just active things which actively include. Like that I need to spend time creating something rather than just there. So those are the ones which I would put it as priced project options. And I add at the end, if I kinda make the judgment call during the roadmap session itself. So it, sometimes it just doesn't make sense.

[00:15:02] They have enough skills, it's a small app. They just wanted the architecture. There's not really a project here for me. So I will just give you the monthly support retainer. And sometimes there is, especially if it's a Brian field app and there's a big if there's a big performance issue, like I may need to get into see their logs and that, so those are the ones where I would suggest that an actual project before a retainer.

[00:15:23] jonathan: Got it. Okay. And you said the conversion rate's super high, like you, I think you said you couldn't even remember one that didn't turn from a roadmap

[00:15:32] paul: Yeah. Apart from one there's one, and this is a benefit for doing it in the first place is like identifying benefit clients like this was one which I'd done a review report and they just didn't want to know any of the reports. They just wanted to. They everything really complicated.

[00:15:48] And I just, they actually did want me to do, to quote for further work. And I just decided no, that this is we fundamentally disagree and how software should be built here. So let's just part ways . So that in itself is that was the only one that I can think, which didn't convert to an actual, either a retainer or a longer project.

[00:16:05] jonathan: I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but it seems like this is a really effective way to end up getting, not just, decent sized clients, but good ones, like ones that, you're gonna work well together, ones that you believe that you can actually do something,

[00:16:18] paul: Yeah. Yeah, it definitely. And I put it as a I'm as strict as saying yeah, for any new clients that I have no relationship with, this is the only way I will do new projects. I have, unless they, you come through one of the sort of initial short engagements that I'm never going to quote I'm not never say never, but that's one of my current stance.

[00:16:37] I can't see a situation where I would ever go straight from sales call to. Proposal for a big project without this intermediate step. Just because of that risk both in it's a side thing, which I mention, which I, a reason why I'm trying to get better value pricing from listen to you and a, we there blur ends as book as well, especially.

[00:16:57] The main thing, like just doing the roadmap process itself. It's totally, you can do it and not care about value pricing. But if you do want to value price, that custom project you're getting a lot more exposure to, or opportunities for asking value related questions during the course of the roadmap.

[00:17:13] So you go from having one sales call to having the writer proposal, to having a sales call initial sales call during the whole, like you have multi my delivery process actually involves 1, 2, 3, 2, 2 calls with the client during Mo possibly at least two or three on a questionnaire process, which.

[00:17:33] Excellent for getting detail, like number related questions that you can feed into value competitions after. So like it's just a lot more exposure to like understanding the client's the value of fixing this issue or building this up for the client than in the pressure. One off sales call.

[00:17:50] jonathan: Yeah. That makes total sense. Let's get into that a little bit. So like someone comes along, you think they're a good fit. They're like, yeah. 4k. That seems reasonable. Let's test drive the relationship. Can you walk the listener through. What happens, how, they pay, how do they pay?

[00:18:03] You said Stripe. Okay. So they pay the 4k. And then if someone was going to say copy you and say, this is a great idea. I'm gonna start doing this. The doing the Y conversation in one phone call is I just can't do it. I'd much rather I'd much rather go like this. What would they set up?

[00:18:18] paul: Okay. In terms of, I've actually I'll go quickly through my sort of delivery process. So the see will the seals through the delivery. So at a high level, so the seals, the payment link, and then I send out an email. Once that's paid, I've uploaded email templates. I've got my, in my notes felt I've got lots standard operating procedures.

[00:18:36] Email, it's not fully automated, but it's documented with the emails that I send for at the different stages. So I send out the initial quest, a link to a Google doc with a questionnaire. This is something which I learned from Kai. He has at course on. And it's real. I didn't always do this.

[00:18:53] I only learned it about a year ago and added it in, but it's been so valuable. So that's my first, it's an asynchronous sort of data gathering process over. I ask organization related questions then architectural and engineering team questions. And then if there's a really specific question for that, they need to focus on ask questions around that.

[00:19:09] But it's a way of capturing data asynchronously and we do it at Google doc, which we can, I can add comments to. And I say, we are not having a workshop until you have to gimme three, three days between completing this and. Between our, and then the actual workshop did where it gives me time to review, ask further questions and then prepare an agenda for the actual workshop itself.

[00:19:33] So that just was a real, huge win for getting better data from the first time I did it. Like the client filled it out and it was a gold mine of data for like for value pricing. It was like, I'd asked these questions and it was like, wow, you just wrote this because there's questions you could ask related to numbers.

[00:19:51] You could ask it in a live call and they may not know, or they may, it may not quickly come to them. Or they may even think why are you asking this? But it's easier to do that in the questionnaire. And I do go over it again in the call sometimes in the workshop, but just for them to state it there in, it just makes makes it a lot easier, especially if you're awkward asking money related questions, like many engineers and introverts are.

[00:20:13] jonathan: . I love the idea of doing it in a Google doc and not a like Google form. That's really clever. And I was also gonna ask you how you enforce compliance, because I've seen situations where it's like you send over the questionnaire and they just don't do it. , but you've got, you're like I need these answers before we can schedule the workshop.

[00:20:29] And since they've already paid, they're like we should do this.

[00:20:32] paul: yeah. So Kai, I use, again, going back to Kai's core he, he provided the, a lot of the. The email templates, as well as the Google doc itself has this as in its first page. Like it's pretty much this helps us just, why it's if a benefit like carve. Couple of hours of your time. I make it clear.

[00:20:50] It's not a quick, it's not just going in and taking a lot of boxes for 15 minutes. It's probably about two hours of your time. But I make that explicit in the initial email and in in the Google doc itself. And I don't provide them with a link to the. I use ums, Cal links, a separates call link for booking the actual workshop.

[00:21:11] I do link to it at the very bottom of the Google doc, but it's very explicitly says, do not use this, do not book this until this is completely filled out. And

[00:21:20] And I haven't. Yeah, I've some fill. Everybody completes it. Some add more data than others, but it's complete. And yeah, and if it's not complete, I add questions.

[00:21:32] Can you give me more information on this via comments before? Yeah. Before of finishing my review and starting prepping for the actual workshop.

[00:21:39] jonathan: , is one person completing this or are they sharing the link around to multiple people?

[00:21:43] paul: So far every time it's just been one person they may have had to they have it's one person. He complete it. They may they have had to talk to other people in their team, whether that's a business person or an engineer in their team to ask answer some of the questions, but yeah, it's always, I just share it with one person over Google docs.

[00:22:02] jonathan: And typically, what person is this? Is this like a CTO or is it a founder or is it like a managing director or

[00:22:09] paul: Yeah. It, yeah, it's nearly always the CTO or sometimes it was the head of like it was a VP of engineering that, that kind of level of if it was a bigger company, it was a VP of engineering, but it was a person who was hiring me in the first place. Yeah, if it's a startup, it worked several startups.

[00:22:24] Yeah. It's always been the CTO.

[00:22:26] jonathan: Got it. Cool. In sales situation, do you ever have any issue with why would we hire, why would we hire Paul? When we have this CTO, like in other words, like from a founder level where the founder's we have a CTO for stuff like this.

[00:22:39] Why would we bring in an outsider or is that never really happen?

[00:22:41] paul: Not specifically for roadmaps, but I guess in general in sales. Yeah. There's if it depends really on the nature of the app that they're building. Yeah. Sometimes the CEO. A lot of the leads I get are CTOs who have general software engineering skills, but don't not specifically with serverless, but know the value prop of serverless.

[00:22:58] Just want to know how to do that. That's for Greenfield type apps. . And for the brownfield apps, it's often it's often. , there's specific. Technical issue that they have hit. So it's that they can't like that they just, they have generic sort of software developers in house, but they're not like AWS experts or they're not, especially not serverless experts and yeah, they just want some expert in in, in, in AWS to, to come in and to help them resolve it.

[00:23:25] jonathan: Yeah. I remember a part. I'm where we, I was working with a startup and I was acting CTO. And we brought someone in just to ask a really specific question about like image processing at scale and how to architect the servers to like the worker services to do it was, it's such a specific portion of the app.

[00:23:44] That makes sense to me. Serverless feels just out of not to go too far down the rabbit hole on the specifics, but I'm wondering, do people come along and you're like, this shouldn't even be done this way. This shouldn't be air quote serverless or are you're like, everything should be serverless.

[00:23:58] paul: No. I guess it's a general, it depends where if the apps already serverless, like no, they're already the clients coming to me are most, the vast majority are already on board with they're either using serverless already. Cuz they've got existent serverless app or if it's a Greenfield app, they know what that's they knowing that's the way.

[00:24:17] Build it they've either know the benefits generally of building with serverless or they know me and they trust that. My decision, my I like know my reason for using serverless is that is, I guess it's future proofing against needing infrastructure engineers, or you can build more with the smaller team, I guess that's the value prop.

[00:24:35] But they come, they're already sold in the idea generally before they, they get to me.

[00:24:39] jonathan: right? So for folks listening, the, this is, this can be tricky from a positioning standpoint because they, the buyer needs to know the name of the thing that they want. So it's serverless, isn't like a, it's almost like a platform specialization in that

[00:24:59] paul: it is. Yeah.

[00:25:01] jonathan: even though it's not a platform, it's more of an approach, but I guess AWS is a platform

[00:25:07] paul: Yeah, no, I would say it definitely is. Yeah. I said of diagnostics or anything. Yeah. Positioning is I've gone back and forth on serverless a lot, like after a recent client they're non-technical and to them, they just trusted me as like a CTO architect sort of guidance. And like the, my choice of serverless is just an implementation to detail to them that they don't care about.

[00:25:29] And they've just trusted me. So I guess from as a consult. That's better for me in terms of they don't need that pre-awareness of serverless. And but yeah, it's an area which I'm still struggling with in terms of my positioning and I haven't settled anywhere on it,

[00:25:42] jonathan: If you're getting, you're not getting a massive amount of leads, but you're getting a good amount of leads and your close rate's pretty good. You and. If it's, I don't know what the percentages are, but if most of it is serverless related, that's what you're getting referred for.

[00:25:57] paul: Yeah.

[00:25:58] jonathan: Then you'll have the same positioning issues as anyone would with a platform specialization, which it's great when the platform or the approach is popular when the approach is no longer popular than your sort of your fortunes rise and fall with the hype cycle around the platform.

[00:26:15] paul: Yeah. And not just popular commoditized. I like it still is relative. Even it's been run for a while, but it's growing and I think it probably will eventually tend towards commoditization and even if, and yeah, that's that, I guess that's where my slide on ease with my current position is around that.

[00:26:30] jonathan: Okay. Let's get back to that. That was a fun diversion into serverless in positioning. So are you thinking about, so the road mapping stuff, are you pretty much settled on just these two or are you imagining other productized services that would perhaps be initial engagements?

[00:26:45] paul: I actually did launch a couple of weeks ago, a new product I serve it's a lot more specific it's brand serverless testing audit. What I, the two, it can this can be standalone in its own. Whereas I would see the other two are they lead their, the customer comes in with the intention of doing a bigger project, whereas this could lead into bigger project, but it's more of a just it's effectively a big code review of all their tests in its own.

[00:27:10] It could lead to, there is the option for a, I'm thinking about upselling. For a month or two, I'll help you like do the over some sort of oversight for a month or so but yeah, that's the only other new one that, that, that's what that's only about two weeks ago. I think you reviewed my page on the, in the Turine.

[00:27:25] So thanks for that. That was great. But yeah, that's the only other one I have at the minute.

[00:27:29] jonathan: Okay.

[00:27:30] So for folks who would maybe want to have this a road mapping engagement in front of any projects that they do, any advice, tips and tricks or anything that you would tell them to watch out for? Or is it all just roses?

[00:27:44] paul: no, it's no, it's not all, but I guess I just went, I did the, a strip flip over into making that policy decision to say right. Just rather than I could. I just thought, they're quite, open-ended the two brownfield and Greenfield ones. They're quite open-ended they work for there's enough flexibility to work for most types, pretty much all the type of projects that I was doing.

[00:28:04] By just forcing my sort of sales process into that's the next step. Whereas, because before the whole jumping from sales call to the big proposal step, that was just, there was just so much, especially if you want to, it was just so much pressure on that initial call. And I just making that initial policy decision, not everything is gonna go via a roadmap.

[00:28:24] And I find, even though I don't know if it gets much traffic, just having that services page On my website, that specific service details page with this is what I do, what I offer and having a, fixed a published price on it. You can play about with the pricing. But the, just having that kind of made some of the questions easier, cuz I would say about 50% of the calls they do have, they've already seen that.

[00:28:47] And so they're aware of the price. So you're saving a, you're doing a bit, a little bit of filtering there for tar kickers. But I think someone else, a friend of mine, who's more in seals, slightly skeptical about propping. His being was his mean E two years issues. You had said it was firstly, if it's if the big project itself isn't.

[00:29:08] Say more than, I think you said 10 K there's no point in doing a roadmap. I don't know that will vary for everybody's type of project, but if it's more than if the roadmap is 50% of the cost of the main project it's probably, it's less valuable.

[00:29:20] jonathan: He saw that as a bad thing. I see. I see it as a

[00:29:22] good thing.

[00:29:23] paul: Yeah, I guess it's more if it was a smaller percent, he'd say it's if it's yeah. I guess it could be he was in seal. So I don't know. I dunno if he'd sold many of them, but that was what he had said to me.

[00:29:32] jonathan: I don't disagree with 'em. I do think that if someone thinks, if someone in their just perhaps naive view thinks that they're reaching out to you. Don't really know, but they think of in their subconscious is this will probably be about $7,500 for the whole project. And then it's like 4,000 for a diagnostic.

[00:29:51] They're just gonna disappear. They're gonna say no thanks. So I don't think your friend is wrong, but it's like throwing back the small fish, you're just rejecting the small fish before they even get on the hook. Cuz they're like, no way I would never, that's like more than we're planning on spending on the engagement.

[00:30:06] It's okay,

[00:30:06] well I'm not the right.

[00:30:09] paul: Yep. Yep.

[00:30:10] jonathan: okay. And then he said he had another

[00:30:12] paul: Yeah. So the other one was, it was more of just that a specific benefit is oversold on roadmaps. So the one that you get the roadmap and it's a, you can like shop that around as a implementation details as a blueprint to give to vendors, to implement for you. I think it's that whole it's never like what vendor is going to take someone else's plan.

[00:30:31] Everybody's gonna want to have their own process. I think it was just that's probably overplayed a bit. I think there. I think it definitely has to be valuable as a standalone to the client itself, but I don't think it's, as, it's never as simple as like this is pretty much your, I have an implementation plan, but I don't I doubt like any vendor that they shop that off to would follow that as a, as their getting

[00:30:54] jonathan: certainly I've heard from many people that once you do a roadmap with someone it's like a 90, 95% chance that the implementation is yours, if you want it, that you, it just always goes like that. It, I could see the thing that I've definitely seen though, is sometimes you'll get that roadmap or the architecture or whatever it is.

[00:31:13] And then the internal team can.

[00:31:14] As long as they know what to do, they can do it. And they, maybe it's a little bit of oversight from you or not. Maybe it's just so clear. And they can just be like, oh, okay we got this,

[00:31:22] paul: Yeah.

[00:31:23] jonathan: that's not, I don't think that's crazy, especially in your situation where they do have technical people, in house.

[00:31:29] paul: Yeah. Yeah. My only other concern I have no data. This is a kind of maybe unfounded fear. You may tell me, but just because they're fixed price engagements and does that in any way, anchor. For doing a large value price cost on project. Like I, I'm still relatively new to value pricing. I haven't done much, as I'm saying it gives me a lot more details.

[00:31:51] I still. Public, it has been pseudo value price, pseudo cost plus price pricing in my, so in on a, on the journey, but bigger once if bigger clients come, does that initial say 4k is really low for them say they're a big client with lots of money. Does that act as some sort of initial low anchor to any big, if you've got a huge project where you could possibly charge six figures for options with this 4k initial discovery?

[00:32:16] I don't know. That's something which I have no experience. That's just a that's in the back of my mind.

[00:32:20] jonathan: Part of the problem with productized services in general, in fact the big downside of productized services is that you probably are leaving money on the table, but in exchange, like you could have charged more, but the benefit that you get usually outweigh the downside, if you're not super into.

[00:32:36] Sales, you don't really want to get better at sales. You don't really care about it. Cuz it just makes the sales process much easier as you've described along the way here. Like the sales process is very easy. It's you took all the pressure off of that phone call. The question it's a separate question about the longer term, low anchoring.

[00:32:53] And I, I think there probably that possibility certainly exists in my mind. There's this possibility that you. If the client comes along and they're thinking this is a million dollar project, and you're like let's get started for 4,000 and then, then that's gonna be, that's leaving just tons of money on the table and probably is anchoring them low.

[00:33:14] The flip side is maybe they don't, maybe they. Have some sense that this is gonna be roughly the cost of a Mercedes or something like they have it's based on nothing. They just they just know what the value is to them. Subconsciously. They know that this is a really big problem and they're potentially losing a lot of money because of this problem.

[00:33:32] So they have this weird gut instinct that's sitting there and when they're presented with a price, they will, it will automatically. Their gut instinct, that subconscious magnitude of the pain times, their buying power is gonna react in a yes, no. Or maybe to a price, even though they couldn't name a price.

[00:33:52] If you said how much is it worth? They'd be like, I don't know. But if you said it's gonna be a million dollars. They'd immediately be like, no that's way too. And it's not a question of how much work it would be for you. It's them reacting to the combination of their buying power and the desire level of desire or the magnitude of the pain.

[00:34:08] So could a $4,000 initial engagement affect that gut instinct? Probably. Yes. So how would I deal with that? So there's the obvious thing would be to charge $40,000 for the roadmap, and then you'd be doing, but you'd need to attract people who think that their implementation. I usually see it as like 10 X.

[00:34:29] So like the roadmap should be like a 10th of what the implementation probably will be. This is huge amount of guesswork, but you'll automatically filter our clients. Clients who get through your filter will be ones that are, that look like that. So the, so you probably maybe get fewer leads, but the ones that you got would be much more profitable or, or might be more work to.

[00:34:50] But I, but here's, but in reality in practice, I think what would happen is if you charged 4k for the initial roadmap and the project. You're looking at it and you're like, this is a million dollar project. You'd probably it. You'd probably phase it anyway. So the first phase could be 40 grand and then that'll get us to a particular point.

[00:35:12] And then the next phase would be maybe another 40 or something. But. I just I don't really know cuz what you do for development. I would definitely say this for sure. Like you could do MVP, get proof of concept on, come back for, build on this second round of nice to have features and that project could be bigger than the first project and they could keep you keep, you could keep working on that in phases for a long time.

[00:35:37] If you wanted to, for something more like this, it feels more architectural. I. I don't know, you tell me I don't know how ongoing it would really be. It feels like it would be less ongoing than application development, but,

[00:35:50] paul: Yeah, there may be like, yeah, it could be, yeah. There may be phases of the development just coming into new architecture at the start of each phase or just a high level at the start and for big new features if they're adding, but yeah, it's, it would, yeah, it tends to be, it would, if I'm not doing, sometimes they do a very initial development for.

[00:36:08] Two or three weeks just to get PR standards in place, but yeah, that's but most of the ongoing stuff would be if they're built in a big new feature, it would be we would have those scheduled as like at the start of a phase, like doing a design architecture, design

[00:36:23] jonathan: right? Yeah. I It's like it's. It's like a house right? Like you, you need the architect to come in for the thing to get built in the first place, if you want it to be, livable and good and all of that. And then if you're gonna put a big addition on, then you might want the architect back to or structural engineer at least and say okay, like, how are we gonna do this?

[00:36:41] So it doesn't wreck the existing investment. Yeah, that kind of makes sense to me. So I don't know. So phase wise, it's, it is hard to say, but there probably is some, there probably is some connection between that gut instinct thing that I was describing that sort of desire times money that's in their gut, in their lizard brain.

[00:37:02] And when they hear 4,000, it's gonna, it's gonna pull that in a direction maybe up or.

[00:37:08] It's difficult to say if that price is too, it's obviously not too high. So you could, and this is something I saying it kiddingly, but you can do it like every time you sell one, increase the price by 65% and just see when people start freaking.

[00:37:27] When you say, oh, it's 14,500 for the initial room. That what, then you know that you're getting up to you're getting too high. Like you're exceeding what they think it's worth for that lizard brain gut instinct that they have floating around in there.

[00:37:44] paul: Yeah. I think, yeah. I think once I get, I have been increased in it, nowhere near at that percentage level gradually over time, but yeah, probably just don't have enough laid flow just to make to know is. Is it the price? It's the issue. I once I had it hoping to entirely flow, then that make that easier to increase the prices.

[00:38:05] jonathan: right. Yeah. If you wanted to experiment with it, you could maybe have I don't remember, obviously I've been on your website, but I don't remember if you have a paid call, just like a, like

[00:38:14] paul: I do. I do. It's a pay call, but. It I've had probably only about four ever on it. And it's I don't know if it I also have a free call, which is like for seals and I it just, it confuses

[00:38:24] things like for somebody who's book to my free call. And I know even though like that, they're just wanting to hit me up with consulting questions on that.

[00:38:31] And it's I actually have one tomorrow and I'm just gonna do it, just. For, but yeah, I'm, it's just, it's just in a weird place. I don't really know what the free, the pay call.

[00:38:41] jonathan: Yeah. I could see that. I definitely can see that. Okay. I guess the thing to say would be increase the lead flow, increase the price and see where the conversion starts to drop off, like the deal your deal closing percentage starts to drop off and it's okay. Cuz you could, if you.

[00:38:58] Were more, if you were super famous for serverless, like you had a really successful book or something, you're speaking at conferences, you, in theory, you could attract clients for whom this is way more important. Like big, I don't know, Starbucks or something. That's just got some.

[00:39:15] Development team that's worked themselves into a corner. They can't figure their way out of it, where you could come along and deliver a massive amount of value because downstream it's going to touch millions of people, so it would, it's automatically gonna be worth more. So the desire will be higher.

[00:39:31] The buying power will be higher, but the competition will be higher too, because since they can afford probably. That, they might go to, I don't know, Deloitte or somebody or computer associates or whatever they're called now. They might go to like big guns because nobody wants to take the risk of hiring a solo person who, didn't write the book or whatever. You might, I would probably just, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I would just continue to try to increase awareness of what you do in the market. Get more leads, you're doing pretty, talk to people that get two leads a year. So, A couple a month isn't that bad, especially when your conversions are so high.

[00:40:06] Maybe 5,000, 6,000 start raising the price and see where people start to bulk. And that just means that the people you're retracting are probably planning to spend. 60 grand or in their gut, they think, ah, it'll probably be like 60 grand. And then and if they hear, four or six or something like, yeah, that's, that's just like a small chunk of what we're planning to spend anyway.

[00:40:24] So yeah, whatever

[00:40:25] paul: Yeah. Yeah. My, my longer term goal is just to affect yeah. Just to get clients that have bigger spending power. And yeah, so this, that would be, that's a natural sort of fall light of it.

[00:40:35] jonathan: I know we have to wrap up, but there's a question I skipped over. How long does one of these things take you? So you're charging right now, the equivalent of $4,000. Us. How much time does it take you after you get past the workshop? and get into it, get your hands dirty as they're gonna get.

[00:40:51] How many hours does it take across the course of how many weeks to

[00:40:55] paul: I guess Cal it depends on the client's availability, but roughly calendar and calendar time, it's probably about three weeks pass. Usually from. That from initial sort of the, from the payment to the final Q and a session where we so in between times, yeah, obviously not, I'm not full time doing that the whole time.

[00:41:17] So the back and forth probably spend about an hour. No, about 30 minutes customizing a questionnaire with the questions and then probably another couple of our. Yeah, let me see. So it's, I'd say probably about 10 to 20 RS altogether. I would say in doing writing either creating or answering the, or responding to the questionnaire or writing up the report. So I would say it's probably about 10. No, yeah, probably 10 hours. I would say that's doing that then.

[00:41:44] Yeah, probably about three or four hours on calls. Roughly 15 hours altogether.

[00:41:49] jonathan: Yeah, that's pretty average. You get like 10 to 20 hours across the course of anywhere from two to six weeks, that's like a real good productized service scope or like size.

[00:41:59] paul: Yeah, just the, yeah, the only other tip is just to get to optimize it just the very first time. First few times you go through it, write down everything, the steps that you do and your emails that you send, write them generically and then end cuz that was so good for subs ones. Just having those email templates that it can just send at the different stages.

[00:42:14] jonathan: Yeah. And I haven't seen Kai's course on this, but I've heard good things and he's amazing. That might be a good step for people to take too.

[00:42:20] paul: Yeah, definitely recommend.

[00:42:22] jonathan: Yeah, he definitely knows his stuff. Cool. All right. This has been great. So where can people go to find out more about you?

[00:42:28] Maybe they know someone who needs a serverless expert. Maybe they want to see your sales pages and see if, if there's any inspiration there for them.

[00:42:36] paul: Yeah, sure. Yeah. I'm at Paul SW S w a I L on Twitter and my website is serverless And if you go to slash services, that's where all my sort of productized services, including roadmap, if you want to dig into the details of those there. So yeah.

[00:42:51] jonathan: Cool. All right, Paul. Thanks for coming.

[00:42:53] paul: Okay, thanks a lot, Jonathan.

[00:42:55] jonathan: All right, folks, that's it for this week. I'm Jonathan Stark and I hope you join me again next time for ditching hourly. Bye.

Join our newsletter

checkmark Got it. You're on the list!
@2023 Ditching Hourly