The blog ofJonathan Pepin

An engineering guide to client calls


I started a creative and engineering studio with my fiancee, so I had a fair amount calls with potential clients recently.

Some went well. Some went wrong. Some felt like they went wrong, but went well.

Most of the calls have things in common and each new call I feel like I'm doing a little better.

I'm no account or sales person. I don't know how to do this, I don't really enjoy doing it (although I enjoy talking to people about their product) and I don't think I'm good at it.

So here's a short list of things that seem to be making some sense to me. 🧐

1. Know what you want to do

The long story is another post I'd like to write (a lot of people have asked) but my idea for this new studio was doing both growth and engineering.

That seems to be a major problem so far. I'm trying to sell two things at the same time and it creates confusion.

Engineering is pretty straightforward and easy to sell. We can build stuff for you. If you need, we also can design them. It's pretty easy to dive into details too.

Growth, a bit less. For multiple reasons.

First, I'm not even sure how to help startups on growth so it's hard for me to sell it. Some ask if I can advise them, and this sounds good, but I don't know how. Do I join the board, have regular meetings, etc? No idea and that just creates confusion and moves us towards the feeling that I can't help.

Most growth-related things I'm good at (and want to help on) are actually just engineering things. Optimisation, A/B tests, gather and analyse data, increase conversion, etc, so more confusion is created when I try to sell this separately from engineering.

2. Nobody is coming with a clear idea. You need to offer solutions.

I was expecting people to know what they wanted and ask me directly if I can help. Have people call me and say "we need X built, can you do it?".

But usually, they just tell me about their story and their vision, and then ask about mine. I'm not asked "what can you do?" but "So, why are you doing this?". They also want to hear an inspiring story. They want to get excited about working with us.

They rarely tell me their problems.

I have to proactively ask about their current challenges and fit in our services to make them understand what we can do for them.

Sometimes they need something built but don't have the resources, sometimes they are not sure how to prioritize, etc. I have to listen to find out what their problem is and if/how we can offer to help.

3. People are busy, enable.

You've probably been in this situation even if you never founded your own company. I've been in this situation while at Uber!

People are busy. They have deadlines. They need so many things built, but don't have enough people.

Our role here to be enabler. To enable clients to get shit done.

We need to understant what project needs to be done and allow clients to forget about it and trust that it is going to be delivered. That's one less thing they'll have to think about and this is how we can bring ultimate value.

4. Never accept no for an answer.

If I had been told I'd say that one day 🤢.

But it's actually true. All my life, when hearing this, I imagined a car salesman harassing potential customers.

I've realised that it's not like that to a certain extend, but often someone will say no while not fully understanding what you are offering.

I've heard a few times that I'm not the right person for the job. I find it important to try my best to understand what is needed and I think that I can offer quality help, a "Actually I can help because..." can go a long way.

As engineers, we tend to not like sales/marketing, but force yourself a little. Sales and marketing look sketchy when you try to scam people, but if the product you are selling is great, it's actually a good thing - you are just working at getting people aware of your product!


So here it is. I've had calls with high quality leads (they reached out to me through a quality referral), follow up calls and contracts out of them.
My personal learnings are