Agency Owners Have Spoken, Getting New Clients Is The Top Priority
I recently asked a bunch of new clients why they chose Square 2 Marketing and the response was very interesting, 68% mentioned the sales process. That was shocking to us. If your agency sales process makes or breaks your chances to get new clients then the experience you deliver to your prospects is critical to closing new clients.
Just to be clear, this is more than practicing Inbound Sales. This is about creating such a differentiated experience that prospects say to themselves, “we have to hire this company.” That should be your goal from the very first touch point all the way through to the experience they have right after they sign your agreement paperwork.
I’m not kidding. You have to write it down, but not in an outline or Word doc. Instead I want you think Candyland board. You have to have every single step in the process visually represented. You have to create the different paths prospects take. For example, what about those prospects who are not qualified? What happens to them? How are they treated?
Don’t just kick them to the curb, build an off ramp that treats them like your best prospects. Why would we do that? Because little businesses grow into bigger businesses and they'll remember how you treated them, owners of small businesses are friends or related to people with bigger businesses and people talk. If you treat them well, they’ll tell a positive story about your company. If you treat them poorly or simply ignore them, they’ll tell that story too.
2. Experience Map Every Touch Point
Now go back into your process map and identify every single touch point, every call, every email, every link, video or piece of content you’re using to help your prospects feel safe. Put yourself in their shoes. They’re nervous, they’re anxious, they’re concerned. These emotions are real and your process should be designed to remove their feelings of concern and replace them with feelings of safety and trust.
Use a variety of content types. Interactive forms, video, site pages, blog articles and long form educational content. We were recently going up against another bigger HubSpot partner and I proactively sent over a short case study with actual results to give them a sense of trust. We did it for this guy, who is just like you. The prospect didn’t ask for it, we just sent it. Bottom line, we got the deal.
3. Support It With Technology
You can’t wing this anymore. The kind of Guided Sales Process I’m advocating requires technology to automate as much of it as possible, give you data to use when iterating on the process and to keep track of every prospect and every opportunity. It might not be a problem now if you only have three or four active deals, but we have 28 active opportunities right now. If you’re going to scale your agency like this, you’ll need a sales tech stack to manage it.
4. Anticipate The Prospect’s Every Question
Make sure your process answers their questions. For example, doesn’t everyone ask, “when do you expect me to start getting leads?” Answer that proactively for them. Answer it before they even ask it. Make sure the process includes a lot of active listening and even more proactive discovery. People love talking about themselves and the more questions you ask the better your recommendations and the better your prospects will feel.
This is why I hate packages. I don’t have to ask a lot of questions to simply recommend the Gold Package or the Fastest Package. That doesn’t make anyone feel safe. Instead I’d rather ask them enough questions to completely understand their business and then customize and personalize a set of recommendations just for them.
5. Create An End State
If you know where you’re going, you’ll get there faster. Create an end state. I mentioned it earlier, but the end state at Square 2 Marketing is us wanting every prospect to say, “we have to hire this company.” If they’re not saying that, our process failed and needs an upgrade somewhere. As other agencies change their process, this forces us to respond and change ours again. The fact that six to seven out of every ten people hire us BECAUSE of the sales process validates this approach.
6. Track, Test And Iterate On Everything
Everything in sales and marketing is quantifiable, the sales effort is no different. You should be tracking every interaction, every stage, every piece of content, every conversation. If it’s not moving your prospects forward and moving them forward with you, make a change. Don’t wait months, make the change today. Fail forward, fail quickly and learn from your failures. Mistakes are an amazing opportunity to improve.
7. Build Your TrueFunnel™
In the fall, we’ll be rolling out our quantitative scientific sales methodology that applies math and science to the complete funnel. We’re helping clients quantify each stage in the funnel so they can do more accurate projections and identify conversion points where friction is preventing prospects from moving through the funnel.
You need to do the same. Build your funnel model, so you see exactly where your friction points are and then start removing them, one by one. Another agency I work with said he had eight proposals out but wasn’t sure if he’d get any signed. Why do a proposal if you haven’t already agreed to be working together? Don’t do any proposals unless it’s your deal to lose. Your close rate on submitted agreements should be between 80% and 90%.
By flagging this metric, you can look at the process, you can look at the proposal paperwork, you can look at the conversations in and around that point in the process and make major upgrades that turn this around in days, not months.
8. Filling Up The Top Of The Funnel
We want four new clients a month and we build backward so the top of the funnel has enough people in it to produce four new clients as they work down into the funnel. You might want two new or three new, whatever you want, create a top of the funnel to match.
This might mean doing additional marketing tactics beyond the basic get found, convert and nurture strategy. Knowing how many net new people you need is critical to deciding what to do and how much of it to do. You might have to do more speaking, you might have to host or attend more events, you might have to do more content publication or guest blogging. You get the idea. I don’t talk about this a lot because most of you know what to do, what you need to get better at is how much of it to do and what results it needs to produce.
9. Leverage Advocacy
This is newish and it’s going to be very important. We all use advocacy already, prospects ask for references and you provide them. Everyone has case studies and success stories on their website and other simiiar stories we share with prospects during the sales process. But you’re going to have to step up your advocacy game in the future.
Imaging you’re working with a prospect and they get an unsolicited email from one of your clients, in their industry and the email references their active buying journey. The email simply says, “hiring Square 2 Marketing was the best move we made and you should make it too.” Pretty powerful, right? People feel safety in numbers. Ater that email, they'll be thiking, "If that guy had a good experience, we probably will too." Mission accomplished!
10. Let The Team Shine
Finally, the sales process should never be limited to just the sales team. You have a number of smart, articulate experts in the agency, let them loose on your prospects. By extending the experience to more than just one or two people you help your prospects get to know your team, they get to know who they’ll be working with and they get to see the depth of experience at your agency.
By constantly adding improvements like these month in and month out you’ll be building one of the most sustainable competitive advantages. You’ll be staying ahead of the other agencies and you’ll be differentiating your agency by practicing exactly what you’d be helping your clients with. It will be hard, but that's why you do it because most of the other agencies won't.
This is incredibly powerful and will guarantee you see a lift in close rates, shorter sales cycles and prospects buying larger retainers.
Start Today Tip – Physician heal thyself. Do a quick assessment of your current sales situation and identify the weak spots. Start committing a set number of hours each week to working on these issues and deploying improvements. Start looking at the numbers on a weekly basis. Where is your funnel showing the most friction? This is another place to start reworking your process. Before you know it you’ll be closing more deals and closing them faster.
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