In Part One of this Blog Series on New Business Development we talked about planning, executing and optimizing your own inbound marketing program to ensure businesses are reaching out to you on a daily basis.
In this Part Two of the series, we’re going to focus on your sales process. This is by far the weakest area for agencies, whether they want to be inbound or not, most of the agencies I’ve spoken with are working without a defined and documented agency sales process.
Why is the process so critical to creating a steady stream of new clients? Without a documented process, you’re trying to bake the world’s best chocolate cake without a recipe. You might get some parts right, but you’re probably going to get some parts wrong and your chances of producing an amazing cake are slim. Once you get the recipe down on paper, then you can tweak and adjust based on your tastes.
I hope that makes sense to you, but there’s actually a reason for a documented and refined process that has more to do with your prospects than it does with you.
Help Prospects Feel Safe
Your prospects have their own buyer journey. That journey might include you and when it does you have to be prepared to create such a remarkable experience for your prospect that they have no choice but to select your agency. It’s virtually impossible to create a remarkable experience if you don’t formalize what you do and how you do it.
You may have heard me talk about getting your prospects to feel safe. But this is the one and only goal for your process. The part of the brain that controls the “buy button” is the same part of the brain that controls fight or flight. So if you want to press the buy button, you have to make your prospects feel safe.
When your prospects first come into your sphere of influence they’re anything but safe. I’m telling you now that they don’t understand inbound. They don’t understand what you need to do to deliver results from an inbound campaign. They don’t know how to relate the investment, technology, timeline or their own contribution to the success of the program. All these elements are making them nervous and anxious and these feelings slow down the sales process.
To make it worse, they’re reading different articles, talking to different people and perhaps interviewing a number of agencies and they’re hearing conflicting stories and seeing varying levels of experiences. It’s making it worse, not better. Don’t get me wrong, they love the idea of inbound—getting prospects to call them so they don’t have to call the prospects appeals to everyone. But the details are scary and confusing to most.
Build And Stick To A Defined Process
Now you and your agency enter the picture. But you don’t have a well thought out process, so you ask them a couple of questions, talk about your people and your experience, maybe your relationship with HubSpot, you provide pricing or some standard packages for them to pick from, maybe a couple of references, and then you wonder why you lost them to another agency.
Let’s try this again. This time with a well thought out process that has only one goal in mind—make them feel safe. During your first conversation you explain your process and why it might sound a little elongated, after all, it’s going to take time to understand their business, create a set of tactics that are perfect for them, get to know them as people and make sure the working relationship is going to be a good fit. Feeling safer?
Each step in the process is designed around them. Asking them a lot of questions. People love talking about themselves and their businesses. It makes them comfortable and starts emotionally connecting them with the person asking the questions. Since we know they don’t know a lot about inbound, we’re educating them with content at every step of the process. Some of that content is ours, but some is also independent third party content.
At each step in the process, we’re explaining why we’re different, better, and how that benefits them directly. We’re illustrating our expertise and confidence by showing, not telling. Our stories are well thought out and easy to understand. We don’t spend a lot of time with details and features, instead we provide examples of how what we’re suggesting has worked the past.
Get To No Early, Instead Of Late
There are check points at each step in the process that allow the prospect to opt out. Why would we do that? Simply, you want to get to “no” early. The last thing you want is to work with a prospect for 30 days only to find out you didn’t get it. Give them a chance to tell you no early and often. By the way, once they start saying “yes” it makes it easier to say “yes” at the end and harder to say “no.”
As you get toward the end of the process, you should be working closely with your prospect to build or co-create the perfect solution. By including them in the process you’re making it almost impossible for them to say that what you recommended didn’t fit their requirements. The result of a process like this is a close rate of almost 95%. Yes, you're going to lose prospects earlier in the process, but I’d argue that you wouldn’t have won that business anyway, so why work on it.
Once you have a process that is strategically mapped out, orchestrated and supported with content, stories, conversations, questions, and check points for your prospects—you're going to be able to predict which prospects will close and when. More importantly you’re process will be highly effective and your agency won’t struggle to bring in new clients. Instead you'll be challenged with figuring out how to handle all the new clients.
Wouldn’t that be a good problem to have?
Start Today Tip – Start by mapping out, on paper or a whiteboard, your current sales process. However, my experience is that these are often representations of what you think you have or what you wanted to have at one point. Instead, start from scratch. Create an elongated sales process that has enough steps in it to make sure your prospects are feeling good about working with you every step of the way.
Then go back and add content, video clips, articles, and other educational material to the process and make sure your prospects get these at the perfect time in your process. For example, we send prospect a reference video, right before they ask us for references. This works like a charm. Finally, monitor the new process and make adjustments quickly when yours steps don’t appear to be working like you initially envisioned, this ensures you continuously improve your process and your close rates always get better. This is how you drive new business in today’s inbound world.
Next Monday, Part 3 in the New Business Development Blog Series - How To Qualify Inbound Agency Prospects IN and OUT!
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