How To Identify What’s Going Wrong at Your Inbound Marketing Agency, When It’s Going Wrong And How To Fix It
You’re getting new prospects. Some come from inbound, more still come from referrals but you’re continuing to have trouble closing them. You’re working them all the way to the end, producing proposals, submitting presentations, and creating contracts—but in the end, they pick someone else. What’s going on? What are you doing wrong? How do you fix your agency new business development challenges?
If you can’t take your prospects from click to close, you’re not going to have an agency for very long. If you can’t sustain a steady stream of new clients at the pace of two to three a month minimum, then it’s likely your agency will be treading water at a clip somewhere under $1 Million in annual revenue. Worse yet, if you’re having trouble holding on to clients and not bringing on new clients, you might actually find your agency shrinking.
This means you have to be masterful at taking your best leads and working them through your sales process and getting them to sign your paperwork. You should be able to do that in about 30 days. You should be giving them such an incredible experience that they’re referring you even before you start and you should be getting them to spend enough money with you for you to produce the exact results they’re expecting.
Just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about getting a $2,000-month retainer for a company who expects you to produce 1,000 leads a month when they have 100 people coming to their website this month. I’m talking about real clients, with real budgets and realistic expectations that match their budgets.
Let’s get into it. Why are you losing the deal? Why aren’t they picking you?
The Other Agency Is Cheaper
We hear this all the time. We are almost always on the expensive side of the spectrum. But do you know that most agency proposals are never an apples to apples comparison? In most cases cheaper means less deliverables, less work or less quality work. However, it’s hard for clients to tell how price impacts deliverables from the proposal documents. It’s even harder for clients to tell how price impacts quality. For example, if your US based competitor is outsourcing the website development to Romania, they might not list that in the proposal.
It’s your job as your prospect’s guide, advisor and consultant to help them understand what goes into creating a proposal, pricing and the list of deliverables and then help them select the right options for them. The cheapest option might be the right option, but it’s probably not always going to be the right option. Would you select the cheapest doctor? The cheapest attorney? The cheapest architect? Or would you pick the cheapest accountant to handle your complex tax issues? Of course not. Why would your client simply pick the cheapest agency option? You have to help them understand their options and what goes into each of the options they’re considering.
When it comes to your agency, people have been selecting more expensive options for years. Not everyone buys the cheapest option. However, if you’re not being considered because you’re more expensive,, then you didn’t do a good enough job helping them understand the value of your added expense, you didn’t help them understand the actual differences and why those warrant more investment and you didn’t help them to be aware of the potential risks associated with the cheapest option. This all falls on you and your sales process.
The Other Agency Explained The Program Better
This happens a lot. These programs are complex and often there are people involved in the selection process who might not understand all aspects of the program you’re recommending. As we’ve said many times, your job is to make everyone on the prospect side feel safe. If they don’t understand an aspect of the program, they won’t feel safe and you won’t get the deal.
The best way to be sure everyone is clear is to ask them again and again. “Does everyone understand why that is important? I’d be happy to explain it again, it’s very important.” Make sure your sales process is very educational in nature. If you’re constantly explaining why you’re recommending a tactic, how that tactic works and what they should expect from it—it’s likely that you’ll be the agency who explains the program the best.
If you’re truly thinking about your role as an advocate, guide, or even Sherpa, then your mission is to make sure everyone understands everything. Everyone knows where you’re headed and why and exactly how you’re planning on helping them get there. Building this relationship helps tremendously towards getting your prospect to feel safe with you and your company.
We Liked The People At The Other Agency Better
They probably liked the people better for a specific reason. Either they took their time explaining complicated concepts or took more time getting to know the prospect. They might have asked more questions, better questions or more insightful questions. They may have made more of an effort to educate the prospect.
Agency selection is an emotional decision. While there are rational data points like price, deliverables and contractual terms, most of the decision-making process is highly emotional. Who they like is important. You have to make a strategic effort to get them to like you.
One reason we have an extensive questioning session in our sales process is to get the prospect to like our team. We ask them a lot of smart questions about their business, we share insights from previous experiences, we make an effort to get to know them personally and we offer to visit them for their kick off meeting. Almost all of this is different than most of the other agencies who offer one of three packages and then ask for the deal.
The Other Agency Was Bigger
You might hear this. There is safety in size. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase, “No one was ever fired for hiring IBM.” Typically, bigger is better but bigger can be defeated if you know how to identify weak spots from bigger shops. You’ll be a number. You won’t get to work with the principles. They will nickel and dime you. These are all good ways to compete against a bigger shop.
You might choose to compete with the negatives, or you can turn those negatives into positives associated with your firm. For example, as the owner, I’ll work with you personally. The bigger firms would never have the owner on your account. In some circumstances, that might be enough to get over the bigger is better mentality.
The Other Agency Had Experience In Our Industry
Industry experience is another factor that you’ll need to be prepared to compete against. Yes, it might make some people more comfortable to know your agency has experience in your industry, but it might also make some people more comfortable to know your agency has experience outside the industry. This way, your work stands out and is not similar to the work they’ve done for other firms like yours. It’s all relative to how you relate the issue.
In our case, we tell a very compelling story as to why a diverse client base is better than just one set of vertically aligned customers. Even clients who liked the idea of a vertical agency end up appreciating the value that comes from experiences in different industries.
The key to closing new business is asking questions, the right questions, at the right time, getting the honest answers and then adjusting your story accordingly to make sure your solution matches their specific requirements. If you know how important industry experience is to your prospects, you can position your experience the correct way to make it a benefit, instead of a weakness.
If you know rapport with the people working on the account is critical to the decision makers, then you can craft a series of meetings that allows your team to get to know the prospect team. It can be in person, in can be fun, it can be intimate or it can be 100% business professional, all depending on what’s going to get them the most comfortable.
All of these skills, process adjustments and understanding of basic human decision making is what helps you create a sales process that repeatedly produces new clients. This set of skills is also exactly what you’ll need to help your clients close new customers for their business. The better you get at this now, the more helpful you’ll be to them when they need you. Practice makes perfect, so get this process ready to go, start experimenting, and get your process down so it can be repeated day in and day out.
Start Today Tip – The best place to start is with your questions. You should have a playbook or diary with every single potential question written down and documented. These questions help you and your team be prepared, look smart and provide a level of consistency to the information collection system during your sales process. You want to ask prospects the same sets of questions and you want the same information from them, but you want them to think they’re having a very unique experience. Build out your inventory of questions and adjust them daily until you’re comfortable and until you’re getting prospects to say yes over and over again. The higher the close rate, the better your questions.
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