We recently won a large retainer client and the feedback from our prospect was that they were confused. In fact, our contract stated that they recently made a $60 million-dollar purchase decision that was less complicated than their decision around which agency to hire.
This is very consistent with what we’re seeing in a wide variety of client situations. You can pretend that this isn’t happening, or you can take action to deal with the dynamics of our market. In a recent Agency Unfiltered episode, I filmed at the HubSpot Studios in Boston. I talked extensively on how your sales process needs to be adjusted or re-engineered in consideration for your prospect’s buyer journey.
To design an inbound marketing agency sales process that matches your prospect’s buyer journey consider these upgrades.
Make It Highly Educational
If your prospects are confused and I’m telling you they are, then your role as inbound agency new business development leader must be to guide, advise and teach. You have to work harder to help them eliminate their confusion. The better you are at helping with their confusion, the better chance you have to gain their trust and their business.
Knowing that they’re confused going into a new sales process with a new prospect gives you insight that you should be using to build an educational experience. Start looking at your sales process from beginning to end and build in educational components. This might be videos, links, articles, website pages, research, case studies or other interactive experiences that answer questions and provide information that helps your prospects make a safer purchase.
This idea of “safe” is one I’ve talked and written about often. Human beings don’t do things that make them feel NOT safe. They have to be 100% sure that hiring your agency is the right move. They have to feel safe. Feeling safe is an emotional response. This isn’t a rational decision, its an emotional decision. Everything you do in your sales process must be strategically designed to help them feel safe.
Build In Touch Points To Help Them Get To Know, Like and Trust You
If you’re unpacking what it means to feel safe, then you’re thinking about helping them get to know you better, making sure they like you and finally, they should trust you, too. Getting them toknow, like and trust you means they’re going to feel safe.
Prospects get to know you by having a great experience on your website. All our agencies are much more transparent than ever before. They’re also going to get to know you by looking at reviews on a wide variety of review sites. They are very interested in what other people are saying about your shop.
Prospects are going to decide if they like you during their very first in person contact with you. Your first impression is critical. Make sure your first touch point is friendly, inquisitive, helpful and designed to get them talking. Make this ALL about them, and less about you. You don’t have to tell them your career history because they can find that on the web. Instead, consider giving them a chance to tell you about them. People like talking about themselves as it makes them comfortable and when you ask, it appears you have a genuine interest in them.
Trust is a little harder to come by. It takes time and is earned. Prospects are not going to trust you initially when you’re trying to sell them your services. The situation is set up for them to be on guard. Your sales process has to be designed to earn their trust. One way to do that is to make your agency more exclusive. “We don’t work with everyone” or “ We might not be right for you” or “We have to decide if it’s a good fit or not.” You’re evaluating them, as much as they’re evaluating you.
It Has To Be Remarkable
We’ve covered a lot already, but you’re not done. The experience they have with you has to be different than the experience they’re having with the other agencies that they’re talking with. Good news, this isn’t too hard because most of the other agencies aren’t doing anything truly remarkable. In fact, most agencies talk with a prospect for 30 minutes and then get a proposal together including what they want to sell, not what the prospect needs or wants.
Needless to say, you have to do better if you want them to know, like and trust you. Take a look at your sales process and identify areas where you can add in what we call “little WOWs!” These are experiential upgrades that should make your prospect say “WOW!” We send a jar of Fluff, we send a copy of our book, and we have a unique intake experience. We’ve added a number of experiences that help our prospects get to know us, help them trust us, help them see we practice what we preach, help them experience the difference between a remarkable sales process and an ordinary one, and ultimately help them make a more informed decision.
Elongate It For Your Benefit
The length of your sales process has to match the investment you’re discussing with your prospect. For example, the $10,000 decision to buy HubSpot or not should take less time than the $100,000 decision around hiring an agency. The sales process for $10,000 is not going to be the same as the sales process for $100,000. Unless you’ve sold $100,000 plus services agreements, you might not understand the differences.
Extending the sales process has a lot of benefits for you but the primary one is making sure you’re bringing on the right new clients. There is no point signing up new clients if they are only going to cancel a few months down the road, develop unrealistic expectations or never be a referenceable client. You should ONLY want to bring on people who are going to be referenceable far out into the future.
Taking a little longer to get to know them and allowing them to get to know you is going to help you both. Design a sales process that has multiple touch points that help you both uncover any challenges that might be associated with working together in the future.
Track Every Single Step And Metric
What gets measured, gets done. You have to know where you are now, to know where you need to be going forward. Start by benchmarking your current conversion metrics across your entire sales process. Some of these might be marketing metrics like conversion rate on your website, but other more significant metrics might be close rate on proposals submitted. Get intimate with these numbers, know what they are today. Know what you want them to be and work on upgrade plans to address the weakest of these numbers.
For example, if your close rate is low, start looking at your proposal, look at how you present your recommendations and make sure your pricing is competitive It’s possible your references are letting you down and you might not understand their selection criteria because you didn’t ask the right questions during discovery. Keep working on the areas that need improvement until you see the metrics moving positively.
I continually ask new clients why they chose us. The answer is almost always the same. You did a better job helping us during the sales process. This reinforces the need for a smart, strategic and prospect centric sales process. This means you have to think very strategically about every single touchpoint all throughout the sales process. This also means you must have a deep understanding for your prospects journey. The better you understand it, the better your sales process and the more new clients you’ll get to hire you.
Being the cheapest isn’t doing you any favors and progressive agencies are going to outthink you anyway. Being the low-cost provider ONLY appeals to the wrong kinds of clients. You’d be better off increasing your prices and working harder to provide a more remarkable experience and more thoughtful recommendations.
There’s an added benefit to working harder on your own sales process and following the guidance above. In short order, you’ll be able to provide a similar service to your clients and this is one of the best and most results producing services you can provide. If you can help them redesign their sales process, they’ll sign more new clients and they’ll sign them faster. Also, if they can implement the new process quickly, you can add value to their existing business in weeks instead of the months traditional inbound marketing typically take to gain traction.
This is one way to quickly impress your new clients and get them to start working with you as a partner, instead of expecting you to work miracles like a vendor.
Start Today Tip – You are going to have to document your existing sales process anyway, so you might as well start now. If you’re like most agencies you’ll notice that your sales process is short, it’s average and it doesn’t provide nearly enough opportunities for you to add value during this important “get to know you” stage. Once you have it on paper, now you can go through it and start to redesign it. Add enhanced communication and educational content in context to the conversation or in context to their issues. In my Agency Unfiltered session I talked about “little WOWs!” Make sure you have them. Benchmark all your conversion rates when you start and track those as you make improvements. Your goal is to see increases in these KPIs over time. The more you test and adjust your process, the healthier your pipeline and the stronger your new business efforts. This is how you grow you grow your agency.
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