How To Close Deals Faster at Your Agency (INBOUND 18 Session)

Karl Sakas shared some tips on managing the sales process that he has learned after working with hundreds of agencies.

Kevin Kononenko on September 13, 2018 • 4 minute read

Karl Sakas started off his INBOUND talk with a painful story about one of his current clients, Christine.

Christine was talking to a prospect that would have been a great fit for her agency, both in terms of retainer size and culture fit.

In the middle of the sales process, the marketing team abruptly reached out and asked for a proposal that they could present to their executive team in a meeting 24 hours later.

Christine dropped everything and wrote up the proposal as quickly as possible. The client acknowledged, and said they would follow up later in the afternoon.

A week passed by. No response. Christine followed up, and the prospect said, “We still need more time!”

Finally, days later, they replied and said “We are going to stick with our existing agency.”

Here’s the kicker- Christine had no idea that they were even working with another agency.

That kind of nasty surprise will happen frequently when your agency doesn’t run a consistent sales process. So, Karl shared the 3-part plan for running a repeatable sales process that he uses with all his clients.

Karl was originally inspired by the concept of “fast failure” from the pharmaceutical industry. When a pharmaceutical company learns that a drug does not have a chance of getting approved, they will immediately stop investing in it, no matter how much money has already been committed.

Although this may seem strict, it actually helps pharmaceutical companies save billions of dollars and thousands of hours on research and development costs. Similarly, agency sales leaders can stop sinking time and energy into the wrong prospects by using a process.

Step 1- Define Your Customer Persona

Before you even begin the sales process, Karl recommended that you take a step back and write down some demographic, firmographic and psychographic info about your ideal client. You can ask these two questions:

  1. Do you believe in the work that the client is doing?
  2. Do you have a minimum price tag?

For example, Karl does not work with agencies who focus on the tobacco industry. And you can always publish the minimum pricing on your website to scare off the bad-fit prospects.

But here’s where this gets tricky. Much like any relationship, an agency-client partnership goes further than just a checklist. You can’t just use the BANT checklist and expect to find good-fit prospects. As a reminder, BANT stands for:

  • Budget
  • Authority
  • Need
  • Timeline

Relationships are what economists call “experience goods”- you need to experience it to know if it is a fit. You won’t know by looking at a checklist. If that was possible, dating would be a much easier process!

So, he instead created the acronym “CRUX” to help agency leaders figure out if they are learning the right information in the sales process.

Step 2- Use a Proposal-Ready Shortcut

In Karl’s system, you must be able to fill out all 4 categories of CRUX before you create a proposal.

CRUX stands for:

Compatible: Is the potential client a culture fit with your agency?

Realistic: Are their expectations realistic?

Karl shared a story where a prospect immediately volunteered that they would be willing to dedicate $250,000 to a website re-design project. That might seem like an exciting project, but after Karl scoped out the actual work with the agency, he found that it would cost them an estimated $360,000 to do the work. If the agency had signed on with the client, one party would have been severely disappointed at the end of the relationship.

And, your agency may want to set up special rules for prospects that have never worked with an agency before. These prospects may not understand the commitments and expectations that go into an agency-client relationship.

Urgency: Even if the “time is right” during the sales process, will the prospect still be motivated in 6 months? 1 year? A salesperson needs to understand this underlying pain.

X-Factor: After a few meetings, does the prospect still geel like “the one”? Do you still feel excited about the relationship?

Step 3- Streamline Your Process

Karl asked the audience about the strangest and most frustrating things they had experienced in the sales process. After 3 members of the audience shared a story, Karl described which part of the sales process should have identified the problem at an early stage.

At this point, Karl shared the most important takeaway that he wanted every member of the audience to start practicing: a sales qualification survey.

A sales qualification survey is a short list of questions that a prospect must fill out before a discovery call. Some common questions include:

  • What are your ideal outcomes? After this call? 3 years from now?
  • What metrics will you use to evaluate our engagement?
  • What are your past agency experiences?

If a prospect is unwilling to fill out the survey, or it takes them a week or two, you are probably “failing fast” and learning that the prospect will not be a good fit to work with you.

About the author
Kevin Kononenko Growth Marketer @ Databox. Making it easy for marketers to tell the story of their success. Everton FC supporter. Startup guy.

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