We asked a few dozen agencies to share their most painful client experiences, and more importantly, the advice they’d give to other agencies to avoid them.
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Kevin Kononenko on January 26, 2018 • 6 minute read
After shaking hands and exchanging small talk for a few minutes, the prospect asks you, “So, what does your agency do again?”
How would you answer this question?
I attended David Weinhaus and Dan Tyre’s excellent HubSpot Agency Sales Bootcamp last week, and that is one of the first questions that David and Dan asked the audience. The two had been top performing sales leaders for years at HubSpot, and they now run a series of sales bootcamps to help inbound marketing agencies with every aspect of the sales process.
Here were some of the answers that the audience shared:
They seem like good answers, right? After all, EVERYBODY wants to make sure their marketing actually leads to revenue.
But, as David would tell us, there are actually three sales that you need to make in order to win the prospect’s business. And every single one of those responses shows that the agency owner has been skipping the first one! (I’ll explain the “3 sales” concept in a minute.)
At the end of the bootcamp, each agency leader shared the biggest change that they plan on making in their own sales process. Here are their top action items from each attended, grouped by topic.
This concept is similar to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. When we went around the room at the beginning of the bootcamp, every single agency had a “how”-centric pitch, the second sale. In other words, they were immediately sharing the tactics they use to grow their clients’ businesses.
Here is the problem with that, though… by starting with the second sale, you miss the opportunity to connect with a prospect at a deeper level and prove that you care about their goals. Pretty much any agency can start with a tactics-oriented pitch. But, when they do, a prospect will be more likely to choose a provider based on price, rather than value.
Agency leaders learned how to “start with why” before getting into value that the business MIGHT want.
“I need to focus on the “why” part of the three sale-sale. I also need to investigate the prospect’s existing sales team and practices more often to better understand:
“The biggest lesson I learned from the HubSpot Agency Sales Bootcamp was to slow down, ask why, and learn more about the prospects underlying needs. While I thought I was pretty good at consultative sales, my style has been to jump right into solutions and how we can help tactically. By learning more about the why (and that why, and that why, and that why…) we uncover the strategic needs and are able to be a growth resource instead of a marketing resource.”
Relish Tray Media
“I need to uncover a sense of urgency or push on a pain point. I need to go deeper on the why. I had not been doing that before.”
Web Canopy Studio
This is similar to the idea of asking about “why”. David and Dan recommend that you try and learn as much as possible about the client’s goals for the year. This helps in two ways.
For example, let’s say that the prospect tells you that they want to grow by 15% this year. That piece of information will help you craft your entire proposal around their annual goal.
“I need to be confident when talking about money. I need to price and position our services based on how we can meet YOUR (the prospect’s) goals. Tying it to their revenue is a big deal.”
“Website design has become so commoditized, and I need to expose our strategies, processes, and the potential results as early as possible so clients understand the work we will do for them.”
If you do embrace a goal-focused sales process, make sure you have a system in place to track all your goals and report progress to goal once you sign on a client — like Databox’s free Smart Goals feature. In our experience at Databox, too many agencies sell prospects on their ability to set and hit marketing goals, but fail to actually deliver on that promise.
It can always be tempting to skip steps of the sales process when it feels like “this one prospect is different.” But, that’s a dangerous exception to make, especially if you’re willing to skip different steps with different prospects. Why? It’s tough to tell what you’re doing wrong when you change the steps for every prospect. They recommend these 3 steps always: Connect, Explore, Close.
This goes way beyond BANT, although that is an important part of it. It also includes the technology that you use in the agency sales process, the prospect’s willingness to share their internal data and their commitment to hitting their annual number.
“I’ve owned an agency for 19 years and this program has helped me realize I was wrong …it really owns me! I’m ready to apply process to our sales instead of complaining about it so I can actually own it and we can scale!”
“I have been a face-to-face salesperson my whole life, but I can increase my productivity by doing more exploratory calls. Rather than travel to the prospect’s location early in the sales process, we can set up a Zoom call using a structured playbook that helps both me and my prospect determine if we are a good fit for each other.”
“I’m really excited about integrating video more into our internal sales process and for our sales enablement clients. I’m thinking video emails for follow-ups are going to be high on my to-do list. I’m also going to investigate the HubSpot Documents tool so that when we send information or proposals to prospects or clients we will be able to see when these items are opened. This functionality is brilliant!”
There is one lesson I learned that no one included in any of their responses.
During the exploratory call, one common question that prospects commonly ask is: “So what is the price of your services?” Instinctually, I would answer the question immediately with something like, “Our retainers start at $3000 a month.”
Don’t take the bait! Instead, you can reposition that question to show your dedication to improving their revenue. Something like, “I would love to figure that out! Our retainers typically range from $3000 to $10,000 a month, but we customize it based on your revenue target.”
With that sentence, you immediately turn the conversation from price-centric to value-centric.
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