Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.
Is your agency closing enough leads?Unfortunately, most agencies are synonymous with “panicked” lead generation.They close a deal and immediately shift all of their attention to executing the agreed proposal.A few months go by, and all of a sudden, that new client pulls the proverbial rug from under you.You now have a gap in your revenue projections and are fighting to keep your head above water.You’re desperate for a new client because the survival of your agency relies on it and you spend your efforts searching for one rather than hunting for new opportunities to spur growth.Sure, client delivery is important…But creating a consistent pipeline of lead generation and new business determines the long-term success of an agency.After all, you know as well as I do that clients are flimsy. You may be delivering 10x results and the client moves agencies because “they know a guy,” or they go out of business for poor operational practices.You can’t control those things.What you can control is your team’s ability to prospect, close, and systematically nurture new clients.And if you think the global pandemic of 2020 is a reason to pump the prospecting brakes, then you are horribly mistaken. More than ever, businesses need digital agencies' expertise to navigate uncertain times and plan for growth.So, let me re-frame the question I asked at the beginning of this article… do you want to close more leads?These five tips will help.
#1. Get your messaging right
Your potential clients are dealing with a lot of noise from suppliers, distributors, customers of their own, and most likely other agencies.How does your messaging stand out?Great agency messaging is about the client, not you.What results do your ideal clients care about most? How does your experience as an agency position you better than anyone else to deliver that for them?All of this may sound a little hypothetical, so let's take a look at some examples of agency sales messaging that hits the mark.Take Louder.Online, for example. Here is a screenshot of their homepage:
An example of messaging on an agency homepage The messaging is simple - if you want growth, they’ll deliver it for you. They don’t over-complicate things by discussing tactics, deliverables, or other unnecessary filler information on the homepage. Instead, they’ve determined that their ideal clients (global brands) care about one thing and one thing only - growth.This messaging is an excellent lifting off point for a sales conversation.King Kong has taken a slightly more direct approach than Louder. Online, but the messaging is equally as powerful.
Another example of messaging on an agency homepage What I like most about this messaging is the specificity. Not only are they promising to “Explode Your Sales” but they will deliver it in the “Next 90-Days.” Presumably, this is a timeframe that new clients are comfortable with waiting to see results and enough time for them to achieve them.There are endless other examples I could go into, but your messaging will come back to your agency's unique experience. However, don’t underestimate how important results-driven messaging is in prospecting clients and closing sales.
#2. Prospect until it feels uncomfortable
Not surprisingly, 42% of salespeople say that prospecting is the hardest part of the sales process.
Research on where sales reps struggle the most It’s hard because it is unforgiving. Like training for a marathon, prospecting needs to be a daily grind to be consistently successful. It’s riddled with painful rejections, lots of people ignoring you, and far too many tire kickers who can’t make a purchase decision anyway.Agencies, as a whole, don’t prospect enough. As I alluded to in the introduction, it’s easy to put prospecting on the backburner while you have a full client book. But as soon as things turn south, the scramble to find new clients results in desperate measures such as working with businesses you shouldn’t and undercharging for your services.The best agencies have a consistent and repeatable prospecting process they can rely on to deliver quality leads when they need them.How you prospect is less important than the way you track your efforts and the habit of turning up day after day. Maybe you’re making cold calls every morning from 9-10 AM, or perhaps you have Facebook ads running that promote a lead gen webinar to find new opportunities. The method isn’t what matters, but you need something in place that is generating new interest regularly.Why do you think I included King Kong as an example above? I’ve seen them everywhere. When I’m on Facebook, the King Kong sales messaging greets me in my newsfeed. It's the same on Google, YouTube, and any other number of websites.Their strategy is to deliver a consistent sales message on as many platforms as possible to increase brand awareness and build credibility. I’m most likely one of the thousands of people that are exposed to this marketing every day. Even if a fraction of that results in a lead or a sales call, the marketing is doing its job.If you don’t feel uncomfortable with the amount you are prospecting, you’re not doing it enough!
#3. Focus on lead qualification
It’s all very well to have your messaging on point and a reliable prospecting process in place… but all of that will result in wasted time and resources if your leads aren’t qualified.Low-quality leads will waste your time, not end up closing, or worse, become a difficult client!The best way to qualify leads is to identify a set of criteria each prospect needs to meet before you take them seriously. Use these criteria in a lead collection form on your website or as questions in a discovery call to weed out tire kickers and time wasters.What criteria should you use to qualify your prospects?The answer to that question depends on your agency, but here are some examples:
- Industry - Do you have a record of achieving results for a specific industry or niche?
- Size - How big are the businesses you like working with most?
- Sales - How long has the business been in existence? Do they have a good history of sales and testimonials?
- Marketing - What tactics have they used in the past? Were they effective?
- Growth trajectory - Are they on a positive growth trajectory that you could accelerate?
As well as determining if a lead will be a successful client and can pay for your services, you want to qualify who you are negotiating with. Are they the primary decision-maker, or do you need to be aware of other stakeholders, too?Lead qualification is about positioning yourself with businesses that have potential and can afford your services so you can ride their wave of growth to case studies and more business.
#4. Nail the pitch and proposal
It’s easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to pitching new prospects.If a qualified lead has agreed to meet with you and discuss working together, you must do the preparation required to nail the pitch and construct a compelling proposal.Here are some tips for nailing your sales conversation once you have a seat at the table:
- Set clear expectations and, if anything, under-sell the outcomes you can achieve.
- Draw out the real reason this prospect is talking with you and any underlying objections that have gone unspoken.
- Agree and document a defined scope, lead times, roles and accountability, communication channels, and any other potential bottlenecks that could derail the relationship.
- Quantify the expectations and anticipated outcomes based on what the prospect actually cares about so that you have a goal to work towards.
- Don't finish the meeting without knowing who all decision-makers are and how their objectives may differ.
In the end, your pitch needs to succinctly outline how you can help your prospect reach the desired outcome they are looking for. Any other information is unimportant and time-wasting.
#5. Have the right agency toolset
When it comes to agency software, the landscape is vast.From CRMs to ads management and landing page creation, there are hundreds of tools you can choose from. Not to mention, you'll have to adopt some tools that your clients already use - leaving a patchwork quilt of interwoven and yet disconnected systems.In saying that, most prospects will want your expert opinion on which tools to use. So you need to have a core set of software apps that your team regularly uses from which you can recommend, implement, and get the best performance.Here’s an overview of the agency toolset fundamentals:
- Marketing Automation - Whether you’re scheduling emails, setting up drip campaigns, or posting content to social media, automation is essential. Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) is well regarded when it comes to marketing automation software.
Keap for marketing automation
- Sales and CRM - Managing contacts is an internal tool for your sales process that will help you stay on top of prospecting and closing new leads. HubSpot is a leader in this space.
- Landing Page and Campaign Builders - Having an easy-to-use tool on hand for building landing pages, such as giveaways or lead capture forms, helps execute client campaigns at speed with multi-variate testing. Look for a tool that has full-customization and white label branding capabilities, like ShortStack for agencies:
ShortStack for agencies[button size='medium' style='white' text='Learn MOre' icon='' icon_color='' link='/agencies/' target='_blank' color='' hover_color='' border_color='' hover_border_color='' background_color='' hover_background_color='' font_style='' font_weight='' text_align='' margin='0 0 10px']
- Conversion Optimization - A big part of getting client outcomes is about testing visuals, copy, and other campaign elements. Heat mapping software and A/B testing tools, such as Hotjar, will help run these tests at scale.
Hotjar heat mapping software
- Campaign Management - If you’re running paid ad campaigns for clients, the out-of-the-box management dashboards with Google and Facebook often don’t cut the mustard. Using third-party tools, like AdEspresso, simplify the management process across clients and let you optimize campaigns with efficiency.
AdEspresso ad management
- Communication - Email is not an effective form of communication given all the stakeholders in an agency-client relationship. Look into something like Slack for better organization.
- Project Management - There are numerous moving parts, contributing stakeholders, and tasks to complete in any client relationship that could easily slip through the cracks if you don't have project management software. A tool such as Asana is a must.
Asana project management
- Analytics and Reporting - Most of the tools I've mentioned will provide some analytics and reporting, but if you want to bring all of that into a single dashboard, agency reporting tools like Klipfolio can help.
Klipfolio reporting This is not an exhaustive list of software you’ll need in your arsenal to be effective at closing deals, onboarding clients, and delivering outcomes, but it’s a great start.
Closing agency leads isn’t a complicated process…In saying that, it’s not easy, either.The best agencies refine their sales process over time and keep turning up day after day ready to prospect.If you’re clear on your messaging, prospect relentlessly, qualify leads, nail the sales conversation, and have a best-practice set of tools, 2021 could be your agency’s best year yet.
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