Systematize Your Sales Process
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Tl;dr: How to separate sales into it's 4 component parts, and how doing so helps assess where your agency's efforts can improve.
When you email a prospect for the first time, get on the phone with them for the first time, or present them the first of many proposals your business relationship will result in, the process should be similar each time. You should think of it like your processes for delivering creative for a client, or creating new digital ad campaigns; the specific content changes, but the structures you use to implement them are the same.
Instead, many agencies have one off processes for every sales interaction with their prospects. Someone asks for an email copy of the proposal to look over before the call you scheduled to review it page by page? "Absolutely, sending across right now". Word of mouth business slowed down over the past few months? Hire a freelancer to come up with a list of contacts and create an email praising your agency without figuring out how to measure success of that investment up front (what do you do when no one responds?). The first question out of a prospect's mouth on your first call together is about your price? Better tell them or else they'll walk away.
Well, in case the tone of this post has buried the lead, there's an alternative *gasp!*. Break your sales process down into it's 4 component parts, and assess your efforts over the past 12 months:
Targeting: Who are your best clients, and why? This is the foundation of your sales engine. Your lead generation efforts may result in meetings, but if your targeting is wrong then you won't ultimately land the right clients. Likely you won't even land any meetings.
Determining who your target clients are is a mixture of qualitative and quantitative info. Common qualities and traits are: which industry do they work in, what issues do they face (that you solve), who buys from you (meaning the contact within a company), where are they located, why do they work with you rather than your competitors, what's the size of the company (revenue, number of employees, size of department), and much more. Using this intel in conjunction with services like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, SalesLoft or Apollo provides you profiles to use when searching for new prospects to target.
Messaging: What do your clients (and therefore your prospects) care about? What issues do they struggle with that you can show a history of solving for similar brands? And how can you say these things whilst standing out from the crowd of other agencies saying they can do the same thing?-How can you stand out from the clutter in your prospect's inbox?
The answer's really simple - you need to zag when others are zigging. The way you stand out is often by literally standing out. From personalizing emails to show you're messaging them 1 to 1, rather than enrolling them into a sequence with 100s of other people, to injecting your own personality into the outreach. A genuinely funny, clever, or sincere message is more likely to receive a reply. It's not guaranteed, but it improves your odds. Finding the correct balance between personalization and volume is part of winning with outbound prospecting.
Sales Touchpoints: Like the adage about presentations: tell 'em what you're gonna say, say it, tell 'em what you said. Go back and read that in a 1950s radio broadcaster voice - it's fun. But seriously, when you're sitting across the (Zoom) table in a prospect's seat it's amazing how ambiguous most sales processes are. Especially after the amount of effort you've invested to get the meeting! Some mistakes I see:
Confirmation emails aren't sent a few hours before the meeting to confirm they're still able to attend, provide the prospect with dial-in info, share whose attending from your agency / their role, and a quick 1 line description of what the call's for; people don't confirm the length of the meeting still works, or if the prospect has a hard stop at the end of the meeting (ask at the start of the meeting, don't be told at the end!); don't explain what the goal of the meeting is; and most importantly, don't lead by asking what's interesting about this meeting to the prospect. Basic steps like these build respect, and also help qualify if prospects are a good fit. Refine how you're communicating with your prospect and watch your close rates improve.
Closing: If the earlier section didn't make it clear, you shouldn't be emailing proposals before reviewing them via screenshare (or in person) page by page. If someone is interested in working with you, then they have the time. Minor tweaks like this will help your efforts, but ultimately the way you present the business case for working together is often the biggest area of opportunity for agencies. Questions to ask about your current proposals:
Are you using your prospect's language; opening with a summary of what you've heard their issues to be, and sharing how you plan to solve them; listing the services provided; outlining the risks & challenges you'll face during the engagement; highlighting similar success stories; showing price, and then immediately following that up with a schedule for how you onboard and start work? You've gotten to the final steps of securing business - don't fall over at this point!
I've alluded to some specific tactics to implement in each of these buckets, but they're far from a definitive assessment of your efforts. If you're interested in really digging into the nuts and bolts of your sales engine to generate more leads and close more deals, then let's talk!