What do CMOs and other decision makers say is the final decision point when it comes to hiring an agency? Chemistry. Many agencies believe that chemistry is not really in their control but actually, there are definitely some things you can do to connect at that level.
In a recent podcast, I had a conversation with Bob Sanders from the Sanders Consulting Group and we talked about the importance of chemistry in business, the influence you can have to make your new business meetings more productive, close faster and with much more success, every single time. Bob and his team focus on creating chemistry with a prospect that can help you walk into that new business process in a better position.
In this podcast, Bob will unlock the secrets of chemistry by showing you:
- how to understand yourself, your agency and then figure out how to relate to others
- how to build a concrete system that drives new business and generates leads
- how to use clear-cut methods for a productive first meeting with new clients that lead to the next meeting
- the simple things you can do each day to achieve your goals
- how to adjust your relationships to match your client’s personalities.
Bob Sanders is a powerhouse in the marketing industry. He has previously worked with Agency Management Group, a firm that specialized in the operations, finance, and technology consultations for multinational agencies around the world. Since then, he has become the leader of Sanders Consulting Group, a leading consulting firm specializing in helping agencies implement best practices faster and more effectively.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (http://buildabetteragency.com/bob-sanders/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below.
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits, too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25-plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew: Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. One of the topics that always comes up when I am hanging out with agency owners is the whole issue around the business, and we have a great guest today and we’re going to really dig into that issue from all kinds of angles.
So many of you have probably heard of Bob Sanders. Bob is with the Sanders Consulting Group. Before he joined Sanders Consulting Group though, he really lived his whole life in the agency business.
He worked in account service positions for several traditional full service agencies. Then he worked with Agency Management Group, a firm that specialized in the operations, finance, and technology consulting for the big shops, the multinational agencies around the world and large independents here in the US. And then he joined Sanders Consulting Group, which a leading consulting firm specializing in the marketing communications industry.
They help agencies work around implementing best practices faster and more effectively, spend a lot of time in the new business space, and have a really interesting take on the whole issue of the importance of chemistry in business, which we hear often about. In the research that we do at AMI, one of the things that we hear from CMOs and other decision makers is that, often that’s the final decision point for them of what agency they hire. And I think a lot of you feel like that’s a little out of your control. And what Bob is going to tell us is actually you could have more influence over that than you think. So, Bob, welcome to the show.
Bob: Thank you. Glad to be here, and hello to everyone out there in the wonderful world of podcasting.
Drew: Yeah, it’s a crazy new world we live in, isn’t it?
Bob: It sure is and it’s a lot of fun.
Drew: It is. So tell our folks, fill in the blanks for our folks in terms of the introduction. What did I miss or what did you want to elaborate on? Anything?
Bob: No, I think you pretty much covered it other than I did spend a few years traveling around the world, taking over small countries with the Marine Corps. So that’s always a highlight and one of the things that I like to bring up. And that the military training I brought to the agency world is what drove me to help create the Agency Management Group because I just felt like they were so ineffective and so dysfunctional when it came to operations that I had to go out and use some of the training that I got from the Marine Corps to apply to the agency business. And it was quite successful for many years.
Drew: So was saluting involved in that process? Was there a lot of that there?
Bob: No, I didn’t have the agencies salute me at all, although a few of them wanted to after we were done with them. We were able to turn some really big agencies around and saved a couple of them from just totally disappearing, like so many of them did back in the ’90s.
Drew: Yeah, yeah. You’re right. And I’m sure the agency owners bristle at words like discipline and systems. Nonetheless, we all know that they need to be in place. So, I’m sure that while it may have been painful on the front end, I’m sure they were very happy to have you there when they were successful and counting their money.
Bob: I think so. We’ve made quite a few millionaires out there over the years and we do agree 100% that you need…I mean, look, War Fighting 101, the big manual that came out when I was in the Marine Corps, was all about that. Disciplined chaos, understanding it, managing it, and driving it for you.
Drew: Yeah. That’s agency life. I’ve often said that. That really our job is to control…we live in a controlled chaos environment.
Drew: Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about…I want to jump into the importance of chemistry thing there, and I know you have all kinds of thoughts about new business and I want to make sure we get all of those in. So talk to us a little bit about your take on the importance of chemistry in business, because I think you guys have a pretty unique viewpoint on it.
Bob: Thank you. I think we do. I’m the only one that I know that does this for agencies. And I’ll just say this. If you think about what is chemistry, it’s that squishy space between people. And to many of us it just seems like it’s uncontrollable or random or just happens. And the simple fact of the matter is, it isn’t.
We come in very basic patterns. Everyone does, and once you understand how to look for and identify what those patterns are, you can present your information, your ideas, your pitch, whatever it is, in a way that most aligns with their mental model. And if you understand that, then it becomes much more effective and you’re not just throwing things on the wall to see what sticks.
The idea of chemistry, just real quick, does go all the way back though. A lot of people don’t realize this, but the Egyptians 3,000 to 5,000 years ago were talking about the basic four types of people. And that’s what we kind of glommed onto. We took that, ran with it, applied the Myers-Briggs, the Disk, and a bunch of other types of thinking around it, and adapted it for the agency world.
Drew: And can you give us a brief overview? I know we don’t have time to really dig deeply into it. Can you give us a brief overview what those four quadrants look like and how you help agencies use those insights to walk into the new business process in a better position?
Bob: Yeah, of course. I’d be happy to. It’s real simple. Look, it takes two questions to figure out what type a person is, whether they’re more task-driven, and that’s what we call the top half of the circle, or they’re more people-driven. And task-driven people are easy to identify. They’re the ones that you walk in and you say, “Good morning. How are you?” and they say, “Fine.” It’s asked and answered, move on. Whereas people people are going to share, relate, emote, talk to you, “I’m doing great. How about you?” They’re the ones who are more open, more people-focused. So if you can just simply divide everyone you know into whether they’re more task-driven are more people-driven, that’s the first line.
Then the second line, the vertical line to the left or right, is whether they’re low assertive – they ask a lot of questions, they pause between comments, they follow a lot of information, they’re more interested in the insides and the workings of different things, or they’re more assertive – they’re direct, they’re forceful, they make statements and declarations, they don’t ask questions. So it’s task versus people, low assertive versus high assertive, and now you have four quadrants.
The task-driven, highly assertive person, just like the basic ad, print ad that we all know and love, that’s the headline. They’re the people who want results, want them now. The task-driven, low assertive person, the left side of the top quadrant is body copying. They’re the detail, facts, and figures. “I don’t need a lot of people. I don’t need a lot of squishy relationships in my life. I just want to dig into the data, figure out what’s going on, follow a good process, and get things done.”
Now we’re down at the bottom half left side, low assertive person, very interested in people. They’re what we call the logo, the warm smiling happy people who brought you the ad. That’s the way to remember them. They’re the happy-go-lucky, want to hold hands sing Kumbaya and everyone get along. “If we could just all get on the same page, we could all work so much more effectively.” It’s those types of people that live in a logo world.
And then you have what’s left is the illustration. The thing that draws your eye to the ad, that’s the very assertive, but people-driven, dancing on the table at 2 o’clock in the morning, kind of big ideas, lots of explanation points, lots of fun, very creative. Those are the illustrations in the world. They’re tough to work with, easy to sell to if you understand how to sell to them.
Drew: And do you think agencies have a type of person that they work better with or do you think an agency can work with all four these types of people as long as they understand who they’re working with?
Bob: I believe that what we call versatility, the ability for an agency to move, to adapt to each one of these four types of people, is something that can be learned. However, most agencies I walk into, if you look at their client roster, many of their clients tend to end up being in one of these quadrants, and it’s driven most often by the CEO. If the CEO is a hard charging taskmaster, strong personality, very assertive, that’s a headline. They’re going to scare the logos and the illustrations away. Just because they’ll cut the ideas off and the illustrations hate that, and because they’re going to be so assertive the logos don’t want to work with them.
Body copies will tolerate it. They’re okay with that, but generally if you look at those types of agencies, most of their clients tend to fall into that quadrant and they wonder why they lose the warm, friendly, nice pitch people when they’re going into a pitch, when they’re coming in with guns a blazing. So it’s one of those things that I look for when I’m working with an agency is what are the client profiles? Who most represents your group? And if it follows into one of those four quadrants, then you’ve got a problem because you’re missing out on a lot of new business. You’re scaring a lot of prospects away.
Drew: So, just like we tell our clients, understanding the importance of chemistry in business starts with understanding yourself first and then figuring out how you relate to others, right?
Bob: Absolutely. Know thyself. That’s the first rule in new business, Know who you are, what you stand for, and who you work well with. And it’s the 101, but we try to take it beyond that. What is the personality of your agency? How are you projecting it? And are you matching those four types somehow in most of your marketing materials? Golly, just go look at most agency websites. They scream one side or another.
Either they’re very process-driven or they’re flash and a lots of big ideas or they’re nothing but results and tactics. With a little bit of work, they could layer in a couple other pieces and show some people, show that they have a warm sunny side or show that they are task-driven and can get results out there. That they’re warm and friendly. That’s the type of thing that we like to try to introduce to the agency world.
Drew: Yeah. So I think most agencies, as you know, and I experience, most agencies are pretty hit or miss about new business. They take the feast or famine approach. They don’t have new business going on every day until the big client leaves and then all of a sudden, “Oh crap, you better get some new business.” So beyond the chemistry thing, when you talk to agencies about new business and back to your military days of discipline and process, how do you talk to agencies about building a better machine around new business?
Bob: Well, that’s a great word for it is a machine, and I’m a big believer, and you have to build a machine. You need a system. You need to have a regular…whether it’s content creation or outreach, I don’t care, but you need to have somebody in the agency whose sole job it is is to drive the new business. To build, drive and create the machine that generates leads. And that’s the one thing that I think most agencies don’t pay any attention to, is I would go back and look, work towards the end of the year, go back and do an analysis over the last 11 months and figure out exactly how many leads did you get per month.
And a good agency, if you’re doing new business right, you should have four to eight good leads a month. And then you can just pass on most of them because a lot of them are not going to go anywhere, it’s going to be too much work or you’re going to have to go through a bunch of hoops. But if you have that many leads, you’re going to grow. That’s a guaranteed fact. And every agency instead looks at their hit or miss when it comes to the pitch. And by then, it’s too late. You need to have won the account before you go into their pitch.
So count the leads, look that up, and build the machine. That means if you’re an inbound agency and I just got done speaking to a giant conference with a bunch of inbound agencies, fine, focus in on the inbound, dedicate 100% effort to it, but again, measure your leads. If you’re not getting the leads you want, then maybe you need to think about outbound.
We train and teach a lot of agencies on how to go around and do outreach. And it’s that regular nudge, regular contact, regular sending things of relevance, and not me, me, me. Just stop with that, please. If you’re an agency stop sending the, “Look at this great ad that we produced.” Nobody cares except for you.
Drew: Most agency newsletters just make me cry a little.
Bob: Yeah, the same here.
Drew: Because it’s all about them, it’s about their awards, and about their…”Look we did this ad and here’s the YouTube link to this.” I said, “Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.”
Bob: And here’s our picnic and we had so much fun. Nobody cares. Great, thanks, but show me something I didn’t know.
Drew: Help me be smarter. Right?
Bob: Exactly. Educate. That’s the way to think about it, is you need to think up a machine that educates prospects about how to better solve their problem. And if you don’t know, go back and look at all the problems that you’ve solved for your clients over the last 12 months and identify, “These are the ones we really do solve. These are the things that we help our clients the most do.” And if you can identify a few of those, then put that on the front page of your website, use it to create articles, write papers, positionings, heck, write a book.
I don’t care, but come up with a point of view around it on how you solve that problem better than anyone else in your region, your market, your city, your world, whatever it is.
Drew: I know one of the things that we were talking about before we started the recording is that agencies aren’t very good at closing. So what are your thoughts around, actually now you’ve had the opportunity, how do you close the deal?
Bob: Great question, and one of those things that we spend a lot of our work on. And that is most agencies, and I truly hate to say this, but too many agencies go in and try one or two different tactics when they’re visiting with a prospect for the first time. You’ve done all this hard work, all this effort to generate a lead, and then you get a lead and they call you up. And it might be an RFP in which case then go for the meeting.
And we used to tell agencies and I still tell agencies, when I was in the agency side, we always said, “We don’t do an RFP unless we can meet with you. Period. And if you want us to respond to this we have to have a meeting. It’s the only fair way for us to evaluate whether there is a real opportunity.” Blah, blah, blah, whatever, but get the meeting. Or, if they had just as a lead that came in randomly through a referral and they have a problem, then go and see them.
Most agencies fail miserably when they go to visit for the first time, what we call the first visit. They go in and they either talk too much about themselves or they jump right into, “Let me ask you about all these important questions and dig deep and try to uncover what the real problem is,” and both of them scare prospects off. It’s better to have a system with that first visit to walk in, we call it agency baseball, to understand that you first have to get to first base, which is building trust.
Once you have trust, then you can stop talking about yourself. Never solve the problem in the room. Don’t worry about introducing all the great stuff and great ways that you can solve whatever the problems are, and move on to second base, which is discovery. Work hard to dig deeper and figure out what are their real needs. Every agency tends to get the first need, “I need a brochure, I need a new website,” whatever, and they run. They get it and they think they’ve got everything they need and they run away.
We say you need four needs, focusing on getting the four needs that they have. Work hard and ask a lot of good questions and don’t forget to ask questions about the timing, about who else is it going to be involved, who’s going to have approval. All of those questions are part of what we call second base. And then you need to get the heck out of there because if you start solving the problem in the room, that’s what we call discounting, and you may…
Drew: Yeah. You’re giving it away, right?
Bob: You’re giving it away. We need a brochure, and most agencies…look, we teach that agencies need to do the opposite. It’s 180 degrees the opposite of what you do for good clients, for what you do for a good prospect. When a good client calls up and says, “We need a new brochure,” you go in and ease them and show them how you can do it and show them some examples and you make them feel better because you’re competent and capable.
But when a prospect comes to you with a new brochure, you need to do the opposite. You need to make them feel the pain, otherwise they’re not going to make a decision. They’re not going to move off of the square. If you make it seem easy and simple, then they don’t have to worry about it and they’re going to go on to worry about the next big fire that comes up on their desk right after you leave.
So when they bring up something, you need to really dig in and say, “Oh, brochures can be tough,” and you start asking pointed questions. “I assume then you have your brand all figured out. I assume that you have the target audience identified, the personas, I understand. You don’t have any of that and you want a brochure? Golly, I don’t know, that’s going to be hard to do.” That’s the type of message, just the concerned doctor versus the French poodle bouncing up and down, go on, “Please, please, please hire us.”
Drew: All right. So what’s third base?
Bob: Third base is when you return and present ideas on how you can help them. And if you’ve done your job and built a lot of urgency, a lot of need, a lot of fear in their mind, then you only have 48 hours before you have to get back to them. And too many agencies just…they go off and then they’ll spend three weeks, four weeks, writing the perfect proposal. Proposals are for losers. Stop writing proposals, please. Unless you have a yes, that’s the only time I would say go ahead.
If they agreed to work with you and they want to go ahead with whatever thing you’ve tossed up, then great. Go back and write a proposal and you’re fine. But if you’re not sure and you are squishy, then get back to them within 48 hours with a game plan, and use it as a working opportunity to walk them through step by step how you’re going to help them solve this big problem that they have.
Once you’ve done that, then you have to understand how to build in urgency, and that’s when you get to home, and that’s when they make the decision right there in the room in a perfect world. That’s what we call a fast close. Forty-eight hours you’ve won the account or won the project, then you’ve got your foot in the door. You can always get the whole thing but you can get bits and pieces, and that gets you in the door, and that’s a win in my book.
Drew: Yeah, I think oftentimes agencies get paralyzed by the idea that everything that they do in the new business process, whether it’s creating content or, as you said, the proposal, has to be the Mona Lisa of the species, and so they get paralyzed by perfection.
Bob: Absolutely. And sometimes, look, when I say get back in 48 hours with some notes on a process, the biggest tool that I use in that, and look, I’ve won the largest account in Canada, the largest account in Europe, and one of the top 10 accounts in the last couple of years with agencies, fast closing accounts. And that means that they went in with flip chart paper, handwritten, 15 sheets, and they just hang it on the wall and walk on right through how they’re going to solve the problem. And every agency I tell this to, they’re like, “Oh, no, no, no. Our prospects are too…”
Drew: Sophisticated, right?
Bob: Too professional to do that. I’m sorry, I hate to tell you but it doesn’t matter how big or how small. Let me just share one quick example. I had a little agency up in New York call me up a couple months ago and said, “Look, we just had a good meeting. We followed your rules and now they want to come back to the agency instead of having us go out there. We don’t have anything. We don’t have anything prepared, we don’t have a deck, we don’t have…they’re coming tomorrow morning. What do I do?” I said. “Did you some good information in the interview with them?” And they said, “Oh yeah, we got a lot of good info but we haven’t had time to really think of anything.” I said, “Well, what is their problem?”
They told me. We walked through a basic outline of how we could help them move the needle, solve the problem. And then I said, “Take those notes, write them up on 15 sheets, hang them on the wall. When they walk in, go sheet by sheet by sheet. Cover them up so they can’t see what the sheet is just to have the headline. So it’s background objectives, phase one, phase two, strategy, creative, branding, whatever. Go down the list. And then the final sheet is the old timing, next steps, and budget. So once we get there, just walk them through.”
This big brand walked into this little agency, walked through the 15 sheets, and then leaned back and said what every client and every prospect says when we teach this, “You will not believe how much information. I can’t believe how much information you guys went through. This is great and you don’t know how many PowerPoint presentations I have to sit through. It was so refreshing to do it this way. I love it. Can I have the sheets?” And what do you think the answer is to that?
Bob: Of course not, no. That’s our thinking, it’s our strategy, it’s what we do for a living. We get paid big bucks to do this. So, no. “Do you want to hire us?” “Of course.” “Sign the last sheet. We’ll give them to you and we’ll get to get started.”
Drew: Yeah, yeah. I think one of the things, and you and I have been in the business for a while, sometimes I think the fact that we can do everything on the computer and that every spec ad and concept look so finished, actually hurts us. And I think the whole throwing paper up on the wall and using a sharpie, sometimes I think we get so far down the process in a concept ad that…or whatever it is or a proposal, that we really hurt ourselves.
Bob: Oh, I know you do. You’re right 100%. And that’s why I call it the magic marker because it is magic. And if you understand how to use the magic marker and mark ups sheets and then use word pictures to describe the creative. That’s what we always…instead of going to showing them outstanding creative, use word pictures, talk about the strategy and the tactics on the bullet points on the handwritten sheets. But when you get to it, say, “We’re thinking about a direct mail campaign,” and it would be this bright yellow insert inside of a blue envelope.
And the question I always ask agencies when I’m going through this is, “What size was the envelope?” As soon as I said that, everyone in the room pictured an envelope. Some people pictured 11 by 7, whatever. But the point is that if I say it, everyone pictures the perfect answer. But if I show you an envelope that is legal size or something, half the people in the room are going to say, “No, no, no, that’s not what I was thinking,” and they’re going to reject it.
So start with the word pictures. Use that as a way to describe your strategy especially early on. Later on, or if it’s a formal presentation, yes. It’s different. The rules are different. Sometimes you have to go down that road, but if you’re in early and you have an opportunity to try and fast close, then don’t walk in with finished stuff. It just kills you.
Drew: So that leads me to the question I get asked all the time. What’s your stance on spec creative?
Bob: Heck, yeah. Look, if you’re in a formal review and they’re requesting spec creative, then yeah, you know what? That’s the game that we have to play. Bite the bullet, go in, and do it. Just understand, going back to the profiling now of who you’re pitching, if they’re headlined and everything has to be results oriented, then give them three options. That’s the way the headline brain operates. They want to make a choice.
I can tell you another great story. I was in London helping an agency with a big pitch, and we had this perfect strategy. We had profiled them as headlines. We knew that we’re going to walk in with three options. We had done the strategy. We’d introduced the strategy at the RFP phase. We had done the first meeting when they toured the agency and helped them with that, led them a little bit further down the strategy road, and we had this great answer for their problem, and we thought we were going to win.
At the last minute the creative director, a well-known, big, creative director, walked in with this brilliant idea, and everyone in the agency agreed that it was a brilliant idea. And I raised my hand and said, “It’s a brilliant idea but you need to park it and not present it. Don’t show it, because first of all it doesn’t match up with the strategy that we have, and second of all, it doesn’t fit in the three options that we’re presenting. We need to go with the plan that we have.” The CEO overrode me, they went in with the big idea, and of course, the competition had just started that day, and they lost the pitch.
Drew: Yeah, yeah. Go too far down the road.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. And don’t try to sell one big idea to a headline. It’s never going to work. They’re going to find a flaw. Now, if you’re pitching a body copy, follow a process, get them to a good answer, then you can have one answer. That works for a body copy, but headlines, no. Body copies, yes. Logos, you’ve got to win everyone else in the room. They’re the toughest because they’re going to ask everyone else in the room, “What do you think? Do we all agree that was the better agency above all these agencies?”
And with an illustration, you can present three big ideas, but one of them has to be something that’s never been done before, something totally outlandish, something over the top that they’re going to get all excited about. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s feasible or doable. They just want to fall in love with the idea.
Drew: Right. I think a lot of agencies get caught up in the, “We have to be sort of pragmatic,” and it’s like, “We have to show that we can think bigger and better.” And again, whether it’s you’re giving them one idea or you’re giving them three because it is the headline or you are walking through a process, we still have to show them more than what they could possibly bite off.
Bob: Look, our of roots go back, and the perception that most clients have, and I always try to remind agencies about this, look, clients live very boring lives. Their days are filled with meetings and process and budget and timetables and all types of other stuff that they have to do day in and day out. Sadly, the agency world is much the same but that’s not the perception.
Drew: No, they think it’s sexy.
Bob: The perception is we’re Hollywood-like. We’re one step removed from Bewitched, where the magic happens with a twitch of a nose. We need to play on that and get them to believe that for that moment in time, that little perception bubble that we live in for a pitch, we are that Bewitched Samantha witch they can create something out of nothing and do the magic with a little bit of pixie dust and look, presto all of a sudden, all your problems are solved.
Drew: Yeah, right. In fact, again, I think that sometimes the fact that we can whip everything up on the computer as opposed to back in the good old days when we would flap it and unveil it, I think we have taken a lot of the sizzle away from the steak.
Bob: Absolutely. I feel like we’re a bunch of old guys now. We’re turning into my dad and all the old mad men I used to hang out with when I was a kid, the martini lunches and everything else under the sun, but it’s true. They understood the basics of human psychology, which is people want to dream, they want to believe, they want to buy into something, and the more real you make it, the more they will find fault. The more they will identify a problem.
So if you can just sell the dream and sell the big idea and get them to believe in the concept, the direction, the strategy, then you’re winning. But if you try to go in and show them, “Oh and here it is, finished,” not only are you discounting the problem, you’re discounting your work. You’re making it seem like it was so easy. “Look, we just went back through this up on a computer and presto, bingo, here it is, all your problems are solved.” And they’re like, “Well, why do I need to pay you a million dollars for that?”
Drew: Because you just gave it to me for free.
Bob: Right. Sad but true.
Drew: Yeah. So how do you lay all of what we’ve talked about so far next to the idea that clients are much more ROI focused? And everyone is talking…we just did some research where we surveyed 500 agency hiring decision makers, so CMOs, business owners, that sort of thing. And they identified interestingly that the number one goal for them in 2016 was lead generation, and the one thing, when we asked them what they thought agencies were good at, the thing at the bottom of the list was lead generation.
So how do you lay everything we’ve just talked about with the importance of chemistry in business, the idea that clients really do want to talk about facts and figures and results and all of that? How do those two concepts blend together for you as you consult with agencies?
Bob: Well, I always go back to who we are presenting to. Is it a committee or board or group or an individual? Is it the CMO? Is it the business owner? What is their mindset? And peel back the onion and try to figure out how they’re processing information, how they think, how they live their world, what is the lens that they see the universe through, then you can answer those questions.
For a headline, for example, yes, they are going to be very tactical, oriented, want results tomorrow and want to see any money that they spend get some type of ROI, and so you have to focus in on that. You have to be good at that and you have to show that…sell that first, win that battle. Then come back later and show them once you have their trust and you’re getting some results, maybe we need to tweak the brand or improve it or change it and start doing some of the more brand building. What I call the purple advertising, that branding and sales, both marketing type effort that you need to do.
With a body copy, it’s about informing and building trust through more information, more data, more knowledge.
With a logo, it’s all about understanding the people and making sure that you understand their fears and concerns, and that whatever you do is going to help them. That’s the number one thing that they’re always going to focus on.
And with an illustration, look, they’re going to talk numbers and say that all day long. But if you go in and talk about skywriting or crop circles, they’re going to fall in love with you.
Drew: Yeah. So one of the things that I love about your whole chemistry in business model is some of the ways that you help people identify prospects. So one of the things I found most fascinating, when you and I were recently at a conference where I heard you speak, you were talking about how people’s offices look and how you can identify folks based on what the offices look like.
So walk us through a little bit of that. So if I’m meeting a prospect, you talked about are they more task-oriented or people-oriented and are they assertive or a little more laid back and asking a lot of questions. How else can we categorize folks?
Bob: Well, the first rule in understanding the importance of chemistry in business is make sure you understand who you’re going to go meet. Before you even see their office, I want you to spend some time and do some homework. Look at their Facebook page, look at their LinkedIn page, scope them out, stalk them if you have to. Try to figure out how they would live their life, and you can quickly see patterns. Once you identify some of those patterns and understand it, then you can start to apply some basic rules. Look, they answer their voice mail. You call their number and you get their voicemail. Is it just the number? In which case they’re probably task-driven, they’re not very people-driven if it’s just, “Hey, you’ve reached 412, whatever, whatever.:
But if they say, “Hi, you’ve reached Bill. This is Wednesday, blah blah blah.” They give you a lot of detail, a lot of information, then that’s probably more of a task-driven people, or task-driven detail person, so that’s a body copy. If they are, “Hey, you know what to do. We’re warm and friendly and very nice about it,” then it’s probably a logo. If they’re over the top or say something funny and witty, then guess what? It’s probably an illustration.
Same thing with how they respond to an email. You send them an email, they respond with a one-word answer and their initial. Guess what? That’s assertive. That’s somebody who doesn’t have a lot of time or care about people really. But if you get into somebody who gives you five paragraphs of information with a lot of questions, guess what? That’s a body copy.
Just look for the patterns. But the office to me is always the closer. Most people, and I hate to say it, but we are people of patterns and we live our lives according to those patterns. If your office is filled with a lot of clutter, fun, toys, train kids, a lot of pictures of yourself on top of a mountain with the president, with a fish, whatever, guess what? You’re probably an illustration. If it’s pattern work-related and there’s a one picture that your family, that your spouse brought in to remind you of who they are, guess what? You’re probably a headline.
If you walk in and there’s tons of work and it’s all color coded and they have a chart on the back with what they’re going to accomplish and all their tasks and they have a white board with everything lined up perfectly, horizontal and vertical, and everything is synced up, and their computer and their phone and everything is always being synced, and they’re deep in work with a lot of work-related materials piled up around them, that’s probably a body copy.
If it’s warm and friendly and round table with four chairs and nobody has to sit at the head and there’s lots of reminders of home, including pictures of friends and family and cats and dogs, that’s probably a logo, and you can just walk in by their office, take one glance in, and try to figure out which quadrant do they live in most of the time, and just go there. Live with them in that space. You’re going to make them a lot more comfortable and you’re going to be more successful.
The sad part about it is that so many people tend to know this. Really good sales people know this intuitively, but they forget it when they get into the new business hunt. They try to go for the fast close or too fast or they try to push for information too fast. They don’t follow their own rules. And you have to know how to go into that space and live in that world for that period of time, and that’s what we teach.
Drew: I was just going to ask you, why aren’t agencies better at this? Because we’re really good at it when we teach clients how to do it for their clients, so what in the world gets in the way and keeps us from being better at this?
Bob: Do I get to say bingo if I mention the shoe cobbler’s children?
Drew: Oh god, I hate that phrase. I hate that phrase. But I get that it is a part of the problem. That’s for sure.
Bob: Yeah. We’re so focused on solving client problems so we never look in the mirror. And that’s why, again, I’ll go back to what I said at the beginning. You need to have somebody. I call it the bubble outside the agency. You need to create a little bubble outside the agency that is your new business machine. Because if you let them inside the agency, they’re going to sucked in to solving client problems and work will fill any vacuum. It’s just a truism and everywhere I go, it is what it is.
So you need to create a little bubble off to the side that is separate from the rest of the agency but does new business. And the only thing you have to measure them in is what are their leads? The other part is that, look, some really good sales people. I worked with Jay Chiat and a few other, John Bond and a couple other people. They could walk into any client meeting and pretty much win the account just with their charisma, their charm, their ability to sell whatever, in front of a group of people. They were masters at this. They couldn’t explain it, they couldn’t tell you, they couldn’t describe, but they didn’t know what they were doing. They just had that innate ability to go in and do something amazing.
But the most of us don’t have that innate ability. We can be trained. If we understand it and we know the simple rules. I’m not talking Myers-Briggs where it gets into, “I am an INTJ,” whatever, that’s too confusing, too complicated. I’m a simple guy. I want to have a simple rule. If I generally know that somebody is a headline, then I know that I’m going to go in, be assertive, be aggressive, focus on results, focus on the here and the now, and give them options so they can make decisions. It’s that simple. And 9 times out of 10, you’re going to be right.
Drew: Yeah. I think, again, we talked about earlier, but I think we make it more complicated than it needs to be. And I think just doing it every day, just do it. Do something every day and have a plan and follow the frigging plan.
Bob: Please. Can I get a hallelujah from the crowd?
Bob: Yes, they have a plan, follow the frigging plan, get things done, and every day. It is. I call it the flywheel effect. You really have to get new business into that machine mentality up where you are doing a steady stream of outreach, outbound, nudging, talking, setting up things to go out, to tweet, to post, whether it’s content creation or actually sending stuff out to prospects to inform them about different ways to solve their unique problems. Do all of that and have it ongoing 24/7 because once we get that wheel turning, it becomes easier and easier and easier.
The problem that I see agencies have is they’ll get the wheel turning just a little bit and then they’ll win a piece of business. It’s all hands on deck, they all run and swarm the client problem, they go in and try to solve all of these big terrible problems, and meanwhile the wheel drifts down slowly and stops. And then six months later, they go back and they’re like, “How come we don’t have any leads? How come we don’t have any new business?” Because you all abandoned the wheel. Get back there and start turning it. And once you get it turning, just keep nudging it and keep it turning.
Drew: I think one of the things that we know but we forget is that clients take a long time to decide. This research that we just put in the can, clients said that they take on average, and this is once they’ve engaged in their new business process, so this is not, “I’m thinking about hiring an agency,” but, “I am in the hunt,” up to three months to decide.
So the sales cycle is so long. I talk to agencies about this. It’s sort of like dollar cost average investing. You never know what day the person that’s been getting your e-newsletter for three years or that you’ve been calling once a quarter for five years is all of a sudden going to be in the position to say, “You know what? I’m tired of my old agency,” or “They tick me off,” or, “I have a new job,” or whatever their circumstances, “It’s time to hire a new agency.” So you have to be top of mind on that day.
Bob: I got a great story about that. I worked with a little agency down south and we went in, this was 15 years ago, went in and showed them how to do outbound marketing. And so they set up their machine. They got it running. They hired a really nice young person to help run the machine, and they were outstanding at it and did a great job. They’ve started to grow, got some leads, everything was going fine. One of their prospects that they really wanted was across town. It was a huge account, great account they’ve always wanted to get in, they’ve been in business for 20 years trying to knock down the door of this thing, could never get in.
This guy ran this machine for three years, but he was constantly sending little articles, little, “Hey, I saw this and thought of you” type notes to the big decision maker at this big brand. After three years, they got a phone call out of the blue. Didn’t send them anything, didn’t call them, didn’t do anything, just had been a regular outreach. They got a call out of the blue, said, “Can you guys come over?” They walked in and he just complimented them on their effort, their work, and he said, “Look, you guys have been staying in touch with me for three years. I love that. I really want to reward you. I’m going to give you the account.”
And when they asked why, he said, “Because you were dedicated, you showed interest, and I’m going to give you a chance.” They said, “We’ve been in business for 20 years. We’ve been right across town. How come you never called us?” And he said, “Because my brother-in-law owned an agency, and so I had to keep it with him. But he just sold it, and now I’ve got opportunity to go with somebody else, so I want to give it to you.” They didn’t even have to pitch. He just picked it up and walked out.
Drew: Yeah. I think when you demonstrate that diligence, for lack of a better word, it says to the client, “Heck, if you can be top of mind with me for this long, I suspect you can do that for me and my customers, too.”
Bob: Yeah. Look, we teach that if you have a good prospect, a lead or somebody or a brand that you really want to work with, you’ve got to touch them 15 to 20 times throughout the course of a year. That’s the simple math. That doesn’t mean that you’re pounding them, stalking them or that you’re sending them an email 20 times. God, no, don’t do that. But what it does mean, you want to layer it in in variance.
So you send a little article, then you call them and leave a voicemail. Never ask for a call back. Just simply say, “Hey, I just want to call to make sure that you got the article.” That adds a voice, a layer of familiarity with you to that conversation. And then you send them a little handwritten note afterwards saying, “Hey, just want to follow up to see if you had any questions.” So it’s three touches, fourth touch, and then you skip a couple months and then you do three or four or five again.
And then you skip a couple of months, and then you just do that throughout the course of a year. You set it up and automate it as much as you can. Don’t forget it has to be personal, has to be targeted, has to be specific, but make it real for them. And just keep doing that year in and year out. And amazingly, the agencies that do that, grow and they find it easier than ever because they can fast close more accounts because they’ve already circled first base, trust.
Drew: Right. Agencies are always looking for the new business silver bullet, and what I tell them is the silver bullet is you have to commit to doing it every day. I wish there was a magic. I wish there was something simpler and easier and back to your Bewitched technology, you could just twitch your nose, but that’s not the way it works.
Bob: No, sadly. As much as we’d love to have, and golly I would retire if I could come up with that silver bullet tomorrow, but I’ve been in this business a long time is have you…and I think everyone knows what the answer is. It just takes dedication and focus, but we are all, for whatever reason, we’ll come up with 101 excuses to not do that, and instead keep looking for that rainbow.
And there just isn’t one. So, look, get focused, budget it, time it, set a plan, hire somebody to run the machine, get it running, and then don’t bother them. Don’t get in their way, don’t interrupt their process, don’t get them trying to answer an RFP, don’t get them to go and help solve a client problem. Keep them doing what they’re doing, which is hopefully generating leads.
And then after a few months, start just looking at and saying, “How many leads are we getting?” And if you’re not getting a steady stream of new business leads coming in, then tweak something but don’t stop the machine.
Drew: All right. So you and I could probably talk for another six days on this topic and the importance of chemistry in business, but I want to be mindful of your time and I figure everybody is ready to get off the treadmill now. So we have to wrap up because I have envisioned all of our listeners are walking or exercising or driving to work while we’re while we’re talking.
So I want to make sure we leave them with some action steps, or if somebody wanted to immediately improve their new business process and they wanted to do it at low or no cost, what are two or three things they could do right now and that would make them better at it tomorrow than they are today?
Bob: Well, the first thing is get proactive. So what I always tell agencies, and I get a lot of calls from agencies that are in deep trouble. They’ve gone 15 years without any new business system and they’re 70% of their business account just walked out the door, and now all the sudden they’re in a panic. And I tell them, “Look, sorry, it’s too late. You should have been doing this 10, 15 years ago when you started. But instead, now what can we do right away to ramp things up quickly?”
And I always say, “Come up with a unique point of view.” And it doesn’t have to be unique to the industry, just unique to your prospects. So come up with something. Come up with a problem that you are great at solving. It could be some new shtick. Marketing automation is one that we’ve used for the last couple of years with great success to get an entree into agencies. So call up HubSpot, call up Marketelle, call up whoever, get a couple a little bit of talking points and some knowledge about how marketing automation is going to transform the business, something, and then create a little mailer, create a little something, or if you can’t afford a mailer, then create a landing page.
Just create something to drive people to and get on the phone and start pounding the phone, and ask the question, “Hey, look, we’ve done some great work in this field or we solved this problem, we’ve created something unique, would you like to learn more?” That is the easiest way to try to ramp it up and it is a numbers game. Call 300 people. It’s that simple. If nothing else then go to LinkedIn. Set up a webinar or some type of system where you can show them, “Here the top 10 things to watch out if you’re going to do social media, if you’re going to do Facebook marketing, if you’re going to do whatever it is.”
But again, drive them to a landing page, try to get their name, try to get their information. Create something that they’re going to react to. I had one agency that got a good amount of traction because they came out and said that social media is the rainbow that everyone is chasing, but there is no pot of gold. Then they came up with this whole thing about why the whole digital realm is just failing miserably.
“And if you want to learn more, contact us,” and they had millions, not millions, dozens and dozens of phone calls over the next few weeks because everyone was like, “What are you talking about? I want to learn more. I feel like I’m spending more money on digital and not getting anything.” So they hit a hot button. That was a great thing to send out.
And then follow up, work in your network. That’s the last thing that I always tell people is call up all your old clients, call up all your current clients, and call up all of your prospects that you pitched and failed miserably, whatever reason, but just ask them. Ask them, “Is there anything going on? Do you know anybody else? What can I do to help?” And amazingly, I call it the Zen of new business is that kind of…once you start thinking and putting a little effort into a new business, it’s like it comes back in a positive way. You get leads. Shocking, I know.
Drew: It is in some ways so simple and yet it is so complicated. And as we said earlier, agencies struggle because they’re putting out client first all day and I get it, but there is no substitute for it. So great counsel. Any final words or thoughts that you have that you want the agency owners that are listening to this to hear?
Bob: Yeah. Just going back to chemistry, let’s just circle around on that one. It works on new business amazingly well. I won one of the biggest accounts recently in the world by purely getting the agency, because we had no chance, no hope, no anything of winning this account. And the agency called me out of desperation and so I went in, spent a few months working with them and they went in and won the account because we did an entire 100% chemistry play.
It’s all about focusing on the importance of chemistry in business and winning that new business. So I know it works on new business, and it has always and will always be one of the key deciding factors that prospects have. But do not forget about how important chemistry is at working with clients. I can’t stress that enough. If you treat all of your clients the same way, guess what? You’re going to be irritating and driving a bunch of them away. So if you have headline clients, give them options. If you have a logo client, make sure your account staff knows how to build up the social site. Take them shopping, invite them to lunch. Heck, invite them to your house for barbecue. Logos love that.
That’s the type of difference in approach that I want agencies to understand, not just in new business but with working with clients and making sure that all of your clients you’re building deeper, long lasting relationships. We all know client churn is at an all-time high, and big part of that I believe is the fact that we have a whole new crop of account service people coming in, that don’t focus on the relationship. They think it all can be done through messaging and email and whatever, and it is no. Sometimes, some people, you need to get face to face.
Drew; Yeah. Great counsel. But if people want to learn more about you and your company and want to reach out to you, what are the best ways for them to track you down?
Bob: The best way is just find me online. I’m everywhere, pretty much LinkedIn, social. I float out there in the ether along with everyone else. But go to my website. It’s sandersconsulting.com, all one word. Easy to find, easy to do. Look, if you really want just Google Chemistry Sanders Consulting and a hundred links will show up. The other way is make sure you follow me on Twitter. It’s New Business Hawk. So the old Twitter handle @NewBusinessHawk and you can always ask questions through Twitter or are just email me bob, B-O-B, @sandersconsulting.com.
Drew: Beautiful. You know what? I know you’ve been doing this for a long time and you get asked to do these interviews all the time so I’m really grateful that you took the time to share your expertise and generously talked about a lot of ideas and were very forthcoming with things that people can do right away. So I know everyone who listened to this is feeling a little more inspired, a little more hopeful about new business, and I am really grateful that you took the time to share. Thank you so much for that today.
Bob: Well, thank you. Look, we love new business over here at Sanders Consulting, and more importantly I love winning. I love helping agencies when there’s nothing like that feeling. It’s an adrenaline rush. It just brings me back to my old military days where you have that one problem and you have a team and you go out and you solved it, and when you win and you capture the flag or you win the account, Ooh Rah! That’s all I can say.
Drew: That is for sure. Thank you very much, listeners. Be sure that you go check out Bob’s website. Lots of great content there. You can dig more into the whole importance of chemistry in business thing, and if you have more questions, I know Bob will be happy to answer them. So thanks for listening to us today and come on back and we’ll have something new for you next week.
That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book, and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money attracts bigger clients and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.