The typical agency owner isn’t a natural salesperson. They don’t enjoy chasing after business but they love engaging a prospect once they walk in the door. The idea of cold calling in our business has always been dismissed as “never works” but what if there is a happy medium?
My podcast guest Ryan O’Donnell joins me on the show with his message that sales is really all about automation and efficiency. Ryan explains that when you use automation in the right way, you lay the right foundation for sales, which inevitably gets you in front of the right people and gets you more opportunities to have the right conversations.
Ryan and his team are behind two successful products, Sellhack and Replyify, which were built to help people drive sales into their organizations through automation.
Join Ryan and I and start thinking a little differently about how you approach sales for your agency with:
- Why sales is all about automation and efficiency
- Using data to take the guesswork out of the prospect search
- Crafting compelling emails to prospects based on what you know about their competition (that you already work with)
- Figuring out how many prospects you need to capture every week at the top of your sales funnel in order to get the number of new leads you need at the bottom of the funnel
- SellHack’s algorithm for verifying the email address of a person who you might just know their name and company
- Replyify: a tool specifically devised for sending out cold email campaigns and building a sales process to contact prospects in other ways
- Strategies for crafting an email using B2B Sales Techniques that works for cold selling B2B products and services
- How and when to ask to schedule time with a prospect
- B2B Sales Techniques
- Tiering your offerings and basing communication with prospects based on the tier
- Using the ideas from this podcast not only inside your agency, but also with your clients
Ryan O’Donnell is a Midwest kid who moved to NYC after college and landed a job on Wall Street making 500 calls a day. He hated it, followed a passion for tech, and ended up joining a company early that eventually sold to Yahoo for $850M. He grew a business unit from $0 – $20M and left Yahoo to get involved in a startup.
Fast forward three meandering years trying to generate sales and Ryan decided to build a product to speed up the time to revenue for any business selling a product or service B2B called Selhack. He’s successfully running this company today, helping his clients get in front of the right prospects faster and with a better close rate than they’d been doing on their own. He’s a father of 3, husband, and hobbyist prepper, and he’s in relentless pursuit of scratch golf.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/ryan-odonnell/) 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:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- More on Ryan’s Background
- Sales Automation and Efficiency
- How Sellhack Can Help Your Business
- Ryan’s B2B Sales Techniques
- How Replyify Will Optimize Your Email Campaign
- How to Maintain an Ongoing Relationship With a Client
- How to Improve Lead Generation and Sales
- Where to Reach Ryan
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency podcast, presented by HubSpot. We’ll 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 experience as both an agency owner and agency consult to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew McLellan: Hey there, everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency, and today we’re going to talk sales. I’m going to tell you a little bit about our guest and then we are going to jump right into the conversation.
More on Ryan’s Background
Ryan O’Donnell is a guy who grew up in the Midwest, moved to New York City after college and, like all of us, needed to pay the rent and so landed a job on Wall Street, making 500 calls a day. Quickly realized that he hated it but had a big passion for technology so he ended up joining a company early, which eventually sold to Yahoo. He then stayed there for a while and grew a business unit up to about $20 million and then left Yahoo to get involved in the start-up. Fast forward a few years of him doing that and now he runs two companies … well, a company that has two products, SellHack and Replyify, both that are built to help people drive sales into their organization, we’re going to talk about that. He is also a father of three, a husband a hobbyist prepper, which means that if there is any natural disaster Ryan’s house is where you should head, and apparently he has a little bit of time left because he is in a relentless pursuit of scratch golf. Ryan, welcome to the podcast.
Ryan O’Donnell: Drew, thanks for having me. Glad to be here.
Drew McLellan: Sounds like your first sales job left a pretty bad taste in your mouth, which I think is where a lot of agency owners are today, the idea of sales, even the S word gives them a little bit of sweat on their upper lip-
Ryan O’Donnell: Different kind of sales. That was a different kind of sale. For me, I enjoy talking to people and I love what I do, and I hope the folks who are here listening are going to hear some of that come through. I might get heated at some points and I’ll try to keep the expletives as limited as possible. I love what I do. I look at sales …. Sales, it’s another conversation, and I love talking to people and helping them out.
I think the biggest thing with my first gig on Wall Street is it was sales but there was no process around it. It was so much wasted time preparing for the sale and building up and writing out lead cards, and researching people and trying to talk my way around a gatekeeper that … There was no process around it, and it was just beating your head against the wall. It was a numbers game and, ultimately what I’m in today is all about efficiency and automation with the sales process and taking some of the things that I learned to create a great disdain for and 10, 15 years later created software that I would’ve killed to have had back then.
Sales Automation and Efficiency
Drew McLellan: When I hear you talk about sales automation and efficiency, and I think about sales and the relationship that you’re trying to create, help me connect the dots between those two.
Ryan O’Donnell: Right. Sales activities, there’s a starting point, and you wouldn’t even believe how many people get the starting point wrong, and the starting point is figuring out who to go after, who to target, who is a likely prospect? For sales and for outbound sales, and specifically if you’re an agency owner, if you’re in business development working at an agency and on your head is this requirement that you need more clients, you need to go figure out how to find them. One of the biggest mistakes that people make right off the bat is they work off of assumptions and they don’t work off of data.
When we consult with clients or just when I have a conversation with a new client, or a new prospect, and they said, “Okay, I want to build a prospect list. I want to do this. I want to do that,” I asked them, “Well, who are you going after? What do your segments look like? What do your prospect segments look like?” Then, I get this generic answer, and I say, “All right, here’s your exercise, go and look at your current clients, if you have them, if you don’t have clients and you’re a new business, go and look at your competitor’s clients, and I want you to pick 10 clients. I want you to pick 10 people who signed a deal with you, that you work with, that you reached out to, and the go and research them. I want you to figure out what are the unique characteristics about each. Are they in a specific location? Do they have a specific title? Have they been at the company for a certain period of time? Does their regency have a particular focus, or do they do something? Can you find density? Can you find him know that out of those 10 clients, four of them are managing directors based in London, working in technology at companies with less than 50 employees and have some sort of web application?” I just constructed my first prospect search right there and I took all of the guesswork out of it.
That’s the first place to start with regards to having a focus and wrapping a process around that. That’s the first steps and then you need to go and find them and then you need to contact them and then you need to follow up with them, then you need to work them through your pipeline however that’s designed. A lot of different touch points, but having that foundation of going after the right person and using data to be able to target the prospects that have the highest likelihood to convert, that’s rule number one. That’s where you start before you start automating a process that’s going to keep that pipeline full.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. In our vernacular, I talk about that as creating a sweet spot client filter, so what are the commonalities of your best clients that if you could duplicate those clients, what would the duplicate look like? What would the clone look like? How do you go after that?
For most agencies, I think one of the challenges is, for them it’s a numbers game but it’s a different kind a numbers game. The reality is, for most agencies today, on-boarding more than, I’m going to be generous, half a dozen good-sized clients in a year would cripple their agencies. They don’t need 20,000 new clients, but they have to start with a big number of that cloned prospect to get to three or four clients who are ready to sign on the dotted line and give them money because the agency sales cycle is so long.
Ryan O’Donnell: Fair point. For the agency clients that we have in particular who are using both of our tools to sell, you have to think about it … This is a broad strokes comment, there’s folks listening here who are going to be from large global agencies and work with Fortune 100 clients and there might be folks listening who it’s a five-person agency and they’re focused on digital and SEO and that, you’ve got to think about you when your message …. Even after you find these people and you start to reach out to them, how do you make your message stand apart? So starting with that point of you looking at your existing clients, when you start that outreach and start to talk to folks, you can use that. You’re creative people by default. If you’re working at an agency, I’m going to skew towards believing that you are fundamentally more creative than the average bear-
Drew McLellan: You certainly understand messaging, right? Absolutely.
Ryan O’Donnell: And you understand the power of persuasive copy and psychological motivators. Those are strengths that should be used to your advantage. When you’re actually writing your email because you’ve figured out your target prospect segment and you’re able to find people who look like your existing clients, you can then play off of psychological motivators like fear, like competition. You can reference the fact that you’re working with companies like their competitors and you can set yourself apart from the 15 emails I get every day that most of them get automatically routed into my spam or promotions folder because they’re coming from some random Gmail account, offering me first page ranking on Google and SEO services and this and that, so you’ve got a chance to … You’re competing with a lot of noise out there if you are a digital agency, I’m using that as an example here, but you can play to your strengths where some of these more generic offers that … They’re coming from bucket shops, they’re come from companies who do this as a factory, not necessarily taking your approach, which might be more of a hands-on relationship, get into the company and then extend out, helping them build out, marketing related activities across multiple channels, so play to your advantage.
Drew McLellan: I know one of the things where you have a depth of expertise is speeding up the process, and for a lot of agency owners part of what makes sales so onerous to them is that it just takes so long. So talk to us a little bit about what are some of the tactics, or tricks, or methodologies for, A, getting more consistent in sales, because I think that’s part of what speeds it up, and, B, what are some things to do that can escalate the process as best it can be escalated? Part of it is just that’s the reality of the buying cycle.
Ryan O’Donnell: Right. Depending on how much net new business you need to do to hit your numbers. It could be six new clients for the year, that could be … Six clients could be four clients too many depending on the complexity of the deals you’re doing. It could be six clients a month that you need, so depending on who’s listening there’s different ways to interpret what I’m getting into here. This is a funnel, I’m sure you’ve all drawn funnels on a whiteboard on a client presentation and talking about how you’re going to go broad and then work people through this funnel that’s going to trickle out into new business for your client’s clients, so it’s that funnel. You need to have an understanding in terms of how many new prospects you need to initiate into the top of your funnel that over time are going to produce a repeatable number of qualified leads and qualified next steps, whether that’s an in-person meeting or an online demo, but you need to figure that number out.
How Sellhack Can Help Your Business
If you don’t have that number, you can start with the broad numbers, you can say, “Okay, I need to reach out to 50. I need to find 50 new contacts a week in my sweet spot and I need to initiate my sales process or my campaign targeting these 50 people.” You let that bake for a couple of weeks … Very experimental, so applying the scientific method, start 50 and then pay attention to what happens. Of those 50, how many shakeout into whatever your desired action is, meeting demo, so on and so forth? If you don’t have enough qualified meetings coming out of it, dial it up. If you have too many and you can’t manage it, dial it back, but it’s getting to a point where you have a process in place, and then you feed the beast. It’s rinse and repeat. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, you continue adding the number of new prospects to the top of your funnel that you need to produce a number of your leads or demos on the backside. I can get into the weeds here on what the pipeline looks like and what automation is.
Drew McLellan: Well, one of the things that I know your tool works on … A lot of people say, “Okay, so I’ve identified the companies or I might have gone on LinkedIn and I might have figured out who the CMO is, but how do I track them down and how do I get in front of them?” That’s one of the things that your tool helps with, right? Is the list building and the whole idea of verifying emails, right?
Ryan O’Donnell: Right. SellHack at its core, what we’ve developed over the last four years, has been an algorithm, a decision entry, which takes, at its core, an input value of a contact’s first name, last name and company, at the very least. We can take and run that through our algorithm and produce an email address with a confidence score as to the likelihood of that email actually being correct, and we have a 12 step verification process.
I’m sure most of the folks who are listening here have gone out and at some point in their lives, and probably at some point in the recent future, have come across someone that they would like to contact and they don’t know how to contact them because they’re not connected on LinkedIn so they can’t send an email, they can’t see the person’s email address, but on LinkedIn most of the emails in the contact section you’ll get what [email protected], not necessarily … If you saw my personal inbox, your sales message to me is lost amongst receipts for Amazon and everything else, so you need their corporate email. If you’re going to do a business transaction and you want to reach out to someone about doing business with them, you need a corporate email. Corporate emails are not readily available on the internet so you need a way to deduce them.
What we found, and really how we got into this, is our last a couple company’s ago, I’ve been doing startups for a while, sales was the bottleneck and I would spend two hours a day searching online, finding people and then trying to guess their email address. It was just such a waste of time so we built SellHack. Version One was email verification, and that’s what we did. If you have a name and a company, we will help to produce an email address for you in seconds.
Drew McLellan: It seems like that would be a huge time saver for an agency that’s building out a list, especially if they are looking at regional, national or international basis and, especially if they’re in a niche. If I’m in the construction industry, so I’m looking for CMOs of construction related companies, they’re going to be scattered all over and pretty concise companies.
Ryan O’Donnell: Sure. You can go and hunt for those people, you can go to their websites, you can go to industry associations, find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, also consider … Protip here, I guess pro tip number one is there are likely conferences for these people. Whether or not you go to the conference and present, a lot of these conferences have attendee lists and you can get an attendee list if you do a $500 sponsorship, you’ll get a list, or you can pay six grand to get the contact info included with that. With SellHack, if you have a list, you can upload it to us and we’ll get you the contact information for a lot less time and a lot less money.
There are a lot of different ways of getting to that same end point of you have a person or you have a group of people, whether it’s five or 5,000, and you need their contact info to make an initial outreach that’s where SellHack comes into play.
Drew McLellan: There’s so much more that I want to ask you and before we get into all of that we need to take a quick break and then we’ll be right back.
If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, odds are you’ve heard me mention the AMI Peer Networks or the Agency Owner Network, and what that is really is that’s a … It’s a visage group or an EO group, only everybody around the table owns an agency in a noncompetitive market. It’s a membership model, they come together twice a year for two days, two days in the spring and two days the fall, and they work together to share best practices, they show each other their full financials to there’s a lot of accountability, we bring speakers in and we spend a lot of time problem-solving around the issues that agency owners are facing. If you’d like to learn more about it, go to agencymanagementinstitute.com/network. Okay, let’s get back to the show.
Ryan’s B2B Sales Techniques
Some B2B sales techniques the listeners are thinking right now is all of that is fine and good but I make a lot of sales through referrals and face-to-face meetings and all of that, can I really sell high-end B2B services through email? What has been your experience and what have you observed, or in your own case done, around that topic?
Ryan O’Donnell: Right. I make a lot of money off of referrals as well. I love referrals. Referrals are great, but a referral to look at to your business and fully rely on referrals … Maybe you’re happy with that, but you’re missing an opportunity. I challenge anyone listening to this, you’re likely preaching to your clients a multi-channel strategy to impact your brand reach or your total conversion, and in order to do that you need to be on social, you need to have a content strategy, you need to be doing this and be doing that, so practice what you preach.
Drew McLellan: Well, my issue with referrals … I’m like you, I love referrals, and they’re good for our business, but they also force you to do work with whoever walks in the door, so what I want agencies to do is have a more robust new business or biz-dev program so that they can evaluate the referrals based on the value they bring to the agency and also what value the agency can bring to that referral because every referral isn’t a good referral, isn’t a great client, and so it allows us to be more genuine in who we work with and it allows us to only cherry pick the clients that we can really knock it out of the park for. But it’s hard to have that discipline without other business coming in the door through other methodologies.
Ryan O’Donnell: Right. In sales, one of the most effective tactics that I learned early on and still practice this today, in fact I did this this morning right before our call, I walked away from a deal. I said, “No, I’m not a good fit right. With all due respect, I don’t think this relationship is going to work out. I don’t think your expectations and my ability to deliver are aligned, and we respectfully need to pass.” If you rely on referrals and you’re finding that a lot of those conversations are happening and they’re all from referrals, having an outbound strategy in place is still going to help you be able to say no more often and not take on a piece of business that’s not a great fit because you have that leverage, because you’ve gone out and you’ve built up a pipeline of the best potential clients that you can work with and you just took back control over your sales process and your ability to execute on the deal with a new client.
Drew McLellan: Absolutely. Given all of that is true, and I agree with you, I think it is, how does a pretty high-end … These are not people who are selling stuff for $1 or $10, how does a high-end, big price tag, B2B business really use email as efficiently and effectively as possible to drive sales while using B2B sales techniques?
How Replyify Will Optimize Your Email Campaign
Ryan O’Donnell: Email is one channel, and I’ll tangent and then answer your question as I go through this. So the most effective sellers that we see … SellHack is used for building your prospect list and getting contact information, we have another platform that we run called Replyify, R-E-P-L-Y-I-F-Y.com, Replyify is cold email automation, that’s how we describe it. I’m sure you’ve all used tools like MailChimp, for example, to send out your newsletters or your client’s newsletters, or tee up a campaign, those systems in particular are built for … MailChimp wants to work with United Airlines to send out their weekly last-minute deals newsletter. They don’t necessarily want your 15 cold emails to people who’ve never heard from you. I won’t go into the weeds on why, but it’s explicit in their terms of service. They block that.
We built Replyify specifically for sending out cold email campaigns in very much the same way that you would structure a marketing automation campaign, you’re going to pre-write your templates and you’re going to use custom inserts or variables to be able to customize those templates, “hi,” first name, “saw you worked at,” company name, “I work with clients like competitor one, competitor two, competitor three,” and the system just feel fills in all this information based on the data that you feed it and then we send out email one on day one and then you might schedule your campaign to say, okay, wait two days and then send out email two to anyone who hasn’t replied to email one, wait five days send out email three to anyone who hasn’t replied to one email or two, and just keep following the sequence that you create.
What we built into that, and coming back directly to your question, you can rely on email, and in the next couple of minutes we’ll talk about effective emails and effective communication via email, but email is one channel. The most effective people that we see … Within our tool, when you create a campaign, you can schedule non-email related tasks at specific time intervals, so you can say on day five, give me a reminder to engage with the person on Twitter, or set a custom reminder on day 21 if I haven’t heard back from them to send them something, post … You work at an agency, get creative. You want to send a whole bag of-
Drew McLellan: In other words, Replyify will allow me to build out an entire sales process not just paying emails?
Ryan O’Donnell: Yes, with Replyify, you are replicating your sales pipeline. If you’re sitting here and you’re wondering what a sales pipeline is or you just don’t have one, you rely on writing emails one at a time and then putting a reminder on your calendar to follow up with the person five days from now if they haven’t replied, Replyify is going to send out … You schedule your emails, but then you fold in … It’s flexible, you fold in whatever your other sales related activities are, whether it’s a phone call or social selling activities, sending a postcard or a box of chocolates, dropping by the office, you can create your campaign however you want with the fundamental purpose of what we built. There’s an automation component, but then one the biggest challenges is that the folks who sell have, and no one wants to admit it, especially to our bosses, that we forget to follow up. We wait too often and we drop the ball and we let deals go cold, and then when we finally remember to follow up with it we’re either too embarrassed that the person didn’t respond to our first email and we don’t want to expose ourselves to potential rejection that we send one email and then back into a corner and move on and forget about it, or we let a deal go cold and we’re embarrassed that we didn’t follow up with the person for two months, it’s happened to me-
Drew McLellan: We assume there’s been too much time so we let it go.
Ryan O’Donnell: Right, right.
Drew McLellan: I just read a study, and I think these statistics have held true for many years, that basically somebody is about ready to buy after the eighth or ninth touch point and most salespeople stop after three or four. Again, if you don’t have a system or a processor, or a tool like this to keep reminding you to keep staying in touch, there’s a lot of deals that you’re halfway down the road with that you drop the ball.
Ryan O’Donnell: Exactly. If you’re using a CRM or relying on … In my opinion, I think CRMs can be valuable for organizations, especially because it instills a process, but I see way too many companies where the CRM is basically designed for the sales manager or the VP of sales to keep tabs on their team and to be able to report up the chain for the board, for the president, on numbers for forecasting. They’re not necessarily built to help a salesperson just do their job, and their job is to continue to follow up until the person says no or until you’ve communicated your message to them and not drop the ball, not forget to do an activity because you were lazy or you forgot or you had to take the kids to the dentist and life gets in the way of our sales too often. We built a system based upon B2B sales techniques which are designed to specifically help whether you’re in B2B software sales or if you’re in business development at your agency or you own an agency and you just need some more clients. We use unique B2B sales techniques to build a flexible system to help keep you on track, keep the deals moving forward, automate what we can and remind you when it’s time to do something, and then it’s on you to actually do it.
How to Maintain An Ongoing Relationship With a Client
Drew McLellan: On the B2B side, I’m sure you have seen some colossal mistakes regarding B2B sales techniques, and some great successes, so what are some B2B sales techniques for email in terms of I am selling a big ticket B2B item or service, or an ongoing relationship? What are some best practices for using the tool effectively? We got to one, which is, obviously it’s not just email, it’s got to be multimedia, and some of those are analog and some of those are digital, what are some effective ways you’ve seen people use email to open the door?
Ryan O’Donnell: I’m biased because I’ve ingrained some of these tactics into my every day, but pay attention to your inbox, what got you to open an email from a random person? I have a Google spreadsheet that is, I think there’s like 350 subject lines in there. Anytime I open an email or I like a subject, and then I think I open the email because I like the subject line, it piqued my curiosity, it got my attention, I make a note of it. I’ll borrow it or refer to it in the future if it fits into a campaign of mine, so pay attention to what gets you to respond.
Once you actually open the email, pay attention to the emails that you’re deleting right away or the emails that you’re actually reading and potentially taking action on. And what you’ll start to see and, what I bet you start to see, is that the emails that you are taking action on are short, are three to five sentences, and have a I don’t care if you’re selling a $10 million software installation or you’re pitching for a big line of business from a consumer goods company, you’re going to take over there their multibillion-dollar business. When you’re reaching out via email there needs to be a real simple call to action, three to five sentences, short and sweet with a low risk for the recipient, a low-risk call to action.
Everyone here listening knows what a call to action is, you tell your clients all the time about right, so don’t ask for something that’s going to require commitment greater than what the prospect is likely to say, “Okay, I can commit to that.” Don’t tell them to sign up for a year-
Drew McLellan: You mean that I shouldn’t tell you that I’m going to call you on Tuesday and then schedule an appointment to come and see you?
Ryan O’Donnell: You could say that. You could say that, but there are different ways of saying that. One example, when I do cold emails and dog-food my own tech, which means I’m in the weeds every day building lists and dropping people in the campaigns, targeted prospects, targeted campaigns, I’ll typically … It’s a mix of give-and-take. In a campaign, let’s say I have 10 emails scheduled to go out over 60 days, there’s a mix of give-and-take in there so I’m going to give some things to you and I’m going to take some things from you. Taking is a request for your time, giving is I’m going to share with you something interesting. I’m going to share a white paper. I’m going to share an example of some work we did. I’m going to give you some things, I’m going to take some things. Those things I take are going to be a request for your time or a meeting, so I might sign an email off … Again, really simple call to action.
Here’s one example email, “Hey, Bill, I was doing some research online and your name came up as someone similar to one of my existing clients, Bob Fritz,” or, “found you through Bob Fritz,” for example, and they’re like, “We work with companies like X and Y and Z too,” and then your value proposition, “I have some ideas I’d like to share with you. What does your calendar look like next week for a quick call (10 minutes max)? What is your calendar next week, Tuesday afternoon for a quick call, 10 minutes max? If that doesn’t work for you, reply back with an alternative time or here’s my link to schedule a call. Here’s my online calendar link.” I put it to them in such a way where I didn’t just say, “Here’s a link to my calendar if you want to schedule some time to call.” I gave that as an alternate. It’s just good copywriting. I suggested a time, if that doesn’t work for him, I give him two options, he can reply back and give me a different time or he can, at his own leisure, visit my calendar link, find time that’s convenient for him or her, and book it.
Drew McLellan: Do you recommend when you’re working with clients that they start out there or is it value, value, value and eventually ask for the meeting? Am I going right for a meeting or am I providing value in multiple emails first before I presume that they would want to talk with me?
Ryan O’Donnell: It depends. It all depends on when you’re structuring an email campaign, every email campaign should have a goal, and I know what my goal is … When I conduct my campaigns and do my outreach, my goal is I want a time scheduled with the person because I want to qualify them in or qualify them out as quickly as possible. My initial meeting length is 15 minutes. I do not offer more time than 15 minutes. In two minutes I’m going to know whether or not you’re a good fit based on the three questions that I ask you. I ask, if you have a sales process, and tell me what it looks like, how many people are on your team and how many prospects are you targeting per month? If they don’t have a process in place or they’re not building a process, then I know that they might not be a great fit for our elite plans, our higher value plans, our bigger volume plans. I get a good sense there. If there’s 10 people on their team, I’ll know that so I’m sizing up the opportunity, I know what I’m working with based on the three questions and based on the response I’m going to quickly be able to say, “Look, I don’t think we’re a good fit. Here’s what I would suggest doing.” My goal is to get to a quick call.
In the three minutes or so when I can qualify them and figure out if this is or if this isn’t a good deal, then I’ve got some time left to hop on a screen share and give them a quick demo and move to the next up from there.
Drew McLellan: I’m curious, when you get on the phone with someone or you have identified that somebody is not candidate for one of your higher-end programs, do you have a different bucket that you drop them into because they might buy something different or do you walk away from them? Because I think one of the things that agency owners are challenged with is it’s difficult to walk away from someone who has a dollar hanging out of their pocket, even if that dollar is not really meant for what you sell.
How to Improve Lead Generation and Sales
Ryan O’Donnell: Right. In my business i use B2B sales techniques, it’s B2B software sales, I run a software as a service business so I wanted to be careful on the analogies or best practices I make with regards to agency businesses because it’s not my sweet spot. But for us, we have tiered plans right, and the lower the plan tier … In our entry level, we’ve got a free option with a taste, and then the first plan is $19 a month. We’ve got plans that go up to a couple thousand dollars a month. Each of those plans have a different touch point and interaction with my team. That’s probably similar to an agency model, but your agency, if you’re listening to this, you might not have different product offerings or a light engagement versus trying to get in and do a multi-channel one-year commitment for a particular brand, but for us, we have more of the self-serve option. But then if you have a larger team or you’re looking at higher volume, then we’re happy to spend some time working with you to help you build out that system because of the impact to your business and the potential financial opportunity for my business.
Folks who are looking for 50 leads a month, that’s more of the self-serve model, and I’ll -respectfully communicate that to them and basically say, “Look, this is what you’re getting with the free version. My suggestion would be to sign up for a free account at sellhack.com, install the chrome extension, once you hit your 10 free leads that we give you, if you need to upgrade from there for more emails, it’s $19 for 150 emails, and that’s month-to-month. You can upgrade or downgrade or cancel at any time. Our pricing works as your business needs ebb and flow.
Drew McLellan: What’s interesting though is I think agencies could adopt that same methodology, which is … Right now, I think a lot of times agencies only think of clients in terms of one channel and so they try and sell someone who only has $10 a $100 product as opposed to saying, “Okay, you know what? I’m going to tier our offerings,” or “I’m going to tier how we talk to prospects,” so they could drop them into a different bucket and have a different email campaign. I guess I’m trying to is there’s no reason to keep climbing up the mountain if there’s nothing there, but if you have different levels of offerings you could continue to have conversations, you just need to be really careful about tailoring those conversations, which it sounds like is the model that you guys apply.
Ryan O’Donnell: Exactly. Where the automation of both of our products … Sorry, I’m not trying to make this a big commercial, these are just tools that we use to do our job every day. Where the automation really starts to make an impact is, and we love seeing the light bulb go off in our clients when they realize that they don’t just have one prospect segment or ideal customer, they actually have many different segments, and each of those segments … A VP of sales at a 5,000 person company cares about different things than a VP of sales at a five-person company. So you want to talk to them differently.
One of those email tricks that we were talking about, or best practices, start with a segment based off of your research that we covered in the first minute and then segment those segments so that you have different campaigns that are going out with different calls to action. For your bigger potential deals, you might be willing to hop on a plane tomorrow to go meet someone in San Francisco if the opportunity is potentially large enough. So for those bigger deals where you’re going after the larger clients, your email campaign, your call to action might be, “I’ll actually be in San Francisco next week on Tuesday if you have time to meet,” and if they say yes, you better book that flight. If you don’t book that flight, you’re not serious about your business. But you’re not going to offer that to a five-person startup that just raised half a million dollars. You’re likely not going to do it for that company. So you have different campaigns, different segments, different approaches, different calls to actions, different goals for each of these. You create your campaign, you drop prospects into it. Then emails go out, you get prompted when it’s time to do something, and that combination should increase your deal flow and, ultimately your revenue.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. I think for a lot of agencies it’s about, A, only talking to the right audiences, so, again, as we talked about earlier, that sweet spot client filter or defining who that segment or prospect is, and then, B, really getting more at bats, getting more opportunities to have conversations. I think for a lot of agencies, they underestimate how long it’s going to take or how many people they need to talk to, to really land the right size and the right fit client.
I think what we’re talking about today is how do you multiply those numbers when odds are you’re a small staff and by the way, you’re an agency owner, so sales isn’t the only thing you have to do? I think that’s a lot of this automation is around the idea of how do you at least make sure that something’s happening every day that you can follow up on or that gives you an opportunity to go to step two with somebody.
Ryan O’Donnell: Right, I agree with that, and I would say if what we’re talking about here … Because I know it’s a new concept for a lot of folks. This whole approach really hasn’t started in terms of putting a process and putting software and technology around automating these sales activities. I mean, this is fairly new. We’re talking last couple of years. This has started to become more widely adopted.
It’s amazing when I got on a call with someone who works at a Fortune 500 company who’s been in software or B2B sales for the last 25 years, and it’s expletive ridden. They’re like, “I can’t believe that something like this exists. I’ve spent 20 years-“
Drew McLellan: Doing it by hand.
Ryan O’Donnell: “Doing it by hand, putting Post-it notes up on my computer monitor, putting reminders on my calendar and doing it by hand.” Where some millennials are just coming into the workforce and they’re getting started in sales or business development, they don’t know anything different-
Drew McLellan: Right, they’re more like, “Well, of course you can do this.”
Ryan O’Donnell: Exactly. If this whole process sounds complicated, it’s really not. It requires some thought, some attention … One of the best pieces of advice I got was write drunk, edit sober, so it’s late night, over time. You don’t have to have it completed but you have to write out your emails and think about who they’re going to and refine the copy, you likely have copywriters at your agency, task them with persuasive creative copy, come up with your campaign and drop it into a system that’s going to just automate this for you, and you wait for the replies to come in.
Drew McLellan: The other thing we haven’t talked about, or I’m getting to the point where we’re going to have to wrap up our conversation, but the other point we haven’t talk about is this potentially is not just for your own agency use. I have to think that a lot of listeners are listening to us going, “Well, I have five clients that I can do this with. I can help them with their lead generation,” and so it’s not just about your own business, although that’s where I wanted the focus of this conversation to be, but it is also about how do you use these new tools to serve clients better.
Ryan O’Donnell: Exactly. When I referred to those millennials, and I don’t want to put an age range on it, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the number of, I guess I’ll use the word younger, but folks coming out of college. Maybe they’ve done sales for a couple of years, they want to start a new business. They don’t necessarily have the creative assets to start an agency but they know how to do sales, they’re becoming sales agencies, and they’re going to clients and they’re pitching them just like you might be pitching a multi-channel campaign or to run an engagement for someone. They’re saying, “Hey, look, we’re going to deliver you leads. You tell us more about your business and we’re going to go out and we’re going to find the prospects, we’re going to write the emails, we’re going to use a tool like Replyify to set up the emails.” Some of them are even creating a look-alike domain, so if you’re going after XYZ.com, and that’s your client, they’re creating “get XYZ.com” and they’re making up an email address for themselves almost as an agent, and then they’re sending on behalf … They’re walling off the leads and they’re selling those leads. They generate the demand, they find the prospect who says, “Yeah, I want a meeting,” and then they’re selling those for a price to their client.
Drew McLellan: In lead generation, even if you’re a traditional agency, lead generation is a big part of what clients are looking for today from their agencies, so whether you call yourself a traditional agency or a sales agency, it’s a rare agency today that is not concerned about helping their clients find more leads. A lot of applications to this, I think.
Ryan O’Donnell: Exactly.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Hey, I would love to keep chatting, but we need to wrap this up, so thank you, first of all, for sharing your expertise and your experiences with us. I have no doubt that we have people’s wheels turning as we’ve been talking today and, hopefully a lot of them will start to think a little differently about how they approach sales for their agency and maybe for their clients, so thank you for your time.
Ryan O’Donnell: My pleasure. Thank you. I like discomfort, so keep those wheels turning, be uncomfortable, but know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a process and the right software wrapped around that process. Once you get over the initial hump of setting it up, it’s on autopilot. It’s rinse and repeat.
Where to Reach Ryan
Drew McLellan: Yeah, yeah. I know you’ve put together some special discounts for the listeners, so, Ryan and his team are working on some discounts specifically for listeners of this episode so for sure you’re going to get your next 100 leads for free. I can promise you that. And they’ve got some other things cooking, so rather than put it in the show notes for anyone to find, all you need to do is shoot Ryan an email, it’s [email protected], and he will send you all the information, the links, the discount codes, whatever needs to happen for you to access the tools and discounts. Thanks for doing that, Ryan.
Ryan O’Donnell: Pleasure. In case it didn’t come through, it’s Ryan, [email protected], S-E-L-L-H-A-C-K.com. I think my commitment to folks who are listening here is send the email, reference the fact that you heard this conversation on Build A Better Agency webinar podcast, and I’ll make sure you get upgraded access to both tools that we offer with no out-of-pocket cost so you can at least try it for yourself and determine whether or not something like this could work for you and you don’t have any skin in the game. My bet is that it’s going to work for you, and that’s why we’re in business.
Drew McLellan: Beautiful. Alright, if folks want to track you down other than your email address, we will include the email obviously in the show notes, where in the social world can they find you? Are you on Twitter, on other places … Because I’m assuming you’re talking about this kind of thing all the time as part of your content strategy.
Ryan O’Donnell: Our Twitter is fully automated. We blog, when we blog we write longer form blog posts, we like to get into the weeds, we don’t do a lot on Twitter in terms of Tweet of the day or interesting, fun facts. We automate a lot of our Twitter stuff. The best place to find me is I live in my inbox and on the phone talking with clients, and when I’m not working I’m spending time with my family, so you can’t find me there.
Drew McLellan: Sure. They’ll hunt you down on the golf course.
Ryan O’Donnell: Yeah, I’ll be down on the golf course or the driving range, but we work weird hours, we love what we do and … Yeah, email is probably the best place to get a prompt response.
Drew McLellan: Okay. Awesome. Thanks again so much for your time.
Ryan O’Donnell: Thank you, Drew.
Drew McLellan: Alright, that wraps up another episode Build A Better Agency. I can’t tell you how much I love spending this time with you. Thanks so much for listening.
Speaking of thanks, another way we want to give thanks is we built a new tool that I would love you to check out, we’re calling it the Agency Health Assessment. Basically, you’re going to answer a series of questions and based on those answers, the tool is going to tell you in which aspect of your business maybe you need to spend a little extra time and attention to take your agency to the next level. We’ve identified five key areas that really indicate an agency’s health and we’re going to help you figure out where you need to spend a little more time.
To get that free assessment, all you have to do is text the word assessment to 238470. Again, text the word assessment to 238470, and we will send you a link so you can do that at your leisure and hopefully that will give you some new insights and some direction in terms of your time and attention in the agency.
In the meantime, as always, I’m around if I can be helpful through [email protected], and I will be back next week with another great guest and more things for you to ponder. Talk to you soon.
That’s all for this episode of AMI’s Build A Better Agency brought to you by HubSpot. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses and other ways we serve small to midsize agencies. Don’t miss an episode as we help you build the agency you’ve always dreamed of owning.