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Why can’t I find a successful salesperson for my agency?

Almost every agency owner I know wishes they didn’t have to do sales and wants to hire it out to an employee. I hear this every day because what we do is hard to sell.  99 out of 100 salespeople that an agency hires will not sell more than their initial salary and are usually fired within the first year.  To be a successful agency salesperson, you have to understand not the WHAT of our work but the WHY of our work.  How do we really add value, increase sales etc.  You also need to have super high level business conversations and most people can’t do that unless they have been a CMO, business owner, etc.  If you don’t have the real life experience, it’s tough to know how to start or carry the conversation. People default to the “what keeps you up at night” BS because they can’t actually dig in and talk the talk. That level of business acumen is not easy to come by.  The few successful salespeople inside agencies have at least 2-3 of these factors: The agency is a wonder bread factory (they have a very narrow focus of deliverables AND clientele so it’s easy to learn the nuances, because there aren’t that many) The agency has a narrow niche/niches so the sales person does not have to understand too many industries or verticals The agency is truly creating thought leadership content on a consistent basis so they can claim an authority position on their niche/niches. The sales person has already sold a high ticket ($25K and above) item/services to the same industry (has contacts and context) The sales person was a very successful account executive within your agency who [...]

By |March 19th, 2021|

5 Ways to Prep for an Agency Sale

"Even if you’ve done everything possible to maximize your agency’s valuation, there will likely be surprises throughout the selling process." In this piece I recently contributed to Spinsucks.com I discuss how to maximize your company’s value to prep for the sale of your agency. No matter the size of your business, there’s a buyer out there.

By |February 26th, 2021|

The Benefits of Niching Your Agency in 2021

"Successful agencies understand who their target clients are. Every other aspect of business — sales, operations, marketing, etc. — becomes infinitely easier once you know what market you’re working in."   In this piece I recently contributed to MediaPost I discuss how as an agency, it's important to cement your verticals and own those markets in order to scale your business in a consistent and planned way. That way, you'll be protected even if one pipeline dries up.

By |February 19th, 2021|

Not Finding Your Ideal Clients? Maybe You’re Looking for the Wrong Things.

At the beginning of most of my engagements, I start by sending the client team a questionnaire that helps me establish a baseline understanding of how the agency approaches business development—strengths, weaknesses, skills, and areas of resistance. In it, I ask them to describe their ideal client. Here’s a sampling of what I hear more often than not: “Open-minded, seek out expert advice, and take it, challenge us with problems they can’t solve, value our time and expertise.” “Really smart, and motivated to get things done.” “Collaborators who recognize the importance of strategic planning and thoughtful execution.” “They provide us with direct access to key decision-makers. They’re collaborative, value our opinions and input, and have a healthy balance of practical and aspirational thinking for their brand.” “They’re ‘brand collaborators’—marketing-led companies looking for a long-term, transparent partner to challenge the status quo and collaborate on integrated solutions.” “They trust us, respect us, and like spending time with us. Discussion is always thoughtful, relaxed, and challenging. It never feels like we’re not on the same team even when we disagree.” “They are appreciative of the work we do and pleasant to work with.” These are pretty idyllic descriptions. And not necessarily unrealistic. Every agency deserves to work with clients like these. The problem is, these descriptions are limited in their ability to help you find ideal clients. I began to consider why agencies default to describing ideal clients in this way. What I realized is agencies tend to frame the question as "who are we best served by?" when the question I’m really asking is “whom do you serve best?” Understanding the distinction between the two has big implications for the effectiveness of your new business outreach. Who is [...]

By |January 25th, 2021|

Demystifying Business Systemization: Figure out which systems will create the biggest impact in 20 minutes or less.

If you've been in the business world long enough, you know of systems. Perhaps you've read The E-Myth, Traction or another book and are fired up about them. But HOW? Where should you start? You're busy and so enmeshed in everything your business does that even thinking about which processes to systemise first is overwhelming.  Through my work helping hundreds of business owners free themselves from daily operations, I realised that systemising doesn't have to be stressful or overwhelming. In fact, in just 20 minutes, any small business owner in any industry can identify the 10-15 systems that make the biggest impact. In this article, I'll walk you through this — well, system — mapping out your Critical Client Flow (CCF) step-by-step.  The following is an excerpt from chapter one of my book, SYSTEMology. There, I share the method that has transformed hundreds of small businesses from owner-dependent, zero-systems businesses to finely tuned assets. Step-by-step, I show you how to create the systems you identify here (without you) and how to get your employees excited about systems, too. The Critical Client Flow (CCF) is the first step in the SYSTEMology method, a breakthrough system for creating systems. All you need is a pen and paper. You can also go to systemology.com/resources to print out a plug-and-play CCF worksheet. We'll fill it out together.  It looks like this:  How to Create Your Critical Client Flow (CCF) In the CCF, you'll map out the core of how your business works.  You'll identify the minimum viable systems required to consistently bring in new business, convert those leads to clients and then deliver your product/service.  You’ll also see the 'holes' within your business, and it will help you develop [...]

By |December 28th, 2020|

How do you avoid losing your star players?

Every day I talk to agency owners who are worried about losing a key employee and every day another key agency employee walks out the door so it's easy to see why finding and keeping talent is the #1 pain point for most agencies today. Unfortunately, having a laid back culture, flex time and more vacation isn’t enough anymore. I wrote an article for Forbes on this topic and I identified several ways (based on our research with almost 1,000 agency employees) agencies are upping their game to keep their best team members. As always — I hope it’s helpful and I’d love to hear how you’re managing this challenge.

By |December 21st, 2020|

Seven steps to better biz dev

You have probably said or at least heard the agency-centric expression “new business cures all ills,” and it’s pretty accurate. Will it fix fundamental problems at your agency? Unfortunately, no. Those are still on you to solve. But it does fix a lot of cash flow challenges, too much time on our hands bickering, and morale issues. I believe that agency owners need to invest a significant amount of their time and attention to biz dev and yet, when I get into most shops, to say the effort is haphazard is an understatement. Most of you have a reactive new business program, which means you respond to what walks in the door through referrals, RFPs, etc. One of the areas where I see the least amount of prep is in that initial conversation. You go to all of that effort to get the meeting. I want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity. I wrote an article for Spin Sucks about seven steps you can take to improve that first impression, whether it’s a coffee meeting or a full RFP presentation. My guess is that some of them will just be a reminder but hopefully a few will inspire you and your team to tweak what isn’t working. Making some minor tweaks in how you show up may be all it takes to move you from being the agency that hears “we really liked you but we went a different direction” to “We can’t wait to work with you!” This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

By |November 30th, 2020|

You still have time

I remember my parents lamenting how quickly time passed and, as a kid, I thought they were crazy. Every day seemed to crawl along. Now, I get it. A blink ago it was December and we were all planning our amazing 2020. Little did we know what 2020 had in store. Now, we’re almost to December again. How are you coming on those plans? If you’re a typical agency — you’re behind. Distractions, especially this year, (both worthy and the squirrel variety) have drawn your attention and your time away from your biggest priorities. It’s not too late but it is time to get serious about it. Here’s what I’d like you to do: Pull together any planning documents you developed for 2021 Schedule a 2-3 hour meeting with your leadership team A week ahead of that meeting, send them all the documents with your assessment of the agency’s progress on each goal Ask them to come prepared to discuss: Is this still a priority? (For each item) What do we need to do to get this back on track/keep on track? Who needs to own this goal/initiative? If we only accomplished one of these goals — which one matters the most? Have an open conversation around these questions and then revise your plan. Odds are, you were more ambitious than is reasonable. So get realistic with yourselves and get back on track. Note — if you don’t have any planning documents — that does not mean you should disregard this. You can still pull everyone together and create a plan for the new year. It’s time to build a rock-solid foundation for your agency. Think about how to strengthen your current client relationships, increase [...]

By |November 16th, 2020|

Not Finding Your Ideal Clients? Maybe You’re Looking for the Wrong Things.

At the beginning of most of my engagements, I start by sending the client team a questionnaire that helps me establish a baseline understanding of how the agency approaches business development—strengths, weaknesses, skills, and areas of resistance. In it, I ask them to describe their ideal client. Here’s a sampling of what I hear more often than not: “Open-minded, seek out expert advice, and take it, challenge us with problems they can’t solve, value our time and expertise.” “Really smart, and motivated to get things done.” “Collaborators who recognize the importance of strategic planning and thoughtful execution.” “They provide us with direct access to key decision-makers. They’re collaborative, value our opinions and input, and have a healthy balance of practical and aspirational thinking for their brand.” “They’re ‘brand collaborators’—marketing-led companies looking for a long-term, transparent partner to challenge the status quo and collaborate on integrated solutions.” “They trust us, respect us, and like spending time with us. Discussion is always thoughtful, relaxed, and challenging. It never feels like we’re not on the same team even when we disagree.” “They are appreciative of the work we do and pleasant to work with.” These are pretty idyllic descriptions. And not necessarily unrealistic. Every agency deserves to work with clients like these. The problem is, these descriptions are limited in their ability to help you find ideal clients. I began to consider why agencies default to describing ideal clients in this way. What I realized is agencies tend to frame the question as "who are we best served by?" when the question I’m really asking is “whom do you serve best?” Understanding the distinction between the two has big implications for the effectiveness of your new business outreach. Who is [...]

By |November 9th, 2020|
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