Episode 340:

One of the unfortunate truths of our business is that as agency owners, we are almost never in the driver’s seat when it comes to sales engagements. At the end of the day, we have no way to inspire, incent, cajole, bribe, or trick someone into buying agency services until they have a genuine need for them. But, with so much of our focus centered around not making an ask at the wrong time, it’s no surprise that so many of us are left with the same question — when CAN we sell?

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, we’re going to answer that question in a few different ways. First, we’re going to talk about what the “right time” to sell looks like not only for our prospects but also for existing clients and former clients. We’re also going to explore ways we as agency owners can accelerate the sales process (because yes, that’s a thing we can do), provide value to our prospects long before we’re in their consideration set, and use our positions of authority to grow our reputation and crush our business development goals — all without selling.

For 30+ years, Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry. He started his career at Y&R, worked in boutique-sized agencies, and then started his own (which he still owns and runs) agency in 1995. Additionally, Drew owns and leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small to mid-sized agencies on how to grow their agency and its profitability through agency owner peer groups, consulting, coaching, workshops, and more.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Owners

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How agency owners can know whether or not it’s the right time to sell
  • What the right time to sell looks like for your prospects, existing clients, and even for clients who’ve parted ways with your agency
  • Why agency owners are not always in the driver’s seat when it comes to engaging business development opportunities — and why that’s ok
  • How to ensure that you’re providing value to your prospects long before they’re on your radar
  • What agency owners can do to accelerate the sales process
  • The reason Drew says you shouldn’t try to sell until after you’ve been helpful
  • How agencies are crushing their business development goals — without selling
“We have no way to inspire, incent, bribe, cajole, or trick someone into buying agency services before they need them.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “How am I going to make their job better? How am I going to help them be better at their job? If you can’t answer those questions then do not engage.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “If they don’t have a need then they don’t have a need; there’s nothing you can do to make them reach for their wallet. But, you can invigorate their interest in you so that they want to hear more about your agency and the work you do.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “The sell doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be aggressive.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Be loud, be proud, be who you are — but above all else be helpful.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build A Better Agency podcast presented by White Label IQ will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. Bringing his 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Thanks for coming back if you are a regular listener. If this is your first episode, hopefully it will be a great experience and you will come back every week. We’ve been doing this for, gosh, almost seven years now, and we have never missed a week. And we just really work hard at trying to get you thinking about your business in a way that is different, that gets you fired up about going to work and building your agency.

Drew McLellan:

Whether you are an agency owner or an agency leader, our job is to be here every week, giving you tools, inspiration, people, resources to do the work better and to build the agency to make more money, keep more money of the money that you make, all of those things. This episode is one of my solo casts. So every fifth episode, traditionally, I hang out just with you, so no guest, just you and me talking about something that I’ve either been asked or I’ve been talking to a lot of agency owners and leaders about, or something that’s just banging around in my head that I really feel like we need to have a conversation around. And so that’s what we’re going to do today.

Drew McLellan:

Before we do that, if you’re listening to this in real time, it is the week of April 11th, and that means we are about six weeks away from the 2022 Build A Better Agency Summit. If you are a long-time listener, you know that I had this hair-brained idea that agencies, small agencies, small to mid-size agencies, two employees, five employees, 20 employees, 50 employees, couple of hundred employees, privately held agencies that are small, that fly under the radar screen of every other conference and most of the other consultants, that we needed a conference that really focused on us and how we could improve our business and our lives because of our business.

Drew McLellan:

And so I had the brilliant idea to launch a conference to take that risk in May of 2020, was when the inaugural event was supposed to be. We ended up moving it to November of 2020. Of course, COVID said no to that. And so finally, we got together in August of 2021 in person in Chicago, sold out conference. My goal is to keep it super small and super intimate. So there were 225 people there, and we had a blast. We learned a lot, we laughed a lot, we hugged a ton. It was healing to be together, it was inspiring to be together. And I think everybody left fired up.

Drew McLellan:

In fact, I had one person say, “I’ve never been to a conference before where I didn’t want to leave, but I just don’t want to leave these people in this place and this feeling that I got here this week.” Which was so much what I wanted to create. So it was awesome. So we’ve decided, of course, to do it again in 2022. And it’s coming up May 24th and 25th. And I want to tell you a little bit about it and who the keynote speakers are, because I really do think this is a different kind of conference. I’m working hard to make it a different conference. So here’s AMI’s understanding of the world, is most of you are accidental business owners.

Drew McLellan:

You own an agency or you lead an agency, but it wasn’t really the plan. Or maybe it was the plan, but now that you’re doing it, you’re like, “Oh shoot, this is more or different than I thought it would be.” Our job is to come alongside you and help you run the business of the business better. We’re not going to teach you how to do SEO better, we’re not going to teach you about branding or PR, I know you’ve got that nailed. But I do know that for many of you, the struggles of owning an agency or leading an agency are around how to do that better, how to actually run the agency in a way that it is meaningful and fruitful and profitable for you.

Drew McLellan:

So that’s what AMI is all about. And so that’s what I wanted the conference to be on. I really wanted to focus on how do you, the agency owner and leader, get better and grow? And when I say get better, I mean better at your job, have a better life, have a better legacy, all of those things. And so we have literally packed this conference with speakers, and we’re going to talk about biz dev and we’re going to talk about imposter syndrome, and we’re going to talk about how to grow your agency through content. And we’re going to talk about thought leadership, and research. We’re going to talk about legal stuff. We’re going to talk about taxes. We’re going to talk about hiring a lot. We’re going to talk a lot about hiring.

Drew McLellan:

So we’ve got three different kinds of presenters at the conference. We have the round table, so imagine 30 different topics, and you’re going to sit at a table, you and eight to 10 other agency owners and leaders, you’re going to sit at a table with a subject matter expert, and you’re going to talk for an hour. And not only are they going to talk, but it’s not really them giving a presentation, it’s them leading and facilitating a conversation and you showing up as both a teacher and a student. So you’re going to learn from the other owners, you’re going to learn from the subject matter expert.

Drew McLellan:

And you’re going to get to do that three times over the course of two days, you’re going to pick the topics that matter most to you. So how to accelerate the hiring process, some tax strategies for 2022 and beyond, how to leverage research for your clients to help them make better choices, the five legal issues that get agencies into trouble and how to avoid them. I’m talking topic after topic, after topic. It’s going to be spectacular. How to manage cash flow, what financial reports you need to look at to know your agency is healthy. All kinds of topics around all kinds of people topics, money topics, process topics, all of it. How to groom one of your internal members to buy your agency someday, all kinds of stuff.

Drew McLellan:

The roundtables are going to happen three times over the course of two days. Then we have breakout speakers. We have nine different breakout speakers. They’re packed in groups of three, so you’re going to look at the three, choose the one you want, and then go to that one. So again, everything from biz dev to research to that imposter syndrome, just off the top of my head. Some amazing speakers with them raising topics. So we’ve got 30 some speakers plus the nine, so we’re up to 40 speakers. And then we’ve got six keynotes of people who are going to take the main stage and they are going to light it up.

Drew McLellan:

They’re all professional speakers with amazing pedigrees, except for me. And I’ll get to me a minute, but the rest of them are spectacular. So Carla Johnson is going to talk about how to rethink about innovation and how to bake innovation and big picture thinking into your agency and that everybody in the agency can and should be able to do that, and she’s going to show you how. Pam Slim is going to talk about how to build a community around you with partnerships that help you grow your business. Adam Carroll is going to talk about how to build a legacy for yourself. What life legacy do you want to leave and how do you do that outside of the agency?

Drew McLellan:

What does that mean for you? Is that scholarships for a cause that matters to you? Is it taking care of generations of your family? Really understanding what that legacy is and then how to bring it to life and how to make it happen? Drew Davis is going to talk about how do we pivot for success? And how to we take even the most dire of circumstances, like a pandemic, for example, and how do we use that as energy to reinvent and pivot our business so that we can be successful for the long run?

Drew McLellan:

All of you are asking me, “What’s new? What’s new? What’s new? What are the agencies doing?” Drew’s going to talk to you about how to figure that out for your agency and your clients and your team. And then Sue Dyer’s going to talk about what a leader do we actually need to be in this world today? And what does that look like? And how do we get there? How do we become that kind of leader? These people have all written like Wall Street Journal bestselling books, they speak on stages all over the world, they are amazing human beings. They’re going to be with us for the whole conference. You’re going to get to meet them and interact with them and pick their brains.

Drew McLellan:

And then, the, not the last because I’m not the closing speaker, but rounding out that amazing thoroughbred pedigree of people is me, the pound puppy of the crowd. But what I’m going to talk about is, I know a lot of you are really tired, and I know you’re asking yourself questions about if you’ve got enough gas in the tank. Even if you know you have enough gas in the tank and you’re just starting out, how do you get your mojo back? And how do you get fired up about the business when it feels like every time you turn around, there’s a pandemic and then clients are leaving and then employees are quitting and it’s hard to find new ones.

Drew McLellan:

It feels like we’ve taken a lot of knocks and we’ve been knocked to our knees a couple times over the last couple years. So I’m going to talk about how do you stand back up and how do you stand up strong? And what does that look like? I’m hoping that that’ll be helpful. But anyway, we have these amazing speakers. And of course, then if you’re an AMI member, then you also get to come on May 23rd for the afternoon where we’re going to have panel discussions on biz development, and hiring and staffing, and how to think about agency’s next step. So is that selling it? Is it shutting it down? Is it succession planning? What does that look like? And how do you get the most value out of your agency if that’s something you want to do.

Drew McLellan:

Those are member-only conversations. We have subject matter experts to lead panels and discussions. And then we’re going to go out to dinner Monday night before the conference starts on Tuesday. So whether you’re a silver, gold, platinum member, whether you’re a virtual peer group member, a live peer group member, you are welcome to attend member day on Monday, the 23rd. And everybody is welcome to attend Tuesday and Wednesday. By the way, you can become a member and sign up for member day and save money on the conference too.

Drew McLellan:

So that’s a strategy if you want to try that version of getting there, but we only have about, I’m going to say 50 or 75 tickets left. We rolled up the number of attendees to 300 this year. So it’s going to be a little bigger, but I think it’s still going to be super intimate and really awesome. And I would very much like you to be there. So if you are interested at all, head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com, and in the upper left corner of the navigation, you’re going to see BABA Summit, Build A Better Agency Summit. Click on it, you can read about the speakers, you can register. You can sign up for the round tables that you want, and you can join us in Chicago May 24th and 25th. I hope you do.

Drew McLellan:

All right. So let me tell you what I want to talk about today. I got an email from a podcast listener, and he was talking about the series I did when we kicked off the year and I shook things up and said, “You know what, rather than having my normal four guests and then a solo cast, I want to do six solo casts in a row and I want to really focus on biz dev and I really want to get you kicked off the year in a big, bad way around business development.” And so I did that. And so he sent me a note and he said, “Hey, I listened to the whole series and I need some help because you talk through the series, one of the things you talk about is not to sell, but then you also say you have to be out there doing biz dev and selling every day. So I’m confused, when can I sell? And when do I actually begin to get a little more aggressive?”

Drew McLellan:

So here’s what I’m going to tell you. We’re going to talk about this from three different perspectives. We’re going to talk about it with existing clients, prospects, and former clients. But first, let me lay some groundwork here. This is an unfortunate truth about our business. We have no way to inspire, incent, bribe, cajole, trick someone into buying agency services before they need them. There is no coupon, there’s no buy one, get one free, there’s no holiday like Presidents Day where we get to have a sale, none of that. We have none of that. We are a considered purchase. We are not inexpensive.

Drew McLellan:

I don’t care if you charge 50 bucks for a logo or you charge $50,000 for a logo, to your audience, you’re probably expensive. You are a considered purchase. And so I think we have to start with the truth, which is, until somebody has a need and wants to buy something, we’re out of luck. We have to just be patient and we have to wait until they need us and then we have to be in the consideration set. The whole strategy around the book that Stephen Woessner and I wrote, Sell with Authority, is this idea that when you have a position of authority, when you are subject matter expert, and we believe that that works out better if you are specialized or have a niche.

Drew McLellan:

Remember, a niche could be an industry, it could be an audience, it could be a deliverable or a result. But when you are a subject matter expert, your prospects and even your clients are learning from you all of the time, way before they hire you or way before they’re going to give you more money. And they just want to be in your presence because you keep giving them great content that helps them do their job better. And I think in the book, you must use the phrase, “Does this help my prospect be better at job today probably eight million times?”

Drew McLellan:

Because that’s the question to ask before you put out any content or you pick up the phone and make a phone call or you walk up to a trade show booth, “How am I going to make their job better? How am I going to help them be better at their job?” And if you can’t answer that question, do not engage, do not engage because then all you are is somebody trying to sell them something. And we all know how we react to that. None of us are excited about somebody showing up who just, all they want to do is put their hand in our pocket. We don’t love it and neither do our prospects. So we have to acknowledge, first, number one, that we are not in the driver’s seat when it comes to agency, product or services sales.

Drew McLellan:

All we can do is be very present and have engaging conversation and be helpful. And at some point in time, when that person needs an agency, they will raise their hand. Now, there are some ways to accelerate that, we’ll get to that in a little bit. I want to use an analogy. I was trying to remember, and I tried to actually look to see if I have used this analogy before on the podcast. So if you’ve already heard it, just settle back in and listen again. If you haven’t heard it, I think you’ll find it useful. It’s probably one of my all-time favorite analogies. So I have to think after almost 400 episodes, I probably have used it at some point. But hopefully, it will either refresh your memory or it will strike a spark for you.

Drew McLellan:

So I want you to think about our prospects. And by the way, this can be about existing customers too, or existing clients. I want you to think about our prospects as deer. And we own a house that butts right up against this forest where all the deer live. And our goal is to get the deer to literally walk up through our yard, walk onto our patio and eat deer food right out of our hand. That’s our goal. So that is my analogy for someone actually buying something from us. They’re going to eat from our hand. We know that deer are in the forest and we want them to slowly start to come out and begin to trust us.

Drew McLellan:

So what we do is we do some research and we learn about deer, and we understand that deer eat different things than squirrels and rabbits and wolves and fox and whatever else is also in the forest, snakes, whatever’s there. Hopefully, there isn’t some snakes in the forest, not a fan. But anyway, so we do some research and we learn about the deer, and we figure out what would be really nourishing and delicious, not just nourishing, but also delicious to the deer. And we go and we stock up so that we can, on a really consistent basis, feed the deer.

Drew McLellan:

And what we do is we start by putting the deer food right at the edge of the forest in our yard. So the deer hardly have to come out of the woods at all to get that delicious and nutritious deer food. And we do that every day. We put this delicious and nutritious deer food out there that’s going to nourish the deer, that’s going to make them stronger and better, but also going to make them happy. They’re going to enjoy the eating experience. And we’re going to put that out there and we’re going to do it every day. And pretty soon, the deer are going to come.

Drew McLellan:

And in the beginning, they’re going to be so timid because they think we’re going to run at them or shoot them or yell at them or make noise or scare them. But over time, we just put the food out and then we go back in the house, and we let the deer eat. And every day, they come back and there’s more delicious and nutritious food. So over time, they come to trust that that food will always be there, so they keep coming back and they bring their deer friends. And because of our research, they are only telling their deer friends, they’re not telling their rabbit friends or their wolf friends or their fox friends, or God help us, their snake friends.

Drew McLellan:

They’re not telling them because it’s not food for them. So they’re not interested in it. But they’re telling all their deer friends, so more and more deer are coming to the edge of the forest where the forest and our yard meet. And then what we start doing is, yes, keep putting the delicious and nutritious food right at the edge, but we put a bigger pile two or three feet in the yard. So they’re going to actually have to step into our yard a little bit to get the goods. They can get a snack little morsel, if you will, right at the edge, but we want to put even more two or three feet in.

Drew McLellan:

And we do the same thing, we go back in the house. We do that consistently over time. We let them come back day after day, week after week and just feed off of us. And they’re getting stronger, and they’re getting more confident. And they are becoming to rely on us because we are a source of nutrition and a great experience for them. And so we keep doing that and we keep putting the food closer and closer into the yard, closer and closer to the patio. And pretty soon, they’re halfway, they’re halfway into the yard. And this is where many of us may make the mistake.

Drew McLellan:

Again, remember, the original question was, “Drew, when do I sell?” Not when they’re in the middle of the yard. Not, not, not when they’re in the middle of the yard. So what happens is, they get halfway through the yard, they’re in the middle between the forest and the patio, they’ve been eating there for a couple weeks and we are so excited they’re there. We are so excited because we’re halfway to what we want them to do. And we get a little too excited. And you know what we do, we come out of the house or we go running at the deer with our hand out. We’re trying to be good, we’re trying to feed them more food, but we scare the crap out of the deer.

Drew McLellan:

And what do they do? They run back into the forest and then we have lost their trust and we got to start all over. And this time, it’s going to take even longer because they remember the fact that they gave us their trust and then we came running at them or we came out of the house or we made noise, whatever it was we did that we shouldn’t have done yet, we scared them. So now it’s even longer and slower of a process. Where we can just be patient, and this is the part that I think is so hard for us, if we can just be patient, we can literally train them because we’re giving them something that’s so delicious and so nutritious, such a great experience.

Drew McLellan:

They feel like they know these benefactors who are putting this food out. They feel grateful to us. They are coming closer and closer because the food just gets better and better and better, and they’re getting stronger, and we’re literally getting them through the winter sometimes by giving them this great, delicious and nutritious deer food. And we’re when they are way back by the forest, after a while, we come out on the patio and we just stand perfectly still. So they see who’s feeding them, but we don’t rush at them, we don’t make any noise, we don’t have food in our hand. We’re just standing there looking at them and watching them, letting them consume what we’ve put out.

Drew McLellan:

And over time, as we move the piles of delicious, nutritious food closer and closer to the patio with us standing on the patio, they will get used to us being there. They will come to trust that we’re not trying to chase after them or scare them. And they will start getting closer and closer and closer, until a subset of them actually steps onto the patio. And now we’ve got food on the patio, but we also have some food in our hand we hold perfectly still and we hold it out.

Drew McLellan:

They’re not going to take the food from us the first time, probably not even the second time, but sooner or later, a subset of those deer are going to eat right out of our hand because we’ve been so good to them and we’ve helped them get strong and steady and we’ve gotten them through tough times that they have come to trust us. And that is how, and when we sell. So here’s the deal. Let me now take the analogy and turn it into our world. So in today’s world, we all know that most prospects have done a lot of shopping for an agency before they are talking to us directly.

Drew McLellan:

So they’re sniffing around our website, they’re watching our social channels. Maybe they saw speak at a conference or they went to a trade show booth that we were at, whatever it is, they somehow interacted with us and we’ve been on their radar screen. And we don’t even know they’re out there really. We know they’re out there in a nebulous sense, but we don’t know that Bob from Acme Tools is out there. But Bob has been watching us and he’s been paying attention, and he’s been consuming what we talk about and he’s not just consuming the content.

Drew McLellan:

Yes, we should give Bob really great content, we should help Bob be better at his job every day. But Bob is also consuming us. He’s getting a sense of us. This is the delicious part of the deer analogy. He’s either liking us or not liking us. And if he’s not liking us, if he doesn’t like our attitude or the way we talk, or our belief system, or our point of view as Stephen and I talk about in the book, if he doesn’t like those things, I don’t care how great our content is, he’s going to go away. Somebody else can give him good content.

Drew McLellan:

He wants both the nutritious and the delicious. I want to learn from somebody that I like. I want to learn from someone I can trust. And so as he’s consuming both who we are and what we serve up and what we know, and we’re helping him be better at his job, he starts coming in closer and closer. I listened to a podcast, to I signed up for a webinar, to I attended an online course or I paid to go see a live workshop. That’s the process. So in our case for agencies, it’s, I consumed some free content, I eventually traded my email address for something I wanted to download, because all the free content was so good, I knew the download would be even better, and it was.

Drew McLellan:

So now, I subscribe to the e-newsletter. Now, I’m interacting with somebody who’s on the other end of the e-newsletter. And now I’m asking a question of somebody who is writing the e-newsletter. And sooner or later I raise my hand say, “Hey, I would like to learn more about what your agency does because you’ve been super helpful to me and I really like your vibe. And so I want to learn.” And that’s not when we sell, because now what you want to do is you want a very humbly say, “I would love to talk about what we do, but I’d like to do it in context of who you are and what you do. So, would you be willing to have a conversation where you talk to me a little bit about who you are and what matters to you and where you’re struggling and where you’re succeeding, and then I can tell you maybe how we might intersect?”

Drew McLellan:

So again, I’m still not selling. So when do we sell? This feels like a great time for a break, like a cliff hanger. When do we sell? All right, I’m going to take a quick break and then I’ll be right back. We’ll talk about when we sell. Hey, I promise we will get right back to the conversation, but I wanted to make sure you knew that we have two AE Bootcamps coming up, two live workshops. The first one is the Advanced AE Bootcamp. That’s going to be for folks who have five years or so of experience being an AE, in an agency that’s going to be in Chicago, June 16th and 17th. And you can register by going to the AMI website and going under the, How We Help, and finding the Workshop tab, and you’ll find the Advanced AE Bootcamp there.

Drew McLellan:

Again, it’s two full days of learning and sharing. So the AEs not only learn from us, the instructors, but they also learn from each other throughout the workshop. So we get rave reviews and it’s a great way for your AEs to really level up and become a leader inside your organization. So again, June 16th and 17th for the Advanced AE Bootcamp. And then August 1st and 2nd, the Regular AE Bootcamp. So that’s going to be for folks with less than five years of experience, account coordinators, project managers, AEs, anybody who is new into their career and still trying to figure out what the AE thing is all about.

Drew McLellan:

Honestly, it’s about helping them understand that they need to move from being an order taker to helping grow your client’s business and growing the agency’s business. So again, August 1st and 2nd, also in Chicago. Hopefully we’ll see some of your folks there. All right, let’s get back to the conversation. All right, welcome back. So when do we sell? First of all, understand that there are things we can do to accelerate this sales process. And in the book, we break it down and we talk about the macro level. And I did this in one of the episodes earlier this year, but the macro level, people don’t know us from Adams, we’re just putting content out into the world and hoping that they stumble upon it.

Drew McLellan:

The micro level, which is, now we know somebody’s out there, we know who they are. I know their name, we have their email address. So now we’re talking to them more directly through e-newsletters they’ve subscribed to our social channel. So we’re connected in some probably very loose, but tangential way. And then there’s the nanos level. And the nano level for us is that you identify 25 prospects that you absolutely want to have on your roster of clients, and you go after them in a more aggressive way. But let me tell you what aggressive looks like.

Drew McLellan:

And then remember, we’re going to talk about how this works with existing clients and prospects and former clients. So I’ll circle back to that in a minute. How do you accelerate this? You accelerate this by identifying 25 people and you do a much deeper dive on them and you really learn about them, and you do some research. We teach in several of our workshops with and without the Mercer Island Group folks, we teach how to build these profiles out, which by the way, we learn from the Mercer Island Group folks at one of their first workshops. How do you build a dossier or a profile on every prospect?

Drew McLellan:

And if you have a list of 300 people you’re trying to talk to on a regular basis, stop it. You can cannot actually engage and have a relationship with 300 people. 25 is the most we think you can do. And if you want to only do 10 or 15, that’s fine. But anyway, you’ve got this hot list of people who you would kill to have on your client roster, and you do a dossier, a deep dive on them. You learn more about them and you accelerate the communication with them. You are giving them the very best. So maybe you’re mixing a little bit of generic deer food with a really good deer food that you’re putting out in your yard, but for these 25 people, you are giving them the premium deer food.

Drew McLellan:

This is the best of the best stuff and you’re making them feel like you’re giving it to just them. So you’re personalizing it in some way with a handwritten note or something like that. Again, this is why you only have 25. And by the way, you vetted these 25, these 25 could put about another 5% of your adjusted gross income to the bottom line. They’re spending about 5% of your AGI. So they’re worth the pursuit and you only need one or two of them a year to have a great year, a great year of growth. So you’re going to work this list of 25 and you’re going to give them the premium deer food. And you are going to interact with them more, but always from the point of view of how can I help you, not what can I sell you?

Drew McLellan:

And you’re going to keep doing that. And what that’s going to do is that’s going to speed up their interest in you. And again, if they don’t have a need, they don’t have a need, there’s nothing you can do to get them to reach for their wallet, but you can invigorate their interest in you so that they want to hear more about your agency and the work you do. And here’s what happens, I’ve seen it happen over and over, and over again. When you approach them and you’re being super helpful, they know why you’re doing it, they know you want to do business with them. But when you just are helpful and you just create a relationship with them, sooner or later, when they have a need or they anticipate they’re going to have a need, what they’re going to say to you is, these are new prospects by the way, we’ll get to existing and former.

Drew McLellan:

What they’re going to say to you is, “You know what, tell me more about the work your agency does because I have this itch that I need scratched, and I’m wondering if you guys would be a good partner for that.” Over and over, I see this happen. That’s when you begin to sell, that’s when you start talking about yourself, that’s when you start giving them case studies. That’s when you introduce them to other clients that they can check references for. But honestly, the sell doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t have to be aggressive because by then, they know you, they value you, they like you, they trust you. And now you just have to answer a couple of questions and they’re going to be ready to purchase from you. That’s how you sell in this model.

Drew McLellan:

And by the way, this is happening, it’s not just in our industry, this is happening all across the board in service industries. This is how sales are done today. The dialing for dollars, the working the trade show floor for all of the business cards, all of that is falling on flat ear, on deaf ears, not flat ears, it’s falling flat or on deaf ears. There we go. I got my two phrases out right there. But anyway, the way that it works now is that they come to you and they say, “You know what, I’ve been doing my homework, I’ve been following you for a couple of years.” Or, “Boy, I love this blog post,” or, “I love this podcast you are on.” Or, “I love this piece of research you did. You made me really smart at my job and I want to stay smart at my job and I need a partner who’s really smart.”

Drew McLellan:

“And so, I have come to like, and trust you. I like your style, I like the way you talk, I like what you talk about. I believe it, I believe what you’re saying. And so now I’m ready.” And again, it may not be an immediate need, but it might be an immediate need, but either way, they are finally getting ready to having a different relationship with you. And that’s when you begin to sell, but you can do it softly. And for most agency owners, that’s better. We don’t like to sell. We didn’t go into this work to be salespeople. And so what we’re finding is that is a way that is very palatable for agency owners to sell and they could do it really successfully. So that’s for new prospects that you would do that.

Drew McLellan:

For existing clients, again, they’re watching you put out all this content or they’re watching you like court all the other deer and they’re like, “Hey, I’ve been sitting on your porch for five years and I’m eating out of your hand every month. I want some premium deer food.” So you do have to take care of them in a different way. And you do have to approach them in a way that is focused on making them feel like you love them the most, because every client wants to know that they’re your favorite, if not your only. So you’re going to love on them by giving them even better content than you give. So for example, let’s say you do some research. Maybe you’re going to hold back some of the data and only share it with your clients.

Drew McLellan:

So you want to give them more souls of deer food that nobody else gets but clients that’s like a privilege of membership, if you will. And you also want to be able to sit down with them and say, “You know what, let’s just talk about your business.” And I call these clients love meetings. So this is not about selling anything, this is about you saying to the client, “You know what, we’ve not grabbed a drink or played golf or gone to theater or had breakfast,,” or whatever your thing is, “for a long time or maybe we’ve never done it. But I would love to just sit and talk with you for an hour about the industry and what you see coming, and what we’re seeing because we do a lot of work in this sector. I’d just like to share some of what we’re seeing and find out how things are going for you.”

Drew McLellan:

And then you sit down with them and you have that really intimate conversation, that conversation that allows them to open up and vent a little bit or express what’s going on in their world. And you don’t sell, but you ask really great questions and you make really great suggestions. So you don’t sell, you give away your smarts. And nine times out of 10, you’re to walk away with an extra project or two, I guarantee it. So for former clients, this is an audience that we often don’t mind. So some of my best smartest agency owners, they stay in touch with their former clients, whether the agency got fired or the client contact moved on to another brand or whatever it may be, they stay in touch.

Drew McLellan:

And they stay in touch through LinkedIn, and email, and phone calls, but they nurture those relationships and they serve them without expectations. So they are still super helpful to them, they’re still very consultative to them and they invest in that relationship and they remind that former client, why they picked your agency in the first place, around the relationship, around your smarts in their industry, whatever it is. And in many cases, you could lead yourself to a conversation, especially if you got fired and the client is still there to say, “You know what, I would love to understand why we don’t work together anymore. What did we do? What did we do where we lost your trust, or we were too expensive or whatever the thing is. Help me understand why we’re not together because you know what, we like each other, we respect each other, we did good work together. So help me understand that.”

Drew McLellan:

Or, “Hey, former client that went to a new place, I would love to pick your brain about why we aren’t working with you in this capacity, in this company. Is there something that we don’t offer? Is there something you need that you think we can’t do? What is it because we loved working with you when you worked with Bob at Acme Tools, and now that you’re with Babbitt Tools, we’d like to work with you again. So what’s in the way of that?” So I think you can have a very different kind of conversation with existing clients and former clients. But nonetheless, it’s still not hard sales. It’s still softer sales after we’ve been helpful. And so that’s when you sell.

Drew McLellan:

And the, “Hey, do you have any projects we can help you with,” and all that thing, that’s not working anymore. I hate to tell you, it’s just not working. It really is about you being out there, you being super helpful, you showing your expertise so that people see it and can benefit from it even without hiring you. And that’s the trick. You got to put the deer food out and knowing that most of the deer are never going to eat out of your hand. And you have to be okay with that. And you can’t cut off the deer after a month or two months if they don’t come to eat out of your hand, you can’t, you have to just generously keep feeding them and generously keep teaching them, and generously help them be better at their job every day.

Drew McLellan:

Because even if they never hire you, they could be a great referral source or some other way to help you grow your business. If nothing else, you’re growing your reputation, you’re growing that position of authority. And so that’s how, and when you sell and I’m here to tell you, I have so many agencies that are crushing it, crushing it by not selling, by just being helpful, by feeding the deer the nutritious and delicious food. So this is also gets back to, your content should reflect who you are as an agency, it should reflect your core values and your mission and your vision, and all the things that you wrap around to tell the story, the brand story of your agency, and you shouldn’t be shy about that.

Drew McLellan:

You should put that out, however you are. I have agencies that drop F bombs, I have agencies that talk about their faith. I have agencies that talk about their culture. I have agencies that talk about whatever their core beliefs are, talk about their pricing strategy and how it’s different from other agencies. Whoever you really are, that should all be woven in and wrapped in with this content that you’re putting out there, this delicious, nutritious deer food. So they get to know not only that you’re going to feed them, but who’s feeding them, and they’re either going to like you, or they’re not going to like you. And if they don’t like you, it is far better for them to figure that out for your benefit before they hire you. Then it is to be six months into a relationship and just be banging your head against a brick wall because you’re just not a good fit.

Drew McLellan:

So be loud, be proud, be who you are, but above all else, be helpful. And that’s how we sell today. And when I look across the hundreds of agencies we serve and you know we see the financials of hundreds of agencies, I can tell you without exception, that’s how the successful agencies, the successful and profitable agencies, that’s how they’re selling today. I hope that answers your question, I hope that was helpful. I believe this stuff so strongly and I see it happen every day, and I know some of it is counterintuitive. I know you want to rush at the deer when they’re in the middle of the yard, I know you’re anxious, but this is why it’s so critical that you carve time out on your plate, agency owner, or leader if you are in the responsible for biz dev, that you carve time out of your plate to do this work every single day, that you’re interacting with people, you’re creating content.

Drew McLellan:

You’re being helpful, you’re teaching, you’re sharing generously. This is not a once a month activity or a once a quarter activity, or you only do it when the big client goes away. You have to do this all the time because you are planting seeds and you have no idea who’s out there poking around your website or your social channels. And you have no idea which one of those seeds is going to take root and bloom at the exact right time that person needs to see it, or feel it, or smell it, or whatever the analogy is. You just keep planting seeds. And if you don’t do it consistently and regularly, then this can’t work because it’s a numbers game. You have to help a lot of people to get a subset of them, to raise their hand say, “I need more help, and I actually need to hire you.”

Drew McLellan:

So you have to make room for this. You absolutely have to make room for it. How you do that, that’s a topic for another podcast episode, but you do need to carve out the time so that you can be spending 40 or 50% of your time on biz dev. And biz dev could be writing a proposal, could be creating content, it could be talking to a prospect on the phone, it could be answering a web inquiry, it could be schmoozing a client at one your client love meetings. There’s a broad range of topics or activities that fall under the biz dev activities list, but you should be spending half of your week doing it. And if you’re not, I would love for you to create a plan to clear off enough of your plate to do that, because if you don’t, the agency can’t be sustained. Just can’t.

Drew McLellan:

You have to keep infusing new opportunity into the agency. Even if you don’t change size, even if you just trade up a B client for a C client or whatever it is, there’s got to be activity and there has to be conversation, and there has to be opportunity for you to step into a new relationship, because they think you’re just that smart. You really do. All right. I’m hoping this was super helpful, I’m trying to keep it tight because I know you’re busy. I will tell you, and I have been saying this a lot lately, and I’m saying it because let me remind you, you only need two wins a year, and in two or three wins a year, if they’re the right size client and they’re not peewee little clients that actually just drain you all day long, if you get two or three right size clients a year, you’re going to double your agency in size and billings every three years.

Drew McLellan:

So it really doesn’t take that much. All right. So where I was going back to before, I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately and I’m just really soaking in how grateful I am that you guys enjoy the podcast and that you find it valuable and that you write to me and tell me that, or you send me a note on LinkedIn or whatever it is. I’m just super grateful for that. I love doing the podcast, I love interviewing people and learning from them and putting myself in your position and asking the questions that I believe you’re hoping I will ask as you listen. I love doing that. And I love talking to you like this, just you and me.

Drew McLellan:

But what I really love is knowing that it’s working, that it’s helpful, that you’re putting it into play, that it’s helping you make better decisions, that it is allowing you to grow the business, to grow your team, to grow your profits, all the things I want you to grow. So I thank you. I genuinely and very humbly thank you for listening the way you do. It means the world to me that we’re providing value. It really does. Of course, I want to thank our presenting sponsor, White Label IQ, as you probably know, because they’ve been our sponsor for the last couple of years, they do White Label Design Dev and PPC. They serve a ton of AMI agencies and podcast-listening agencies and do a great job. They are a great partner in that work.

Drew McLellan:

They’ve been an AMI agency member for 20-some years, so I can tell you without question, these are people of incredible integrity. They’re not going to poach your client, they’re not going to encroach on the work. They just want to do really great work and be your partner. And so head over to whitelabeliq.com/ami, and you can read about a special offer they have just for you, but for sure, tell them that Drew sent you. And while you’re on the phone with them or in email, please thank them for sponsoring the podcast. Let’s shower some love on them and let them know that we appreciate the fact that they make this possible every week.

Drew McLellan:

All right, I’m going to be back next week. Again. I want to remind you, come to the summit. I would love to meet you there if we’ve not met before, I would love to see you again if we’ve already know each other, I am all in on all the hugging. Last year, somebody said, “Is there a limit on how many times we can hug you?” I said, “Absolutely not.” So every time I saw her, we had a little hug and it was lovely. And if you’re not a hugger, I’ll high five, you or fist pump you or whatever your thing is. I just love being around you guys and I love the energy of those two days and it just bubbles over. And so for me, the Italian, I know my last name doesn’t sound Italian, but on my mom’s side, I’m Italian.

Drew McLellan:

For me the Italian, that translates to hugging. And for me, the Scotsman, it translates to us having a drink together. So really, you can’t go wrong either way. I would love for you to be there, I would love for you to be a part of it, and I would love to hang out with you. If you don’t come to the summit, the good news is, I’ll be back next week with another guest and another conversation to help you grow your business. So either way, I get to hang out with you, but I sure like to do it in-person. All right, I’m out of here. Hopefully, this was helpful. Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you next week.

Drew McLellan:

Thanks for spending some time with us. Visit our website to learn about our workshops, owner peer groups, and download our salary and benefit survey. Be sure you also sign up for our free podcast giveaways at agencymanagementinstitute.com/podcastgiveaway.