Episode 129:

A healthy agency, on average, loses about 10-15% of their AGI every year through client attrition. That means that just to stay even, you have to sell. If you want to grow – you have to sell. If you want more money to give raises, bonuses or take a little for yourself – you have to sell.

Unfortunately, 95% of agency owners hate to sell. You hire sales people so you don’t have to do it. Sadly – they rarely pay for themselves. If you have one that does, do what you have to do to keep them! But in most agencies, the best salesperson is the owner. You can have very different conversations with prospects than anyone else in your shop and based on the research we’ve done with CMOs – those are the conversations that move them through your sales funnel.

That’s why this topic is so vital. You can’t get or keep any momentum in your agency if you’re afraid of sales. Which is why I invited Anthony Iannarino onto the show. He’s a highly respected international speaker, bestselling author, entrepreneur, and sales leader. He specializes in complex B2B sales, which is the world that we are all living in. He’s also a founder and managing partner of two closely-held, family-owned businesses in the staffing industry, and he leads both entities in strategic planning while growing sales.

Anthony is best known for his work on The Sales Blog, which has helped him gain recognition as a top thought leader in sales strategy. He’s also designed what he calls the Level 4 Value Creation and Building Consensus methodologies that help sales organizations achieve transformational, breakthrough results.

A well-known author, Anthony recently released “The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the Ten Commitments That Drive Sales,” and man, is that book brilliant. A few years ago he wrote “The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need.” I highly recommend them both.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why most entrepreneurs go into sales with the wrong mindset that makes selling an unpleasant experience
  • Why the sales process isn’t linear and how to shift the conversation with a prospect based on where they are in the process
  • The Ten Commitments: the agreements that you need from your prospects along the sale’s path in order for a sale to happen
  • How giving a prospect the price too early can blow the sale
  • Why it’s so important to slow down and build trust
  • Talking to people with genuine interest in them and what they need
  • Consistently providing a ton of value to your prospects so that you stay top-of-mind when something changes in their business and they have a need
  • Why getting to the point where you get to have a conversation with a prospect is the most difficult part of sales (and how to actually reach that point)
  • Why you should never let a prospect sit alone with a proposal and the specific language you should use so that it doesn’t happen

The Golden Nuggets:

“If you let a prospect jump straight to pricing before exploring their problem and how you can solve it, you haven’t added any value for them yet. That makes sales really difficult.” - @iannarino Click To Tweet “The ninth commitment a prospect will make to you is the commitment to buy. If you do a really good job with the previous eight commitments, that is the easiest commitment you'll ever ask for.” - @iannarino Click To Tweet “If you're sincerely interested in other people and really try to learn from them, they'll give you the key to understanding what they want and what they need at some deeper level.” - @iannarino Click To Tweet “If you want to be less smarmy, be interested in other people, and don't worry about the outcomes that you want long term. Worry about how you can help them today” - @iannarino Click To Tweet “Sales is simple but it's not easy. The getting in to have a conversation part is the most difficult sale we make. ” - @iannarino Click To Tweet “Selling is helping another person get a result that they can't get without you.” - @iannarino Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too. Welcome to Agency Management Institute, 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 consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency, and we are going to talk about selling today. So let me tell you a little bit about our guest and why he is the perfect person to have this conversation with us. Many of you are probably already familiar with him, but let me tell you a little bit about him. So Anthony Iannarino is a highly respected international speaker, bestselling author, entrepreneur and sales leader. And he specializes in complex B2B sales, which is the world that we all live in. He’s also a founder and managing partner of two closely held family owned businesses in the staffing industry, and he leads both entities in strategic planning while growing sales. He’s best known for his work on the sales blog, which has helped him gain recognition as a top thought leader in sales strategy. He’s also designed something called the Level Four Value Creation and Building Consensus methodologies. We’ll probably talk about those.

Then help sales organizations achieve transformational breakthrough results. You probably are familiar with Anthony from his books. His book that just came out pretty recently called The Lost Art of Closing is brilliant, and I also loved. Actually the whole book is called, Lost Art of Closing: Winning the Ten Commitments That Drive Sales, because I want to find out about those commitments. And then the other book that he wrote a few years ago was, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. Highly recommend them both. So Anthony, welcome to the podcast.

Speaker 3:

Thanks for having me.

Drew McLellan:

So I don’t know how many agency owners you know, I suspect quite a few, but they hate sales, hate it. They hire salespeople so they don’t have to do it. They don’t support the salespeople as well as they should. And then they fire them when they don’t make their salary. And I think at the end of the day, it’s scary for them and they’re not sure how to do it and what to do. So given that you specialize in this complex B2B sales, is that a common reaction to sales?

Speaker 3:

For entrepreneurs, yes. For a lot of entrepreneurial people, they like the outcome that you get when you sell, but they don’t like actually doing the selling. And it’s because they misunderstand what selling is. And you have to have a mindset shift to enjoy sales. And the mindset shift that I would recommend is stop trying to do things to people and start trying to do things for people and with people. And that means you’re going to have a conversation about better future outcomes that are available for them and what kind of decisions they might have to be able to get those future outcomes. And it’s a game. And if it’s a game, then that means we play. And if you play, then you get to have fun. And if you go into something with a mindset that says, “This is drudgery, I’m not good at this. This sucks. I hate it.” Well, that will be your world because of the mindset you go into it with.

But look, I mean, when you get into business, I didn’t say this, Peter Drucker said this. So don’t argue with me. If you want to have an argument, have an argument with Peter Drucker, but you will lose the argument. So a business exists to create a customer. That’s why a business exists. That’s what you’re doing is creating customers, and we call that selling. That’s what we’re doing, we’re actually selling. That’s what the business is.

He also said that business has really two functions, marketing. And by that he meant a segment of selling, even though they would say selling is a segment of marketing and innovation. So coming up with the next way to create value. And that is the whole game. And when you go into it understanding how much fun it is to play the game, the game becomes a lot of fun.

Drew McLellan:

So when you’re coaching, because I know you do some coaching too. When you’re coaching a reluctant entrepreneur around the idea of reframing the way they think about selling, how do you help them shift their thinking?

Speaker 3:

What you have to start with is, if you decide that the outcome is to get somebody to do something. If that’s what you’re trying to do is to control the outcome, then you’re not really playing the game. So it’s almost like Drew, you and I are going to play a game of football and I have to win, no matter what I have to win. No, I have to play well. The way that you win is by playing well. And you do not win by focusing on the score or the score board or the things that you want as the outcome. You focus on how do I create an outcome for the other person? And the more focused you are on creating that, the better. So I have to help people with a mindset shift of look, what we’re asking people to do is have a conversation to explore what might be possible. That’s it, that’s the only thing we’re asking for. We’re not asking them to buy anything. We’re not asking them to do anything yet, except just explore.

And then we start asking them to make other commitments. If it’s worth looking at deeper, then I’d like to ask you to go another level deeper and let’s explore what’s possible for you and what that vision might look like. And I might define a problem that we’re trying to solve together. So we know like, “Okay, so this is the primary problem we’re trying to solve, and this is how you do this.” And then I might ask them to collaborate with me on, “If we were to come up with the right answer, what does the right answer to look like?” I mean, what should it do for you? How would we go about generating that? And it’s really a series of conversations.

All you’re really trying to do is make sure that you control the process. And the process means I’m going to try to play the game as well as I can. And if I let you skip to tell me your pricing and I don’t do all these things first, then sales is really difficult because you’ve done no value creating. And you have no real consensus on what the problem is or what’s supposed to be happening. So the mindset shift for agency owners, if you’re listening to this is, this is not something you’re trying to do to someone. This is something that you’re doing for someone and with someone and all you’re doing is having a conversation. And if you think, “Well, I need them to buy,” just drop that from your thinking. You’re not there yet.

I mean, it it’s like going to a bar and saying, “I’m not leaving here until I have a wife.” Maybe you should say hello to someone first and then coffee’s probably appropriate. And if that goes, well, maybe lunch and maybe a movie. I mean, maybe there’s some steps to a relationship and we don’t think of commercial relationships that way, but commercial relationships develop the same way. I don’t know you. I don’t like you and I don’t trust you and you don’t create any value for me. Okay. Well then how do I do those things?

Drew McLellan:

So I am sure the listener is thinking, “Okay, so how do I do those things?” And as I was listening to you talk, I know one of the things that you talk about is that sales is non-linear, that it’s not a straight line. So how does someone create that and talk a little bit about this idea that it’s a dynamic process and it’s really about this interaction and how do I sustain that over time?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it’s a good question. I don’t think that anybody’s really talking about the non-linearity because we still try to perceive it through this idea of a funnel that we have or a pipeline. And we have these stages that we presume the buyer to be in, but it just doesn’t work that way. So the idea that it’s linear means I have a target, I qualify the target. I do some discovery. I develop a solution. I build consensus around the solution. I present, I negotiate, I win or I lose. And that’s the way that we think of it from the sales side. But what if it doesn’t go that way? What if it’s not A, B, C, what if it’s A, B, B, D, C. And that’s the way real human conversations work.

So we’re exploring change and you say, “You know what? I don’t really understand what that would look like or what those outcomes would be. And then I have to show you something. So I want to share with you some ideas so that I can help give you a vision, if you don’t have one, and then I’m going to come back and start exploring again. But I have to serve you wherever you are. So if you say, “I don’t understand conceptually what we’re talking about or how it would work.” Okay. Well, let me show you the mechanics, even though we’re not there yet, and you’re not committing to anything, when I show you the mechanics, I’ll show you how it works and then we’ll go back and talk about what makes sense, if anything.

And I think that when you think about how you make a decision, you might look at something and then do a little bit of research and then look at it again and then have another conversation, and the bigger the deal is, the more you’re going to look at it. So as a consumer, the biggest thing you’re ever going to buy is probably a house, or a business, one of those two things. So if you’re going to buy a house, you’re going to look at the house and you’re going to fall in love with it. And then you’re going to get home and you’re going to start having concerns, “Should probably have somebody inspect that, who knows, they could be bamboozling me on the whole roof thing.” I don’t know. And then you’re going to go like, “You know what? I want to go see that again because I’m not sure about this thing.”

And then I want my wife to see that she’s got to see the house. We’d never do this without her seeing it. I need her, and I probably need the kids to come look at it too, and try to get consensus. So you would naturally go through a lot of the stages that people go through when they buy and you’d have to make some of those commitments. So when you just look and you know what they are, and you’re just paying attention and you start from this place, “How do I help this person with what they need right now?” Okay, good. Then that’s what you do. You try to do that and you try to help them know, this is what generally comes next, what serves you.

Drew McLellan:

So your newest book talks about this idea of Ten commitments. So tell us a little bit about that concept and how agency owners can relate that to their world.

Speaker 3:

It’s really interesting to me that all the closing books that have ever been written have 110 different closes, the only commitment you ever need is the commitment to buy. And it turns out, in 1988, Neil Rackham wrote SPIN Selling. And he said that every successful salesperson was gaining in advance, something that moved the deal forward without being the final close. And the salespeople that were struggling were getting what he called a continuation. So they were getting a, “Drew, that was a great meeting. Thanks so much. And we’ll talk it over, and at some point we’ll get back to you.” And they left with that. When I read that I was a kid and I just used that in every sales call, after I read the book. It was, I would have my calendar open on a desk with a client. And I would know, I just have to get something on the calendar.

No one ever wrote down what advances look like, No one ever wrote down, what are the commitments that add up to the real commitment to buy and I’ve been practicing it. And so have a lot of other people, to be honest with you, a lot of good salespeople know intuitively, “Oh, I still need to do this.” But because there’s been no guidance on that, I wanted to write them down and I wrote them down a long time ago, but when I pitched the first book, I showed people the second concept for what I knew it was going to be the second book. And it really is just from looking at what salespeople do and understanding, “We’re going to ask for time, we call that prospecting.” We’re going to have a meeting to explore change.

And then we’re going to have to ask them to take a deeper dive into looking if it makes sense for their company. That’s a second meeting. Then we’re going to ask them if they really want to change before we go through the rest of this process, there has to be some commitment to say, “This makes sense for me to do something.” And then we’re going to look at collaborating because the more that they own the solution and the more they’re involved in it, the easier it is for them to say, “Yes.” We’re going to probably build consensus with other people who care about what we’re doing. We’re going to talk about money. And for some people listening to this, you probably want to move that conversation forward because if they don’t have any money, you can have a lot of nice conversations and nobody can do anything.

And then we’re going to ask them to review the answer to say, “Is this right? Can you say yes to this? Do we need to make changes?” And then we’re going to ask them to resolve their concerns. If you get those first eight commitments right, if you get that conversation and it could be shorter or longer. If it’s a long sales cycle, high risks, high strategic value, hey dollars, then it’s going to be a number of conversations. If it’s a smaller deal that might happen over two conversations, you might get through all that or three conversations.

The ninth commitment is the commitment to buy. And here’s the thing, if you do a really good job with all these other commitments, that is the easiest commitment you’ll ever ask for. And if you decide to skip these conversations that you have to have before that, and you try to go straight to the end, that’s going to be the most difficult commitment you ever ask for.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Painful.

Speaker 3:

Yes. Because you’re not there yet. And that is the thing. So you have to serve people to make sure that they’re in the same place. What happens Drew, is that when we get in front of them, we become disconnected. And then we’re down here. We’re like, We know what the right answer is. I could sell this to you, Drew and you’re going to get the result today.” And they’re like, “I don’t know about that.” Okay. I got to come back down and pick you up and bring you up with me. And if they get too far ahead of us, they’re like, “Just tell me what the price is.” No, no, no, no, no. I got to come get you and bring you back down and let’s have the conversations we need to have so that we can get there together.

Drew McLellan:

So a lot of agents owners, as you might imagine, you’re exactly right. They want to cut to the chase. How much money do you have? What’s your marketing budget? What are you already spending? The consequence of that is it becomes transactional. And it becomes about price rather than value.

Speaker 3:

True.

Drew McLellan:

So how does someone discipline themselves to slow down and make it about value as a… because whether you’re a new business salesperson inside the agency or, for a lot of our listeners, the agency owner is the primary salesperson. There’s a pressure to close and there’s a pressure to land the deal because agencies are always about, you eat what you kill and you have to keep going out to make sure the family stays fed. So how do you learn the discipline of slowing down and what are the signs that somebody is ready to move to the next commitment?

Speaker 3:

You check it, you just ask. You just say, “Drew, it sounds like what we’ve been talking about is of interest to you. I’d like to ask you for another time on your calendar, where I can share with you some things that we see that might work, and I’d love to get your feedback on what you think you might need to be able to make some of these ideas work. And I’d like to hear some of your ideas. What do you look like next Wednesday at 4:30?” I mean, you’re going to check and say, “Does this make sense for us to continue to do this?”

And then this is where we get all messed up because of they’re like, “You know what, I heard some of the ideas you were talking about, I’d like to see those. And I’d like to know what it costs. Can you go ahead and send me some pricing on what your programs look like?” And we’re like, “Yeah, we’re really dopey. We’ll just go ahead and send that over.” And think it’s not going to be about price now because we let go of the process. We see to control the process to somebody who really doesn’t understand what they should be doing to get the result.

There’s another thing that we do because we’re in a hurry. It’s not just about value. It’s not just about trying to build value. It’s more than that. You’re trying to create a preference to work with you and your agency. And I’m going to say this again because I don’t think people get this and I’m going to be more emphatic about saying it over and over again. You’re trying to make them want to buy from you and no one else. So when you don’t spend time with people and when you transact with them, you’re undoing the part where they go, “You know what? Drew spent a lot of time here. He really knows us.” That’s called intimacy and of the three drivers of trust, if you look at Charles Green’s work The Trusted Advisor with David Maister and you look at Trust-Based Selling and the Trust-Based Selling fieldbook. All awesome, awesome work. Trust is reliability, credibility times intimacy, divided by how self-oriented and smarmy you are.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. The smarmy factor.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. The more it’s about you, the less it’s about me and that doesn’t work. But Charlie will tell you, the most important of those three factors is not credibility and it’s not reliability. It’s intimacy. Do you know me? Do you understand me? Do you care about helping me? They’re trying to make that determination. So the faster you go, what’s happening is you’re eliminating trust because you’re saying, “Look, I don’t need to know you. I don’t need to know any more about your agency. I know what the right answer is. I do what I do. I can fix this for you right now.” And they’re like, “I’m not there yet.” So we’re disconnected again. And what you have to understand about complex dynamic human interactions and relationships is that fast is slow and slow is fast. So if you want to go fast, what you do is go slow so that the other person stays connected to you. And when you’re going fast and you disconnect because the speed differential, the other person is disconnected from you and you are transactional.

You’re trying to create value for the other person throughout this process. At the same time, you’re trying to create a preference to buy from you. And I have this little conversation going on, on LinkedIn this week where a guy challenged the post I wrote called, be smart and be likable. And he said, in my opinion, too many people try to be likable and they don’t worry enough about creating real value for clients. And I think it’s just the opposite. I think they forget, “I have to create a preference to buy from me. So how am I going to behave?” I just can’t be smart. I need to be smart and I need to be somebody that you look at and go, “This is the person I want on my team. That’s a decision they’re making when they hire an agency, “Do I want you on my team?” And if you lose deals, you have to look very seriously at yourself. You have to be introspective and honest with yourself and say, “Why do they not want me on their team?”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. What is it they don’t trust or like about me?

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And that’s a tough question to ask.

Speaker 3:

But it’s the keys to the castle, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think about agencies and one of the things that I talk to both agency owners and their account folks about is understand that if someone’s hiring you, you’re the agency that’s either going to get them promoted or fired. They’re either going to look like they’re a rock star inside their organization or with your help, they’re going to make some bad decisions and CMOs, you and I know a lot of CMOs, that’s a revolving door. So you think about the trust and the intimacy that is required for that. “If we don’t do well together, I’m going to fire your agency. But if we don’t do well together, I’m going to lose my job.” So the stakes are pretty high for that buyer.

Speaker 3:

It’s true in all sales situations. I mean, you’re a reflection of this person’s decision-making. And you’re now part of the team. And I do think that we underestimate the part where people are actually adding us to their team. We’re part of their company. What you bill your client, could be more than employees… I’m telling you. It’s more than some employees that work inside that organization. So you think you’re not part of the team when you have a line on their profit and loss statement that says marketing consulting $246,000. Then somebody is going to say, “That’s a lot of money to spend. We better be getting some result for that.” And that’s the decision. That’s the decision that they’re making.

I think you have to be really smart. And probably if you’re listening to a podcast like this, you are, but you also have to be really likable. And that means you have to control this process and do it in service of the other person. How do I help them really think this through? And while I’m doing that, how do I make sure that I’m positioning myself as the right partner?

Drew McLellan:

So we’ve been referencing smarmy a little bit. So this sounds like a simple question, but how does someone present themselves as likable without coming off as smarmy or… and the simple answer is be sincere and be authentic. How do I do that in a sales setting where I am trying to get you to do something. What you said is the way we think about it, I know we’re supposed to help them. So talk to us about the different-

Speaker 3:

You made me think about the people who should not be authentic because they are smarmy.

Drew McLellan:

They are smarmy. Right, right.

Speaker 3:

I will tell you the best thing that I know about getting other people to make the commitments that you need them to make, you always have to do a couple of things. You have to be sincerely interested in other people. And I think if you’re sincerely interested in other people and you’re really trying to learn from them, then they’re going to give you the key to understanding what they want and what they need at some deeper level. And you have to pay very close attention. And when I ask people to tell me about other human beings, that they have them buying situations, they can’t tell me much about the person. And I’ll give you an example. One group told me, “We don’t know anything about this guy.” And I said, “Okay, I know you don’t know anything about this guy, but if you did know something, what would you know?” Which is my favorite way to ask that question.

And then they knew all kinds of things. They said he’s 52 years old. He owns a giant ranch outside of Minneapolis, where he has about a 100 horses. He’s going to get an MBA in philanthropy at night. And I said, “Okay. So he’s got a significance issue.” He’s got a problem with important because he’s getting an MBA at 52, when he’s rich enough to have a 100 horses on a ranch. And he’s getting a degree in philanthropy, which does not require a degree at all, but he needs the certification for some reason. All you really need to be a philanthropist is a checkbook and a bank account where the checks will clear and you’re a philanthropist. That’s a pretty easy gig to get into.

And so I started explaining what I could tell about a person from very few facts, and knowing a few things, but they don’t look at the human being to say, “Who is this person, and what do they need from me?” And if you do that, it’s better. So if you’re interested in other people, if you pay attention, if you ask questions because you really want to know the answers, instead of going through a script. These are the questions that we ask when we sit down with a client, look at that.

The second thing that I would tell you is you have to trade value in every interaction, in every interaction you have to say, “I’m going to give this person more value than I take from them in time,” or, “I’m going to give them more value than I take from them in money,” whatever the case is, so that when they look at you, they go, “Every time Drew sits down with me, I learned something new. He’s always interested in what we’re doing. He’s definitely picking up who we are and what we’re doing.” I get really, really high marks when I speak to organizations. And when I do any work with them, for one particular reason, I’m very, very fast at picking that up intentionally and if I work closely with a group for any period of time, eventually they say, “How long have you worked here?” And I don’t work there, but I get the language and I get what the concepts are fast, because I don’t want to feel like an outsider, and I don’t want them to look and say, “This is an outsider.”

If you’re joining the team, it’s a tribe, right?

Drew McLellan:

Yes.

Speaker 3:

And there’s membership in the tribe. And how do you get membership? You start to understand the rules of the tribe and where things sit inside that particular tribe. That’s what you’re trying to uncover. So if you want to be less smarmy, be interested in other people and don’t worry about the outcomes that you want long-term, worry about the short term outcomes. How do I serve this person in this interaction and create enough value that I can explain to them the value I’ll trade for them on the next meeting.

So when I say, “Drew, I’d like to get together and collaborate with you on what some solutions might look like. And at the end of that, you’re going to have a better idea of some things that you could consider. You’ll have a better idea of what some of these things might cost. And you’ll have a better idea of some of the trade-offs that we might make together.” So no matter what, at the end of that meeting, you may not be prepared to make any decision, but you’re going to have a lot of things that we can talk through and consider, “Does that work for you?” I’m going to ask, I’m going to tell you, “This is what you’re getting out of this collaboration.” So you’re hearing, I’m going to know more. I’m going to understand what the trade-offs are, and I’ll probably have some idea of an investment. Okay. That sounds like an interesting meeting to have.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So I know that you had talked about that the funnel itself, the linear nature of the funnel. One of the things that I talk about when we talk about agency sales is that, however you draw the funnel, it’s not just one way. People don’t just drop down in the funnel. They swim back up and they swim around in a circle and they might stay in the same spot for 10 years. Somebody said to me, the other day, they said, “What’s the average sales cycle for an agency?” And I said, “Well, a day or a decade, somewhere in there.” And for some agencies that really… somebody is not in a position to buy or they’re in the middle of a long contract. So how do you recommend if somebody knows their sales cycle is a couple of years long, at least, how do you recommend that they stay top of mind and continue to provide value for that prospect? So I’m going to stop you there for a second because I know everyone wants the answer. So let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back and Anthony will ask that question.

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile, odds are, you’ve heard me mention the AMI peer networks or the agency owner network. And what that is really is, is it’s a Vistage group or an EO group, only everybody around the table owns an agency in a non-competitive market. So as a membership model, they come together twice a year for two days in the spring and two days in the fall. And they work together to share best practices. They show each other their full financials. So 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.

All right. We are back with Anthony Iannarino and we are talking about sales. And so before the break I had said to him, sale cycle for agency is super long, a day to a decade. How do we stay top of mind? How do we continue to add value? How do we continue to help for as long as it takes for that prospect to be ready to buy? So I’m now just going to shut up and learn.

Speaker 3:

I think you have to have a long-term approach to competitive displacements or a long-term opportunity. If the sales cycle takes you 10 years, you do not have an opportunity because it doesn’t take anybody 10 years to decide to change, not marketing agencies, that’s for sure. Couple of three years, might take you that long to displace someone, but you have to have a plan to do that. And what I call them, are nurture campaigns. And so I’m going to be professionally persistent when I’m prospecting and trying to develop relationships. But I tend to think of it through a lens that looks like a communications over 13 weeks, maybe two of those or three of those are phone calls. And if I know it’s an even longer term play than that, it might be two phone calls over that quarter, but always with the delivering of value.

And so what I would tell you is that I tend to think of the message that I always have to have to start the induction into any process with the client is, why change? Why should I be doing something different? And not because I want to displace them, but why should they actually be doing something different? “You’re spending money on television. Television’s great. It’s still, I mean, a very important medium, but your audience by demographic is on Facebook and Instagram and you need to start doing digital and you need to take some of the things that you’re doing over here and move it, and this is why.” “Okay. Yeah, I know. I know that, but everybody knows that.” Okay, good. Then the next level of the induction. “So I understand you know this, how much of your revenue should be generated in, or directed towards each of the mediums.”

I mean, now I’m going to start getting into other things. Here’s what facts and figures tell me. So I want facts and figures and I want proof providers. I want Mary Meeker’s work. I want to look at things like that to say, “This is Forrester. This is Gartner. This is Adweek. This is not me telling you this. This is what the industry knows.” And I want to start showing proof providers and facts and figures. And then I want to start sending content that is my views and values. This is what we believe. And you have to have some point of view about what you’re doing, and you’re going to use blog posts. You’re going to use white papers. You’re going to use case studies. You’re going to use things that are published on LinkedIn. You’re going to use examples of other people’s work that you point to, to say, “We found this, it’s absolutely worth your time and attention,” because what you’re doing is you’re in a battle for mind share. And the more you own the mind share, the easier it is to develop that opportunity and competitively displace someone.

And when you’re the person they look to, to help them do this thinking, then you end up being able to create, and win those opportunities. So I would tell you, you can look out four quarters and say, “Give me four quarters worth of content.” What stories are we going to tell? And then on your team, you should be reading The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal. You should be looking at every magazine still on magazine racks. You should be looking at everything that’s going on in the media space all together to say, “This is what good looks like. This is what right looks like right now. These are the changes that are going to be necessary in the next 18 to 24 months.” So that when there’s an event and there’s any challenge to the existing relationship or there’s any new need or some event that changes the business they go, “Call Drew.” “Why Drew?” “He’s thought all this stuff through already.” “How do you know he’s thought all this through?” “Because he shared it with me.” I mean, I’m getting an email from them every month, that’s got these incredible facts and links for me to look at. It’s already been thought through. Let’s see what he has to say.

And you want to continue to ask for the meeting throughout that whole process, but you do have to stay top of mind and you do have to be there when the event occurs. And the first book I wrote, a told a story, the company was actually PetSmart and they had a stakeholder there that kept me out for seven years. And I called one day and she was gone. And within two weeks, I had their business. I mean, literally, it was two weeks after she was gone, but it was seven years of me pursuing that account and her keeping us at bay. But as soon as there was a change, I knew we were right the whole time, and the event had to occur.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. So when you describe it that way, actually let me go back. So you said when you’re doing these things, so when you’re sending this helpful content, when you are sending your proof and your credibility factors, and you’re helping them with all of this content, you should also be asking for the meeting. What does that look like? What does that request look like?

Speaker 3:

Oh, I always like to do the ask on the phone. So anything that I send by email, I always say, “I will try you again some other time.” I don’t ever expect a call back, that’s why people don’t like cold calling because they have this expectation that I’ll call and then people will call me back. They’re not trying to help you. You’re trying to help them. So you have to call back.

Drew McLellan:

So when I’m sending stuff, I am not asking for me-

Speaker 3:

No, no, no. This is nurture.

Drew McLellan:

… I’m just this, “Hey Anthony, saw this, know that you guys are in a big growth mode. Think you’ll find it really fascinating. Check in chapter four, love Drew.”

Speaker 3:

Or printed out and highlight to say, “I highlighted these sections of [inaudible 00:32:44] for you based on what I know about you right now.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. Separate post a note or whatever. So I’m not asking for a meeting there. And then in between I’m calling and odds are, I’m leaving a voicemail, right?

Speaker 3:

Well, I don’t know. A lot of people answer the phone now because salespeople don’t make calls anymore. I mean, unless me or Jeb or Mike Weinberg got to you, you don’t make calls. So we’re pushing back against that because the phone is now even more effective, I think. So I’m going to say, “Drew Hey, it’s Anthony Iannarino and I am with marketing agency X, Y, Z. And listen, I know you know you get my stuff. I’m going to be in your area late this week on Thursday and Friday, what do you look like for a 20 minute meet and greet? And I want to share with you these four trends that we’re following and listen, this is not a sales call. I just want to discuss these with you, share them with you. I’d like to get your feedback. And of course, I want to know you, should you ever need anything, I’m happy to share any other ideas we have. What do you look like late Thursday afternoon for a meet and greet?”

And I said 20 minutes because I’m lowering the commitment level I’m asking somebody to make, and I am going to come in and share a conversation that’s not about who we are. This is the pitch we used to make. And it still works sometimes. And eventually it’ll come back around and will be the most popular thing to do. “Drew, Hey, it’s Anthony Iannarino. I’m with marketing agency X, Y, Z. And I’d love to stop by, introduce myself, show you what we do, share some of the concepts that we’re doing with other clients, and then ask you some questions about you and your business.” And you’re like, “Okay, so great. You’ll talk about you and then you’ll talk more about you. And then you’ll show me some logos of other companies that you’ve won. And then you’ll ask me the same questions every marketing sales person that’s ever called on me has asked me, rather than knowing anything or bringing me the ideas I’m going to-”

Drew McLellan:

Can you come in tomorrow. I don’t want to wait until Thursday.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. How fast can you be here? ? But if you say something like, “I’m going to share with you the four trends and some of the questions that you guys are probably already struggling with. And if not, you may have some answers that I’d like to hear how you guys are thinking about it.” Then it’s like, “Okay, so we’re going to have a grownup conversation about business.” Now, that’s interesting because that’s the world that I live in. I’m trying to run a business here. I’m trying to generate a business result. And as nice as you are in as fascinating as a human being as you are, I have limited time to produce these results, so I can’t waste it. That’s the thing. So we have to have a better trade of value.

Drew McLellan:

So as you describe all of this, the nurture campaign and all of that, it doesn’t sound super complicated. So how come most people can’t and don’t do it well?

Speaker 3:

I would say sales is simple, but it’s not easy. And it is really what we do is pretty simple, but it is not easy. And it’s because the first challenge we have is that most of our clients have not made a decision to change. They haven’t decided to change what they’re doing. And they definitely haven’t changed who they’re doing it with. And so that’s the first challenge that we have, that part’s difficult. The getting in part is the most difficult sale we make. Once you’re in, and anyone listening to this, I know you’re going, “Yes. That’s exactly me.” When I get in front of them, I’m great. It’s the getting in front of them part that’s hard. So you have to-

Drew McLellan:

That’s what agency owners tell me all the time. If we can get the meeting, odds are, we can get the business meeting. It’s meeting the meeting.

Speaker 3:

Yes. So in the one area where you have to suck less it’s prospecting and having a pitch where you trade enough value to get time. And if you get the time and you know how to do this, and you know how to open up exploration, and you’re talking about bigger ideas that create value, the whole thing gets easier. It’s where you start from. And you mentioned Level Four Value Creation in the intro. But that concept is where do you come in? Do you come in and say, “Look, we sell marketing stuff. And this is what we do,” or do you come in and say, “There’s a lot of things going on in your world that are going to disrupt your business the way it’s running now. And you have to start thinking different about it because we’re going to be challenged to produce the same results, the way we’re producing them now. And we have an opportunity to produce better results. And here’s how we’re looking at that.” That’s an interesting conversation,

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah. Nobody wants to buy marketing stuff. They want to buy what marketing stuff gets them.

Speaker 3:

Right. Drills and holes.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right. Absolutely. So earlier you had talked about one of the keys to being successful at this is controlling the process and that sometimes the client tries to wrestle away that process. A, what does it look  when the client, or the prospect starts to take over the process and then how do you get it back?

Speaker 3:

Well, I’m going to tell you what people listening to this do. “Drew, can you just go ahead and email me a proposal and pricing, and then we’ll get back together with you after we get a chance to look at it.” You just lost control of the process. You just said, “Listen, I’m not going to review it with you, number one. And number two, I’m going to leave you to sit by yourself with your concerns so that you only have your own information and you don’t really understand what’s possible.” So you can just go ahead and do that and then decide, “Maybe we should kick this down the road a bit. Maybe we should wait, not sure we really need to change right now while this is more than I thought it was going to be anyway.” You’re just leaving them alone. And I don’t understand why we would do that.

The part where they’re really challenged to think this through is the end where they go, “You know what? I’ve got this concern. I wonder if this really works, is this the right amount for us to spend, would somebody else charges less for this?” And they’re having this conversation. You’re not even in the room. So why do you do that? I mean, it doesn’t serve you and it sure doesn’t serve them.

Drew McLellan:

So when someone says, “Hey, email me your pricing or your proposal.” What is a polite and proper way to say no?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely, Drew. I’ll send it to you. I’m going to use the address that I have on your business card. But before I do that, can I share something with you?

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Speaker 3:

And a lot of cases, when we send this over, you’re going to have questions. Would it be all right, and the way that this tends to work best for most people is if we go through it page by page, so that I can explain to you a few of the things that we were thinking here and get your agreement on that. And then I’ll send that over. And then I imagine you’re probably going to want to share this with your team?

Drew McLellan:

Yes, probably. Yes.

Speaker 3:

Okay. My guess is, is that they’ll probably have some concerns, what tends to make the most sense? Can I come in and meet with you after you meet with your team and I’ll come in towards the end of that meeting. And if they have any concerns, I’ll resolve them. And if you know ahead of time, what they’re going to be concerned about, I’ll make sure I bring whatever’s necessary so that we can serve them. And if this is the right decision, I think you’ll know that. And if not, and there’s still concerns that are unresolved, we’ll go back to square one and look at this together.

Drew McLellan:

Great. That’s good language. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And we’re just having a conversation in how do I best serve you, leaving you alone, not talking about what it is that we’re doing? I don’t think so. And I don’t think that that’s what we want when we’re making a big decision. And we’re going to be putting money at risk. We’re going to be putting results at risk. We’re going to have the rest of the organization watching to see how this goes. I think that when you’re there to serve people, and I would use this language too, I like it a lot. I say it all the time. I want to make sure that I’m there to serve you. That’s what I’m here for.

I’m here to help you get the outcome that you need, and I’m going to be here. I’m going to be here when it’s difficult to get the result and the trains come off the track. I’m going to be there when some of the people on your team start to lose faith. I’m going to be there when they have concerns, because that’s what I’m going to do. And then you’re like, “That’s the person I want to work with. This is the person I’m going to put on my team, because they’re going to be here. They’re not going to sell me and then disappear.”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. You know that you talk a little bit about, there are new and better ways to… you’ve walked us through these commitment levels and the idea that we have to get commitment four before we can get five before we can get six. In the book you talk about, and I’ve heard you speak in other places that there are better ways to ask for those commitments than the old school approach. So walk us through some of the new ways to do that. And what are some of the things that maybe we used to do or that used to work, or we might have read about that maybe we need to rethink whether or not they’re practical anymore.

Speaker 3:

I’ve been doing that throughout this whole thing. I mean, so when anybody listens back to this, they’re going to hear a whole bunch of language choices. Drew, what works better for you? 10 o’clock on Thursday or two o’clock on Friday? That’s called the alternative of choice. And what I’m doing is I’m assuming that you’re already going to say yes to this meeting. I’m making an assumptive close, which is fine, but everybody’s asked that for so long. It’s like, “Please, 10 o’clock on Thursday or two o’clock on Friday, how many times does a salesperson said that?” It just doesn’t come across well at all. And we say all kinds of things, when we get to the final close, we say something like, “If I could discount this by 20%, would you buy today?” What is that language? I don’t understand it. It’s because you’re afraid of asking and you don’t believe in your own price, instead of just-

Drew McLellan:

And I just taught you that I have no price integrity.

Speaker 3:

Right. And instead of just saying, “Drew, we’ve gone through this whole process together. I think that we have this solution completely dialed in. I believe that your team supports it. And I believe that we’re going to have their help on the work here to get this done. Unless there’s something else that you need, I’d like to ask you, if I can go ahead and get you a contract and we can go ahead, begin putting this in motion.” What’s wrong with just asking? I don’t know why we have to have all kinds of different language choices-

Drew McLellan:

A shtick.

Speaker 3:

… to just ask. Yeah. And I don’t think we have to have language that sounds like that. Some of the other things that people say are, “If price wasn’t an issue, would you buy now?” But-

Drew McLellan:

What is, price not an issue.

Speaker 3:

… why would you say that at all? And if it wasn’t an issue, it is now. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense to do things the way that we did them, because it’s a different time. Markets have matured tremendously. And if you’re a marketing agent, I mean, if you’re running an agency, you’re lucky because there’s just so few of you and I mean, you have such a lack of competition and I’m smiling and Drew’s smiling. You might not be smiling. You’re like, “Does he know?” “Yeah. He knows” There’s tons of competition. This third book I’m writing right now, I’m talking about the blue ocean strategy. I mean, I love it when you have an innovation that’s so great. You’re a category of one. You don’t have that. Which means you have to understand-

Drew McLellan:

Your category and the block.

Speaker 3:

Exactly And it means that you have to behave in a way that says, “I can create greater value.” And for most of you listening to this, this is my guess, the thing is, you can be what people really want. And the bigger company gets the more transactional it gets, because it starts to become process driven instead of people driven. So you look at somebody like United, and they have great value statements at United, but they have rules and rules tend to come before values. So the rule is, you got to get off my plane. And if I have to have people beat you up to get you off my plane, you’re getting off my plane. Well, the values say, we treat our customers as the most important thing in the world because they are, and we put their safety first, not in this one particular case, we didn’t put the safety first. In this case, we went with the rules instead of the values.

And when you’re small, when you’re boutique, you get to be high trust, high value, high caring. And when you’re high trust, high value and high caring, and you spend time with people and you get intimacy and you know how to have these conversations, people want to work with you because that’s what they’re really looking for. And that is what you can be, but you do have to know how to serve people as a trusted advisor. And you need two things to be a trusted advisor, you need trust and you need advice. So you have to be smart and you have to be likable and you have to know what it really takes to generate those results.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So true. So as I suspected, we could talk about this for a long time. And again, listeners, if you have not read Anthony’s books, I suggest you read them both. Don’t just stop at one. They’re awesome, as you can tell from the content. But Anthony, a closing thought, is there something that you want to make sure the listeners have cemented in their brain around the idea of sales, knowing that they are mostly reluctant salespeople.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And no one ever decided they wanted to be a salesperson when they were a child. I mean, that’s never happened. But the interesting thing to me is that when you were a child, you were a great salesperson. You asked for what you needed, you asked for what you wanted, you persisted, you were resourceful. You changed your approach. You tried to charm people to get your way. I mean, you were a natural born salesperson because you are when you’re a kid. And then you start worrying what people think about you. And so you decide like, “I’m going to lower my expectation in all these interactions, and I’m going to play by withholding. I’m going to withhold who I am. I’m going to withhold what I do. I’m not going to give a 100% of myself over it too, because I could be hurt. And I’m not willing to be vulnerable anymore like a kid.” When you’re a kid, you’re like, “Look, I’m dancing.” And people are Like, “No, it looks like you’re having a seizure,” or, “That’s not dancing.” But you don’t care what anybody thinks.

And you just start to play a very small game. So I would just tell you, “Look, you’re here for a short time and you have to do the best work for other people that you can.” And that means you have to just bring your full self to everything and selling is a big part of it. You’re actually engaged in what is helping another person get a result that they can’t get without you. How cool is that? I mean, you don’t get to do anything better than helping people transform their business. You’re helping people transform their business. How can you not be in love with the idea of going out and having conversations around how we help people transform their businesses? What is cooler than that?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, no, you’re right.

Speaker 3:

I mean, I fronted a hair metal band when I was a kid, that was cooler than this, but there aren’t too many things that are cooler than what we do here.

Drew McLellan:

We can’t all do that though. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

No, we can’t all do that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. You know what, that is a great ending point, that we’re blessed with the work that we get to do and we should celebrate it and own it and go out there with pride and humility all wrapped in one and just offer to help more people.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That was awesome. Hey, if people want to track you down and they want to learn more about you, and the coaching you do and all the other things that you offer folks, where’s the best place for them to head?

Speaker 3:

Thesalesblog.com. That’s the best place to find me. But when you get there, you’ll get a newsletter sign up. That’s my best piece of work every week, I think, the Sunday newsletter. And I’ll connect with you on LinkedIn or wherever else it makes sense.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So we’ll put all of that information in the show note folks, so you can access that as well. So Anthony, thank you so much. This was inspiring as I expected it would be, hopefully people are feeling a whole lot better about the idea that they get to sell rather than they have to sell.

Speaker 3:

I like it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Thanks so much.

Speaker 3:

All right. Thanks, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. That wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Hopefully you found it incredibly helpful and inspiring and that you are ready to go out and do some great things. I also want to talk to you about another tool that we’ve built that I would love to offer you. So as you have probably heard me preach, I believe a lot of agencies chase after the wrong new business prospects. And I think we do that because we have not taken the time to clearly define who our sweet spot clients should be. And the way you do that is by looking at your current clients and then developing out who your prospects should be based on your best current clients.

So we’ve put together a Sweet Spot Client Filter, say that five times fast, that I would love for you to take advantage of and for you to use inside your shop, to figure out exactly who you should be targeting for new business. To get access to that free tool, all you need to do is text, AMI for Agency Management Institute, as you might imagine. AMI, text that to 38470. Again, text AMI to 38470, and we will get the Sweet Spot Client Filter out to you right away. Thanks again for listening. If I can be helpful, you can find me as always at [email protected] Otherwise, I will touch base with you next week with another great episode. Talk to you soon.

Speaker 1:

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 always dreamed of owning.