Episode 367

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Today on the podcast, we’re challenging how you approach B2B prospecting. If you’ve ever been afraid to openly advertise your pricing, roll out a free offer for new customers, or try something completely different from the agency norm, I hope this conversation inspires you to take the risk.

In this episode, David Valentine and I discuss how his businesses have grown incredibly by using unorthodox methods to drive sales and keep clients for longer through “Outrageous Offers” and case studies. His agencies have closed 75–85% of their sales by giving clients nothing to lose in working with him. He knows that what companies need most are results — and fast.

Tune in to hear what he’s learned over ten years of agency experience, the different methods he uses to drive sales, and how he guarantees his clients’ happiness.

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.

B2B prospects

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • What is an “outrageous offer”?
  • How to stop creating roadblocks for your agency to obtain new business
  • The effectiveness of case studies in showing clients how you can guarantee results
  • How to sell results over selling a product
  • Why attaching free offers to a guaranteed outcome works
  • Why transparency will generate new business for you
  • Making yourself irresistible and undeniable to prospects

“You have to figure out what variables you would need to control to guarantee results, dictate that to your client before you begin the relationship in a paid fashion.” @realdval Click To Tweet “We fail agency owners when we create roadblocks. Why would you do that? You're making it more challenging for yourself to sell a prospect.” @realdval Click To Tweet “The thing that makes us unique is that we teach our clients how to sell results instead of how to sell their product.” @realdval Click To Tweet “Transparency is one of our six core values. So we'll tell prospects honestly, ‘Look, our work is so good. Once you get to work with us, you're going to love it.” @realdval Click To Tweet “If you're undeniable and irreplaceable, it doesn't matter. It's all about how much you believe in your agency's ability to deliver.” @realdval Click To Tweet

Ways to contact David:

Resources:



Automated:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, or 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 made. 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. We’re going to talk about sales and outrageous offers and all kinds of other things. That’s going to be an interesting conversation, no doubt about it, but first, I want to remind you, if you are a fan of the Mercer Island Group folks, that’s Steve and Robin Boehler, Lindsay O’Neil. You have learned from them in the past, either on the podcast or maybe you saw Robin as a keynote speaker at our very first summit in 2021 or you’ve attended one of their workshops before. You know that they are brilliant. They are generous. They believe in and support and celebrate agencies. They are uniquely qualified to help us get better because they literally see hundreds and hundreds of agencies chasing new business, pitching, both in writing and in person and I guess, today, probably on Zoom. They’ve just gleaned so much insight about how agencies win at new business.

That, we have them on the podcast regularly. We’re doing workshops with them regularly. We have two workshops with them that I want to call your attention to. The first one is a brand new workshop called, Get It Right. It’s all about written proposals. Whether or not you just get asked for a proposal and you’re not in a shootout with other agencies or a formal RFP or anything in between, they’re going to spend two days in January. It’s January 24th and 25th. They’re going to spend two days teaching us the good, bad and ugly of how we write when it comes to new business and how we can do it better. That workshop is in Orlando, Florida at the Contemporary Hotel on Disney Property. You can register for that right now by going to the AMI website. I’ll do that in a minute when I tell you about the other one.

Back by Popular Demand is the Selling With Strategic Insights workshop. I think we’ve held this workshop now, I’m going to say, five times. We have to limit it to 50 people. We always have a wait list, which nobody ever cancels. We can never really honor the wait list quite honestly, but 50 people in the room. We’ve done it five times. I would say, most agencies bring two people. Let’s call it 130 agencies. They’re at over $100 million of AGI, one, using what they learned in this workshop. It is spectacular. If you’re looking to grow your agency and you want to improve your win rate, both of these workshops, January 24th and 25th for the Get It right, all the written proposals, and July 24th and 25th, which will be in Denver, by the way, for the Selling With Strategic Insights. Both of them are on the AMI website. Go to agencymanagementinstitute.com and then under How We Help, you’ll find the workshops and you can find both of them there.

Love to have you. I will tell you, both of these will sell out. Don’t wait until the last minute to grab your ticket. You want to make sure that you can be there and be with us, all right? Let me tell you a little bit about our guest today. My guest today is a guy named David Valentine. Dave used to own an agency. He’ll tell you about that story now. He’s a serial entrepreneur. He owns seven or eight companies, several of which serve agencies. Specifically, what I wanted to talk to him about today is, one of his companies helps agencies book appointments with prospects. We’re going to talk about how they are successful at that. What are some of the tricks and of the trade there. He’s going to talk about things like outrageous offers. He has a very interesting take on case studies.

I think you’re really going to find this fascinating. For some of you, you may listen to it and go, “I don’t think I’m going to do all of that.” Others of you may say, “I’m switching tomorrow,” but for all of us, I think it’s thought provoking and it forces us to think about the way we are doing business and is it the right way for our shop, because every shop has their own way. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to the conversation. All right. David, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

David Valentine:

Super excited to be here, Drew. Thanks for having me.

Drew McLellan:

Tell everybody a little bit of your backstory. How did you get to where you’re at today? What drove you in that direction?

David Valentine:

Yeah. When I was 10, Drew, I started selling candy bars out of my backpack and got $5 loan from my dad to go buy a candy bar for 25 cents and then sell them for 50 cents. That was my first business foray. My first adult business was when I was 25. I had been doing marketing in-house. I started working at an internship when I was 18. I was still in high school because I just loved to work. I was running MySpace and Friendster accounts, building websites and shooting promo videos for this small company doing all the work in-house. I’d kept doing that for a while, Drew, and then I kind of saw what it looked like in the agency world. By the time I was 24, I started interacting with these other agencies and I realized they had no idea what they were doing from an internal perspective. We were just like, “Wow, they really don’t know.” We were working with four different agencies at the time. I was at a large company.

I thought, “Well, I can go do this.” I had never worked at an agency before. I’d never sold a client. I had no idea what I was doing, but I started to build up this nice little catchall digital agency.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I was 30 when I did that, but I had worked in agencies since, actually, when I was in college, but I still had no idea what it meant to run an agency. I was like, “My boss is stupid, so how hard can it be?”

David Valentine:

Precisely.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

Yeah. I started this agency and we networked our way to a million dollars, worked our tails off. By the time I was 29, I went to the doctor and he said, “Hey, how do you know you’re going to have a heart attack, Dave?” I was like, “I don’t understand that question doc.” He goes, “You don’t know. You just have one.” He said, “We’ve tested 4,500 people. You’re the most stressed out person we’ve ever tested.” I was like, “Wow.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’s it. That’s a trophy you don’t want to have.

David Valentine:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

He goes, “You want to walk your daughter down the aisle?” I was like, “Yeah.” He goes, “You’re not going to see her graduate from high school if you keep going at this pace.”

Drew McLellan:

Wow.

David Valentine:

Geez.

Drew McLellan:

Right. That’s a little eye opening.

David Valentine:

Yeah. You’re four years into a business and you’re like, “Dude, we’re doing a million in revenue.” We’re like, “We’re growing really well.” It really forced me to go, “Okay, how do I build this thing without killing myself?”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

It was the prototypical business where I was the go-to guy. Even though I had really good staff, I had a number of staff and growing staff, we even got bigger, but what would happen every time is that a client would say, “Well, listen, to their account manager, I love that you’re telling me this. I’m super excited about the results we’re seeing. I really need to talk with Dave. We’d like to put him on a plane. We’ll pay for eight hours of his day, but we need him in New York. We need him in Knoxville, Tennessee. We need him in San Diego, and we need him there next week.” It was just always this constant battle of everyone always needed my time. If there was ever a big problem, Dave was the one to come to the rescue.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah, I’m sure a lot of listeners can relate to that.

David Valentine:

Oh man. It’s like the agency life because there’s one person that’s a creative guru. There’s one person that’s super insightful in how to speak to a client, and they’re A players. When I started to ask the question once, Drew, it was like, “Okay, how do I build a company that doesn’t do that?”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

I sold that first company and then I started new agencies out of that. Essentially, the new agencies that I started that were within my non-compete, they were totally kosher. They were agencies that were built on results only. Only selling results, not selling a scope of work. The customers, the clients didn’t know me. They know of me, but they don’t know me. What I’ve been able to do, Drew, is, my wife, three kids, two dogs and I, travel across the country. We stay at different places that we like to live. I’ve been able to invest in by a whole part or launch or whatever, eight different companies. I work pretty standard hours, about 40 to 50 hours a week, which is my sweet spot. I don’t want to work less than that.

Drew McLellan:

Wait, wait, wait. You don’t only work four hours a week.

David Valentine:

I am not that cool, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

I don’t think it’s possible, but okay.

David Valentine:

It’s one of those things, man. The four hour work week is a really catchy title. I loved it. That’s an idea of having a side hustle and it’s cool. I love to work though.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

David Valentine:

It was funny. I was having a conversation with some of my leadership staff this morning at one of the bigger companies and I said, “I just love to win.” I’ll work however long I need to to win. I just want to win. Anyways, yeah, I really enjoy my time now. I get to do these really exciting things that my childhood self would not believe if I told him some of the things that I’m into at this point. It’s super fun.

Drew McLellan:

When you say sell on results, talk a little more about that. Because we have a lot of conversations about that, myself and agency owners, and it sounds appealing to them until they realize how little of the sales process they control inside their clients and then they start to get cold feet about it, which I completely understand. Talk a little bit about how you sell by result.

David Valentine:

For agencies, because a lot of our companies work with other agencies, Drew, so they’ll represent one of my biggest companies is an outsourced SDR firm. Agencies always need more clients. You can only-

Drew McLellan:

SDR stands for?

David Valentine:

Outsourced Sales Development Rep.

Drew McLellan:

Thank you.

David Valentine:

Yeah, you’re welcome. I forget that that is not an acronym that everybody knows, but you’re right. Basically, what they’re doing is, they’re booking meetings for one business to another business on the calendar. It’s not just a lead that somebody has to go track down. It’s actually a meeting that you’re going to have. What we did for that one was, we just said, “Hey listen, we will guarantee a minimum number of meetings that you’re going to have booked in a quarter in a year.” Here’s the conditional part of it and this is what I love to do for other agencies is to create conditional guarantees. In order for you to get the guarantee, you have to give us an offer or I like to call them outrageous offers, something that sounds too good to be true, but actually isn’t. Also, you need to have three case studies that we can lead with in our cold outreach to these potential clients. That’s something that we can control if we put it as a condition.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

When it comes to how we do that, honestly, man, we DQ a lot of people, Drew. 60% of the people we have conversations with in sales for that company in particular, they’re disqualified. What’s fascinating about that though is that we’re going to close some between 75 and 85% of the people that are qualified because it’s a great deal. If you qualify, it’s fantastic. The ways that some of the agency owners that we’ve worked with have created these guarantees and sold on results, they just put conditions around them. What do you need to control? What would you need from your client in order to guarantee results? What I used to do back in the digital advertising days when I had that agency, that was my first company, if somebody wanted to guarantee on results, I’d say, “That’s fine, you have to give me free shipping,” If we were working with E-com.

Because something that we found was 48.4% of users would not make a purchase on any E-com site. Not because they didn’t trust product claims, not because they thought the product was too expensive, but because they didn’t get free shipping, because Amazon conditioned us to want free shipping.

Drew McLellan:

I was going to say, it trained us, right?

David Valentine:

Yeah. It’s one of those things where it’s like, you just have to start to figure out what are the variables that you would need to control to guarantee results, dictate that to your client before you begin the relationship in a paid fashion.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Interesting.

David Valentine:

If they sign off on it, now, you’re good to go.

Drew McLellan:

Let’s talk about this idea of an outrageous offer. Give me some examples of outrageous offers that some of your agency clients have put forth that has really attracted prospects to sign on the dotted line. What does one of those look like?

David Valentine:

Yeah, so I’ll use some of my own agencies that I run. We have a PR firm that books people on podcasts. They’ll do a, “Hey listen, I’ll book you on two podcasts for free and you can see the results.” What that does for people is, a lot of people have hangups on, “Am I going to be any good as a guest on a podcast?” That’s one. Two, can they actually get me on podcast? It gets over that. Then what happens is, after they’re on their second podcast, they end up signing an agreement. They say, “Hey, I want to be on podcast.” We guarantee that they’re going to be on at least four podcasts a month or they will get on Forbes and be published in Forbes or will give them their money back. For the web design branding agency that I own, we’ll run a month of their social media for free. Because again, what’s the biggest hindrance that we have to relationship?

People are going, “Hey listen, I’m not sure you’re going to get my voice. I don’t think you’re going to understand me. I don’t know if you’re worth 5,500 bucks a month to run my social. Fine, we’ll prove it to you. Our work is fantastic.” We run their social media for a month to go, “Holy cow, you guys are incredible. This is amazing. Yeah, let’s move forward.” It’s really putting yourself on these deals where, what’s the friction to saying no and yes, right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

You think about Amazon again. What did they do for buying? They made it frictionless. They’re like, “Hey, one click, let’s go.” That’s what we really fail to do, as agency owners, a lot is we create all these roadblocks. “Well, hey, you have to pay for discovery. Hey, we need to have three meetings before we can actually present you creative.” Don’t do that. Why would you do that? You’re making it more challenging on yourself to sell a prospect. Instead, just say, “Look, I’m going to give you this for free. Here’s the value. In exchange, at the end of this, you’re going to say yes or no.”

Drew McLellan:

Is an outrageous offer always free? There’s always a free element to it?

David Valentine:

Not always. Sometimes it’s a guarantee, right? Again, going back to the idea of the empathy firm. It’s like, “Hey, we’re going to get you published in Forbes. It’s not cheap to get that done. There’s a lot of pitching that goes on. It’s a lot of man hours, a lot of work. If we don’t get you there though, I’ll give you your money back, but if we do get you there, you’re going to pay.”

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

You can do a pay for play. I do some consulting with business owners that are looking to scale. I always look for people that are smaller, under seven figures. I just tell them, “Look, if I can’t increase your revenue by 50% in 12 months, I’ll give you every dime back.” Yeah, there’s this sense of, again, it’s all results oriented. What can I control? Now, again, in that one, it’s like you actually have to do what I say. You can’t just be waffling, but yeah, that’s the idea.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, we’ve had a couple agencies dabble with guarantees. I guess it would matter a great deal about how clear your language was. Because I had an agency that did a great work, but the language in their agreement about what the client had to do to earn the guarantee was, wasn’t as tight as it could have been. What happened is, of course, the clients were like, “Well, I want my money back. Here’s why I want my money back.” They ended up in court.

David Valentine:

Oh.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Horrible.

David Valentine:

Yeah, not fun. I think, look, lawyers are more important the bigger you scale. They just are.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

David Valentine:

It sucks to have a lawyer bill and the tens of thousands every year, but I do. That’s when everything’s great. It just is what it is.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, an ounce of prevention, for sure.

David Valentine:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

I want to talk more about the SDR and that concept. Because as you know, there are other folks who do that. What I hear from agencies is mixed reviews. I’m curious about how you are successful at that. What I want to do is, I want to take a quick break and then we’ll come back and we’ll talk about how you do that work. Hey, everybody. I promise, I would not keep you more than a minute, but I want to make sure that at AMI, one of the things that we offer our virtual peer groups. Think of it as a Vistage group or an EO group, only everybody around the table, figuratively in this case, is an agency owner. You have to be an agency owner to belong.

The virtual peer groups meet every month for 90 minutes on Zoom. This was not a COVID creation. It was pre-COVID. You see the same people in your cohort every time. You get to create relationships with them. It is facilitated by AMI staffer, Craig Barnes, who has owned his own agency for 25 or 30 years. Plenty of great experience, both from Craig, but also learning from each other. If you have any interest in learning more about how that works, head over to the AMI website and under Memberships, you will find the virtual peer group and you can get all the information there, all right? Okay. Let’s get back to the show.

All right. I am here with David Valentine. Well, we were talking about outrageous offers, which sometimes are about something free or sometimes there’s a guarantee element to it, a guarantee of a result, but earlier, David was saying that one of his agencies actually does outbound calling on behalf of other agencies. If I remember what you said was, the agency had to have an outrageous offer and they had to have three case studies. The case studies have to be tied to the outrageous offer.

David Valentine:

No, not necessarily. We basically found a formula, Drew, that works for those case studies. Most people, when they think about a case study, they think, “Oh, I have to have something that’s really nicely designed. It’s going to be multiple pages.” That’s what we get a lot. What’s hilarious is, we actually take those big case studies and we shrink them down into a singular sentence. The formula for the sentences that really worked are, we worked with X company, they got Y results in Z time. The thing that works with that is, again, what do people want?

Drew McLellan:

Right.