Episode 16:

Bob Sanders is a powerhouse in the marketing industry. He has previously worked with Agency Management Group, a firm that specialized in the operations, finance, and technology consultations for multinational agencies around the world. Since then, he has become the leader of Sanders Consulting Group, a leading consulting firm specializing in helping agencies implement best practices faster and more effectively.



What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How agencies can manipulate chemistry to their advantage
  • The four quadrants people fall into and why this is an important thing to be able to assess when pitching new business
  • Why you should never stop generating new business
  • What agencies can do to get better at closing sales
  • Strategies that work with big and small accounts
  • Why spec creative isn’t something to be feared
  • How to play on the misperception that agencies live exciting lives
  • Why you need to alter your pitch based on who you’re pitching to
  • How to be persistent to the point where potential clients are always thinking about you
  • What your agency needs to do today to get on the right track in terms of new business


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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here. Before we jump into the episode you are about to listen to, I wanted to make sure that you knew that we are doing open mic webinars and they are available to anyone in the world, just head over to the Agency Management Institute.com/ask Drew, and you will see the dates and times for this month and next month. And we’ll talk about anything you want to talk about – agency operations, COVID, whatever it is that is on your mind. I’m happy to answer your questions and everyone else on the call shares as well as asks questions. So it’s really a round-robin of learning for everybody. All right. I’d love to have you there. All you have to do is register. You can attend live, or just get the replay after we record it. Okay. Now here’s that music that you know and love.

Speaker 2 (00:51):

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency podcast presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Speaker 1 (01:24):

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here. Welcome to another episode of Build A Better Agency. One of the topics that always comes up when I am hanging out with agency owners is the whole issue around new business. And we have a great guest today and we’re going to really dig into that issue from all kinds of angles. So many of you have probably heard of Bob Sanders. Bob is with the Sanders Consulting Group. Before he joined Sanders Consulting Group, though, he’s really lived his whole life in the agency business. He worked in account service positions for several traditional full-service agencies. Then he worked with Agency Management Group, a firm that specialized in the operations, finance, and technology consulting for the big shops, the multinational agencies around the world, and large independents here in the US and then he joined Sanders Consulting Group, which is a leading consulting firm, specializing in the marketing communications industry.

Speaker 1 (02:14):

They help agencies work around implementing best practices faster and more effectively, spend a lot of time in the new business space, and have a really interesting take on the whole issue of chemistry, which we hear often about in the research that we do at AMI. One of the things that we hear from CMOs and other decision-makers is that often that’s the final decision point for them of what agency they hire. And I think a lot of you feel like that’s a little out of your control. What Bob’s going to tell us is actually you can have more influence over that than you think. So, Bob, welcome to the show.

Speaker 3 (02:49):

Thank you. Glad to be here and hello to everyone out there in the wonderful world of podcasting.

Speaker 1 (02:55):

Yeah. It’s a crazy new world we live in, isn’t it?

Speaker 3 (02:58):

It sure is. And it’s a lot of fun.

Speaker 1 (03:00):

It is. So I tell folks, fill in the blanks for folks in terms of the introduction, what did I miss or what do you want to elaborate on? Anything?

Speaker 3 (03:09):

No, I think you pretty much covered it other than I did spend a few years traveling around the world, taking over small countries with the Marine Corps. So, you know, that’s always the highlight of one of the things that I like to bring up. And that the military training I brought to the agency world is what drove me to help create the Agency Management Group because I just felt like they were so ineffective and so dysfunctional when it came to operations that I had to go out and use some of the training that I got from the Marine Corps to apply it to the agency business. And it was quite successful for many years.

Speaker 1 (03:44):

So, was saluting involved in that process?

Speaker 3 (03:49):

No, I didn’t have the agency salute me, although a few of them wanted to after we were done with them. We were able to turn some really big agencies around and save a couple of them from just totally disappearing, like so many of them did back in the nineties.

Speaker 1 (04:04):

Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. And I’m sure the idea, agency owners sort of bristle at words like discipline and systems. Nonetheless, we all know that they need to be in place. I’m sure that while it may have been painful on the front end, I’m sure they were very happy to have you there when they were successful in counting their money.

Speaker 3 (04:23):

Oh, well I think so. I mean, we’ve made quite a few millionaires out there over the years and we do agree 100% that you need, I mean, look, we’re fighting 101. The big manual that came out when I was in the Marine Corps was all about that discipline, chaos, understanding it, managing it, and driving it for you.

Speaker 1 (04:43):

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s agency life. Right? I’ve often said that really our job is to control. We live in a controlled chaos environment. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. So, I want to jump into the chemistry thing and then we’ll, I know you have all kinds of other thoughts about new business and I want to make sure we get all of those in. So talk to us a little bit about your take on chemistry, because I think you guys have a pretty unique sort of viewpoint on it.

Speaker 3 (05:07):

Thank you. I think we do. I’m the only one that I know that does this for agencies. And I’ll just say this if you think about what is chemistry, it’s that squishy space between people. And too many of us, it just seems like it’s uncontrollable or random or just happens. And the simple fact of the matter is, it isn’t. We come in very basic patterns, everyone does. And once you understand how to look for and identify what those patterns are, you can present your information, your ideas, your pitch, whatever it is in a way that most aligns with their mental model. And if you understand that, then it becomes much more effective and you’re not just throwing things on the wall to see what sticks. The idea of chemistry, just real quick, does go all the way back though. A lot of people don’t realize this, but the Egyptians, 3,0000 to 5,000 years ago, were talking about the basic four types of people. And that’s what we kind of glommed onto. We took that, ran with it, applied the Myers-Briggs, the disc, and a bunch of other types of thinking around it, and adapted it for the agency world.

Speaker 1 (06:13):

And can you give us a brief overview? I know we don’t have time to really dig deep into it, but can you give us a brief overview of sort of what those four quadrants look like and how you help agencies use those insights to walk into the new business process, in a better position?

Speaker 3 (06:32):

Yeah, of course. I’d be happy to. It’s real simple. Look, it takes two questions to figure out what type a person is. Whether they’re more task-driven and that’s what we call kind of the top half of the circle, or they’re more people-driven. Task-driven people are easy to identify. I mean, they’re the ones that you walk in and you say, Good morning, how are you? And they say, fine. It’s asked and answered, move on. Whereas people are going to share, relate, emote, talk to you. I’m doing great. How about you? You know, they’re the ones who are more open, more people-focused. So if you can just simply divide everyone you know into whether they’re more task-driven or more people-driven. And that’s the first line. Then the second line, the vertical line to left or right is whether they’re low, assertive.

Speaker 3 (07:14):

They ask a lot of questions. They pause between comments. They follow a lot of information. They’re more interested in the insides and the workings of different things. Or they’re more assertive. They’re direct, they’re forceful. They make statements and declarations. They don’t ask questions. So it’s task versus people, low assertive versus high assertive. And now you have four quadrants, the task-driven, highly assertive person, just like the basic ad, print ad that we all know and love, that’s the headline. They’re the people who want results and want them now. The task-driven low assertive first and the left side of the top quadrant is body copy. They’re the detailed facts and figures. You know, I don’t need a lot of people. I don’t need a lot of squishy relationships in my life. I just want to dig into the data, figure out what’s going on, follow a good process, and get things done.

Speaker 3 (08:06):

Now we’re down at the bottom half left side, low assertive person, very interested in people. They’re what we call the logo. The warm, smiling, happy people who bought you the ad. That’s the way to remember them. They’re the happy go lucky, want to hold hands, sing kumbaya and everyone get along. If we could just all get on the same page, we could all work so much more effectively. It’s those types of people that live in a logo world. And then you have what’s left is the illustration. The thing that draws your eye to the ad, that’s the very assertive, but people-driven dancing on the table at two o’clock in the morning, kind of big ideas, lots of explanation points, lots of fun, very creative. Those are the illustrations in the world. They’re tough to work with, easy to, if you understand, to sell to them.

Speaker 1 (08:56):

And do you think agencies have a type, a type of person that they work better with, or do you think an agency can work with all four of these types of people, as long as they understand who they’re working with?

Speaker 3 (09:07):

I believe that what we call versatility, the ability for an agency to move, to adapt to the each one of these four types of people is something that can be learned. However, most agencies I’ll walk into, if you look at their client roster, many of their clients tend to end up being in one of these quadrants. And it’s driven most often by the CEO. If the CEO is a hard-charging taskmaster, kind of strong personality, very assertive, that’s a headline. They’re going to scare the logos and the illustrations away. Just because they’ll cut the ideas off and the illustrations hate that. And because they’re going to be so assertive, the logos don’t want to work with them. Body copies will tolerate it. They’re okay with it. But generally, if you look at those types of agencies, most of their clients tend to fall into that quadrant and they wonder why they lose the warm friendly kind of nice pitch people when they’re going in to pitch when they’re coming in with guns, a blazing. So it’s one of those things that I look for when I’m working with an agency is what is the client profile? Who most represents your group? And if it follows into one of those four quadrants, then you’ve got a problem because you’re missing out on a lot of new business. You’re scaring a lot of prospects away.

Speaker 1 (10:26):

So just like we tell our clients, it starts with understanding yourself first and then figuring out how you relate to others. Right?

Speaker 3 (10:34):

Absolutely. Know thyself. I mean, that’s kind of the first rule of new businesses and that is to know who you are, what you stand for, and who you work well with. And it’s kind of 101, but we try to take it beyond that. What is the personality of your agency? How are you projecting it? And are you matching those four types somehow in most of your marketing materials? I mean, golly, just go look at most agency websites, they scream one side or another. Either they’re very process-driven or they’re flash and lots of big ideas or they’re nothing but results and tactics. I mean, with a little bit of work, they could layer in a couple of other pieces and show some of their people that they have a warm sunny side or show that they are task-driven and can get results if they’re all warm and friendly. That’s the type of thing that we’d like to try to introduce to the agency world.

Speaker 1 (11:27):

I think most agencies, as you know, and I experienced, most agencies are pretty hit or miss about new business. They kind of take the feast or famine approach. They don’t have new business going on every day until the big client leaves. And then all of a sudden, Oh crap, we better get some new business. And, so beyond the chemistry thing, how do you, when you talk to agencies about new business, and back to sort of your military days of discipline and process, how do you talk to agencies about building a better machine around new business?

Speaker 3 (12:04):

Well, that’s a great word for it. It is a machine and I’m a big believer in if you have to build a machine, you need a system. You need to have a regular, whether it’s content creation or outreach, I don’t care, but you need to have somebody in the agency whose sole job it is to drive the new business. To build, drive, and create the machine that generates leads. And that’s the one thing that I think most agencies don’t pay any attention to. I would go back and look, I mean, work towards the end of the year, go back and do an analysis over the last 11 months and figure out exactly how many leads did you get per month? And a good agency, if you’re doing new business, you should have four to eight good leads a month. And then you can just pass on most of them because a lot aren’t going to go anywhere.

Speaker 3 (12:55):

It’s going to be too much work. Are you going to have to go through a bunch of hoops? But if you have that many leads, you’re going to grow. That’s a guaranteed fact. And every agency instead looks at they’re hit or miss when it comes to the pitch. And by then, it’s too late. You need to have won the account before you go into the pitch. So, you know, count the leads, look that up and build the machine. That means if you’re an inbound agency, and I just got done speaking to a giant conference with a bunch of inbound agencies, fine focus in on the inbound, dedicate a hundred percent effort to it. But again, measure the leads. If you’re not getting the leads you want, then maybe you need to think about outbound. We train and teach a lot of agencies how to go around and do outreach. And it’s that regular nudge, regular contact, regular sending things of relevance. And not me, me, me. Just stop with that, please. I mean, if you’re an agency, stop sending the “look at this great ad that we produced”, nobody cares except for you.

Speaker 1 (13:53):

Yeah. Most agency newsletters just make me cry a little. Cause it’s all about them. It’s about their awards and about their look, we did this ad, and here’s the YouTube link to this. Stop it, stop it, stop it.

Speaker 3 (14:06):

Oh, and here’s our picnic. And we had so much fun. Nobody cares, but you know, show me something I didn’t know. Help me be smarter. Educate. That’s the way to think about it is you need to think up a machine that educates prospects about how to better solve their problem. And if you don’t know, go back and look at all the problems that you’ve solved for your clients over the last 12 months and identify these are the things that we help our clients the most do. And if you can identify a few of those, then put that on the front page of your website, use it to create articles, white papers, positionings, heck, write a book. I don’t care. But come up with a point of view around it, on how you solve the problem better than anyone else in your region, your market, your city, your world, whatever it is.

Speaker 1 (14:57):

I know one of the things that we were talking about before we started the recording, I said agencies aren’t very good at closing. So what are your thoughts around actually now you’ve had the opportunity, how do you close the deal?

Speaker 3 (15:09):

Great question. And one of those things that we spend a lot of our work on, and that is, most agencies, and I truly hate to say this, but too many agencies go in and try one or two different tactics when they’re visiting with a prospect for the first time. You’ve done all this hard work, all this effort to generate a lead and then you get a lead and they call you up and it might be an RFP. In which case, then, go for the meeting. And we used to tell agencies and I still tell agencies when I was on the agency side, we always said, we don’t do an RFP unless we can meet with you, period. And if you want us to respond to this, we have to have a meeting. It’s the only fair way for us to evaluate whether there’s a real opportunity, blah, blah, blah, whatever, but get the meeting.

Speaker 3 (15:52):

Or if it just is a lead that came in randomly through a referral and they have a problem, then go and see them. Most agencies fail miserably when they go to visit for the first time, what we call the first visit. They go in and they either talk too much about themselves or they jump right into it. Let me ask you all these important questions and dig deep and try to uncover what the real problem is. And both of them scare prospects off. It’s better to have a system when that first visit, to walk in, we call it agency baseball. To understand that you first have to get to first base, which is building trust. Once you have trust, then you can stop talking about yourself. Never solved the problem in the room. Don’t worry about introducing all the great stuff and great ways that you can solve whatever the problems are.

Speaker 3 (16:37):

Move on to second base, which is discovering. Work hard to dig deeper and figure out what are their real needs? Every agency tends to get their first need, Oh, I need a brochure. Or I need a new website, whatever. And they run, they get it. And they think they’ve got everything they need and they run away. We say you need four needs. Focus in on getting the four needs that they have. Work hard and ask a lot of good questions. And don’t forget to ask questions about the timing, about who else is going to be involved? Who’s going to have approval? All of those questions are part of what we call second base. And then you need to get the heck out of there. Because if you start solving the problem in the room, that’s what we call discounting. And then you’re giving it away.

Speaker 3 (17:23):

I mean, you know, we need a brochure and most agencies, look, we teach that agencies need to do the opposite. It’s 180 degrees. The opposite of what you do for good clients, for what you do for a good prospect. When a good client calls up and says, we need a new brochure, you go in and ease them and show them how you can do it and show them some exact examples. And you make them feel better because you’re competent and capable. But when a prospect comes to you with a new brochure, you need to do the opposite. You need to make them feel the pain. Otherwise, they’re not going to make a decision. They’re not going to move off of the square. If you make it seem easy and simple, then they don’t have to worry about it. And they’re going to go on to worry about the next big fire that comes up on their desk right after you leave. So when they bring up something, you need to really dig in and say, Oh, brochures can be tough. And you start asking pointed questions. I assume then, you have your brand all figured out? I assume that you have the target audience and have identified their personas? I understand you. You don’t have any of that? And you want a brochure? Golly, I don’t know. That’s going to be hard to do. That’s the type of message. It’s the concerned doctor versus the French poodle bouncing up and down going, please, please, please hire us.

Speaker 1 (18:34):

All right. So what’s third base.

Speaker 3 (18:36):

Third base is when you return and present ideas on how you can help them. And if you’ve done your job and built a lot of urgency, a lot of need, a lot of fear in their mind, then you only have 48 hours before you have to get back to them. And too many agencies just go off and then they’ll spend three weeks, four weeks writing the perfect proposal. Proposals are for losers. Stop writing proposals, please. And unless you have a yes, that’s the only time I would say, go ahead. If they’ve already agreed to work with you and they want to go ahead with whatever thing, you’ve tossed up, then great, go back and write a proposal and you’re fine. But if you’re not sure, and you’re squishy, then get back to them within 48 hours with a game plan and use it as a working opportunity to walk them through step by step, how you’re going to help them solve this big problem that they have. Once when you’ve done that, then you have to understand how to build in urgency. And that’s when you get to home. And that’s when they make the decision right there in the room, in a perfect world. That’s what we call a fast, close 48 hours. You’ve won the account or won the project and you’ve got your foot in the door. You can’t always get the whole thing, but you can get bits and pieces and that gets you in the door. And that’s a win in my book.

Speaker 1 (19:47):

Yeah, I think oftentimes agencies get paralyzed by the idea that everything that they do in the new business process, whether it’s creating content or as you said, the proposal has to be sort of the Mona Lisa of the species. And so they get sort of paralyzed by perfection.

Speaker 3 (20:03):

Absolutely. And sometimes look, well, no, when I say get back in 48 hours with some notes and our process, the biggest tool that I use in that, and look, I’ve won. I’ve won the largest account in Canada, the largest account in Europe, and one of the top 10 accounts in the last couple of years with agencies, fast closing accounts. And that means that they went in with flip chart paper, handwritten 15 sheets, and they just hang it on the wall and walk them right through how they’re going to solve the problem. And every agency I tell this to they’re like, Oh no, no, no. Our prospects are too sophisticated, professional to do that. And, uh, sorry, I hate to tell you, but it doesn’t matter how big or how small. Let me just share one quick example. I had a little agency up in New York called me up a couple of months ago and said, you know, look, we just had a good meeting.

Speaker 3 (20:57):

We followed your rules and now they want to come back to the agency instead of having us go out there. We don’t have anything. We don’t have anything prepared. We don’t have a deck. We don’t have, they’re coming tomorrow morning. What do I do? I said, well, did she get some good information in the interview with them? And they said, well, yeah, we got a lot of good info, but we haven’t had time to really think of anything. I said, well, what is their problem? They told me. We walked through a basic outline of how we can help them move the needle, solve the problem. And then I said, take those notes, write them up on 15 sheets, hanging them on the wall. When they walk in, go sheet by sheet, by sheet, cover them up. So they can’t see what the sheet is. Just have the headline.

Speaker 3 (21:32):

So it’s background objectives, phase one, phase two strategy, creative branding, whatever, go down the list. And then the final sheet is, you know, the old timing, next steps, and budget. So once when you get there, just walk them through. This big brand walked into this little agency, walked through the 15 sheets, and then leaned back and said what every client and every prospect says when we teach this. You will not believe how much information, I can’t believe how much information you guys went through. This is great. And you don’t know how many PowerPoint presentations I have to sit through. It was so refreshing to do it this way. I love it. Can I have the sheets? And what do you think the answer is to that? No, of course not. No, that’s our thinking. It’s our strategy. It’s what we do for a living. We get paid big bucks to do this. So no, if you want to hire us, of course, sign the last sheet. We’ll give them to you and we’ll get started.

Speaker 1 (22:26):

Yeah. Yeah. You know, I think one of the things and you and I have been in the business for a while, sometimes I think the fact that we can do everything on the computer and that every spec ad and concept looks so finished actually hurts us. And I think the whole throwing paper up on the wall and using a Sharpie sometimes, you know, I think we get so far down the process in a concept, ad or whatever it is, or proposal that we really hurt ourselves.

Speaker 3 (22:56):

Oh, why not? I know you do. You’re right. A hundred percent. And that’s why I call it the magic marker because it is magic. And if you understand how to use the magic marker and markup sheets, and then we use word pictures to describe the creative. That’s what we always, instead of going to showing them outstanding creative, use word pictures, talk about the strategy and the tactics on the bullet points on the handwritten sheets. But when you get to it, say, you know, we’re thinking about a direct mail campaign and it would be this, a bright yellow insert inside of a blue envelope. And the question I always ask agencies when I’m going through, this is, what size was the envelope? As soon as I said that everyone in the room pictured an envelope. Some people pictured 11 x 7, some one size, whatever.

Speaker 3 (23:43):

But the point is that if I say, everyone pitches the perfect answer. But if I show you an envelope that is legal-size or something, half the people in the room are going to say, no, no, no, that’s not what I was thinking. And they’re going to reject it. So start with the word pictures. Use that as a way to describe your strategy, especially early on. Later on, or if it’s a formal presentation, yes, it’s different. The rules are different. Sometimes you have to go down that road, but if you’re in early and you have an opportunity to try and fast close, then don’t walk in with finished stuff. It just kills you.

Speaker 1 (24:21):

So, so that leads me to the question I get asked all the time. What’s your stance on spec creative?

Speaker 3 (24:26):

Heck yeah. Um, look, if you’re in a formal review and they’re requesting spec creative, that’s the game that we have to play, bite the bullet, go in and do it. Just understand, going back to the profiling now of who you’re pitching. If they’re a headline, then everything has to be results-oriented and give them three options. That’s the way the headline brain operates. They want to make a choice. I can tell you another great story. I was in London, helping an agency with a big pitch. And we had this perfect strategy. We had profiled them as headlines. We knew that we were going to walk in with three options. We had done the strategy. We had introduced the strategy at the RFP phase. We had done the first meeting when they toured the agency and helped them with that, led them a little bit further down the strategy road.

Speaker 3 (25:14):

And we had this great answer to their problem. And we thought we were going to win at the last minute, the creative director, a well-known big creative director walked in with this brilliant idea. And everyone in the agency agreed that it was a brilliant idea. And I raised my hand and said, it’s a brilliant idea, but you need to park it and not present it. Don’t show it because first of all, it doesn’t match up with the strategy that we have. And second of all, it doesn’t fit in the three options that we’re presenting. We need to go with the plan that we have. The CEO overrode me, they went in with the big idea and, of course, the competition had just started that day and they lost the pitch.

Speaker 1 (25:51):

Yeah. Go too far down the road.

Speaker 3 (25:53):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean and don’t try to sell one big idea to a headline. It’s never going to work. They’re going to find a flaw. Now, if you’re pitching a body copy, follow a process, get them to a good answer. Then you can have one answer that works for a body copy, but headlines, no body copies. Yes. Logos. You’ve got to win everyone else in the room. They’re the toughest because they’re going to ask everyone else in the room. What do you think? Or do we all agree? That was the better agency of all these agencies and with an illustration, you can present three big ideas, but one of them has to be something that’s never been done before. Something totally outlandish something over the top that they’re going to get all excited about. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s feasible or doable, they just want to fall in love with the idea.

Speaker 1 (26:35):

Right. Right. And I think a lot of agencies get caught up in the we have to be sort of pragmatic and it’s like, we have to show that we can think bigger and better. And again, whether you’re giving them one idea or you’re giving them three because it is the headline or you are walking through the process. We still have to show them more than what they could possibly bite off.

Speaker 3 (26:59):

Look, our roots go back and the perception that most clients have, and I always try to remind agencies about this. Look, clients live very boring lives. Their days are filled with meetings and process and budget and timetables and all types of other stuff that they have to do day in and day out. Sadly, the agency world is much the same, but that’s not the perception. Perception is we’re Hollywood light. You know, we’re one step removed from Bewitched where the magic happens with the twitch of a nose, right? We need to play on that and get them to believe that for that moment in time, that little perception bubble that we live in for a pitch, we are that Bewitched Samantha witch that can create something out of nothing. And do the magic with a little bit of pixie dust and look Presto. All of a sudden all your problems are solved.

Speaker 1 (27:50):

I think that sometimes the fact that we can sort of whip everything up on the computer, as opposed to, back in the good old days when we would flap it and kind of unveil it. And I think we’ve sort of taken a lot of the sizzle away from the steak.

Speaker 3 (28:04):

Yeah, absolutely. I feel like we’re a bunch of old guys now. This is turning into my dad and all the old madmen I used to hang out with when I was a kid, the martini lunches, and everything else under the sun, but it’s true. They understood the basics of human psychology, which is people want to dream. They want to believe they want to buy into something. And the more real you make it, the more they will find fault, the more they will identify a problem. So if you can just sell the dream and sell the big idea and get them to believe in the concept, the direction, the strategy, then you’re winning. But if you try to go in and show them, Oh, and here it is finished. Not only are you discounting the problem, but you’re also discounting your work. You’re making it seem like it was so easy. We just went back through this, up on a computer, and presto bingo, here it is all your problems solved. And they’re like, well, why do I need to pay you a million dollars for that? Sad, but true.

Speaker 1 (29:04):

Yeah. I knew this was going to be a fascinating conversation and you are not disappointing. I have lots more to ask you, but first, let’s take a quick pause and then come on back. One of my favorite parts of AMI is our live workshops. I love to teach. I love to spend two days immersed in a topic with either agency leaders, agency owners, or AEs in our AE Bootcamps. But most of all, I love sharing what I’ve learned from other agencies from 30 years in the business and all the best practices that we teach. If you have some interest in those workshops, they range from everything from money matters, all about the financial health of your agency to best management practices of agency owners, to new business, AE Bootcamps, and a plethora of other topics. Go check out the list and the schedule at agencymanagementinstitute.com/live training.

Speaker 1 (29:57):

Okay, let’s get back to the show. So how do you lay all of what we’ve talked about so far, sort of next to the idea that clients are much more ROI focused? We just did some research where we surveyed 500 ad agency, hiring decision-makers. So CMOS, business owners, that sort of thing. And they identified, interestingly, that the number one goal for them in 2016 was lead generation. And the one thing when we asked them what they thought agencies were good at, the thing at the bottom of the list was lead generation. So how do you lay everything we’ve just talked about with the idea that clients really do want to talk about facts and figures and results and all of that? How do those two concepts blend together for you as you consult with agencies?

Speaker 3 (30:46):

Well, I, I always go back to who are we presenting to? Is it a committee, a board, a group, or an individual? Is that the CMO? Is it the business owner? What is their mindset? And peel back the onion and try to figure out how they’re processing information, how they think, how they live their world, what is the lens that they see the universe through? Then you can answer those questions. I mean, for a headline, for example, yes, they are going to be very tactical oriented results tomorrow and want to see any money that they spend get some type of ROI. And so you have to focus on that. You have to be good at that. And you have to show that, sell that first, win that battle. Then come back later and show them once when you have their trust.

Speaker 3 (31:30):

And you’re getting some results that, you know what, maybe we need to tweak the brand or improve it or change it and start doing some of the more brand building. You know what I call the purple advertising that branding and sales, both marketing type effort that you need to do with the body copy. It’s about informing and building trust through more information, more data, more knowledge with a logo. It’s all about understanding the people and making sure that you understand their fears and concerns and that whatever you do is going to help them. That’s the number one thing they are always going to focus on and with an illustration, look, they’re going to talk numbers and say that all day long. But if you go in and talk about skywriting or crop circles, they’re going to fall in love with you.

Speaker 1 (32:13):

So one of the things that I love about your whole chemistry model is some of the ways that you help people identify prospects. So one of the things I found most fascinating, is, you and I were recently at a conference where I heard you speak, and you were talking about how people’s offices look and how you can identify folks based on what their office looks like. So walk us through a little bit of that. So if I’m meeting a prospect, you talked about, are they more task-oriented or people-oriented and are they assertive or, or a little more laid back and asking a lot of questions? How else can we categorize folks?

Speaker 3 (32:49):

Well, the first rule is to make sure you understand who you’re going to go meet. Before you even see their office, I want you to spend some time and do some homework. Look at their Facebook page, look at their LinkedIn page. Scope them out, stalk them. If you have to try to figure out how they would live their life, and you can quickly see patterns. Once you identify some of those patterns and can understand them, then you can start to apply some basic rules. They answer their phone or voicemail. You call their number and you get their voicemail. Is it just the number, in which case they’re probably task-driven. They’re not very people-driven if it’s just, Hey, you’ve reached 421-, whatever, whatever. But if they say, you know, hi, you’ve reached bill.

Speaker 3 (33:31):

This is Wednesday, blah, blah, blah. They give you a lot of detail, a lot of information. Then that’s probably more of a task-driven person or task-driven detailed person. So that’s a body copy. If they’re, Hey, you know what to do, real warm and friendly and very nice about it, then it’s probably a logo. If they’re over the top or say something funny and witty, then guess what? It’s probably an illustration. Same thing with how they respond to an email. You send them an email, they respond with the one-word answer and their initial. Guess what? That’s assertive. That’s somebody who doesn’t have a lot of time or care about people, really. But if you get into somebody who gives you five paragraphs of information with a lot of questions, guess what? That’s a body copy.

Speaker 3 (34:15):

Just look for the patterns. But the office to me is always the closer for most people. And I hate to say it, but we are, people are patterns and we live our lives according to those patterns. If your office is filled with a lot of clutter, fun toys, trinkets, a lot of pictures of yourself on top of a mountain with the president, with the fish, whatever, guess what? You’re probably an illustration. If it’s Spartan, work-related and there’s one picture of the family that your spouse brought in to remind you of who they are, guess what? You’re probably a headline. If you walk in and there’s tons of work and it’s all color-coded, and they have a chart on the back with what they’re going to accomplish in all their task. And they have a whiteboard with everything lined up perfectly horizontal and vertical and everything is synced up and their computer and their phone and everything is always being synced.

Speaker 3 (35:04):

And they’re deep in work with a lot of work-related materials piled up around them. That’s probably a body copy. If it’s warm and friendly and a round table with four chairs and nobody has to sit at the head and there’s lots of, kind of reminders of home, including pictures of friends and family and cats and dogs. That’s probably a logo and you can just walk by their office, take one glance in and try to figure out which quadrant do they live in most of the time? Go there, live with them in that space. You’re going to be a lot more comfortable and you’re going to be more successful. The sad part about it is, so many people tend to know this, really good salespeople know this intuitively and they, but they forget it. When they get into the new business hunt, they try to go for the fast close or too fast, or they are, they try to push for information too fast. They don’t follow their own rules. And you have to know how to go into that space and live in that world for that period of time. And that’s what we teach.

Speaker 1 (36:04):

So I was just going to ask you why aren’t agencies better at this because we’re really good at it when we teach clients how to do it for their clients. So what in the world gets in the way and keeps us from being better at this?

Speaker 3 (36:18):

Do I get to say bingo? If I mentioned the shoe cobblers children?

Speaker 1 (36:22):

Oh God, I hate that phrase. I hate that phrase, but I guess it is a part of the problem, that’s for sure.

Speaker 3 (36:32):

Oh yeah. We’re so focused on solving client problems so we never look in the mirror and that’s why, again, I’ll go back to what I said at the beginning. You need to have somebody, I call it the bubble outside the agency. You need to create a little bubble outside the agency that is your new business machine. Because if you let them inside the agency, they’re gonna be sucked into solving client problems and work will fill any vacuum. It’s just a truism and everywhere I go, it is what it is. So you need to create a little bubble off to the side that is separate from the rest of the agency but does new business. And the only thing you have to measure them in is what are their leads? The other part is that look, some really good salespeople, I worked with Jay Chiott, John Bond, and a couple of other people that could walk into any client meeting and pretty much win the account just with their charisma and their charm, their ability to sell whatever in front of a group of people. They were masters at this.

Speaker 3 (37:28):

They couldn’t explain it. They couldn’t tell you, they couldn’t describe it. They didn’t know what they were doing. They would just have that innate ability to go in and do something amazing. But most of us don’t have that innate ability. We can be trained, if we understand it. And we know the simple rules and the amount I’m not talking, Myers-Briggs where it gets into the I’m an I N T J whatever, you know, that’s too confusing, too complicated. I’m a simple guy. I want to have a simple rule. If I generally know that somebody has a headline, then I know that I’m going to go in, be assertive, be aggressive, focus on results, focus on the here and the now and give them options so that they can make decisions. It’s that simple. And if you know, nine times out of 10, you’re going to be right.

Speaker 1 (38:10):

We talked about it earlier, but I think we make it more complicated than it needs to be. And I think, just do it every day, just do it. Do something every day and have a plan and follow the frigging plan.

Speaker 3 (38:26):

Please. Can I get a hallelujah from the crowd? Yes. They have a plan. Follow the frigging plan, get things done. And every day it is, I call it the flywheel effect. I mean, you really have to get new business into that kind of machine mentality up where you are doing a steady stream of outreach, outbound, nudging, talking, setting up things to go out to tweet, to post. Whether it’s content creation or actually sending stuff out to prospects, to inform them about different ways to solve their unique problems. Do all of that and have it ongoing 24/7. Because when you get that wheel turning, it becomes easier and easier and easier. The problem that I see agencies have is they’ll get the wheel turning just a little bit and then they’ll win a piece of business. It’s all hands on deck. They all run and swing at the client’s problem. They go in and try to solve all of these big, terrible problems. And meanwhile, the wheel drifts down slowly and stops. And then six months later, they go back and they’re like, how come we don’t have any leads? How can we don’t have any new business? Because you all abandoned the wheel. Get back there and start turning it. And once we get it turning, just keep nudging it and keep it turning.

Speaker 1 (39:38):

I think one of the things that we know, but we forget is that clients take a long time to decide. In this research that we just put in the can, clients said that they take on average, and this is once they’ve engaged in the new business process. So this is not, I’m thinking about hiring an agency, but I’m in the hunt for up to three months to decide. So the sales cycle is so long and I talked to agencies about it sort of like dollar cost average investing. You never know what day the person that’s been getting your e-newsletter for three years or that you’ve been calling once a quarter for five years, is all of a sudden going to be in the position to say, you know what, I’m tired of my old agency, or they tick me off, or I have a new job or whatever, the circumstances. It’s time to hire a new agency. So you have to be top of mind on that day.

Speaker 3 (40:25):

I got a great story about that. I worked with a little agency down South and we went in this was 15 years ago, went in and showed them how to do outbound kind of marketing. And so they set up their machine. They got it up running. They hired a really nice young person to help run the machine. And they were outstanding at it and did a great job. And they got up, they started to grow, got some leads, everything was going fine. One of the prospects that they really wanted was across town. I mean, it was a huge account, a great account they’ve always wanted to get. They’d been in business for 20 years, trying to knock down the door of this thing and could never get in. This guy, ran this machine for three years, but he was constantly sending little articles, little, Hey, I saw this and thought of you type notes to this big decision-maker at this big brand.

Speaker 3 (41:13):

After three years, they got a phone call out of the blue. Didn’t send them anything. Didn’t call them. Didn’t do anything. Just had been at regular outreach, but got a call out of the blue that said, can you guys come over? They walked in and he just complimented them on their effort, their work. And he said, look, you guys have been staying in touch with me for three years. I love that. I really want to reward you. I’m going to give you the account. And when they asked why he said, because you were dedicated. You showed interest and I’m going to give you a chance. And he said, but you know, we’ve been in business for 20 years. We’ve been right across town. How come you never called us? And he said because my brother-in-law owned an agency. And so I had to keep it with him, but he just sold it. And now I’ve got the opportunity to go with somebody else. So I want to give it to you. They didn’t even have to pitch it. Just picked it up and walked out.

Speaker 1 (42:04):

Yeah. I, I think when you demonstrate that sort of diligence, for lack of a better word, it sort of says to the client, well, heck if you can be top of mind with me for this long, I suspect you can do that for me and my customers too.

Speaker 3 (42:19):

We teach that if you have a good prospect, a lead, or somebody that our brand that you really want to work with, you’ve got to touch them 15 to 20 times throughout the course of a year. That’s the simple math. That doesn’t mean that you’re pounding them, stalking them or that you’re sending them an email 20 times. God, no, don’t do that. But what it does mean, you want to layer it in and vary it. So you send them a little article, then you call them and leave a voicemail, never asked for a callback, just simply say, Hey, I just want to call, make sure you got the article. That adds a voice, a layer of familiarity with you to that conversation. And then you send them a little handwritten note afterward saying, Hey, just wanted to follow up, see if he had any questions.

Speaker 3 (43:05):

So it’s three touches, four touches, and then you skip a couple of months and then you do three or four or five again. And then you skip a couple of months. And then, you just do that throughout the course of a year. You set it up and automate it as much as you can. Don’t forget. It has to be personal. It has to be targeted. It has to be specific, but make it real for them and just keep doing that year in and year out. And amazingly the agencies that do that grow and they find it easier than ever because they can close more accounts because they’ve already circled first base – trust.

Speaker 1 (43:37):

Right. Agencies are always looking for the new business silver bullet. And what I tell them is the silver bullet is you have to commit to doing it every day. I wish there was magic. I wish there was something simpler and easier. And you know, back to your Bewitched analogy, you could just pull your nose, but that’s not the way it works.

Speaker 3 (43:57):

No, sadly, and as much as we’d love to have, and golly, I would retire if I could come up with that silver bullet tomorrow. But I’ve been in this business a long time as have you. And I think everyone knows what the answer is. It just takes dedication and focus. We all, for whatever reason, we’ll come up with 101 excuses to not do that. And instead, keep looking for that rainbow. And there just isn’t one. So, you know, look, get focused at budgeted time, set a plan, hire somebody to run the machine, get it running, and then don’t bother them. Don’t get in their way, don’t interrupt their process. Don’t get them trying to answer an RFP. Don’t get them to go and help solve a client’s problem. Keep them doing what they’re doing, which is hopefully generating leads. And then after a few months start just looking at and saying, how many leads are we getting? And if you’re not getting a steady stream of new business leads coming in, then tweak something, but don’t stop the machine.

Speaker 1 (45:00):

Alright. So, you and I could probably talk for another, you know, six days on this topic, but I want to be mindful of your time and I figure everybody’s ready to get off the treadmill now. So we have to wrap up. So as I envision, all our listeners are walking or exercising or driving to work while we’re talking. So I want to make sure we leave them with some action steps. So somebody wanted to immediately improve their new business process and they wanted to do it at lower, no cost. What are two or three things they could do right now that would make them better at it tomorrow than they are today?

Speaker 3 (45:32):

Well, the first thing is, um, get proactive. So what I always tell agencies, and I get a lot of calls from agencies that are in deep trouble. You know, they’ve gone 15 years without any new business system and 70% of their business account just walked out the door. And now all of a sudden they’re in a panic and I tell them, look, guys, sorry, it’s too late. You should have been doing this 10, 15 years ago when you started. But now, what can we do right away to ramp things up quickly? And I always say, come up with a unique point of view. It doesn’t have to be unique to the industry, just unique to your prospects. So come up with something, come up with a problem that you are great at solving. It could be some new schtick.

Speaker 3 (46:16):

Marketing automation is one that we’ve used for the last couple of years with great success to get an entree into agencies. So, you know, call up HubSpot, call up whoever, get, you know, a couple of little bit of talking points and some knowledge about how marketing automation is going to transform the business, something. And then create a little mail or create a little something. Or if you can’t afford a mailer, then create a landing page. Just create something that drives people to and get on the phone and start pounding the phone and ask the question, Hey, you know, look, we’ve done some great work in this field or we solve this problem. We’ve created something unique. Would you like to learn more? That is the easiest way to try to ramp it up. And it is a numbers game, you know, call 300 people.

Speaker 3 (46:59):

It’s that simple. If nothing else, then go to LinkedIn, set up a webinar or some type of system where you can show them. Here are the top 10 things if you’re going to do social media, if you’re going to do Facebook marketing if you’re going to do whatever it is. But again, drive them to a landing page. Try to get their name and try to get their information. Create something that they’re going to react to. I had one agency that got a good amount of traction because they came out and said that, social is the rainbow that everyone is chasing, but there is no pot of gold. Then they came up with this whole thing about why the whole digital realm is just, you know, failing miserably. And if you want to learn more contact us and they had millions of not millions, but you know, dozens and dozens of phone calls over the next few weeks, because everyone was like, what are you talking about?

Speaker 3 (47:48):

I want to learn more. I feel like I’m spending more money on digital and not getting anything. So they hit a hot button. That was a great thing to send out and then follow up, work your network. That’s the last thing that I always tell people is, call up all your old clients, call up all your current clients and call up all of your prospects that you pitched and failed miserably, whatever the reason. But just to ask them, is there anything going on? Do you know anybody else? What can I do to help? And amazingly, I call it the Zen of new businesses, once you start thinking and putting a little effort into new business, it comes back in a positive way. You get leads shocking. I know.

Speaker 1 (48:29):

It is in some ways so simple and yet it is so complicated. And, you know, as we said earlier, agencies struggle with it because you know, they’re putting out client fires all day and I get it, but there is no substitute for it. So good PR, great counsel. Any final words or thoughts that you have, that you want the agency owners that are listening to us to hear?

Speaker 3 (48:49):

Yeah. Just going back to chemistry. Let’s just circle around on that one. It works for new business amazingly. I’ve won one of the biggest accounts recently in the world. We had no chance, no hope, no anything of winning this account and the agency called me out of desperation. And so I went in and spent a few months working with them and they went in and won the account because we did an entire 100% chemistry play. So I know what works in new business and it has always, and will always be one of the key deciding factors that prospects have, but do not forget about how important chemistry is at working with clients. I can’t stress that enough. If you treat all of your clients the same way, guess what?

Speaker 3 (49:36):

You’re going to be irritating and driving a bunch of them away. So, if you have headline clients, give them options. If you have a logo client, make sure your account staff knows how to build up the social site, take them shopping, invite them to lunch. Heck, invite them to your house for barbecue, logos love that. That’s the type of difference in approach that I want agencies to understand, not just a new business, but with working with clients and making sure that all of your clients you’re building deeper, long-lasting relationships. We all know client churn is that at an all-time high and a big part of that, I believe is the fact that we have a whole new crop of account service people coming in that don’t focus on the relationship. They think it all can be done through messaging and email and you know, whatever. And it’s snow. Sometimes some people need to get face to face.

Speaker 1 (50:25):

Great, great counsel, Bob. If people want to learn more about you and your company and want to reach out to you, what are the best ways for them to track you down?

Speaker 3 (50:34):

Uh, the best way is just, find me online, everywhere, pretty much, LinkedIn social life. I kind of float out there in the ether, along with everyone else, go to my website. It’s Sandersconsulting.com, easy to find, easy to, to do. If you really want, just Google, chemistry, Sanders consulting, and a hundred links will show up. The other way is to make sure you follow me on Twitter. It’s a new business Hawk. So, @newbusinesshawk, and you can always ask questions through Twitter or just email me [email protected]

Speaker 1 (51:12):

Beautiful. I know you’ve been doing this for a long time and you get asked to do these sorts of interviews all the time. So I’m really grateful that you took the time to share your expertise and generously talked about a lot of ideas and were very forthcoming with things that people can do right away. So I know everyone who listened to this, I was feeling a little more inspired and a little more hopeful about new business. And I am really grateful that you took the time to share. Thank you so much for that today.

Speaker 3 (51:39):

Well, thank you. And look, we love new business over here at Sanders Consulting. And more importantly, I love helping agencies win. There’s nothing like that feeling. It’s an adrenaline rush. It just brings me back to my old military days where you have that one problem and you have a team and you go out and you solve it. And when you win and you capture the flag or you win the account. Ooh, rah. That’s all I can say.

Speaker 1 (52:03):

That is for sure. Thank you very much. Listeners, be sure that you go check out Bob’s website, lots of great content there. You can dig more into the whole chemistry thing. And if you have more questions, I know Bob will be happy to answer them. So thanks for listening to us today and come on back, we’ll have something new for you next week.

Speaker 2 (52:19):

That’s all for this episode of Build A Better Agency, brought to you by HubSpot. Be sure to visit AgencyManagementInstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to midsize agencies. Don’t miss an episode as we help you build the agency you’ve always dreamed of owning.