Episode 13

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Chuck Meyst has been in sales all his life, from his childhood bike route to CEO and founder of AgencyFinder.com, a matchmaking service for agencies.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why Chuck started AgencyFinder and how it works
  • Why agency descriptions of themselves should be results-focused
  • What both clients and agencies need to do well to find the right partner
  • The big mistakes agencies make with their websites
  • Sales: why do agencies not like this word?
  • The traits Chuck sees in terrible employees
  • Why processes are so important, especially when it comes to sales
  • The characteristics in agencies that clients love to see
  • How agencies win business through pure chemistry
  • What AgencyFinder does to assess agencies and how to receive that perfect score of 100
  • How AgencyFinder helps agencies team up with clients that are great matches
  • Things agencies can do today to improve upon the topics discussed in this episode

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Many clients need an agency that's proactive and has ideas.” – @AgencyFinder Click To Tweet

Click to tweet: Chuck Meyst shares the inside knowledge needed to run an agency on Build a Better Agency!

 

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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 Build a Better Agency, where we 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 expertise as both an agency, owner and agency consultant to you. Please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. As you know, the reason I am putting together this podcast series is because I know all too well, the risks that we all take owning agencies, and I want to make sure we mitigate those risks and maximize the rewards that can come with agency ownership. One of the topics that when I’m hanging out with agency owners always comes up is the topic of new business and how to do it different, how to do it better, how to differentiate yourself. I know that today’s guest is going to strike a chord with all of you.

Chuck Meyst has been in sales his whole life, and he doesn’t think that sales is a dirty word or a bad word. He started with a morning paper route when he was a kid, went into engineering sale, magazine publisher work, voice recognition technology, and then found himself in the agency new business space. He’s worked in that space for quite a few years, and about 20 years ago, started the organization called agencyfinder.com. Basically, that is a matchmaking service for agencies. What Chuck’s going to talk to us about today is the things that we do right, the things that we do wrong, and how we can be better at agency new business. With that, Chuck, welcome to the show.

Chuck Meyst:

Thank you, Drew. I’m glad to be here.

Drew McLellan:

Tell us a little bit more about agencyfinder.com and sort of your role as a sales guy and your background.

Chuck Meyst:

Well, I was involved in agency new business process, starting back in 1990, working with Sanders Consulting. At that time, we were the be all end all to teach agencies new business process. I was there for four years. I left to start my own firm doing something similar but different in terms of principle, but came to the conclusion in doing any onsite engagements in teaching new, new business people, the proactive outreach process that basically, pardon me, but agencies don’t like doing new business. Now, what I mean there is that they don’t like to have to pick up a phone and reach out to somebody who is for the most part, a stranger.

I realized that my consulting business at that time and the staff we have had, we were never going to be able to address all the agencies or stay in touch with agencies that we taught. As a matter of fact, all of this came from, I was returning from Campbell Ewald, where I’d done an engagement to teach two new, new business people to replace two new business people that I taught two years prior. I thought, “I just can’t do this.” Flying home, I was reading a book on entrepreneurialship and the long story short was, I said, “We need to reverse this process. Agencies say, ‘You just get me somebody who can would get me an opportunity, and I can close it.’” Essentially, long story short, I came up with the reverse idea for new business development, which is AGENCYFINDER. I can keep talking, you got a question in there somewhere?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Just tell us a little bit about AGENCYFINDER and how it works.

Chuck Meyst:

Okay. Well, we launched AGENCYFINDER back 1997. We were the first finder service, and actually, in terms of format, we continue to be one of the few finder services in the agency community. Essentially, what we do is we’ve got a database, agencies are invited to build profiles. The profile gives them them about 500 data fields that they can check off to identify their experience, their services, and on and on and on. There’s also seven essays, they write typically 500 words. In the end, that profile is the largest data file on an agency in the industry. That’s what we’ve got to start with. Clients then are invited to come and register. When they come in, they’re asked to outline their search requirements and essentially, they are working on the other side of the Chinese Wall from that same data set. They check off what they want in an agency, what vertical market experience, what services, what market specialization.

They build their search outline, our search engine finds those that satisfy or appear to satisfy. We look at those, we look at those, we further edit that list. Eventually, the client gets to see those that satisfy the criteria. They tell us who they want us to invite. We invite them. At that point, essentially, we kind of walk away from the whole process. It’s meant for the agencies to respond to the invitation, either call and conduct an interview with the client. We call that a due diligence interview, or they’re meant to let us know that they have to decline for some reason, workload, budget or conflict. From that point forward, we kind of back away, but the whole process is to introduce and connect agencies that appear to be great candidates based on what the client has told us through their data entry, end of story.

Drew McLellan:

So you’re the eHarmony of agency new business, is what you’re saying, Chuck?

Chuck Meyst:

Drew that’s so well-spoken. The funny thing is in the early days, people used to say, “Well, tell me how this whole thing works.” I would say it’s sort of like a dating service. Before eHarmony came on the scene, you won’t believe how many people said to me when I use that analogy, “Oh, that’s disgusting. People would never do that. Blah, blah, blah.” Along came eHarmony, and I, from that point forward, I would just say, “Well, essentially, we’re the eHarmony of the advertising industry,” and they’d go, “Oh, I understand.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right, right. That’s awesome. I’m curious, how many matches, the eHarmony commercials always tell you how many marriages there are, so how many matches over the last decade do you think you guys have successfully done?

Chuck Meyst:

Well, successfully, that’s interesting expression. According to our counter on the website, we’ve got an in excess of 10,000 such introductions and presumed matches. We’ve got quite a few that have lasted a long time and we have some that have come back to do subsequent searches when a relationship, in one case that I’m thinking of, it didn’t last beyond say three years, but some were less than 10,000.

Drew McLellan:

Well, honestly, even a three-year relationship for most agencies is a pretty good client relationship, so it sounds like when you finally make the match, they work pretty well. I’m curious, how do you think clients are, when clients come to you in search of an agency, how clear are they about what they need and want and how often is that actually what they need and want?

Chuck Meyst:

Well, it’s an interesting question. We’ve had agencies say, “Well, what should we call ourself? I mean, what should we be an ad agency or an integrated or a digital, because those are options on our site.” I try to explain that, frankly, when clients come to us, they’re seldom looking for a specific type. I don’t see them come, “Oh, I need a digital agency.” Clients tend to say, “I need to improve my sales.” I’m often suspect if somebody is trying to be so specific as to say, “I expect to increase my sales with this kind of an agency, with these services, with this experience.” Because in fact, as I said, most of these CMOs, VP marketing, whoever it is that comes to us, they’re looking to increase their sales. As a matter of fact, I say to them, “What metrics are you going to use?” In other words, when you hire this agency, what will constitute something successful? Even there, they struggle to identify what that might be.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. The agencies I work with too, find that with clients, but interesting. One of the things we talk a lot about in some of our workshops and our peer networks is that agencies spend too much time trying describe themselves as opposed to talking about how their clients are better after working with them. Exactly what you’re saying is, talk about results rather than worrying so much about the label you put on yourself.

Chuck Meyst:

Well, and case in point, we’re doing a search right now for a consulting firm that their process, this process is pretty complicated, but talking to the woman, who’s the VP of marketing, who in turn is telling me about the three conversations that she had with three of our identified and invited agencies. She talks about how distinctly different they are. One happens to be in Iowa. One’s in Florida, one’s in New York, the clients’ in New Jersey, but she’s okay with all locations. According to her, and even the agencies telling me, most of them all essentially ask her questions. They did not make sales presentations. One agency didn’t even ask what the budget was.

Drew McLellan:

Huh, that’s interesting. As agencies and clients come together and as you observe this dance, let’s look at each side of the equation. What are clients or prospects doing to come to that dance that they could do better? Then I’m going to obviously ask you what agencies should do better too. If you wanted to be a great client, looking for a great agency match, what should they be doing better than they do today?

Chuck Meyst:

Well, because we do all the work we do by telephone, which by the way, is important to mention because as a search consultant, which is what AGENCYFINDER really is, we’re a search consultant. We use the internet, we use the database, that’s our fly paper. That’s what we use to stick to a client, or in the case of agencies looking for us, stick to an agency. I wouldn’t say we don’t have the luxury, but the fact of the matter is we don’t get to sit with them and see if they’ve got a stack of paper or a checkoff sheet. I would say based on what our conversations become, I don’t hear from them that they’ve got a checkoff sheet, but we’ve given them a menu that develops a fairly precise checkoff sheet, which helps them articulate their requirements. I would say, well, I also would say incidentally, that the person who comes to us is supposed to be authorized to conduct an agency search and to take it to conclusion.

Unfortunately, many of these people believe that’s true, only to find out near the end that the chairman of the company steps in and takes over. That’s a very unfortunate situation, and it’s also the agencies, particularly, if it changes direction, the agencies are not at all happy, but I would say that the person who comes to us needs to make sure they’ve discussed what they’re going to do with their supervisor and their management, however, that happens to be, and that they’ve developed a checklist that they can use to conduct intelligent conversations.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, and I think we see that in most new business opportunities that oftentimes the decision-making committee, if you will, shifts around a little bit in the process. Let’s look at the other side of that. What could agencies do better in this process? How are they stubbing their own toe?

Chuck Meyst:

Well, I can answer the question as it relates to AGENCYFINDER, but let me broaden it out out a bit. Believe me, we’ve looked at thousands of agency websites and there are some that are outstanding. There are some that are incredibly poor. I notice a couple things at agency websites, which is good for AGENCYFINDER searches or a Google search, and that is incredibly so, when you go to the contact page on an agency website, what I abhor and what is probably the worst thing that they can do for a new business, they’ve got a text box fill in the form that basically says, tell me who you are, and if you’re lucky, I might get back to you. That’s what it implies. Now, on that same page, there is no indication of where that agency is. There’s no physical address. There’s no phone, there’s no email. There’s nothing. Now, no client who’s looking for an agency is comfortable dealing with an agency that hasn’t represented where they are. That’s step number one step, and that applies whether it’s an AGENCYFINDER search or a Google search.

Drew McLellan:

Sure. Right.

Chuck Meyst:

Second thing, I think, if you ask agencies and if you ask clients, I think you’d say that for any search of any magnitude where the client wants to have three final presenters that ultimately, however they got there, the three agencies are going to be quite a bit alike. The deciding factor, Drew, is what?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Do I like them?

Chuck Meyst:

Yeah. We call that chemistry, don’t we?

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Yep. Right.

Chuck Meyst:

If we all acknowledge that chemistry is probably the most powerful, single factor to selecting an agency, and on an agency website, they don’t mention their name, they don’t show their picture, there’s no indication other than a paragraph that says, “Our people have the combined experience of 412 years.” How ridiculous.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Chuck Meyst:

What an agency needs, whatever the tab is, it’s a team tab or meet our people tab and then whether they’re caricatures or photographs. By the way, in both cases, particularly with photographs, there must be a name there with a title there. Nobody wants to … Clients don’t want to have to click on every damn picture of 35 to find the CEO.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right.

Chuck Meyst:

The two big missing links that are killing agencies at new business, is the lack of an addressed location and the lack of any presentation of their people.

Drew McLellan:

Boy, I don’t disagree with you at all, but it’s such basic stuff. I mean, agencies who do this for a living, for other people, that they can’t get it right for themselves is in some ways sad and other ways sort of staggering.

Chuck Meyst:

Well, yeah. Before we present our candidates, using our process to a client, we actually look at each one of those agencies the same way the client is meant to do that. We do it before, because we have discovered that if we don’t do that, clients are going to say, “Chuck, why did you include that agency? I mean, we’re looking for a B2B shop and I landed on one and it says, “We are food, F-O-O-D.” We now go through and look just like they, and if we find that kind of disconnect, we take them away. If we find that they don’t have a team representation or a physical address, we take them off. I mean, I’m tired of fighting their battles.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, no, it makes perfect sense. I’m not quite sure how to ask this question, but so let me stumble around a little bit. How or why, what gets in the way of agencies doing new business better? Why in the world, in your opinion, from your perspective, why in the world would agencies make these sort of what you and I would call rookie mistakes? Then what are the other mistakes they make through the process, beyond the website that get them disqualified, even when they’re actively pursuing an opportunity?

Chuck Meyst:

Well, Drew, I think my observation in my position, I’m basically a sales guy and have been all my life, but when I worked for Sanders Consulting, Stuart Sanders, who was very successful at agency, new business …

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Chuck Meyst:

… Said to me, “Chuck, don’t use the word sales. They hate it.” One of the things I noticed as I traveled, I have never, in all my years in this agency interface, been at an agency where there’s a door panel or something that says sales department. They don’t like to use the word.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

Chuck Meyst:

The word scares them. The same client, I mentioned a minute ago with the three agencies said, this is a client speaking now, she said, “Chuck, I just hired a young fellow, 22 years old to do sales for us,” but she said, “You know what, he’s a millennial. I can’t use the word sales. Do you know what his title is? Brand advocate.”

She said, “I’m teaching him sales,” because she’s a salesperson herself, “I’m teaching him sales.” I said, “Don’t you have to bite your tongue?” Oh, she said, “Yes, but it’s working fine. As a brand advocate, he’s more than comfortable to spread the gospel,” but she said, “One day, I’m looking forward to telling him, ‘Hey, you’re a salesman now.’” I think, come back to your question, you say, what are the different things? First of all, I recognized that over the years, that number one, they hate to admit and they hate to embrace the expression sales. Number two, they seem to think that sales is somehow a talent that is naturally learned by making a series of telephone calls or having conversations or face-to-face meeting, and you’re going to learn on the job. The answer is no boys and girls, it doesn’t work that way.

That is a taught specialization, and yet they don’t want to be taught. Most agency owners themselves feel the same way about sales, so they’re reluctant to seek out sales solutions. I remember, Sanders Consulting is still around and doing, Stewart is retired now, but we had a program. Stewart introduced something called the spark and torch. The spark was meant to be the person who did the outreach and the torch was the more senior person and who accompanied the spark, and that’s an important word, accompanied the spark on first meetings with clients. Well, we taught that process at seminar locations around the country, but it was meant to invite the spark and the torch. The two were meant to come together, so that the spark could learn the daily grind and the torch could learn how to come in as the savior and close the deal. Well guess what? Half the time the tortures were too busy to come.

Just send the spark. I spent a lot of time after the sparks had been trained, they’d call him and say, “Chuck help me. My boss says, forget the mailing pieces. You just make phone calls. You don’t need a brochure.” They fight themselves. I don’t think that fight has changed. It seems to be the same. My point is, I hate to beat this dead horse, but they’ve got two embrace the fact that it’s a sales situation. They’ve got to be trained in the sales process and they need to apply sales-trained people to the new business process.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I find it fascinating. The agency owners that I hang out with all the time, the one thing they all want to talk about is new business, but they all want a magic bullet that doesn’t exist, which is I want … I want clients to just fall like manna from heaven and land at my feet, or I want to hire a salesperson, but I’m not going to give them process. I’m not going to give them resource. If they don’t make a big sale within six months, I’m going to call it a failure and fire them.

Chuck Meyst:

That’s right. Well, I meet lots, not so much anymore, I suppose but historically, I used to meet lots of agency owners that would tell me, “Oh, I’m hiring this guy and he’s going to do everything for us.” I would then find myself having to talk to this new guy, and I could tell in my first conversation, this guy was a loser or whether it was a woman, okay? They were arrogant. They didn’t know what they were talking about. They didn’t want to listen to anything that I was willing to share with them. I’ll mentor anybody, but when somebody is an off-putting smart aleck, I’m not too excited about that. In years past, I used to say nothing. Now if I detect that early on, I tell the agency president, whoever, “You’ve got somebody there you need to get rid of.”

I say that, it sounds rather outspoken, but over the years, for instance, if I identified somebody who was like that, and then a year out, I’d call and, “Ooh, Tom’s not there anymore,” so I talked to the president, “Hey Eddie, what happened to Tom?” “Oh, Chuck, he was terrible.” I said, “Well, I recognized that.” He says to me, “Chuck, you should have told me,” so number one, that kind of a mismatch is terrible. By the way, there’s a new business can consultant that I know that does what I might call outreach calling on behalf of, he’s a solo practitioner, not a couple of the firms that do this with multiple people, but he said the same thing, Drew, that his agency clients all expect overnight success. In many cases, they’re not willing to hang in to let it begin to mature.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I equate it to planting a seed and then standing over that seed and being mad that it hasn’t broken ground in the next day. You just dig it up and throw it away.

Chuck Meyst:

That’s right.

Drew McLellan:

Rather than let the roots take hold and do their job.

Chuck Meyst:

Well, and here’s another thing, by the way, you reminded me. Invariably, what I find is that when an agency is looking to hire a new business person, number one, the agency does not have a process that they’ve been using or that they’ve been taught or that they have the tools to put into practice. They don’t have any of that. Now they’re interviewing for new business. ,ow we got the new business applicant. Who’s sitting there and thinking to him herself, “Oh, this agency probably has a really neat new business program that I can use. God forbid, I don’t know what to do without such a thing,” so they both are talking to each other, thinking that the other guy has the process. Then they hire and find out, unfortunately, that neither one of them knows what to do.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. Then they both get frustrated with the process, and so it doesn’t work.

Chuck Meyst:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, so let’s talk about the happier side of it. You talk to a lot of clients every day. What are agencies doing that make them the right choice? How are they engaging to differently? How are they coming across differently? How are they presenting themselves, or what are they doing in the actual presentation that clients come back to you and say, “We picked agency ABC, and they did this, which really knocked it out of the park.”

Chuck Meyst:

Well, you might say, surprisingly, we don’t hear as much about those out of the park hits that we would like to hear. If we become persistent in asking, we get the impression that they’re annoyed that we’re asking. They want to move on now, but the characteristics that certainly bring favor are good listeners. Well, agencies that ask questions that are pertinent questions. Well, I’d say another thing, by the way, in the initial telephone interview that we arranged the due diligence interview, that’s where both parties are meant and given freedom to ask an answer of each other, there’s nothing off limits. It’s the agency’s opportunity to ask about budget, ask about client expectations.

The clients are impressed when the agency has done research on their company on, again, I come back to the one that’s current. One of the agencies is so PR firm, did an incredible amount of research. The principal at this consulting firm, the client, as the PR agency described him, he said, “Chuck, this guy is like a Donald Trump in his industry.” He said, “This guy has in credible cred.” He said, “Frankly, I can’t imagine what remains to be done for this agency. Why they’re look …” For this client, “Why they’re looking for an agency. It seems they’re getting everything,” but when he talked to the client, because he had done such research, she was really impressed by how much he knew. By the way, all three of these agencies in this initial interview, according to the client, did not sell themselves at all. They asked questions. To that point, she liked all three of them and is planning to invite all three to come forward to compete for the business.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s counterintuitive in some ways not to sell when you’re selling, but at this point it really is very, again, back to our eHarmony analogy, it very much is like a date. We find people fascinating when they talk about us all the time, right? When they want to know more about us, I mean, that’s just human nature. The agencies that come in, especially when they’re doing live presentations and burn up 30 minutes of their 60 minutes talking about themselves, really get themselves in hot water, I think.

Chuck Meyst:

Well, by the way, that reminds me, we seldom are present at final presentations, but we did a search for DuPont Corian countertop materials number of years ago. The budget was I think, 20 million, and there were three fine lists. One was Kirshenbaum Bond. One was an agency out of Baltimore, now out of business, and the third was Donor. At that time, the gent that was the new business head at Donor, he’s now deceased, and I’m struggling to remember his name, but the setup for the presentation, this was in [inaudible 00:30:21] they’re up north somewhere. The room was set up with a series of eight-foot conference tables. They were set out in such a way that was a big horseshoe arrangement, and the DuPont people not only were DuPont people there, but they had their distributors there.

Around the outside of all these tables were chairs and people sitting and then up forward in the center was the presentation table. Now, it was interesting because the first firm, again, whose name escapes me, I mean, they gave me goosebumps when they w