In all the years that I’ve been an agency owner (almost 25) and worked alongside agency owners (15+) there is a common pain point — biz dev. We love getting to the table and talking with a potential client about how we can help them. However, getting to the table feels like a slog.
That’s why, if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t invest as much time and attention as we should to prospecting. The situation becomes a real Catch-22. Sooner or later, that bites every agency owner in the caboose and the bank account.
In episode #198, I talk with Dan Englander, who was on the show a while back (episode #76) and what I appreciate about Dan is that he’s been a student of this challenge. Not only has he analyzed the reasons why we avoid going after new business, but he has developed a process with tangible steps you can take to break the pattern. He’s the proverbial “man with a plan.”
We dig into what makes a good sales team, the right roles for the right people, and how to get and stay on the right biz dev tasks as owners and principals.
Dan founded Sales Schema in 2014 to help marketing service companies reach new heights by aggressively focusing on new business. Previously, he was the first employee business development lead at IdeaRocket. Before that, he was Account Coordinator at DXagency. He’s the author of Mastering Account Management and The B2B Sales Blueprint. In his spare time, Dan enjoys developing new and exciting aches and pains via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
What You Will Learn in this Episode:
- How to set up a biz dev team for success
- How to create a 3-person sales pod
- The role of a B2B biz dev strategist in your shop
- Specific tasks that owners and sales leaders should be completing
- How to create a transparent process that leads good-fit clients to a buying decision
- How to find enough confidence in your pipeline to be choosy about clients
- Ways to back up an abundance mindset with solid strategies and tactics
- How to build momentum through your biz dev efforts
- How to avoid perfection paralysis in biz dev
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Ways to Contact Dan Englander:
- Website: https://www.salesschema.com/
- Book The B2B Sales Blueprint: https://amzn.to/2Y2oOtS
- Checklist: https://www.salesschema.com/drew
It doesn’t matter what kind of agency you run: traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. That’s why Agency Management Institute started the Build a Better Agency podcast a few years ago. We help agencies just like yours, grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. Whether you have been an agency owner or agency leader for a day or a decade, there is one topic that is always swirling around in your brain and always at the tip of your tongue and that topic is Biz Dev. How do we find the right potential clients? How do we get on their radar screen? How do we actually get a meeting or conversation with them? And ultimately, how do we convince them? How do we earn the right to show them that we are the right agency for them.
And in every interaction I have with an agency owner, and when I’m hanging out with the agency peer groups, without exception, someone will pull me off to the side, like we’re going to have like a secret conversation and what they’re always asking me is, what are the other agencies doing to get in front of the right prospects? What the question really is, what is the secret magic unicorn-like activity that some other agency has figured out that I have not that truncates this process? That makes this easy, that makes this instantaneous? And it breaks my heart to tell them every time that you know what? There isn’t such a beast. There is no such thing.
Biz Dev is hard work. Biz Dev is discipline. Biz Dev is consistency. I wish that was not the case. I wish there was a unicorn out there, because I would be a bazillionaire, but I don’t have that secret answer for you. And the best thing I can do is to bring you subject matter experts who can teach you how to do the hard work better. And that’s what this episode is going to be all about. Before I tell you a little bit more about our guest today and what we’re going to talk about, I want to remind you of the fact that we’re trying to give you a free workshop seat. I’m trying to get you into one of our workshops, retail value is around, depending on if you’re a member or not, 15, 16 to two grand and/or get you a seat in one of our on-demand workshops, whichever you prefer.
And all you have to do is go to wherever you download the podcast, iTunes, Stitcher, Google, wherever that is, and leave us a ratings and review. Grab a screenshot of it, because your username is often not your real name. If you are Biker Stud 92, I have no idea who that is. Honestly, I probably don’t want to know who that is. But send me the screenshot and help me connect your username and your review with your real name and your email address, so that when you are the lucky winner, we can actually get a hold of you and tell you that you’ve won. So, go ahead and do that for us, please. It’s good for us. It helps more people find us and hopefully find value in the content that we’re creating. And hopefully it will get you into one of our workshops soon, so that would be awesome.
All right, so let me get back to this week’s episode and topic. So, I was actually a guest pretty recently on Dan Englander’s podcast called the Digital Agency Growth podcast, which is a relatively new podcast. And in our conversation, Dan and I were talking during the interview and then post interview about how agencies struggle to figure out how to build their own new business team. How to build that internal team that will help them with all of the mechanics of actually running a biz dev program out of their shop. And so, I asked Dan to come on the show and talk to us about that.
So, Dan is the owner and creator of salesschema.com and he’s been a guest on the podcast before, many moons ago, but it just seemed like it was time to bring him back and specifically around this topic of, “If I want to do Biz Dev all on my own. I don’t want to hire an outside consultant. I don’t want to do anything else, I just want to do it. I want grassroots and I want to do it on my own. What do I need in terms of people and process and skill sets? If I’m going to hire a Biz Dev specialist or person, what does that person need to look like and behave like? And how can I set them up for success?”
All those kinds of questions and so, I am ready to dig into that with you and for you. And I know Dan is ready to share with us everything that he knows, which is quite substantial. So, settle in and be ready to maybe take some notes or think through how you’re structured today, and how you might want to do that differently. So with that, let’s jump into the conversation.
Dan, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.
Thanks for having me on, Drew. I appreciate it.
So, as I was saying in the introduction, if there is a universal topic for agencies, it is certainly sales and biz dev. And so, I know that what we’re going to talk about today is going to be of keen interest to everyone across the land, so I’m grateful that you’re here to share with us your expertise. Will you give everybody a little bit of an understanding of kind of your background in terms of how you came to have this depth of knowledge about the agency sales process?
Yeah, sure, and thanks again. My background originally was kind of as account coordination grunt, so I would be set up to do proposals and manage social media campaigns for bigger consumer brands. I worked on Monster Cable back when they used to manufacture Beats by Dre, which was crazy, Big Ten Network, Marc Ecko, and some of those, some other bigger consumer accounts. And then wanted to do something else kind of moved into an account management role for Creative Services Animation Shop that was selling into the bigger agencies and selling it to enterprise. And really got to kind of hone my craft there.
In the early days, I didn’t take any ownership over being in sales. I kind of didn’t realize that I was and thankfully, I had a good boss of that company that said, “Hey, guess what? You’re kind of in sales, man. Do you want to get trained, and actually figure out how to do this?” So, I got some sales training, got to get on thousands of calls. We had a lot. We were investing a lot in marketing, and sort of built up some skills there. And so, selling basically bigger video projects into the agencies and enterprise.
And eventually, wanted to do my own thing. Wrote, ended up writing a book about account management and sales called Mastering Account Management. Launched Sales Schema. And we started out kind of as a consulting company giving agencies different tactics and strategies for getting new business. And eventually, we moved on to becoming a “done for you” model, because what we were finding is we give people all these crazy strategies, they would get busy, and they wouldn’t apply them and then they’d be sort of be back at square one. So, eventually, we moved into being more of a fractional business team for generally boutique or independent agency selling to these marketed enterprise companies, which is where we are now.
So, when you and I were talking, and I think this was when I was a guest on your podcast, the Digital Agency Growth podcast, we were sort of talking about one of the things that you’ve learned over time is that agencies, whether it’s an agency of one or an agency of a thousand, need to have a new business focus in some frame of a new business team, whether it’s just the owner or it’s a bigger team than that.
And so, that’s what really led us to talking about having you back on the show and talking through sort of what you’ve observed in terms of how an agency can think about building an effective new business team internally. So, that’s really where I want to focus our conversation today because I think this is one of the places where agencies really struggle. As you know and as all of the listeners have heard me preach about in the past, most agencies do biz dev, because they have to. And so, it’s very much a feast or famine. We don’t do much of anything when things are going well and when we get the weird vibe that a big client is going away, or worse yet, we get the phone call that says they are going away, then all of a sudden, we scramble to try and chase after new business.
And one thing that certainly I think is true in the past couple of years is that clients are much more deliberate about pulling the trigger on working with an agency. So, this scramble when you need it model puts many agencies really behind the eight ball in terms of they can’t leverage fast enough and so they end up downsizing or worse, going deep into a line of credit or whatever it is just to survive. And so, I’m excited to talk about a better way.
And so, let’s talk a little bit about sort of your take. It’s interesting, that someone who serves as sort of an outsource partner to agencies is advocating for agencies to have an internal team. So, talk a little bit about what that internal team might look like and kind of what the roles would be in your recommendation.
Yeah, and just to be clear on that, I think it’s hard to build that internal team, and we can help agencies move a lot faster than they normally would and that’s our whole value prop. So, we’re not shy about selling that, for sure. But if you wanted to get started with your own team and maybe you’re not at the stage of hiring somebody like us, there’s a lot that you can do to set up that support base. So, that’s what I would like to help people with here.
I think the first thing to start with is why you should you get proactive. Most of the people we’ve worked with have survived for sometimes decades on referrals and that sort of thing on RFPs. And what we’re seeing more and more of now is this massive expansion of the freelance economy. So, there’s more and more marketing service providers than there ever has been. There’s more and more potential to bring things in-house than there has been in the past. So, what that has brought is higher premium on optionality and on brands bouncing around, which has meant fewer retainers, more project-based engagements, kind of downsizing of long-term retainers and more attrition.
So, we talked to a lot of people that say we get a lot of our business, because we will have a CMO that we’re friends with, he’ll bounce to a new company, and they’ll take us with him. The problem with that is, it’s a double-edged sword. It could just as easily work against you and you can get fired from a long-term account doing that sort of thing. So, it’s become more important to get proactive in the agencies that we really see doing well. The ones that we’re looking up to in terms of new business perspective have gotten this memo and are really hitting the ground running.
And frankly, that’s what the rest of the enterprise world has done for generations that maintains the sales process, they maintained the team, kept the pipeline full, and so on. And for whatever reason, agencies have been able to survive without doing that. So, that’s all stuff we’ve covered before.
But to answer your question, I think what we see a lot is that the agency will get the memo that they need to get proactive and then they won’t set up their team for success. And the main way that that’s happening is they have a solo. They have either a high-level new business person or oftentimes it’s the owner, or sometimes even in agencies with hundreds of people, it’s still the owner doing all of the new business process, or they hire somebody, and then they send them off into the cold without any support.
Right. And by the way expect them to have an ROI within three months.
Right, right. And it takes a lot of time. So, really, what they’re doing is they’re thinking of sales as maybe one job or like one job that ascribes other people or enlists other people for support when needed, when really, it’s three, basically full-time jobs to get right. And that’s where we come in, because it’s hard to do that, but it is possible. You can start to experiment with it. I think there’s things you can do.
And those three jobs that basically, the three-person sales support pod is what we’d like to call it is it’s basically the three roles. Look like first, you need somebody who is developing and then fine-tuning the B2B strategy constantly, basically, every 30 days. So, they’re basically figuring out what are the right words to the right people. And the issue with that is sometimes the agency will hire somebody in-house that’s doing copy for their clients. And it’s often a different skill set, because the whole tone of going after a B2B CMO or a CMO in a large company is different than the tone that your copywriter is doing, packaging for a consumer brand, so there’s a knowledge gap there.
But even if that knowledge gap is filled and you have somebody that has experience going to B2B, it’s tough because you’re basically enlisting that person to do things in their spare time. So, they’re not going to have a lot of skin in the game. But if you can do that, that’s just kind of knowing what those rules are is important. So, that’s rule number one is that B2B strategist that has time to develop and optimize a strategy every day, and so on, that’s more creative.
The second role is basically a lower level salesperson or an account manager/enterprise assistant. Basically, somebody to convert a person that’s putting up their hand and saying, “Yes, I’m interested in talking with ACME agency,” to actually showing up to that appointment. And that’s something that’s often taken for granted. If you get somebody that’s interested in you, that doesn’t mean that they are ready to talk to you yet. They’re going to need nurturing and logistics and support to get them to actually show up. So, if a CMO takes time to speak with you, they’re going to be investing in marketing. They’re just too busy to have that conversation otherwise. Converting them to the calendar is a whole other effort. So, that’s rule number two.
And rule number three is the technical side of things. So, a lot of the times, we’ll work with agencies that have tried to do outreach, have done whatever, email, LinkedIn inbound. And they said, “Hey, it just doesn’t work for us. We’re just really special.” Whatever the reason is, and a lot of the times, it could be a messaging or a market problem, but I’d say most of the time, it’s a technical problem. The pigeons just aren’t landing. Nobody’s seeing the message. And it’s not just a one-time thing to get the technical boxes checked, it’s a pretty consistent effort to make sure the data is clean, to make sure deliverability is maintained, and so on so forth. So, that’s really the third rule.
And then the last rule, which is the end is basically the high level person to have that conversation, which is where that person is going to shine. When you hire a new salesperson, or you have an owner, that’s where their highest leverage activity is basically.
Okay, so I heard I need to have somebody who is mindful of the message, so what is the messaging about us and how are we demonstrating? How are we sort of scratching the itch of our prospects and who are the prospects, right? Which I think in most cases is probably an agency owner or a higher level person making that decision. Then you’ve got somebody who’s more administrative, making sure that we send what we say we’re going to send, we try and schedule appointments. If we’re doing a mailing series or something like that, that that’s staying on track.
And then the third person is sort of the technical person. We’re going to have a drip campaign, and we’re going to be pushing stuff out on whatever, Instagram or LinkedIn or whatever it is, and the methodology around either that email campaign or whatever it is. And then I heard a fourth person or is the fourth person because what I heard was, and then there’s a person that you basically send in. So, they’re the one who could have that high-level marketing conversation, which again, is probably typically the owner. So, is the first role and the last role typically the same person?
No, no. And to be clear, I probably made it confusing. It’s essentially four roles. The three that I mentioned are basically on the support side, and that’s what we’re doing at Sales Schema.
The fourth role is the agency owner or the high-level new business person.
Who can got out and have business conversations?
Exactly. And that role is very difficult to build something. It’s a real marathon to get that role right, whether you’re hiring it or honing your own skills, basically.
Yeah. So, I think one of the… so, as I’m listening to you sort of describing those roles, I think about a lot of agency owners I know that are trying to do this as sort of almost like a side hustle, right? They have their day job and then their side hustle is biz dev for the agency, which just to be very clear, I am not a fan of that model. But, so part of what I’m hearing you say is that if somebody is trying to do it on their own, what it means that they’re spending a lot of time on tasks that are, for lack of a better term, kind of below their pay grade, right?
Exactly, yeah. There’s a lot of tasks below the pay grade of the person that needs to be spending 99% of their time doing the things that only they can do. So, before getting into all the ways you can waste your time, the three main things I’d say are basically high-level strategy, so basically figuring out the steps that people need to go through in order to build enough trust to buy from you, which is going to vary depending on your market, your service, and so on. Conducting the actual sales meeting with prospects. People say the word qualified, and it’s one of these words that I hate because it just can mean a million different thi