Episode 76:

Dan Englander is the founder of Sales Schema, where he helps marketing agencies grow by way of done-for-you lead generation and consulting. He’s the author of Mastering Account Management. Previously, as the first hire at the animation studio IdeaRocket, he brought the company from zero to seven figures, encompassing dozens of Fortune 500 clients.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How Dan helps agencies fill their sales pipelines
  • Why you can’t rely on referrals from your network for sales
  • Why creating content is not a sales strategy
  • Why you need to systematize pipeline work and why you need to allot daily time for working on your pipeline
  • Honing in on a particular niche when generating leads
  • Why driving prospects to your website is not what you want to be doing
  • Why you need to have a follow-up plan in place for your cold emails
  • Why you need to get on the phone with a lead as soon as possible
  • How to word cold emails so they actually resonate with cold leads
  • How Dan’s company helps agencies hone in on their niche
  • Why cold emails have to come from a real person (and which person inside an agency they should come from)
  • Why you need to get the right clients for your agency
  • Why you shouldn’t overinvest in tools
  • Some good tools that Dan likes
  • Dan’s book: “Mastering Account Management”

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Don’t limit yourself. Eventually your personal network and referrals just don’t cut it.” – @DansPalace Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to 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 McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. So today my guest and I are going to talk about agency sales, lead gen and new business efforts. And so let me tell you a little bit about him and then we’re going to jump right into the conversation. Dan Englander is the founder of Sales Schema, where he helps marketing agencies grow by way of done-for-you lead generation and consulting. So we’ll find out more about that. He’s also the author of Mastering Account Management. Previously, he was the first hire at the animation studio, Idea Rocket and he and the original partner brought that company from zero to seven figures encompassing dozens of Fortune 500 clients and working with a lot of agencies and now today, he’s turned his attention to helping agencies grow their business. So Dan, welcome to the podcast.

Dan Englander :

Thanks Drew. I appreciate it.

Drew McLellan:

So what made you decide that this was a need and that you could fill that need?

Dan Englander :

Yeah, it’s a good question. So like you mentioned, I was at this studio called Idea Rocket for a while and kind of struck out on my own doing consulting and sales coaching for different businesses. And since I was here in New York, networking for so long, most of my friends and acquaintances were in the agency world so they were naturally my first clients and other people I found through my book and so on. And I think it’s a need because the problem that I kept coming across was, agencies more than almost any other business I’ve noticed fall into this sort of feast and famine rut, where people hustle so hard to get business, they win these big accounts or these big projects, they spend the next three months just like up to their ears in the work and then it’s all over and the pipeline’s empty again and then [inaudible 00:02:13] repeat over and over again.

So I was consulting with different companies like this and I also had memories from my own from working in creative services company, feeding in the agencies as an employee. And I eventually just wanted to figure out a way to give them leads and to sort of bulk up the pipelines without them having to do more work than they already had. So that’s kind of how I came upon this company that I’m running now.

Drew McLellan:

So when you engage with an agency, what are some of the new business and sales mistakes that they are typically making?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. It’s harsh to call them mistakes per se, but I would say that most agencies are getting from zero to one on their personal networks and on referrals. And obviously, you should always push for referrals, they’re great and there’s nothing wrong with them, but it really kind of leads to this growth ceiling problem. So they go out and they go to networking groups and they hustle even harder, but there’s really a finite limit on your personal network after a while. So I think it’s basically … that’s the first thing. And then the second thing, which I guess could be a mistake, is investing in different marketing strategies that are pretty speculative, and there’s nothing wrong with kind of treating them like an experiment, but they’re not going to be guaranteed to bulk up your pipeline and sort of create the opportunities that are going to lead to business months from now.

And to be specific, a lot of the times people will invest in social media, like I’m going to do a bunch of Facebook posts or tweets for my agency and that’s going to give me business, or I’m going to write a bunch of content or I’m going to host an event, and there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but you need to be generating the conversations in an ongoing matter in order to feel good about the future of your agency. So I think that that’s sort of the second thing.

Drew McLellan:

I always think of the social media activity and the content, that’s really a credibility factor. So once you’re on someone’s radar and they go check you out, you want them to see good content and that you’re active and that you’re having interesting thought leadership type conversations. I can’t imagine, or I would hope that most agencies don’t think that prospects are trolling Facebook and looking at agency Facebook pages to try and find an agency. So I think you’re right, I think it’s a good activity but it’s not a pipeline filling activity.

Dan Englander :

Well, yeah. And to be fair, it could be. You could rank for some awesome keywords like best content agency for pharmaceutical startups or whatever it may be, and then get inbound leads that way. But the thing is, it’s going to take a while to make that work if it even works at all. So in the meantime, you got to be talking to your prospects and basically being a salesperson or else you’re going to find that pipeline running dry after that next big project is done, so that’s my take on it anyway.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So I think you’re right. I think the biggest issue is the feast and famine, which is that they don’t spend a little bit of time every day working on the pipeline.

Dan Englander :

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And in your experience, when I roll back and I look at what you did when you were in essence selling at Idea Rocket before you launched out on your own, how did you not fall into that same rut?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. To be honest, I probably did more times than not because I was in a mixed role, it was just the founder and I at first and then we got another person like me eventually. So I was managing projects a lot of the time and I would find myself getting caught in the weeds and then that’s when we would start to slip and start to not have enough opportunities in the pipeline. But I think when I eventually did lock it in, the main thing is just being very systematized about it and allotting a certain amount of time preferably in the mornings to just work on the pipeline.

And during that time, you’re not letting fires bother you, you’re not checking your email, although you might have to use email for sales, you’re not getting new messages from clients, they’re going to pull you off course. So just really making it systematized, responsiveness is really big in sales. If somebody wants to speak to you, you want to do it sooner rather than later otherwise they might talk to somebody else or they might just not have the attention next time you want to reach them. So I think building that time into your day, every day, even if business is amazing, even if business is mediocre or it’s bad is the most important thing.

Drew McLellan:

Well, honestly I’ve always felt that the most important time to strengthen your new business activity and really flex that muscle is when you are super busy, because that’s when you have the luxury of picking and choosing the client’s that you want to work for so you’re going to elevate the kind of clients you’re bringing into the agency because you’re not at the famine stage of the cycle and so, you and I have both seen lots of agencies take on clients that they know is not a good long-term fit, or they know that they can’t really keep for a long time but they got people sitting on their hands and it beats laying somebody off so they take the project or they underbid the project or whatever it is. So I think new business activity actually should be super active, when you’re busy because that’s the best time to fill the pipeline.

Dan Englander :

Exactly. And then cyclically, when you’re really busy, there’s going to be a slump, just what comes up must come down a little bit and you want that slump to be a gentle slide and not a giant downward facing a hockey stick. So I think that’s the main thing. Yeah. I definitely agree because when you’re really busy, you’re going to be thinking in terms of abundance and basically matching yourself up with the right people, which is what you should always be doing anyway. So I definitely agree with that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And the other thing I think about new business is, you’re right, there’s always the ebb and flow of business but if every time you have the ebb you have to let people go or you have to cut people back in terms of their hours or you have to send out the email saying, “We’ve got to tighten the belt. Things are lean this month.” Right now agencies are struggling to find and keep good people and there’s a lot more jobs out there and opportunities than there are … so if you want to retain your good people, one of the things you need to create is a culture of abundance where even if you do lose a client or a project wraps up, there’s always plenty of stuff in the pipeline coming behind it that reassures your people that there’s not going to be a layoff around the corner.

Dan Englander :

Right. Exactly. And I think it takes thinking about which buyers are going to be able to kind of stick with you for the long-term and then proactively going after them to get conversations in order to do that. And that can happen like I said through these inbound channels, but you have a lot more control if you can make it work through outbound and you can always sort of go knock on doors when you need to, so to speak.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So I know that our listeners are going to be curious and they’re going to poke around on your website. And I know you’ve spent a little bit of time in agencies but you haven’t really sold, you’ve not worked for an agency and been driving the business sales for a long time. So what have you learned in other places and how are agencies the same or not the same and how you have to tweak for example what you did at Idea Rocket where you were selling in the agencies to help agencies sell into clients, how do you package up your experiences and make that aligned with sort of agency life?

Dan Englander :

Right. Yeah. So the reason that I gravitate towards agencies is because like you mentioned, that’s sort of who we were focusing on most at Idea Rocket, and it’s not unlike what a lot of agencies are selling. I think creative services in a way in agency work kind of has a lot of spillover. So to me, it wasn’t like this radical foreign territory working with agencies after I struck out on my own, plus working at an agency before Idea Rocket, although I wasn’t selling was pretty helpful for that. In terms of what I’ve learned elsewhere, I think it’s really sort of honing your value proposition for a particular niche and I think when I say that it scares agencies because they think they’re going to have to blow up their company and reinvent it for XYZ industry or something like that.

But that’s not really what it’s all about, it’s more figuring out what specific problem you’re solving for a particular group when you’re going out there to knock on doors and generate leads. A lot of the times I see a tendency for agency owners to really kind of sing their own praises in terms of how creative they are and how they’re going to change everything in their client’s companies and make the world a better place for them in every particular way, but I think that in the context of lead generation, it’s really about solving a specific problem. So I think that that’s the biggest takeaway, and you asked about kind of bringing that to agencies from other areas, that’s really what direct response marketing is about in a lot of ways. And I think that agency owners, especially if they’re focused on branding and that sort of thing can benefit a lot from that.

Drew McLellan:

I think you’re right and I think in a lot of ways it’s not so much about the specifics of agency life, it is about the consistency of behavior, but let’s go back to the whole idea of defining yourself in relation to how you can uniquely serve the client. So talk a little bit more about that, because you’re right, there are two kinds of agencies, some agencies have really embraced the idea of nicheing and understanding that expertise in certain verticals makes them the brain surgeon versus the general practitioner, and then there are other agencies who really struggle with that and they really want to be a little bit of everything to everybody, or maybe they’re in a second tier market and they feel like they can’t specialize because they have to kind of serve the local butcher, baker and candlestick maker. So talk a little bit about your take on all of that.

Dan Englander :

Yeah. And I think it’s really easy to sort of get caught up in this idea of the cost of nicheing being much higher than it actually is. I think that you can kind of keep it contained to the channel that you’re actually using. So to be specific, with cold emails, a lot of the times we’re nicheing in the context of the people we’re going after and the service that we’re supporting or that we’re touting with the email. So you might not be the best branding shop, midsize boutique branding shop in the world and you might not be the best agency for midsize e-commerce companies but when you combine those two things together in the middle of that Venn diagram, is now kind of compelling and is probably enough to get a conversation to say, “We specialize in midsize e-commerce companies or are doing branding projects to solve this problem for midsize e-commerce companies.”

So now all of a sudden nicheing just becomes as simple as A, writing a cold email and B, knowing who you’re going after and having at least just some minor track record there enough to say, “We’ve created results in that field.” So I think that’s the first thing to point out, just the cost of doing it is not as high as people think. You don’t have to blow up your agency and reinvent it again. And from there, you can choose how fancy you want to get, maybe it’s creating a landing page, maybe it’s creating an alternative proposal, whatever it may be, but I think that’s the main point.

Drew McLellan:

So I was just going to ask you that. So if I send an email out saying, “Look, we are sort of in this juxtaposition of branding shop.” And whatever the vertical is, and then they go to my website and my website is sort of more of a generalist website. Is that a problem? Do I need to drive them to case studies? What do you recommend in terms of the credibility needed to back that up be before they pick up the phone or reply to that email?

Dan Englander :

Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think that there’s ways to build credibility beyond just your website and that sometimes, when we send these campaigns, we don’t include any links at all. Maybe at the very last email is a Hail Mary, we’ll send them a PDF or something, because what happens is, if you direct people to your site when you’re doing campaigns like this, they go and they never come back. What you want is agreement to a conversation, that’s really what we’re going for here. And furthermore, it’s okay if your site’s not the best in the world because chances are, most of the agencies, this isn’t for mass market, you’re not trying to get somebody to buy a product right on your site. Yes, it should look good.

Yes, it should speak well of what you’re doing, but it’s okay if it’s a little bit mysterious because ultimately, the people you’re reaching out to are going to be more attracted to the idea of this not being for everyone, of this being for people in their specific situation. So I don’t think the site has to address each and every group and each and every possibility of the niches you’re going for. Once you have success with niches, there’s plenty of examples of sites that say like, industries we serve and so on. But I think that there’s plenty of consultants and agencies that have a one page site that hasn’t been updated in 10 years and are just killing it.

Drew McLellan:

So what you’re saying is, when you craft the email for your agency clients, there’s no link driving them back to the website, is that my understanding? Until maybe [crosstalk 00:15:48] right, right.

Dan Englander :

Yeah. For all intents and purposes.

Drew McLellan:

But then I think the prospects are saying, “Okay, I see the URL at the back of that email address, so I’m going to go check them out.”

Dan Englander :

Yeah. That probably happens a lot of the time but we don’t want that to happen necessarily. We want them to agree to a conversation, is the call to action.

Drew McLellan:

And so for you, is the formula pretty much a direct sales email in terms of the language like, “I’m not trying to make you smarter, I’m not trying to give you insight into your industry or into marketing, I’m just telling you I’m good at this and do you want to talk?”

Dan Englander :

Generally, yes. Yes. And by the way, it’s no slight on that approach on teaching and giving insights. But I think that that is reserved for marketing, that’s reserved to people that have opted into your list and want to learn from you. The people you’re reaching out to or people you’re saying, “You’re special. You’re like our clients, we think you can benefit from what we’re doing and we should chat.”

Drew McLellan:

And one of my experiences and watching agencies do this is that they, and it doesn’t have to be an email, it could be a phone call, it could be snail mail, it could be an email, but they send a couple and then when they get no response, they think that that’s a dry well and they move on. What’s your experience in terms of frequency and quantity and how many is too many and how often is too often?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. That’s a great question. Generally, for agencies, it’s a small batch thing, we’re sending for our clients usually 150, maybe 200 a week at most. So you’re sending about 50 a day, usually we’re focusing like Tuesday through Thursday, because Monday, Friday, people are less responsive.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Dan Englander :

So it’s definitely a small batch sort of thing. And in terms of it not working, there’s a lot of reasons it might not be working but the main thing is your value prop lining up with the people that you’re going after. It’s almost like two gears that kind of have to latch together in order to get a response. A lot of the times the amount of time you have for it to click with people is very small and they need to understand what problem you’re solving within that one paragraph or so, so that’s the main thing. The other thing is just sort of audiences, to be honest, some of the target audiences just aren’t good for cold email.

If you’re going after very traditional, very hierarchical industries, it could be tough, if you’re going after construction, that could be hard, if you’re going after blue-collar industries that are kind of based outdoors or others that are not necessarily receptive to cold email, but I think that for the sort of industries that many agencies are going after or most agencies are going after nowadays, it can work pretty well because most of us are used to interacting in a digital environment with people we might not know like the back of our hands. But there’s still industries that aren’t quite there yet.

Drew McLellan:

And probably industries that have a real considered decision tree, so like anybody who’s normally going to send out RFPs or who is regulated by a board of directors, I think about universities or hospitals, places like that, or state entities. This probably is not a great model for them either, right?

Dan Englander :

Generally not. Yeah. Generally those could be tougher, but plenty of companies that feed into those industries could work, so you kind of have to think creatively, maybe there’s health tech startups or consultants that they hire, so there could be other ways in but you want to kind of stray more towards white-collar, less hierarchical industries.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Okay. So let’s assume I’m a prospect on one of your clients’ list. So I’m in that batch of 50 a day, if I don’t respond, what’s your best practice in terms of how many times will I hear from you? If I just don’t respond, how many times are you going to ping me before … and then if I don’t respond how many times and then what happens next?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. Great question. So typically we’re doing these sequences because it’s the persistence that really makes the difference and really shows that you care enough to follow up. So usually we’re sending three or four emails spaced out over five days to a week or so between each one. And oftentimes we see much better response rates on the second or third email because people will just have said, “Yeah, I’ve been busy and you cared enough to follow up, so I’m ready to chat now.” And that happens all the time. Beyond that, if nobody responds, we leave them alone for a while. Sometimes there’s other things you could do after that, maybe you follow up with a different offering or you could then treat those sort of dead leads like the ones on your inbound list. So you might send them content, something helpful, kind of low commitment.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And for you, is it always done by email? Do you recommend a combination of email, phone call carrier pigeon, what’s their cadence for you? Is it all about email?

Dan Englander :

That’s a good question. I’m a big believer in getting to the phone as soon as possible. Now, the problem is, I haven’t seen it work very well when people try to get a hired gun to do sales for them without putting in the time and energy it requires to get a new salesperson up to speed. So it’s an offering we’ve toyed with sort of adopting at Sales Schema, but it would just be a lot more to take on. So the problem we’re solving is basically turning these leads from cold to warm and then from there we really want to work with clients that we’ll get on the phone as soon as possible because there’s this gap that can be bridged with email and digital communications and it’s very turnkey, but beyond that, it’s all about human empathy and it’s very hard to control or to enter human empathy.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s for sure. That’s for sure. When you approach agencies, what is their pushback on this model? What is it that they, as you are doing your sales strategy, why is it that agencies would not pursue this? Or what are the excuses they give you anyway for not pursuing it?

Dan Englander :

Yeah, I’d say there’s probably a few different camps. One is that, this is new to us. We’ve never really sold beyond our personal networks before and we’re not sure if it’s going to work and so on. So it’s just sort of more of a fear to be in sales in general. I’d say that’s one camp. And then another is sort of like, we’ve worked with lead generation companies in the past but they’ve been sketchy or they burned us or they didn’t get us any results, which is fair because there’s lots of sketchy lead generation companies. And I’d say this isn’t a sales pitch for us regardless whoever you end up working with, a lead generation capacity needs to be based on performance and performance in terms of actually generating leads for you, so that’s kind of how we get over that. And I’d say that’s the main two forms of pushback that we’re getting.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So I want to dig into a little bit about your email formula in a second, but let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come right back. Podcasts are a great way to learn and a great way to educate your staff. Another great way our live workshops and AMI offers many of them throughout the year. If you’d like to check out the schedule, go to agencymanagementinstitute.com/live. Okay, let’s get back to the show. All right. We are back with Dan Englander talking about new business sales and that whole lead gen thing that a lot of us sell to our clients, but somehow can’t seem to get around to doing for ourselves.

So Dan, before the break we were talking a little bit about the objections that agencies have to hiring you. And before that we were talking about sort of the cadence of the emails. Do you have like a formula or do you recommend, when I look at what agencies send out to prospects a lot of times, super wordy, super long, they feel like they have to sort of shove five pounds into a one pound bag. Do you have sort of a recommendation for what those emails look like and how long they are and all of that?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. And that problem you mentioned is not just with agencies, it’s basically like 90% of the cold emails that I get and that most people get. And that’s been a recurring theme, is that the bar is very low for sending good email so that’s another better reason to do it I guess. But I don’t know if there’s a golden length, I think they can go a little bit long if they’re on point and they’re relevant, which I know is a little bit vague. But generally, to be specific, what I’m going for with these emails, they usually tend to be about two or three paragraphs, very short paragraphs. The first one is generally personalized, and the tone of the whole is sort of making the recipient feel as if you are in their world, almost like you’re in their personal network as if you went to a networking event or cocktail party with them or something.

So that’s been super effective for us, is basically saying, “We’ve worked with similar clients to you. We’ve done similar projects. We tend to work with companies when they get to the stage that you’re in.” The more that you can do that, the more you’re kind of latching onto this idea of community, this very powerful mental trigger, and that’s basically what I’m going for with the whole email. And in terms of tone, it’s not self-serving at all, it’s very much in your prospects world, not in your world, it’s not, “Here’s a litany of things we do.” There’s no list, it’s basically about a specific problem that you’re solving.

And if you can, including falsifiable results like, “We’ve helped grow traffic by X. We’ve helped solve this other problem by Y.” And so on.So that’s the main thing. And then be basically ending with a very simple and straightforward call to action, making sure that people don’t have to do a lot of work to figure out what you want them to do. I get those emails all the time, “Here’s a link to a webinar.” Also, “Perhaps we should chat sometime.” Also, “Can you go over here and like us on Facebook.” Or whatever.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. I’ve buried three asks all in a paragraph. Yeah.

Dan Englander :

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So you want that one very poignant call to action at the end.

Drew McLellan:

So when you’re working with agencies, at some point in time there’s a handoff. So for your company, do you guys put together the plan, the email plan, and I’m assuming help draft the mails and help them put together the target list, but at what point does the agency owner or the new business person have to step in and sort of take the lead?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. So generally, we’re not sending them people that aren’t interested or that say, “Please, take me off the list.” Or whatever. Once we get genuine interest from somebody, then we forward it on to our clients, and we’re sending it on behalf of the client themselves. So they’re approving all the messaging to make sure it’s on brand with what they want to say. And then from there, once somebody’s good to go, then we resend it along and then they pick up the conversation from there. So usually what that is, is, “Yes, I’m ready to chat.” Sometimes they might say, “Can you send me some more information first and then pick up the conversation.” But generally once there’s interest, we encourage getting on the phone as soon as possible.

Drew McLellan:

But you guys aren’t getting on the phone, you’re encouraging the client to.

Dan Englander :

Yeah, absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Okay. And I would guess that one of the things that you run into is that when you’re talking to a prospect and they’re saying, “Yeah, maybe I want to do this.” And you start thinking about who their target is. Do they know who their target is?

Dan Englander :

It’s a good question. I think that they do, but it takes some discovery a lot of the times to get it out of them because they say, “We’ve had success here, we’ve had success there, we’ve had success with this group.” But then there’s usually once you start asking, there’s usually a sort of client that they like to work with the most that’s going to be the sort of low-hanging fruit that’s going to be most receptive to the work they’ve done, and that’s usually the group we want to go after assuming we think we can get results there.

Drew McLellan:

So do you think most agencies, I’m picturing in my head as you’re talking kind of a bullseye or a target, do you think most agencies stay in the outer rings and what you’re saying is they have to drill deeper into the smaller more centralized rings?

Dan Englander :

Yeah, I think so. And I think that you covered this on the previous episode I was listening to. But basically, I think people get caught up in the day-to-day and they get pulled off in all sorts of different directions and they get shiny object syndrome. So they might have one client success in one place and they think that that’s the new way to go. So I think it’s sort of honing in on that little bit, seeing the forest from the trees. So what I say to clients is, basically think about what industries do you have leverage in already? Where do you have these clients that are singing your praises? That’s one part of the Venn diagram. The next is, market growth on a macro-level, where is money being invested, where people are down to sort of hire help. And the third thing is receptiveness, where are you simpatico? Where do people just kind of get it? Where are you having these really smooth sales cycles as opposed to uphill battles where you’re having to explain what a content strategy is or something.

Drew McLellan:

And I don’t know about you, but one of the things I find or one of the mistakes or misperceptions perhaps is a better word, that I think agencies sort of have a hard time wrapping their head around is, they think that they have to target, I’ll say to an agency owner, “Show me your new business prospect list.” And it’s like 12 Excel spreadsheet pages. And I’m like, “That’s a lot of people and it is broad.” And I think what most agencies forget is that they can only take on so many new clients a year, they only have so much capacity and yes, you can add people, but you don’t do that overnight. And for most agencies, if they added four or five, right-sized, right-fit clients, that would be a banner year for them.

Dan Englander :

Right. And I think you bring up a good point where agencies more than lots of other industries have huge opportunity costs that are hard to measure because of this limited capacity. So usually, when we’re going after these sort of golden clients, it for like retainer business, the sort of business that could translate into high profitability and just low amount of headaches over time. So I think that that’s sort of the ultimate goal for lots of agencies and something to think about too, if you’re an agency owner and you have time to really think on and think about not just what opportunities are most lucrative, but also the ones that are just going to be sustained growth and low stress over time, long-time horizon.

Drew McLellan:

That’s an interesting point. So it’s not just the type of business they’re in, but it’s also the kind of client they would be in. So if I’m translating what you’re saying is, don’t go after the project work, don’t go after the quick-hit work, what you want is you want somebody who has a need that is pretty consistent over time.

Dan Englander :

Generally, yeah. Every situation is different. Some agencies are just structured in a way or do certain service that’s just basically project oriented entirely, but it’s something to think about, not just what’s the sort of ultimate marque client and more about what’s going to make my life better and what’s going to free up time to think creatively about my business.

Drew McLellan:

So when you are constructing the emails, and I know you said you send them out on behalf of the clients, so I’m assuming that what you mean by that is that it’s coming out from the client’s URL and all of that, is it actually from a real person like the president of the agency or do you make up a fake person or how do you structure that so that the prospects are more receptive to getting an email from whoever that email is from?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. It’s always from a real person and that’s just sort of an ethical thing, I don’t believe in deceiving or lying or sending them on behalf of somebody that doesn’t exist just in general principle. But in terms of practicality, I think they should be coming from whosever going to be handling the sale. So in a small, medium-size agency, often that’s one of the founders or partners, but it could be a head of BD and so on.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And then are you screening the responses too, I’m just trying to figure out where you kind of plug into all of this. So you’re helping the agency identify the targets, you’re probably helping them secure email addresses if they don’t have them, you are either drafting and then having them edit or you’re helping them draft the emails and you obviously handle all the mechanics of it getting sent out. Who’s watching for the responses? Are you guys screening those as well?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. Yeah. Myself and our team we are looking at them figuring out what’s worth sending and what’s not, what’s not a good response, what’s going to be a waste of time. And it’s the sort of thing where they have access to the mailbox we’re using. So-

Drew McLellan:

Of course.

Dan Englander :

… a client can see what’s going on at any time.

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Dan Englander :

But ultimately-

Drew McLellan:

They don’t want to take … if they wanted to take the time to do all of that, they would be good at it already and not have to hire you, right?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. But if they’re at a really early stage, I say, “Give it a try if you want, even if it doesn’t work, you’re going to learn a lot from it.” And in terms of responses to get back to your question, even negative responses will tell us a lot, if we’re getting like, “Please unsubscribe.” That’s not necessarily good, but if we’re getting like, “Hey, not really a fit for us, but it seems kind of interesting.” Then that tells us a lot more, that tells us we’re kind of heading down the right trail.

Drew McLellan:

And so are you doing a lot of A/B testing? So do you recommend for agencies for example if they’re going to follow this methodology that they do some A/B testing with the emails, or do you think it’s more of a, send a batch out and then tweak the whole batch, send a batch out, tweak the whole batch?

Dan Englander :

As long as you’re getting enough data, you could choose how you do that. I think if you are going to A/B test, the main thing is to focus on your targets and the overall value prop as a whole as opposed to little things that are harder to measure. So you want to think about, is this group and is this service good? As opposed to, is this wording at the top good for us? Beyond that, in terms of to get into the metrics and stuff, you can get high open rates pretty easily assuming you’re going after the right people just by some customization on the subject line, like how does Acme handle branding as the subject? As opposed to just like, “Hey, we’re really cool.” Or something. And usually what we’re going for is really high open rates, like 70% is not unheard of, that’s kind of a baseline for us and 10% plus response rates. And I think that even if you DIY it, you can get pretty close to that.

Drew McLellan:

So I’m sure that you bump into agencies. When I have conversations with agencies about new business, all your things like, “Well, we don’t really do a lot of prospecting because we get all of our business through referrals, or we find that if we don’t have a personal relationship, we can’t get in the door.” Or whatever. So how do you counsel agencies against that kind of thinking?

Dan Englander :

Well, I would never counsel somebody against the power of a personal relationship. There’s definitely a lot to that. I would just say that there’s only so far that that can get you for one, because you have a very finite personal network. And second, you can create the dynamics of personal relationship even if you’re sending a cold email if you do it in the right way, and that comes from nicheing and having just a very personal customized message that sort of hits your audience where they live. So I would say just, I counsel them to not limit themselves because ultimately your personal network and referrals are just very unreliable and people, even if they’re amazing networkers still kind of reach a point where it’s just not cutting it.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I think it’s, then you’re working on their time to table, right?

Dan Englander :

Right. Exactly. Yeah. It’s completely out of your control.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And as agencies sort of go down this path, how aligned are their expectations with the actual returns? So in other words, do you have people who expect, we send emails out on Tuesday and by God we have a new business meeting scheduled, we get to schedule one of on Wednesday, are they pretty realistic about the timeframe and what is realistic? So if an agency is going to go down this path, what’s realistic in terms of how long this all takes to actually plant some seeds?

Dan Englander :

Right. That’s a good question. And when I’m setting expectations with new clients and prospects, I let them know that it definitely can vary a little bit but because we’re on paper performance, they’re not on the hook until we can actually generate results and I think whether you work with us or work with somebody else, that’s where you should focus on. And it’s definitely iterative. So it’s sometimes we’ll hit it out of the park within a week or two of sending these campaigns, but usually when we don’t, it’s because we need to adjust the messaging a little bit, adjust the value prop or adjust the targets, adjust the target groups we’re going after. And we learn a lot from the campaigns too. So that comes from the sort of responses we’re getting, the sort of feedback and then later on, the nature of the sales calls that actually happen.

Drew McLellan:

And then do you get involved at all with agencies in terms of, “Okay, so we’ve sent an email someone has sent something back that shows that they have some level of interest.” Do you then coach them on what that next phone call looks like or do you have some thoughts about what that phone call looks like? Do you have a script that you help them with in terms of doing some discovery and those sorts of things?

Dan Englander :

Yeah, that’s a good question. Generally we like to work with agencies that have been doing sales for a while and feel confident on sales calls. Otherwise, I’m not going to be able to teach them how to sell their own offering overnight and then guess who’s going to get blamed when they don’t close the business? So we prioritize that. But I guess if I did prescribe a model in a perfect world which is something that I’ve tried to do in the past with consulting, it’s sort of getting … the first call is about qualifying and it’s as much making sure that they are a fit for what you’re selling as opposed to just talking about how awesome you are. So I think that’s really flipping that frame and making sure that they’re a fit for you and sort of saying like, asking questions to determine that.

And from there, really changing their mindset about how they’re doing their business, as opposed to just saying … like when I talk to agencies for example and I’m qualifying them, I talk about how you’re putting us up against all these other inbound marketing channels like PVC and content, but you’re not thinking about how you’re going to keep your pipeline full which is really what’s going to sustain growth, which is kind of what I talked about earlier. So that’s the sort of thing that I’ll be talking about on these calls in order to get agencies to just think differently like, “Okay, this is not an apple to apples comparison. This is apples to oranges.” So even if they don’t hire me, they’re still thinking about the pipeline differently than what they’re doing over here in marketing land with different experiments.

Drew McLellan:

And do you find, it’s interesting what you said about making sure that you’re qualifying them for the agency. I think a lot of agencies are so anxious about landing the new client that they sort of forget that they should be running the prospect through their filter too, make sure that this is a client they even want.

Dan Englander :

Right. Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And again, that gets back to our point about the best time to be doing this is when you already have abundance because then you could be choosier.

Dan Englander :

Yeah. Yeah. And the difficult part is getting that mindset all the time and being [inaudible 00:40:12] enough to get that when you are facing scarcity. So that’s definitely what you should focus on now.

Drew McLellan:

But again, that’s the argument for having a full pipeline is then, you have prospects to choose from so you can pick the best ones as opposed to the only one.

Dan Englander :

Exactly. And then you end up doing better with all prospects because you project that unneediness basically.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Sometimes I think agencies, when their backs are against the wall, they give off a sort of a stink of desperation and I think prospects sort of smell that and either they choose not to work with you at all or they know that they can really play hardball with rates and proposals and things like that because they can smell that you need the business more than they need your help.

Dan Englander :

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And I think a lot out of that comes from sales practices that have been rethought relatively recently and that I’ve learned a lot from rethinking. Like challenger sale, I recommend to almost everybody I meet nowadays because before, a lot of sales practices have rested on discovery like, “Let me find out everything about the prospect and then create a proposal.” And then they’ll say yes or no and then they’ll come back to the table and then have us rebuild our whole machine for them, which would be really costly and onerous and terrible. As opposed to the challenger model, which is more about saying, what I described earlier, make them think differently about their businesses and be assertive about what you think they should do and not do and based on what you know to work. So I think that that’s a way to sort of get the right clients, get the ones that aren’t going to make you hate life.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right. I do think it’s important that you know who you can knock it out of the park for on a regular basis and have a, it’s sort of like a dating profile. It’s, “Here’s what I’m looking for and here’s what I know I don’t want.” And being really choosy about not settling because oftentimes, and I’m sure you’ve seen this too, I’ve seen an agency that has settled for a client that ends up just running them ragged and it’s one of those clients when somebody says over the PA that so and so is coming in or so and so is on the phone, you can hear everybody sort of groan inside and that can cost an agency a lot of money and it can cost them team members that they want to keep.

Dan Englander :

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And sometimes, and also those clients, when they pay you less, there’s always a direct correlation between how much of a headache they’re going to be-

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. Absolutely.

Dan Englander :

… because they value you less. So that’s nothing new.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. So if an agency owner is listening to this and they’re thinking, “Okay, I can’t rely just on passive channels like social media or thought leadership things. And I want to get a little more aggressive with outbound sales.” And maybe they’re going to try this on their own, are there some mistakes that they should avoid or are there some things that they should do to begin to sort of put a program like this into play?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. The main thing is, don’t worry about over investing in … or rather, don’t overinvest in tools. I think a lot of the times people think they have to go buy those crazy CRM connected system and make everything line up perfectly, this is kind of a roundabout reference but there was a sketch on SNL with Phil Hartman called the Anal Retentive Carpenter, whenever he’d cut anything, he’d have to go clean up the saw dust so he never, ever built anything. So I think that’s the main thing. Basically, you’re doing two things, you’re building a list of the right people to go after and then you’re writing a compelling message. And if you can make it customized a little bit and pull a field, reference maybe clients they’ve worked with, maybe years they’ve been in business and so on, that helps. And then bring into a system that can send those emails out and do anywhere, 50 to 150 a week and just kind of see how it goes. And that could go real deep into tools if you’d like or not, either way.

Drew McLellan:

Are you of the belief that there is a magic tool or is it really just about picking a tool and being consistent with it?

Dan Englander :

I have ones that I use that I think are good that I can talk about, and that might change, maybe tomorrow there’ll be something better and I will switch but at the moment, we Quick Mail a lot, that’s pretty good, it’s very lightweight, outbound email tool. And I guess one important point is, this is going to be a different world than MailChimp or ConvertKit or AWeber, you’re not going to be using the same platform that you would use for your newsletter, so this is a different world basically.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, because you’re not creating drip campaigns and other stuff, this is pretty straight outbound email, right?

Dan Englander :

Exactly. Yeah. And the other thing is, make sure you’re using an alternate domain, if you’re acme.com, you’re going to be acme.co and that’s just the best practice. If you do something wrong and Google flags your a spam, you don’t want that affecting your main domain-

Drew McLellan:

And shutting down all your emails, right?

Dan Englander :

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That could be trouble. And another thing and this comes up occasionally, people will ask about that, am I spamming, am I breaking any rules or something like that. And I think a big misconception is that sending unsolicited email is illegal or wrong or something and it’s not at least according to FTC CAN-SPAM regulations. Basically there’s a few very straightforward regulations that you have to follow that are best practices anyway, basically just not being deceptive, not having a deceptive subject line, having a valid business address, letting people know how they can opt out, and there might be one or two others that are along those lines, but it’s basically … that’s the gist of it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re right. I think sometimes we err on the side of question way beyond what the law actually demands.

Dan Englander :

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. This has been awesome. Lots of good practical advice. I know that you have a book offer that you want to tell the listeners about. So I’m going to let you do that and then I want to circle back and make sure that we give everybody your contact information if they want to pursue a conversation with you. So you want to talk a little bit about … we didn’t really get into the book at all. So why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about the book first of all and how they can have a shot at getting one for free?

Dan Englander :

Yeah, absolutely. So this was my first book and it’s called Mastering Account Management. And it’s kind of like written as if it’s a chicken soup for the account manager’s soul, sort of like bite-size, step-by-step process. But basically, although it’s geared towards account managers, it’s geared towards anybody that’s doing sales and agency-based client service at the same time. So I think it’s good for agency owners in particular because it’ll help you figure out a system for managing your time between sales and client service and actually creating the bandwidth to send these campaigns in addition … or whatever you end up doing. So I think that in that way it’ll be helpful. And if your listeners would like to get it, it’ll just be at salesschema.com/buildabetteragency.

Drew McLellan:

So we will put that in the show notes as well. But just for those of you that are jotting this down, it’s S-A-L-E-S-S-C-H-E-M-A.com/buildabetteragency. So that’s awesome. Thank you for offering that.

Dan Englander :

Thank you.

Drew McLellan:

If folks want to track you down, want to learn more about how you serve agencies and want to talk to you about that, what are the best ways for them to find you?

Dan Englander :

Our site has a lot on it, I think at the moment there’s a free webinar that just basically goes through how you can actually DIY this in one week and create your own action plan. And I’m breaking my own rule by giving your audience to CTAs. So sorry about that. But it’s just, salesschema.com if you want to go to the Homepage there.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And I’m assuming you are on all the social networks and all those sort of things if they want to track you-

Dan Englander :

Yeah. Yeah. If people want to start Googling, they’ll find me. Okay.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. Awesome. Dan, thank you for sharing your time and for giving everybody sort of the recipe on how to do this themselves and how to do it with you and I appreciate you sharing all your expertise with us.

Dan Englander :

Thanks so much, Drew. That was a lot of fun.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. All right, guys, that wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. You know the drill. If you’re looking for me, I’m [email protected] Always happy for ratings and reviews and if there is a subject that you would like us to delve into, always happy to get an email on that as well. I will be back next week with another expert who will help you we build a bigger, better, stronger, more profitable agency. Until then, have a great week. And we’ll talk soon.

Speaker 1:

That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency, be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to midsize agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.