Episode 205

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As agency owners, we all want to hire the mystical, magical salesperson that will allow us to hand that task to someone other than us. Can it be done? Yes, but probably not the way you think or wish it would happen.

Sales is a challenging activity no matter what you’re selling. Selling for agencies, even more so.

In this solocast, I will walk you through the make-up of that unicorn of a salesperson so you can spot one out in the wild. I’ll help you identify some prime places to search what traits are non-negotiable, and how to build a compensation package, if you happen to find one.

Even if you find this unicorn of a salesperson, you won’t be able to walk away completely. I’ll also discuss the agency owner’s role in the biz dev process. With the right people, the right assets, and the right communication, you’ll be well on your way to a successful sales operation for your agency.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • What makes agency owners uniquely qualified to be the best agency salespeople
  • What an outside salesperson has to understand about your niche to sell for your agency
  • The traits of a good salesperson
  • The different kinds of agencies and how that impacts salespeople’s success rates
  • A compensation model for outside salespeople and how long it will take them to start making sales
  • What assets salespeople need to set them up for success
  • Why salespeople need access to the agency owner

The Golden Nuggets:

“There is no one who is as good at selling what your agency does as you are.” - @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “You have to be good at sales if you want to keep the machine running.” - @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “When I look at agencies that have successful salespeople, often that person has grown up in the agency.” - @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “How your agency is built and what you sell is absolutely going to be a key factor in a salesperson’s success or failure.” - @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “If you're going to hire a salesperson, understand that this is someone that you should look long and hard for.” - @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year, Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

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Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Tools & Resources:

  • Get 10 hours for FREE for a Project with More than 50 Hours with White Label Here.

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ, will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for coming back if you are a regular listener, and welcome if this is your first foray into Build a Better Agency. Happy to have you with us. A couple of announcements before we get into today’s solo cast. So a solo cast, for those of you that have been around for a while now, is an episode where it’s just you and me chatting. No guests this time. Just something I want to talk to you about that I’ve been chatting with other agency owners about as I travel across the globe, and I want to make sure you’re thinking about as well. But a couple of things before we get there. First and foremost, I’m hoping that you’ve all heard by now, but Agency Management Institute has announced that we are launching an annual conference.

The very first one, the inaugural conference is May 19th and 20th of 2020, which seems really far away, but it’s not. And there has been an absence in the marketplace for a conference that is truly built for small agencies. I’m talking 2 employees, 5 employees, 10 employees, 100 employees. But agencies that are still actively run by an owner that everyone’s wearing a lot of hats because you’re small and nimble, and there’s really not been a conference to help you, the agency owner or leader, think about how to run that business better, how to grow it, how to scale it and how to make it more profitable every day. And so we’re going to really focus on the business side of the business. So no sessions about how to sell branding, or PR, or PPC. That’s not our shtick.

Our shtick is, how do I help you build a more successful and profitable business? And so that’s what this conference is going to be all about. Super excited about it. There are a couple of reasons why I would really like to encourage you to register sooner rather than later. First, my own blood pressure. So signing a contract to do a conference like this is astronomical. And so I want to make sure that we fill the house because I don’t want to eat ramen noodles for a year. And I know that’s selfish, but I’m being honest with you. That’s one of my concerns is I want people to be their. Number two, we’re already 25% sold out. So I don’t want you to miss out. We have a cap because of the space we’ve reserved at about 200 to 225 bodies. And I don’t want you to miss out on it.

Number three, it’s never going to get less expensive than it is right now. So you know how conferences go, the closer you get to the conference, the more expensive the tickets go. And I want you to get a bargain. Another reason is it’s May 19th and 20th, which is also restaurant week in Chicago, which is where the conference is being held. So hotel rooms are going to be hard to come by. We only have so many rooms reserved. I’m sure you’ll be able to find another room, but I think it’s going to be super expensive. So get your ticket, get your hotel room, and then settle in and relax and wait until May comes around. So, amazing speakers, amazing topics. Go over to agencymanagementinstitute.com, and right in the nav bar you’ll see BABA Summit, so Build a Better Agency summit. Click on that and you can read all about the remarkable keynote and breakout speakers we have.

We’re going to have lots of round table discussions where you are both there to learn, but also to teach what you know about everything from succession planning, to growing leaders, to tax strategies, to the best in artificial intelligence, and how you’re using it and how you should be using it. We have all kinds of topics there for every agency owner and leader to dig their teeth into. So hope you show up. Couple other things. Number one, remember that we give away free stuff every week. So our podcast guests are so smart, and a lot of them have written books or have courses. At AMI we have courses and workshops, and so we’re giving away something from either a podcast guest or from the AMI vault, if you will. And all you need to do to qualify for that is going to agencymanagementinstitute.com/podcastgiveaway.

Put your name in there once and you are eligible to win. And we’re giving away AMI workshops, we’re giving away books, we’re giving away other folk’s courses. So why not sign up for that and get something for free? Speaking of giving away things for free, we also are rewarding people who are leaving us ratings and reviews. So if you are kind enough, and it can be a good or bad review, I’m not saying only the good reviewers win because we do it by random, if you leave us review, whatever the review may be, take a screenshot of it and email it to me at [email protected]. So you can leave that review on iTunes, on Stitcher, wherever it is that you download the podcast. And the reason why we’re asking you to do that is because that escalates us on all of the lists and it makes it easier for other agency owners and leaders to find us.

But anyway, take a screenshot, email it to me. The reason I’m asking you to do that, as you know, is because many of you have usernames that are your first name or something you love, like Dodgersrocks1962, or whatever it is, but we don’t know who you are and we don’t know how to get ahold of you. So take a screenshot, email it to me. And you go in a drawing, and every month we are giving away a free workshop. So you can either take one of our on-demand courses for free, or you can come to one of our live workshops. And this month, Glen, who is the founder of Marketing What’s New, is our winner. So Glen, I’m going to be shooting you an email, and letting you know that you won and that you can go to any AMI workshop or take one of our on-demand courses for free. So don’t miss out on that.

All right. That’s enough of the announcements for today. Let’s talk about selling. So for many agency owners, you hunger, I mean, literally underline it, hunger for what I call the mythical mystical sales guy. And that is someone who will relieve you of the burden of selling your agency services to prospects. And you’ve heard me say over, and over and over again, that 99 times out of 100, those people never earn their first salary. So they often get fired or they leave on their own before they’ve even sold enough to pay for themselves. And so the question I got from a listener, and actually I get this from you all, but I see you, whether we’re at a conference or wherever I may bump into you, is how in the world can I find a good sales person for the agency? My first response is and will always be, there is going to be no one who is as good at selling what your agency does as you are.

I believe that you will always be the best sales person. Even if you hate sales, you are the best salesperson. I also believe that the way for an agency to sell their services best is for the agency to niche down, to have some subject matter experts on their team, and ideally the owner is one of them, and to build a position of authority around that agency owner, so that they can be out teaching and sharing what they know. You layer that expertise or that niche, you layer that with a unique point of view, and now you build an authority position and you sell from that authority position. So without a doubt, the agency owner being held up as an authority in a niche or niches, or in a deliverable, or in a problem that you solve over and over for clients, you teaching from that point of expertise and having a unique point of view around that niche and around how you help clients solve that problem, there’s no better way to sell than that.

However, I know that many of you still want to have a sales person. And so, what I want to talk about today is what it takes for someone other than the owner to be a great salesperson inside an agency. So I want to deconstruct why an agency owner is the best sales person. For most of you, it is not because you’re good salespeople, because let’s be honest, most of you hate it. You don’t enjoy it. You don’t have the discipline for it. And you are sort of successful at sales to spite yourself. So let’s look at what it is about you that makes you so good at sales, even though you don’t like it, and you don’t do it as often as you should and you don’t do it in as disciplined a way as you should.

And I think there are three elements that make agency owners great salespeople that we have to replicate if you are going to hire someone to do sales for you. And for many of you, this person is going to be a supplement to the agency owner. And then I’m going to talk about what it takes inside your agency to allow this person to be successful. So first let’s look at what it takes. What does this person have to be able to do to be successful? And the first thing is they have to understand two businesses. They have to understand the agency business, your business, and what it is that you do better than anybody else. So what are the skill sets inside your shop? And what are the success stories? They have to be able to talk about what you’ve already done. What are the case studies? What are the things that you knocked it out of the park for with a client?

And they need to understand what it is you sell. And I don’t mean the stuff, I mean the solutions. How do you solve problems for clients? How do you help them generate more leads? How do you help them connect tighter to their audience? All of those sort of things. So step number one, or trait number one is, they have to understand the agency’s business. Trait number two is they have to understand the client’s business. So this is where having a niche comes in really handy. So somebody who understands the business of your clients. So in the broadest sense, if you’re a generalist, they have to understand business in general, which I think can be really challenging today. But ideally you’ve got some niches.

So if you’re a pharma agency, or if you’re an Ag agency, or you are an agency that works with manufacturers, a great salesperson, and this is why agency owners are so good at it, a great sales person has a depth of knowledge and experience in that industry and that vertical that they can speak to, so that when they are talking to the CMO, or the business owner, or whoever procurement, whoever it is that they’re talking to, they can speak the language that is that business, that is that niche. And the third thing they have to be able to do is they have to be good at sales. They have to be good at sales regardless of the environment. So whether they’re on a trade show floor, whether they are on the phone with someone, whether they are taking an inbound inquiry, they have to be good at the sales followup. And what I mean by that is they have to be able to ask great questions.

Which by the way, the more they are good at the first two things, which is they understand your agency’s business and they understand the client’s industry or business, the better they’re going to be at the very pinnacle of sales success, which is asking great questions. They also have to be good at the follow-up, and the staying in touch and their relationship building. Another aspect of what will make a person a good sales person inside your agency are not is actually more about your agency than it is about the person. So if you’ve listened to my solo cast where I talk about whether or not you want to be a Wonder Bread factory or you want to be the artesian bakery, that plays a factor in whether or not someone is a good salesperson. So if you are more of a Wonder Bread factory, if you’ve productized a lot of what you sell, and a lot of what you sell into clients is sort of packaged, and that there’s a consistency in the work that you do.

So for example, if you’re a PPC shop versus a brand shop, if what you sell is more Wonder Bread factory, so you sell the same kinds of services or products over, and over and over again, without a doubt, that’s going to make it easier for someone to come in from the outside and sell what your agency does to prospects, rather than you, the agency owner, having to sell them. The more custom your work, the more you tailor everything to exactly what that client needs, and no two clients get the same mix of products or services, that makes it much harder for a sales person to sell into that organization, because they have to have a much higher level of marketing expertise and a depth of experience and energy around helping the client really figure out what the problem is and what it is you’re going to do to solve that problem. The conversations are very, very different.

And so, as you’re thinking about whether or not you can be successful at having an outside sales person come in and help you augment your sales efforts, understand that how your agency is built and what you sell is absolutely going to be a factor in the success rate of someone else being a good salesperson. So what I’m saying to you is, for this unicorn that you’re going to find who is great at agency sales, they have to know and ingest the agency business. They have to have it sort of soaked into their soul, like an agency owner does. They have to understand the vertical that you serve or all business, and understand not just the marketing of business, but everything from the challenges that your clients are having with recruiting staff, the challenges your clients are having with distribution, the challenges your clients are having selling against Amazon or some other new source of competition, all of those things they have to be great at that. And they have to have the mechanical skills of a good sales person.

So the question asking, the follow-up, the relationship building, understanding that a sale may happen in a day or a decade, and being able to nurture that relationship for all of that time, whatever that time is. So that’s what it takes to be a great salesperson. So if it’s not you, or if you want to supplement what you are doing as an agency owner, how do you find that person? Because that’s a very unique skillset. I will tell you that for some of the agencies that actually have a successful sales person, what they have done is, so here’s what happens. In many cases, agencies will either hire someone from inside the agency who understands, or from another agency, who understands agency life and how agencies work, but they’re not great salespeople. So they are great relationship builders, they’re great talkers, but they’re not good at closing the sale. Or they hire a salesperson who is great at sales, but doesn’t understand either the niche you serve or the agency side of your world. They don’t understand how to talk about agency and what an agency can deliver for a client.

So a lot of times you’ll hire someone who has half of the equation, but not the whole. So when I look at agencies, and again, there are few and far between, but when I look at agencies that actually have successful salespeople, often that person has grown up in the agency. So they’ve either been a great account service person, or they have been involved in some aspect of the agency business. So they’re not somebody you’re hiring from outside. It’s really about retooling someone who