Episode 69:

Mark Duval is the founder of The Duval Partnership, helping agencies win new business through a variety of strategic services including prospecting and lead generation, sales training, and agency auditing and diagnostics. Mark formerly headed business development efforts for Univision & CBS. He brings over 25 years of client direct sales experience to his work.

The Duval Partnership’s average client tenure easily doubles their competitors. They are the only firm in their space that offers sales training & coaching, and they are also the only firm in their space that employs strategists.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Mark’s background and how he got into the business of helping agencies
  • Why you need a written new business plan
  • Why you need to work on your differentiation
  • Finding the right number of clients (and finding the right amount to bill them)
  • The danger of sounding desperate to clients
  • The importance of attitude and behavior
  • Questions any agency should ask their prospects
  • Why you need to serve up who you are and what you do on your website
  • Understanding what your prospects consume and figuring out how to position yourself as a thought leader in those spaces
  • Making introductions between prospects and the people you know that they need to know
  • Why you should set up Google alerts on prospects you really want to work with
  • Figuring out how to start your new business process program
  • Why you need salespeople to manage sales people

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Your last piece of business is going to get you your next piece of business.” – Mark Duval 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 McClellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there. Drew McClellan here with another episode of Build A Better Agency. There is the common expression in agency life that new business solves all business problems. And there is a certain truth to that, that when your pipeline is full, when the opportunities are plentiful, when everybody is busy, so that the projects are not expanding to fill the available time, but everybody’s got plenty on their plate, that’s when agencies really feel like they’re cooking. And it’s oftentimes finding that sweet spot when we are busy enough and we have lots of opportunity and we’re able to trade up to better clients. We’re having lots of good, exciting conversations with prospects. That’s when agency life is at its best. And for many of you the whole idea of biz dev and sales is a challenge. It’s probably not how you came up into the business. And for some of you, you’re natural at it and you love it and for others, it’s a little like going to the dentist every single day.

So my guest today is going to help us with all of that. Mark Duval is the founder of The Duval Partnership and he and his team help agencies win new business through a variety of strategic services, including prospecting, lead gen, sales training, and they also do some agency auditing and diagnostics. Mark has a huge sales background so he comes from a different field, but formerly headed up biz dev efforts for Univision and CBS, and he brings over 25 years of client direct sales experience to his work. So Mark, thanks for joining us on the show today.

Mark Duval:

Drew, thanks for having me. I’m really honored to be a part of the podcast. And you said something there, there’s nothing more beautiful to a new business person than a full pipeline. So I love the thoughts of that.

Drew McLellan:

A full pipeline of right fit prospects, right?

Mark Duval:

Of qualified prospects. Let’s add that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. It’s easy to get a lot of people to subscribe your email that does not necessarily mean they would be good clients.

Mark Duval:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

So Mark, with Univision and CBS, all of that work, what made you decide and when did you decide spending time with agencies was your heart’s desire?

Mark Duval:

Well, I started this business almost 10 years ago, working exclusively with agencies. I guess I was an entrepreneur at heart my whole career. And it’s interesting because the path that I took when at Univision and CBS, worked for Post Newsweek … Actually I cut my teeth in the industry selling for independent TV back when there were such things. Most of it was client direct business development. So there was a certain, for lack of a better term, lone wolf, if you will, nature that I have, I still possess. And that really spoke to me. And I think that was a bit of the entrepreneur bug in me. So I took that path. In that media industry there’s usually that triangle where you do the sales side and then you go to a local sales manager, national sales manager, then general sales manager.

So I took a little bit of a different path where I did run sales teams and set sales budgets, and compensation and strategy. I guess I took a left where everyone or most might have taken a right at that fork in the road. Ultimately I got to a point where I wanted to work for myself. I can’t say that I … I kind of backed into it versus I had this grand idea.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, that makes you just like most agency owners.

Mark Duval:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Mark Duval:

So I kind of backed into this and quite honestly I did one of those gut checks and looking in the mirror and I said, I don’t know if this will work, but what I will regret is if I don’t try. So here we are 10 years later or going on 10 years. It’s been an interesting ride and for the most part I enjoy doing what I do. And I enjoy actually working with a lot of the agencies. I was thinking the other day working with … As you know, most agencies are fewer than 50 people. And so we work with smaller agencies. We work with actually larger agencies as well and with multiple offices globally. But one thing that really connects and really I enjoy is it reminds me of my early days in my career when I was actually working with business owners and truly being able to affect change in their business. I didn’t realize I missed that until I actually started experiencing this again.

We all get bigger and better jobs and I think you get in our careers and we want those bigger and better jobs and you work for bigger companies and you get away from really that connection to that business owner and really what matters and it just becomes a matter of numbers. So I really enjoy-

Drew McLellan:

You get away from the people that you’re helping in some ways.

Mark Duval:

Exactly. Exactly. So it’s been a great experience. And as I said, 10 years and hoping for many, many more to come.

Drew McLellan:

I don’t know about you, but when I started my agency back 21 years ago, it wasn’t really until about the five year mark that I sort of went, you know what, I think this might work.

Mark Duval:

You know what, you’re right. I think up until five years what I told myself was, well, if this doesn’t work I’ll start something else. It was never about going back into the belly of the beast. I think at this point I’m unemployable. So I better figure something else out. So fortunately, I didn’t have to make that decision.

Drew McLellan:

I suspect most entrepreneurs … And I tell agency owners this all the time. I’m guessing that they weren’t … And I know this is true for me. I probably was not a great employee ever and now I would be abysmal so I’ve got to figure out to stay self-employed.

Mark Duval:

I often say that … And actually this is a lesson that I had to learn with starting my own business and really managing people. And it actually was challenge later in my career when I was working for those big companies managing people. Because for such a long time I was “that lone wolf”. But my mantra was always leave me alone. Don’t mess with my money and everything will be fine. Now, probably not the best approach to take when you’re managing people and certainly when you’re running a business.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. Perhaps. You’ve had to change your tune.

Mark Duval:

Yeah, I did. And you know what, it was a learning curve. Some of those lessons were hard lessons and I had to work hard. Because that’s not what comes naturally to me. What comes naturally to me, I think to some degree with a lot of practice is just that hunting and that selling.

Drew McLellan:

Well, that’s the perfect segue into the conversation because I think a lot of agency owners and agencies get to this size. So you’re right, the average agency in the US is eight to 10 people. So I think a lot of agencies when they’re smaller, they can kind of eat what they kill. So family, friends, referrals. And at a certain point in time the machine gets big enough or they aspire to be more profitable and all of a sudden the homegrown new business strategies, which was really waiting for somebody to email them or call or bump into somebody at a network meeting, all of a sudden that doesn’t work anymore. And so that lone wolf model of sales, which is sort of parallel to what you were describing, only works to a certain point for agencies and then agency owners need to get serious about biz dev. And for many of them, it’s not how they’re wired. It may very well be something that they hate doing. So let’s go back now and let’s look over the 10 years of you working with agencies. What is, do you believe, the biggest mistake agency owners make when it comes to their approach to business development?

Mark Duval:

That’s a loaded question. But I think what I see quite often is a lack of commitment, is very few actually have a written new business plan. There’s no structure to it. There’s no process. I’m a big believer in sales follow strategy. And when we work with agencies we’re big on strategy. We’re big on that. And that’s the foundation in which you’re going to kind of build your house on if you will. And if I had a nickel for every time I heard the cobbler’s kids have no shoes kind of thing.

Drew McLellan:

Oh my God, I hate that phrase.

Mark Duval:

I would’ve flown out to see you in person on my private helicopter or jet.

Drew McLellan:

I’m right there with you.

Mark Duval:

Another you’ll never hear me say is low hanging fruit. For me, in all my years in sales and then starting this business, I didn’t experience low hanging fruit. It’s an incredibly competitive industry. And quite honestly … I hope I don’t insult anybody. There’s far too many agencies and there’s far too many agencies saying the same thing with no point of differentiation.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Mark Duval:

So every piece of business is hard fought and then you have to actually perform to keep it and grow it.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and if it’s super easy to get it’s either you sold it too cheap, or they should have never been your client in the first place.

Mark Duval:

Yes. That’s a great point.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I do think there is a set process in most agencies and I call it the feast and famine process. And what that is is you don’t do anything other than you get your monthly newsletter out three times a year and everything’s fine as long as you’re fat and happy. And then when your big client goes away, you go into panic mode and you start calling everyone you know, you start putting together great three dimensional mailings, and then you bring in enough business to make you fat and happy again and then you stop doing anything until one of those big clients goes away. And there’s this all or nothing mentality, which means that you have to take whatever limping animal is outside the door that you can kill because you need the business so badly, otherwise you’re going to have to lay people off. And the amount of what’s wrong with that scenario could take us four hours to discuss. But that’s how most agencies do new business.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. I was having this conversation the other day and I likened it to someone who buys oceanfront property and they don’t buy … Well, you probably couldn’t get a mortgage without flood insurance. But they see the storm clouds brewing on the horizon and then they decide to try to purchase some flood insurance.

Drew McLellan:

Right. As the rain is patterning on their roof.

Mark Duval:

Exactly. And the waves are whipping up. Yeah. It’s too late. We talked about a full pipeline earlier and there’s only one way to get that. And that’s through a strategic and often sometimes, many times a painstaking process. We talk about when there’s nothing in the pipeline or very few things in the pipeline you start pushing and you start hearing things that are not based in reality. So a client will say one thing and you kind of hear it another way. And we refer to that as hopium.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

Mark Duval:

And so you start chasing bad business. And something that I see quite often with agencies and something that we always, always try to drill in their heads is equal business stature. You belong in the room. And the only way you’re going to have that is if you actually have opportunities within the pipeline. When you don’t a scenario that I see often is an agency rushes in and shows all of their … They do their capabilities presentation, which I hate. Or they show a sizzle reel. They start with a sizzle reel, which I hate. And then they just talk about themselves and they basically bleed all over the conference room table. And they walk out of there and everybody’s shaking their heads. It’s a great meeting. The client loved it. They’re going to get back in touch with us. And they’re high fiving on their way back to the agency.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and they walk out the door and all the client … The lingering smell of desperation is what’s left in the room.

Mark Duval:

Exactly. And what happens is you follow up or the agency follows up, they don’t hear. And then two days later they send the email, then the voicemail. “Hey, just checking in. I was out of the office so here’s my phone number. My cell phone.” And what I say is the client goes into the witness relocation program never to be found or heard from again. When I tell that story, all agencies are just smiling and shaking their heads and they say, yeah. And actually, one thing I say to agencies all the time too is you are not alone.

Drew McLellan:

Right. This is tough for everybody.

Mark Duval:

The problems and the issues that you are experiencing are not exclusive to you.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Mark Duval:

And actually I think there’s some comfort to be taken in that.

Drew McLellan:

And there is the insight that if you’re one of the few who do it well, there is competitive advantage to that because most people don’t do it well.

Mark Duval:

Correct. Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah and the other thing I remind agencies all the time is it’s not like you need 100 new clients. If you are always swinging at your weight or a little above your weight and you get a couple great clients that have ongoing needs, that’s a great year for you.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. Absolutely. We look at agencies and we look at how many accounts they currently have, oftentimes there’s that whale of-

Drew McLellan:

45.

Mark Duval:

Yeah. Or there’s this whale of an account that just represents. It’s such a massive amount of the business. I have no idea how they’re able to sleep at night. But I think it goes back to really fundamentals and basics. How many accounts do you need at how much billing? And you know what, average attrition, what? You’re going to lose 30% year to year roughly? What does that represent? How many new clients are you going to have to acquire within the upcoming year really just to be even?

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right.

Mark Duval:

I spoke to an agent the other day. The first six months of this year they had five pitches. Four of them were to retain the business.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s brutal.

Mark Duval:

It’s brutal. It’s brutal. So they’re just pitching just to tread water. And we all know how much pitching is … It takes a lot of time, energy, effort, and money.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

Mark Duval:

And then when you don’t win and if you don’t have a full pipeline and you’re pursuing bad business, you’re losing those pitches. And so it’s demoralizing to your staff.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. The other thing you said that I want to get back to is that whole idea of first you could send the email, then you call. And I ask agency owners to take the exact same language but pretend that you met someone at a bar and you got their phone number and this is what you’re doing. And would you ever go out with you? “Hey, it was great meeting you at the bar. Sure hope I hear from you soon. Just checking in. Want to see if we could get together again. Think we had a great connection.” We just sound so yucky. And so desperate.

Mark Duval:

Right, right. Desperate is exactly the word, isn’t it?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Mark Duval:

And the prospects in the company, they realize that. They have a lot of people knocking on the door. That’s why I go back to saying act as if you belong there, because you do belong there. And create an equal business stature. And I’m not saying having this arrogance about you.

Drew McLellan:

No, no, no. There’s a fine line.

Mark Duval:

There’s a fine line. And so when agencies go into these meetings and they have that desperation they quickly buy they quickly fall into the buyers pattern or game plan. And once you’re in that you’re dead, you’re done. Because the buyer is … And that could be the CMO, the SVP, the EVP of marketing, could be the brand manager. But they’re in control. And when they’re in control, you lose. Something I also tell my agencies all the time. Salespeople tend to speak 70% of the time.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Shut up.

Mark Duval:

They have to reverse that. And so some of the simple things that agencies can do and certainly you can build on that but have a process. I often said a bad process is better than no process. I’m not sure if I completely agree with that, but have a process. And part of that process is have a questioning strategy.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Yep.

Mark Duval:

And back to that, creating an equal business stature is create those expectations upfront. Even as simple as confirming how long they have up for the meeting. Quite often I’ve seen is you’ll get in, you’ve booked a meeting for an hour and it’s like, “Oh yeah, we only have a half an hour.” Well, that should have been addressed by the agency with a very simple question upfront and understanding that. And to be honest with you, if what you have to show them is going to take or discuss with them is going to take an hour and they only have 20 minutes or half an hour, then you need to reschedule the meeting.

Drew McLellan:

Right. The word I use is swagger. I think a lot of agency owners, I think the recession really beat up agency owners. And if they’ve survived, the recession, odds are, they’re a pretty good shop. But there are a lot of good shops out there. But we got so used to begging for work and doing anything we could just to stay alive, that we’ve lost our swagger. And I think agencies need to go into these prospecting meetings with the message, whether it is overt or a little bit more subtle, that basically says, “Look, prospective client, I’m interviewing you to decide if we want to work with you. It’s to see if you’re a good fit for us as well.” Again, that’s that equal stature that you’re talking about, which is this has to be mutually beneficial. And we’re bringing a lot to the table and I need to know that you would really value it.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. I think one of the best questions you can ask is very simple. Why? You get that call or an email from a prospect, it’s why. Why me? Why now? Tell me more because I don’t … I think your point is spot on. From my experience, an inbound lead is quite often not worth the effort or it’s certainly worth the effort to suss out and have a discovery call. But quite often it doesn’t lead to business. So I think if you have a few questions that you can ask, you can at least determine if this is something that we want continue to go down the road and pursue. I often say, no is the second best word in sales.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Mark Duval:

I would rather have a 10 minute conversation and get to no than the typical scenario that I talked about earlier, where you’re chasing that business and you’re putting together a proposal. That’s another thing. We did some training with a small design agency not too long ago and I literally was going to print out, get a pin made with that proposal with the circle and the line through it because you spends so much time writing proposals. Proposals are …. I just look at proposals as just kind of a recap of scope of work for the most part. Proposals, there shouldn’t be a big reveal. It’s really about the talking points that you’ve already had. Now, sometimes there’s a creative element and there may be some creative ideas or whatever. Sure.

Drew McLellan:

Or some strategy right?

Mark Duval:

Exactly. Exactly. But so many agencies I see write so many proposals and-

Drew McLellan:

And give away the farm in the proposal.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Because that scenario I painted where you get called in for that meeting, if you don’t have an effective questioning strategy, one, you don’t truly understand what the client is, why they called you in, or why they’re meeting with you. And if you don’t have an ability to suss out some pain points, then if you do put together a proposal, then it’s more of a guesstimate if you will. And also I think that you end up spending so much time chasing so much bad business and getting away from what’s going to grow your agency.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I’ve got a lot of agencies that have in essence an intake form. And over that first phone call or that first meeting they literally will go through those questions. And if the client is not forthcoming with those answers, they simply say, “You know what? Without this information we have no way of knowing whether or not we can be helpful to you.” In essence, they say it nicer this, but either you pony up the information, budgets, past relationships with agencies, why us, all of those things, otherwise you call us when you’re ready to.

Mark Duval:

That’s great. Good for you and good for them for having it. I almost think of agencies … You think of a doctor with an intake and you go to a doctor and you tell them you have this. They don’t automatically prescribe a medication for what you … There’s got to be a conversation. And so many agencies practice or sales malpractice with not doing the homework and I love that intake form story. That’s great that the agencies are doing that. And they’re spending so much less time on chasing bad business I would imagine and truly understanding if it’s a viable opportunity.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. So at the top of the hour you said the biggest mistake agencies make is that really there’s no consistency. They don’t really have a new business process. They take what walks in the door. They take a lot of things that they shouldn’t. They scoop up a lot of minnows rather than fishing for the size of fish that they should be bringing in. So talk to us a little bit about when you’re working with a client. When you say process, what does that look like? What are the components of it? So that an agency owner can begin thinking about how they could build their own.

Mark Duval:

Yeah, that’s a great question. And to my point earlier is we work with agencies of all shapes and sizes and service offerings. So it’s always about looking at that agency and understanding those core competencies. And some can do more. Some agencies we work with have a lot. They’re writing. They’ve got their thought leadership. They’re going and speaking at trade shows. And others are just really have … They have a core competency of work and they can demonstrate category expertise. I think it’s about doing a little bit of navel gazing if you are of the agency. Not too much. I think there’s too much navel gazing going on. But truly looking at the agency and realistically looking at who your agency is and what they have. And from that, creating that process.

Things that we talk to agencies about and work with them often is … We hear and I’m sure you hear and you help with your agencies is that positioning and that messaging. That point of differentiation. I mean that’s key. You’ve got to have that. That’s based on-

Drew McLellan:

Oh, and by the way, that is not, we are a full service integrated agency.

Mark Duval:

No. No, it’s not.

Drew McLellan:

When you’re 14 people.

Mark Duval:

Right. Right. Look, I often say, and this isn’t all that sexy, but our experience is that brands, companies, they want to know one, have you worked in my industry? What problems have you solved? What solutions have you provided? That doesn’t sound all that sexy. And yes, even though your core competency is automotive, you probably could do that CPG client. You probably could do great work for whomever. General Mills. But you’re never going to get the shot. So let’s take an honest look at who we are and then build a plan accordingly.

I think it really does. I always kind of shutter when I see yet one more thought leadership or piece of a blog or something around positioning and messaging. And I guess they continue to be written because it’s not being done nearly as often as should be. And it’s hard. And we work with agencies and sometimes the agencies do it themselves, which is hard. I often say it’s difficult to read the label when you’re inside the jar. Agencies tend to stop a little bit before they truly get to those real nuggets of information and insights, if you will. Because it’s really hard to do And they’ve been eating their own cooking for so long that they stop and don’t really get to some real point of differentiation.

So I think that’s a must have. Obviously I wanted to talk a little bit about that process. I just also want to mention we often see consistency is really the number one-

Drew McLellan:

Huge. Huge.

Mark Duval:

Killer. Or lack of consistency for a new business program. But I think as importantly is attitudes and behavior. It’s really important. Not only consistency, but you’ve got to have the right attitudes and the right behavior. Case in point, nobody ever picks up their phone on Friday afternoon or it’s the holiday week. No one’s in their office. So we tell ourselves these things.

Drew McLellan:

And accept them.

Mark Duval:

And accept them. And also they’re a convenient excuse not to do what we should be doing. Prospecting. Nobody wants to prospect. And then the behaviors. The behaviors are just about creating those behaviors that you need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Actually I’d like to come back to that a little bit later, but let me get into a very quick process that we work with when we work with agencies. Again, some of them, sometimes it gets a little bit more complex than this, but there are some simple things that can be done.

So let’s just assume that the positioning and the messaging, that box has been checked whether we’ve worked with them or not. I think you really need to then look at target selection and really that defined list of targets.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Mark Duval:

We talked about if you’ve got average 12 accounts or something and you’re going to lose 30% attrition. And so that’s what, two or three accounts whatever. So just start doing some simple math. But then look at that target selection. I’m a big believer in your last piece of business is going to get you your next piece of business. Not that we want to pigeonhole the agency, but truly, realistically, it’s probably going to be somewhat similar to that piece of business that you got.

So it’s about target selection. And there’s some filters that you can look at. Certainly could be revenue. Could be employee head count. You have a certain sweet spot of fees that you need to have. That certainly needs to match up with revenue. Could be geography. Smaller agencies are always looking to get national accounts. And I think that you need to fish where the fish are. And quite often there’s a lot of fish right in your backyard. It certainly is we’re living in a global world, but some verticals, financial, regional banks are most likely are going to stick with a regional agency versus having someone flying across the country. Now, to a certain size.

But there are businesses, there are companies, industries like that. So I think you have to look at that. And geography needs to come into play. Also look at is it a growth industry? Are you going after an industry that really has just as a whole has seen very little if any growth over three or five year track? That’s going to be a difficult piece of business. You may be able to get it, but are you truly going to be able to grow it and increase your fees? So that’s one thing I think is really important is looking at that target selection. I also think that agencies need to invest in some sort of sales tools. Sales tools being some sort of CRM systems. I’m sure you’ve gone over multiple types of CRM systems with your agencies and sales tools. But I think that’s really important. We’re beyond the Excel sheet. Because the CRM tools are also going to help you start creating some metrics.

So I think that’s important. And then I think … And these are really … These are very, very simple things that can be done. And then certainly when you have those done then you sit down and you start putting together a written new business plan. A proactive sales plan. And a lot of that goes back to your messaging and your positioning, and you’re targeting and looking at your activities. What are you going to do in order to engage and nurture those potential clients? I often say there are multiple spokes within a new business wheel. We worked with an agency not too long ago, and it was a small agency of 10 people. The CEO was heading up new business. The CEO was not going to send an email or send a phone call. It was just that was not within his skillset.

But what he did do is he actually wrote a really … He writes a very specific targeted blog. So we built a new business program around that. He does some speaking engagements. So we put a little process and put a little strategy around that. And we also helped them create a LinkedIn prospecting program. So those are the three pillars of his new business plan for this year. It’s not about banging the phones and sending emails. Certainly he needs to layer on other activities as he moves forward but it’s about something that you can commit to and that it feels authentic.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So there is some belief out there that inbound is enough. That if you are a big enough thought leader, if you speak at enough conferences, if you create enough content, that alone can be a new business strategy. Do you agree with that?

Mark Duval:

This will be another four or five hour conversation. No, I don’t.

Drew McLellan:

We’re going to need to refill our drinks.

Mark Duval:

I don’t believe in that. I think inbound is one of those spokes within a new business wheel. I don’t know. Look, I’ve worked with countless agencies over the past 10 years. I can count on one hand, and I think I would have most fingers left, the agencies that actually have had a robust inbound program. That is not a disparaging remark against inbound. I think it just says something about the commitment that it takes and the time that it takes and being able stick to a program.

I personally do inbound. I create content. I look at it as more of a building credibility than I’m going to need to get another phone line from all those inbound leads that I’m getting. So I think it can be used to nurture a lead. A word we use quite often is touch points. How can we engage in a conversation or a relationship other than what we’re doing right now? Phone or email or whatever it may be or sitting across the table. But how do we continue to engage you? Because, I saw a … And I always take all of those percentages. 3%, 5% or whatever. I always take those with a grain of salt. But I did see an article recently that said only 3% of companies are in need of your services at any point. So let’s just say … Even let’s just say it was 10%. That’s a lot of nurturing. That’s a lot of work that needs to be done in order to stay in front of those individuals and have a conversation.

So I think that goes back to having an effective questioning strategy to truly understanding if there’s a viable opportunity here. Truly getting below the surface and truly getting to pain and understanding that what you have to offer can actually help. And even that is … It’s a long process that may shorten the window. But I mentioned working with agencies who have many spokes or many tools in their new business kit. That’s great if you have them. So you can continue to nurture that lead and serve that up on a regular basis. Those who don’t, it’s hard. It’s hard for them.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s daunting. Yeah.

Mark Duval:

It is. It is. It’s very daunting. So all the more importance to truly, truly define who’s in need of your services and to have a very rock solid program, a questioning strategy and a process.

Drew McLellan:

So when you talk about the questioning strategy, because we’ve talked about it a few times, give us a handful of question that should … More than the what keeps you up at night question, which I think has been sort of done to death. But what are questions that every agency should walk into that initial meeting armed to ask? We talked about the why, right?

Mark Duval:

Yep. Yep. Why is good. I think any question that gets the prospect talking is a good question. But simple things like, can you be more specific? Give me an example. I think I may have mentioned asking them how long has this been a problem? How long has this been going on? Which is actually a good indicator if someone says, “Well, we’ve been dealing with this for three and a half years,” and they haven’t done anything, most likely they’re not going to do anything. So that’s a good indicator that they may not be a good prospect. Kind of on the heels of that, what have you tried to do about that? So if they say, “Well, we’ve been experiencing this and it’s been going on for X, Y, Z time, you can follow up and say, “Well, what have you done to eliminate that?” And then you can get further … So I think there’s simple questions like that. But then I think you can get further down and ask them, “Well, how much do you think this is costing you?” And that can lead into a very-

Drew McLellan:

How often is the CEO asking you about this?

Mark Duval:

Exactly. Is this truly an issue felt company wide? We had an interesting conversation with a client about that recently. Which is a huge issue with every company, but very few people actually want to invest in it. The intranet.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

Mark Duval:

Because it’s not sexy. It’s kind of like putting new plumbing or heating and air conditioning in your house. It’s like, nobody can see it from the outside. You put in landscaping, everybody wow, that’s really great. But the intranet … I have an interesting story that employees who leave within the first year often make that decision within the first week of being hired. So that’s all during the onboarding process. That’s during the intranet. So there’s champions within the company, usually HR, internal coms, maybe CTO who really are fighting for it. But where’s it going to come from? Certainly not going to come out of the marketing budget. CMO doesn’t want to hear about that. The CFO doesn’t want to spend that type of money. So is it truly an issue internally, to your point? But along the cost is how much this issue costing you, costing the business? And how is this truly affecting that individual? Because there’s business pain and there’s personal pain. Years ago when I was working for Univision I did a lot of work with Kraft. And those guys lived … We’re always trying to break down the silos.

You’ve got to someone in the pourables division if you will. Who dealt with nothing, but mayonnaise and salad dressings. Their whole world existed around that and all it was was moving that needle because they were looking to move up within the organization. And so there was some real personal pain there. There was the business pain but there was that underlying personal pain too. If I can move the needle then I’m going to be able to advance my career. So whenever you can get to that personal pain, easier said than done, but that is the grand slam.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right. That’s the gold. And I think you make a great point that agencies … And I’ve been preaching this for a while. Agencies need to broaden the way they look at businesses and they need to see themselves as business problem solvers. And so if they get in through helping with an intranet or an HR issue around recruiting or customer service issues or whatever, that’s okay. You don’t have to go in through the front door. There’s lots of windows and side doors to walk into a business and make a profitable client out of them.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. And my experiences is where most of the agencies that we’ve worked with have obviously needed some help with new business. For the most part, they’ve been pretty good at retaining and growing that business. So once you’re in there, what are you going to use to pierce the armor? And maybe it is that one specific service offering. A problem that I see with so many agencies is they try to get through the door with everything that they have. And that’s really hard, one, to position well to a prospective client, but also that prospective client trying to figure out … If they have to figure out how they’re going to use you, they’re not going to use you. I often tell agencies, your number one sales tool is your website. If a buyer goes on your website and they have to work and figure out who you are and what you do, you’re done. You have to serve it up. You have to serve-

Drew McLellan:

And quickly and easily.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. They shouldn’t dig through five pages to get to it.

Mark Duval:

Right. One question I love too is, is doing nothing an option?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s a great question.

Mark Duval:

And looking at them as you say that and just seeing their reaction. And most people will tell you, “Oh no, we’re going to do something.” But depending on how they’ve answered to some of the other questions you may already have the answer to that question. It’s a bit disarming and it’s interesting. I’ve heard a lot of different answers to that question, but it’s a good one.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. Those are great suggestions. Thank you. So let’s assume that you’ve had a good meeting with somebody but they are not in the 10%. They’re not ready to hire someone right now. But they fit your, what I call sweet spot client profile. They would be an awesome client for you. So you want to stay on that radar screen and you want to do that sort of nurturing. Other than calling them every once in a while to, “Hey, just checking to see how business is,” or that sort of thing, what are some of the ways that you recommend agencies nurture? So let’s say that we know that this client is going to hire an agency 18 months from now. What should I be doing between now and when they put out the RFP in 16 months to make sure I’m on that list or what do I do between now and when their contract is up in 18 months and I know there are already unhappy with who they’re working with? In today’s age of the consumer having control of their inbox and their voicemail box, how do I get them to actually A, allow me to stay in touch with them and B, actually enjoy the interaction so that when they’re ready to make a change, they’re feeling favorable about me and my shop?

Mark Duval:

It’s a great question and I think there’s many things that you can do. We’re in the age of social selling. So certainly understanding where they are socially. If they are active socially. Following them, serving up information through social channels. We talked about inbound. This is a great way to serve up information to them on a semi regular basis. An interesting thing that we did exactly along these lines is … And it was in the CPG industry and an agency that had a good body of work within the CPG industry. And we actually helped them get some placement. And we’re not a PR agency and we’re not getting placement. But we had created a relationship with some industry trade journals and magazines. And so they wrote some thought leadership pieces within that. So if you are a brand manager you’re not starting your day with Ad Age and Adweek. You’re starting your day with most likely frozen foods and refrigeration digest or something like that.

Drew McLellan:

Which is a fascinating read.

Mark Duval:

Exactly. I’ve got [crosstalk 00:46:47] stand. But that’s where it goes back to the story I told about the brand manager at Kraft. We all want to be in Ad Age and Adweek. But does that truly make the cash register ring? And I think it’s something that is often overlooked. To do a little bit of research and do a little bit of studying and understanding what do these people consume? And can you somehow put yourself in front of them as a thought leader where they go to consume that information on a daily or a weekly basis? There’s also we talked about conferences. Over the years, they’ve gotten a lot more selective and now they’re all pay to play.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Absolutely.

Mark Duval:

But can you get an opportunity there? I think asking permission actually is way back when in that meeting where they said we really … This is great. We’re not in the market right now. Asking them permission to continue to stay in touch and maybe identify how you’re going to stay in touch. I’d like to add you to our quarterly newsletter or our weekly blog or whatever. And get their permission and you what? Put them on it once they say yes. Because most likely they’re going to forget and they’re not going to sign up. So there’s just a lot-

Drew McLellan:

But then you actually have to send out the newsletter or update the blog.

Mark Duval:

I’m making an assumption here.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. I’m just saying.

Mark Duval:

You’re right. I’m assuming that you are creating content on a semi-regular basis. So there’s different ways. There’s also … Look, it’s a fine line between really understanding where your prospects are and what they do socially and you stalking them. They may be a part of some sort of organization, some social organization that may be something that you too may be involved in. Clients always ask us-

Drew McLellan:

Or it would be beneficial for you to be a part of.

Mark Duval:

To be a part of.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. Not just to join it because you want to get their business, but this is actually a worthy cause that I should be a part of. We’re often asked when we do prospecting or lead generation or starting a prospect lead generation program with an agency, they’ll say, “Well, who do you know?” And I say, “Well, who we know is really not all … Quite often it’s not relevant. It’s who do you know.” And you look and you go on their LinkedIn, and they’ve got all of these connections with prospects that they want you to open doors for. And it’s kind of like, well, we need to look at this. And again, LinkedIn, some people will only link in with folks who they truly know. Some take a little bit more of a liberal approach in the industry. So you have to look at that. But often agency … At least the CEOs they’re connected … If they have somewhat of an active social or a LinkedIn presence. They’re connected with a lot of people. And so that’s-

Drew McLellan:

And they want to be connected to other people. I think one of the ways to nurture that relationship over that long haul is to think about who you know that they need to know. Not in a, “I want you to talk to Bob because he’ll tell you I’m a great agency”, but in a, “You know what? You mentioned in our conversation that you were having this issue and I know this business over here who has solved this issue or can help you with that issue. I’d just like to make an introduction.” And then step out so it’s completely … It is absolutely not self-serving but it is you demonstrating that you are going to bring solutions to their issues.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And so in that same line and certainly if you’re creating work for a or current client or something you can serve up … If you’ve gotten permission to stay in touch you could serve up that information on a semi-regular basis. Again, depending on the size of the agency it’s not like they have new work breaking every month. So it’s really looking at … And I think it’s kind of … Nurturing and following up with a prospect is kind of like creating a new business program. Is looking at it and creating a strategy around that. And what can we do? Look, there’s all sorts of tools too. You can google alerts so certainly they should, they should be on your radar screen.

And it could be depending on the company, a stock change could be some big news. You certainly … Any anybody you’re going after, you should have some sort of trigger mechanism that is going to give you an indicator that there’s been some major leadership changes or things going on. Could be expansion. Could be opening new … If it’s kind of a brick and mortar type, opening new stores or expanding or acquisition. So there’s a lot of different things that you can do to stay in touch and you also have to give yourself a bit of a gut check. When you’re about to send that email or leave that voicemail, whatever, it’s like, is this truly relevant or is this just a meaningless touchpoint?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Are they going to feel good about getting this? Is this going to be valuable to them in some way? Yeah, I agree. So if folks have been listening to us for the last hour and they’re like, “Okay, no more feast in famine, no more inconsistency. I am on this. I get it. I get that I have to do something.”, what is the first thing an agency owner should do? Let’s assume that they have differentiated themselves. That they have a pretty good idea of who they are and who they can really delight on a regular basis. Once they’ve done that, what is the first thing somebody should do to sort of plant a flag in the ground and begin to actually have a new business process or program inside their shop?

Mark Duval:

Well, I think the first thing you have to understand is it is a process. Especially creating business from the ground up is a long term endeavor. So you have to be realistic about how long it’s going to take. I also think that who is going to do this? Are you going to have someone? Do you have someone on staff? Do you currently have a new business director? If so, what do we need to do? What do we need to change in order to have the success that we want? But who is going to do this? And if you’re going to hire someone, well, what are you looking for? For me, being a sales guy in my whole sales career what I’m … And I’m constantly interviewing. And I think agencies, especially around new business and really pretty much for every job title there should be a continuous interview and flow of resumes if you will.

Drew McLellan:

Especially in today’s job market.

Mark Duval:

Absolutely. So I’m constantly interviewing and I pretty much have a help wanted to ad out there at all times. And what I do is when I’m looking to add staff in sales is when I get the resume, I look at it. If it’s something of interest, then I send them an online sales assessment. And one, if they don’t want to fill it out well, then they’re immediately disqualified, which is fine. And then depending on what comes back to me, depending on … And it’s pretty robust. And depending on the scores in the certain areas that I look at, then I’ll have a conversation and we’ll start that process. So again, using technology if you will to save time and get the best possible candidates.

There’s so much around this question. Talking to some agencies and working with some agencies who are bringing on want to hire new business directors is it’s not just a matter of hiring. Because again, I hire salespeople all the time. There’s a lot of great interviewers out there, but when you put in the chair it’s a completely different situation. And it doesn’t end there.

Drew McLellan:

Right. I call that the myth of the magical mythical new business salesperson that once you add them on staff all of your new business problems are solved.

Mark Duval:

Well it’s right in line with the magic pet rock, which to some degree nothing negative about inbound marketing but many people look at inbound marketing as content creation as that magical pet rock. And those with those magic Rolodexes who are just going to start bringing in clients immediately because they have this history of individuals that they’ve worked with. But I think half the battle is getting someone in the door. Okay. And then let’s just say you’ve found that right person. But who’s going to manage that person? A real problem that I see is you have non salespeople managing salespeople and that’s a real issue. So you don’t have … You’re relying on this individual to kind of set up a structure and set up back to behaviors of what they’re going to do on a weekly, monthly basis. And that quite often does not get you to the promised land. So that’s a real problem that I’ve seen is you have non salespeople hiring and managing salespeople.

But I think the one thing that agency owners can do, need to do is one, make the commitment, take a true look at your agency. Who you are, what you do, where you excel. And then just start taking very simple steps around identifying and engaging those prospective clients. And depending on the size of the agency that may fall upon the agency CEO. Personally, I think there’s no better salesperson in the agency than the CEO.

Drew McLellan:

No doubt about it. Absolutely.

Mark Duval:

As that eight to 10 person agency grows to 20 to 30 to 40 people, they no longer have the time to invest in that. We often say sales is not a punctuated event. This is not about, “Oh, I’m going to carve out three hours Tuesday afternoon and then I can do my follow ups Thursday morning.” Because we both know, you hit your office door Thursday morning and you’ve got … Your phone is lit up and you’ve got 15 emails that need to be addressed immediately. So you have to identify who is going to do the work and then you have to empower them. And then you have to have a plan place in order to monitor their efforts. I have a relationship who actually is a good friend who’s … Sandler Training. And some of the things that I have said today come from Sandler Training. I don’t claim to own them. It’s whatever best practices. And I’m not sitting here … This is not an endorsement for them. Personally, I’ve had a good experience.

But I think so many individuals within an agency who are responsible for sales have never gotten any sort of formalized sales training. It’s even those great athletes that we see on TV who are these natural … Oh, they’re natural athletes. Well, they put in a lot of time and energy and effort to be at that level where they are. They didn’t just pick up a ball.

Drew McLellan:

No matter how their natural gift was.

Mark Duval:

No matter how natural gift. I always say salespeople are made, they’re not born.

Drew McLellan:

Thank goodness right?

Mark Duval:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

It means anyone can learn how to do it.

Mark Duval:

Yeah. Well, for the most part.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. There are some given exceptions.

Mark Duval:

That’s funny. But we’ve actually have … Because we do some training and we have worked with a few. After getting an assessment back and coming to the conclusion that these people are fairly untrainable and that’s okay.

Drew McLellan:

This never going to be your gift. Yeah.

Mark Duval:

Exactly. So I don’t know if there’s one … I guess the one thing is make the commitment. Make the commitment and just … It’s kind of like get off the couch, put away the potato chips and go to the gym. That’s where it starts. And it’s a process. And so have a process, define your targets, get some sort of sales tools if you can, and then implement a sales plan. I will say this about bringing on a salesperson or a director of business development, whatever we want to call them. Have them a part of the sales plan. Have them have some skin in the game if you will.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Mark Duval:

What I see so often is a sales plan is, if there is one, slid across the desk to the new hire.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Go do that.

Mark Duval:

They have no skin in the game. So if they’ve helped to create it, then you’ve got buy-in.

Drew McLellan:

Yep.

Mark Duval:

So you eliminate for the most part, back to those things that I talked about earlier, those attitudes and behaviors. If you don’t have skin in the game, then that attitude about oh, this doesn’t … All of those things that we tell ourselves in order for us not to do what we need to do, those come into play.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. That is a great note to wrap this up on. Mark, thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your insights and your experiences. I know that this is a podcast that people will come back to time and time again and use as a tutorial for improving their new business process. So thank you very much for sharing what you know.

Mark Duval:

Thanks so much Drew. I appreciate the opportunity.

Drew McLellan:

How do people get ahold of you if they want to learn more about The Duval Partnership and working with you or your thought leadership pieces? How do they find you?

Mark Duval:

They can find me at duvalpartnership.com and there’s one L Duval or [email protected]

Drew McLellan:

Okay. We’ll put both of those in the show notes. Okay. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for being with us for another episode. If you have not subscribed, please make sure you do so that you get all of the good content that people like Mark share every week with us. I really, really want you to hear what these people have to say because it makes all the difference in the world. This is your ongoing education around making your agency incrementally better. I know it’s good but I know it can be a little bit better and that’s my goal. So make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss anything. I will be back next week with another great guest and until then keep doing the good work. Talk to you soon.

Speaker 1:

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