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How Agencies Can Execute on Strategic Selling

“I hate selling.” I hear that so often from agency owners and agency leaders. I especially hear it from junior agency staffers. I think the key to solving this problem is moving away from “I hate selling” and moving toward “I love helping others succeed.” My years of agency experience have taught me that the most successful agencies have a specific mindset. They have embraced the art of being the very best at understanding their clients and have a deep desire to make their lives easier and better. The agency business is a relationship business; it’s about putting the needs of your client front and center. Your success is based on their success. Their good days are your good days; and conversely, their bad days are your bad days. So, if agency success is about building great relationships, I would pose to you that for agencies, executing on strategic selling is very much like dating. If that’s the case, then imagine thinking of the prospect the same way you think about a prospective date - that person you’ve wanted to date for oh, so long. As you get ready to make the ask… what’s first? The answer: the first thing is understanding the prospect. Strategic Selling Requires Understanding the Prospect First and foremost, remember that you must think about this from their viewpoint – the viewpoint of the prospect. What’s on her mind and how has the landscape changed since the last time she looked for agency services? Budget and headcount pressures are enormous in most companies today There are heightened expectations that marketing supports sales – it’s no longer enough to simply produce great creative Sales and revenue are typically the top marketing success [...]

By |August 28th, 2018|

The Specialist Agency: An Argument For and Against

Earlier this year I had the honor of serving as the morning keynote speaker for PRGN’s semi-annual member summit in Toronto. My topic was on the five indicators of new business success that I consistently see in the agencies I work with (and, likewise, the corresponding indicators of agencies that stay stuck in a feast-or-famine cycle). One of the indicators is a specialist mindset, as opposed to an “all things to all people” approach. This elicited a comment from one of the agency owners in the audience. They tried this specialist agency strategy at his agency and it didn’t work. It had the opposite effect; they couldn’t find enough new business opportunities to sustain the firm. What did I have to say to that? (Gulp) Before I tell you how I responded, let me explain that I’m not a specialist agency hardliner. In fact, this time last year, I wrote about this. To be sure, I see enormous benefits to specializing when it comes to new business. Pitching for new business is a big investment. The more specialized your pitch, the more efficient your investment. That’s because: Generalists seek out clients; specialists are more likely to be sought Generalists differentiate based on price; specialists can afford to charge a premium Generalists will always be tempted to reinvent themselves to suit the nature of the prospect; specialists find it easier to home in on a consistent message that’s effective for the right audience But I also don’t see it as a stark choice. In my piece, I referred to the proverb about the shoemaker’s children who wear no shoes. This is a favorite to describe agencies that can’t seem to take their own advice when it [...]

By |August 7th, 2018|

Sell What You Do, Not What You Make

Agencies love to talk about their “stuff.” From event strategies to promotional packages, they get deep into the nitty-gritty. Although nuts and bolts might be great for a home renovation project, they don’t produce tons of revenue. What’s the problem? Selling tangible things limits the conversation to stuff that everyone offers. You create websites? Great, but so does every other agency in your marketplace. In other words, by emphasizing what you make, you inadvertently level the playing field. And that’s bound to kill your conversions. Instead of pontificating about features, focus on the service elements that make your agency the most powerful on the globe: It’ll oil the sales funnel and help prospective audiences slide into client roles. It’s what Accenture does, and it’s why it’s the No. 1 agency in the world. Ironically, the company barely makes anything and it’s prospering to the point that its 4,000-employee company just announced the addition of 800 jobs in Atlanta. Those are some serious numbers in a notoriously tough arena, and they do it all by highlighting what can’t be commoditized. Accenture sells its thinking, strategy and planning; in other words, it sells what it knows about the industry. Its expertise — not its products — is its strength, and that’s worth loads to eager customers. Other agencies receive $125 or $150 an hour; Accenture commands up to $400. The company has hit upon a truth in selling and agencies are poised to do likewise if they shift their mindsets from making to doing. What does your agency bring to the party? Prospects are accustomed to playing a price tug of war with their agencies, but when the talk moves toward what you do instead of the cost [...]

By |December 20th, 2017|
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