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Learn how to change your sales processes and improve specialization to make the most of this year.
You’ve been putting this off forever, but 2022 is the year you finally cross this off your to-do list.
I’m talking, of course, about specialization and sales.
Even though both of these are crucial ingredients to agency success, they’re also oft-ignored, disregarded, and pushed off to “someday”. Most agencies are just too caught up in servicing their current clients to actually think about a long-term sales and specialization strategy.
If you want to win big in 2022, however, you have to formalize a sales strategy. And you have to finally embrace specialization instead of taking on any random client.
Why, and more importantly, how? I’ll share some answers in this post.
Formalize Your Sales Process
Every business has a sales process.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a mom-and-pop ice cream store, you have a way to attract and serve customers.
What differs is the degree of formalization.
“Sales” for a mom-and-pop store might be simply waiting for someone to drop by their shop.
For a Fortune 500 company, it might mean 1,000-person sales departments and six-month long cycles.
Agencies are often guilty of low sales formalization. It’s astonishing how many agencies can’t tell you exactly how they acquire new clients. Often, they spread out a wide net - network at local events, ask for referrals, run some LinkedIn ads - but don’t have any insight on how their clients find them, or what their current pipeline looks like.
While this strategy can work in the initial stages of an agency’s growth, it eventually becomes a bottleneck. If you don’t know how many clients you can reliably land every quarter, you can’t hire new people or develop new products. Your entire business strategy becomes reactive instead of proactive.
In 2022, your top priority should be to formalize your sales process.
Let’s take a brief look at what this means for an agency below.
Sales Formalization: Fix Your Pipeline
Your sales pipeline is essentially the path prospects take before they become paying clients. It aligns with the buyer’s journey with the maturity of prospects changing as they move from Awareness to Consideration.
Agency sales pipelines, however, are seldom as neatly segmented as above. For starters, you’re not selling a fixed price “product”; you’re selling expertise. And the length and scale of your sales process can depend greatly on the extent of this expertise clients require.
This is why a lot of attempts to formalize agency sales processes fail. They try to superimpose, say, a SaaS sales process onto the agency. But it doesn’t work because unlike a SaaS company, there is no fixed product. You can’t point clients to a set of fixed plans.
Instead, you’ll have to rely on data from previous projects to put together an estimate. And your negotiations will depend heavily on the availability of your talent.
This fragmented sales pipeline requires two things:
- A way to roughly track and segment prospects based on their actions
- A way to access project and traffic data quickly for better estimates
I emphasize this roughly because most agencies don’t really need the robust, complex tracking capabilities of enterprise-grade CRMs. You only need to broadly know where your leads stand and how you can serve them better.
Workamajig’s Sales CRM works great in this context since it focuses on bringing project and sales data under a single dashboard.
Salespeople don’t have to hunt through mountains of data to find similar older projects. Project managers don’t have to worry about new clients wrecking their carefully planned schedules since they’ll always know what leads are coming through the pipeline.
This “less is more” approach works perfectly for agencies. It gives you just about enough information without overwhelming your team. And it ties up the sales and projects together, giving your people better data when negotiating deals.
Get Your Sales Story Straight
Every great salesperson will say the same thing: You don’t sell a product; you sell a story.
Your clients don’t really come to you to buy articles or landing pages or illustrations. They come to you because they have a problem with their traffic, engagement, conversion rates, etc.
What they’re looking for is a) a solution to their problems, and b) reassurance that you will deliver what you promise.
Agencies often fail at sales because they don’t do a convincing job at either of the above. They fail to understand the client’s problems. And even when they do, they fail to produce enough proof to convince clients that they can fix things.
The solution isn’t to produce even more case studies and landing pages.
Rather, it’s something more old school: talking to your clients.
Every agency founder should spend a few hours every week talking to clients - current and past. Your goal is to understand things such as:
- Did the client correctly self-diagnose their problems? If yes, how?
- What problems did the client identify at first contact? What problems did your agency identify? What was the final solution sold?
- What convinced the client to hire your agency? What were their key signifiers of trust and value?
Essentially, your goal is to understand your clients so you can tell them a better story.
For instance, if your clients overwhelmingly say that they had issues attracting traffic, your “sales story” can focus on how you help businesses attract more traffic.
Talking to clients will often reveal more truths about your sales process than any fancy analytics tool. Make it a priority for your business, no matter its size.
Plug Your Sales Leaks
(Image Source: Unsplash)
Do you capture all the value from your clients or do you end up leaving money on the table?
Most agencies fall into the latter camp.
They attract clients, and close deals, but fail to upsell or find the additional value they can deliver to current clients.
This is a massive missed opportunity that can easily rocket your revenue manifold without much effort. After all, you’ve already done the hard work of winning the client. They’ll be much more likely to hear an upsell pitch from an agency they trust than someone entirely new.
While there’s no quantifiable way to spot new upsell opportunities, digging into project data can help. Evaluate past projects to see:
- Was there a difference between the initial and final billing estimates? If yes, was this due to additional services sold mid-project?
- Which teams/resources were involved in the project from start to finish? Which additional resources did you need after the initial estimate?
Your goal should be to find out what kind of services are usually upsold to existing clients.
For instance, if you find out that most landing page projects eventually also involve a conversion rate optimization (CRO) resource, it can tell you that landing page clients can be upsold CRO services.
This can help you formulate an upsell strategy.
Sales is only one half of the equation, however. You also need robust specialization to attract clients in the first place.
I like to preface every post about agency specialization with this graphic:
(Image Source: Statista)
This chart shows the number of advertising agencies in the US by sector. At any given time, there are over 35,000 advertising agencies in the country.
Clearly, with so much competition, standing out isn’t easy.
Agencies often miss this simple fact. Sure, you know that your process, culture and results are unique. But do your prospective clients feel the same way? Can they tell your agency from the hundreds of others offering similar services?
Sure, branding, results, reputation - these are all valid ways to stand out. But in 2022, the single most impactful way to be truly unique is to specialize aggressively.
Agencies are often wary of specialization since it usually means that entirely new markets cannot be accessible to you. If you build up a reputation as a pure social media marketing agency, you’re unlikely to land those lucrative branding gigs. In a business marked by feast and famine cycles, specialization can make agencies feel pigeonholed.
However, at a time when your competition has grown enormously to include practically every agency (thanks to remote work), specialization is also necessary.
The idea of hiring a single agency to handle all marketing work is dying out. Instead, clients increasingly favor hiring a single lead agency and adding specialists as and when they need them.
The best example of this shift is Ford’s new agency model. Ford fired its long-standing partner, WPP, and replaced it with a lead agency (BBDO), an “innovation partner” (W+K), an in-house team of over 100 creatives, and WPP handling some media buying work as well.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, this trend has only accelerated, especially given the ease of onboarding remote agencies.
Long story short: winning in 2022 requires a clear focus on specialization. The days of the full-stack agency are over. It’s time to pick a clear path and develop deep expertise in it.
If you want to read more about specialization or how you can build a more robust business, I suggest starting with these two posts:
- The Antifragile Agency: How to Build a Business That Lasts
- Why Specialization is Essential for Agencies (And How to Get it Right)
Over to You
The agency business has never been easy. Given the pace of the industry’s growth, your work is only going to get tougher. Areas of the business that you might have ignored earlier - sales and specialization - need renewed attention if you want to thrive.
Of course, another way to make your agency more competitive is to switch to better software. Tools like Workamajig are designed from scratch to help agencies work, plan, and sell better.
Don’t take our word for it - give Workamajig a try today. Tap the button below for a free demo by our expert staff.