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Sales 'Snacks' for Creative Agencies

Published by Summit Marketing Team on 21 May 2024

We know that sales is one of the biggest challenges for any agency and also an opportunity to do something differently. On the Creative Agency Success Show, we've hosted guests with deep expertise in all aspects of sales. In this special episode, we bring together from of our favorite clips, full of actionable insights you can try out immediately.

 

 

Intro (00:00:00) - Welcome to the Creative Agency Success Show, the go to resource for agency owners looking to scale their business. Join us every week to stay ahead of the curve and position your agency for future success.

Jamie (00:00:15) - So question I want to ask on this is so a lot of times when I talk with agencies and I talk with clients, we talk about hiring that sales person or that business development person, and the question comes up, do I hire someone who's really good and understands our product and teach them to sell? Or do I hire a really good salesperson and then teach them about our product? So, I'm curious, what's your what's your thoughts on that?

Diane (00:00:37) - I'm going to say it depends on your definition of really good at sales. So, because if someone's really good at sales in the old-fashioned sense, I don't think you want to hire them because I think they're going to damage your reputation as an organization. Right? You're going to spend a lot of money. You're not going to be happy. They're not going to be happy.

Diane (00:00:55) - And the people who you're dealing with are not going to be happy. So, I would rather that you take someone who really understands your value proposition, the result of what you do. They don't even have to understand how you do it. They just really have to understand what problem you solve. They can understand a little bit about the how. They don't even have to be in the weeds. But the really good people, people write that they're curious, they're curious minded. They are giving their. and they're genuinely curious. So, they're not just asking the questions so that they can tick off the list and then pitch. They really are curious, and they understand this can take time. You know, this takes research. It takes all sorts of things. But it's that personal ability thing that is what people buy.

Jamie (00:01:53) - And I'm curious to you on this question, Jodie. So, like, I know we recently hired or brought in someone that's, that's doing our sales, and I think that's the number one thing she's really good at is she's been asking all the leaders.

Jamie (00:02:05) - Asking people is, okay, what do we bring to the organizations? What are we looking for? I mean, Jody, would you agree? That's kind of what I know. For a while it was hard for you to hire a salesperson. I think this is probably wise. It's kind of what made you sign off on Christie.

Jody (00:02:16) - Yeah, yeah. Because, you know, all the different hats that I've worn in the company from, leading, you know, the production side to, you know, marketing. So you name it, you know, the hat that was the hardest for me was the sales side because the sales side is really the, the key to everything else working, you know, you got to have clients coming in the door. So, clients got to come in the door, and they've got to come in with the right expectation. And that's really important to set. Otherwise everything else will be you're setting everybody else up for failure. Otherwise you know, the if you're if you're saying our onboarding is going to take two weeks and it takes two months, and we're high fiving because we did a good job, but the client's expectations are different that that's setting us up for a disappointed client, no matter what the true experience should have been, you know, to begin with

Jody (00:03:02) - And so I think that's the part of the sales process that was super hard for me to understand and know, because I did talk to a lot of people. And do we hire a salesperson? We just hire within and promote one of our CFOs to a salesperson. You know, what? What do we do? And it wasn't until I ran across, the person that we have in that position right now, Christie, she's doing a great job. And she has a lot of background in sales, but not just in sales, but in management company, you know, management of other companies and, you know, and some bigger companies and her big superpower really is her follow through. You know, her ability to, you know, understand everything and just follow through, which was probably if I'm going to if I want to call my own weakness is probably one of my weaknesses was the follow through part. And the fact that she's constantly asking questions, trying to learn what we do, she wants to be at the events that we're talking at, knowing that she's not going to speak, but just kind of hearing what we have to say.

Jody (00:03:57) - And, I think that's the important, the important thing that she brings to the table is that she knows that she doesn't know everything, but she's willing to learn and willing to understand. And if I were to ask her today in a, in a, in one of her quarterly reviews, you know, hey, what would you ideally like to be? I guarantee you; she'd say, I want to be a thought leader like you. I want to be able to get up there and talk and that's what, you know, that's what we really what really kind of sold me on the fact that, you know, hey, I think we got the right person for that. Now. Time will tell. Obviously, you know, as that person matures through the organization, but so far, she's doing a really great job. And I think I can see that on the on the onboarding side, when clients come aboard, I think they are their expectations are in line to where they need to be.

Diane (00:04:41) - That's really great. It's rare, but it sounds like she comes to that naturally, which is great, right?

Jody (00:04:50) - Very natural. Yeah. Which, yeah. Which is, hard to find.

Jamie (00:04:56) - I think it is tough to teach people curiosity in my opinion. Right. Like, I think you either you meet people that are curious, or you don't. And I think the other way to teach is the only one way I've ever found to teach curiosity is to put someone in a situation of something they really love doing right. When there's something you love doing, the people are naturally going to ask questions where it's like, if you through someone that isn't naturally curious into like a car mechanic's office and like they've never driven, they don't care about cars. It's not their thing. They're not going to ask questions where a natural, curious person is just going to be like, I wonder how that works or how that's working. Like, that's the only way really to, in my opinion, to teach someone to be curious is to put them in an area they're passionate about.

Diane (00:05:32) - I think you're probably right about that. One of the things that I say is our mantra has to be, I don't know. Because what we do is we go into the situation believing that we know how our solution is going to help them. And we could be right, but that limits what we learn. So, if we go into every situation with, I don't know, then we're always I don't think it really necessarily matters where we go. We're always seeking to understand. We're always seeking information because we know there's the good possibility. We don't know a lot of things that we need to understand.

Nikki (00:06:09) - I will say I do have kind of a philosophy that your call should be warm calls if you're cold calling and doing what I call is like the shotgun approach to sales. Like I'm just going to send out, you know, 5000 emails and word vomit all over people and tell them why they why they need me. That's not going to work. To me. That's a huge waste of time.

Nikki (00:06:31) - The piece that often is missing. And, I teach a five-step process to a sales conversation. I call it the Selling Staircase. I wrote my third book around it, and step two in the selling staircase is what's known as creating Curiosity. This is the most misstep in the sales process. And so, when you think about outbound sales, are you creating any curiosity? Because if you're not creating curiosity, the person's just going to delete your message or ignore the message, or just be annoyed that here you are just another person showing up, telling them what's wrong with them and why they have a problem and why they should hire you. To me, it's like giving somebody a thousand paper cuts and saying, oh, bless your heart, you're bleeding, I sell Band-Aids, it's like I'm bleeding because you cut me and I'm not going to buy your Band-Aids. Right? So, I think you have to create some curiosity. And then from curiosity, the person should be leaning in, going, what does that mean? Or tell me more about that, or I'm wondering if this is something I would benefit from.

Nikki (00:07:32) - If you don't have people leaning in and wanting to know more, then you really don't have permission to sell to them, and you shouldn't be selling to them because they're not going to buy from you. Why would they?

Adam (00:07:44) - Yeah. No, I mean that's a great point. And that's why I say whenever people are coming to you, they already have that curiosity, or at least that exposure to where once you start educating them, they become more curious. But then you're talking about the staircase. How does that work then when it is outbound, what are some of those tips and tricks to create some of that curiosity on some of those skills?

Nikki (00:08:06) - Yeah, one of the easiest ways to create curiosity is, well, I'm going to say to you it's asking questions. So, one of the things that people often don't even think to do in an email is ask a question. So, people treat email like, it's just my job to word vomit on you. So, I'm just going to talk at you in email.

Nikki (00:08:24) - But that's not interesting to a reader, especially a reader who doesn't have any knowledge of you. So, you need to ask questions that allows for their brain to want to answer. So, our brains are like Google, just like if you go to Google right now and you type in anything, it doesn't matter what it is, Google is going to try to give you an answer. Our brains are the same way, but that only happens. Mine's not okay. Okay, Adam.

Adam (00:08:48) - My mine can't go.

Nikki (00:08:49) - Adam, you're so special. Who knows what's going on? But I'm sure it's something wonderful in your brain. And when you can ask questions, it allows for the brain to want to answer and come up with an answer. Now, whether they actually respond to your message or not, that's another kind of step there. But ask questions. You know, I got an email this morning just actually right before I got on this podcast with you guys, where this person was just telling me, like, this is who we are.

Nikki (00:09:15) - He introduced himself. Then he tells me about his company, and then he tells me what he would like to do for my company. That's not interesting to me. I don't know him, but if he had approached it from the standpoint of like, you know, I'm reaching out to ask, is this something that you would value having a conversation around? Now I can decide like, oh, well, okay, what does this mean? Or is this something that maybe I could benefit from taking part in? But tell me what you would like for me to do and what you would like for you to have happen for us when you don't have a relationship. That's not interesting to me as a reader. So, learn how to ask questions and you will find people will answer them.

Adam (00:09:57) - Yeah, I mean, I agree. but I delete them both. Okay. So how does that work from like an I get it from like the marketing standpoint. So are you suggesting like it's probably better to be in person, right.

Adam (00:10:09) - Or on a video call or a conference where you can kind of have that compelling message? Or are you saying, no, it's okay to like, have this interaction or try to create this? Because I do. I get kind of both. I get the this is what I'm going to do for you. And you're right. I'm absolutely like, that's a fast delete. And then I get the one that's more of like posing a question. And I do actually read those because I'm like, what's going on here? But then I usually still am. Like I'm not self diagnosing that as being a problem. Now maybe that's just me and that in that particular exchange. And maybe if that was a problem, maybe I would be more apt to respond to it. But I think the other challenge these days is I get 12 of those a day, you know what I mean? So, if it was like a unique message then, or a unique solve, then maybe, you know, that would be something.

Adam (00:10:57) - But these days I get 10 or 15 of those on LinkedIn a day and a bunch of them via email every day. So, I just kind of get used to just, you know, deleting those things because I'm just like, yeah, here's another one. Delete, delete, delete. Yeah. so how do you get around that kind of a.

Nikki (00:11:14) - So.

Adam (00:11:15) - You know, because everybody just has that too much in there.

Nikki (00:11:17) - The easiest and the easiest way to warm up your cold calls, which is the way that I find most people hesitate to do. And yet it's the easiest way to open doors is to utilize your network and ask people that know you believe in you, who are comfortable with who you are and what you bring to the table. If they would be willing to make an introduction on your behalf, because I am pretty sure you tell me, Adam, because we just met. But chances are, if Tom sent you a message and said, hey, Adam, I want to introduce you to my friend Nikki.

Nikki (00:11:52) - She's doing some stuff and I'm wondering if it's something you would find value in. In your business. You're probably going to at least maybe give me a little bit of a chance to try to pique some curiosity. Like, you may decide to get on a call with me, or maybe you'll have an email exchange with me. And that's because you have a rapport with Tom. So, I get to ride the coattails of whatever, you know, Tom's rapport is with you, whatever his credibility is with you, if he's willing to make that introduction on my behalf. And this is the it's that thing that often people are like, oh, I feel weird asking people, well, you shouldn't because it feels nice to do nice things for people that you like. Like, if you ask me right now to make an introduction on your behalf when I get nothing out of it. But I like you, so I would happily do that for you. And I would feel good if it turned out that the person I introduced you to, that you guys formed some kind of a relationship that benefited each other.

Nikki (00:12:46) - I get, those the like the good feelings from it and it doesn't cost me anything. It's just a tiny little bit of like it's a blip in time to send an introduction that may open a door that I could never open on my own, and vice versa. Right? So, ask your network if they're willing to make introductions. And I don't mean sending out a like generic message to 500 people saying, "Will you introduce me to everybody who needs accounting services?" No. Be selective. Handpick people one at a time and be specific on who you want them to introduce you to. So if you're saying, you know, we offer fractional CFO services, and I notice that you have a connection on LinkedIn to so-and-so, and it doesn't look like their business is using fractional CFO services, would you be willing to introduce me and see if there's an opportunity for us to work together? Chances are that person is going to be like, sure, no problem.

Adam (00:13:43) - Yeah. No, I would, and I would definitely give.

Adam (00:13:46) - I mean, as long as it wasn't Tom referring. Okay. Somebody else.

Nikki (00:13:49) - I made a bad.

Adam (00:13:49) - Pic. I would definitely make that connection. And I would be like you know, hear you out, you know, for sure. And so, I agree I mean so that's a great tip to kind of get through, you know, some of those barriers because some of that stuff is uncomfortable or feels weird throwing out, you know, just tons of messages into the abyss. So being more strategic with how you're asking for those things makes a ton of sense. And I like the.

Tom (00:14:15) - The investment, because what I'm hearing you say is the shotgun approach. People see that at least I do, right? I get messages and people I've never heard of and they'll mention, like you said, how about if you people ask me, do I want to sell the firm? And I'm like, you obviously don't know me because I don't own the firm. I can't sell the firm.

Tom (00:14:29) - So you get these kind of messages like, okay, you're not on target for doing those kinds of things that are there. But that specific approach like, I know you, I've done some work. I can see how that would help the asking questions. And I assume that also translates into the conversation that when you're starting that conversation with someone, is that right? I would assume that would be one of the big approaches is not dive in and say, hey, let me tell you all the ways I'm gonna solve your problem from the beginning.

Nikki (00:14:52) - Yeah. Asking questions. And so in the in the selling staircase, the step three is what I call the discovery step. And chances are, it sounds like with you guys, the way where your leads are showing up is kind of at step three, like they're in that discovery process. So, in the discovery process, the objective is not to sell. The objective is to understand the need and ask really smart questions that plants seed for the other person in the conversation to start to go, oh, Tom knows some things that I need to know.

Nikki (00:15:20) - Or he's probably the right person that can help me with my business, just based on the way he's asking questions. So, your questions should be strategic. They should you should have a set list of questions that you ask, and you should get through the set list of questions. One of the mistakes people will make is they'll ask a question, the prospect will answer, and they'll start selling, and then they'll ask another question, and the prospect will give an answer that might tweak what they would have sold in the first place. So, then they sell something else. And now you start to overwhelm and confuse people. But if you keep it really clean, I will say like, don't muddy the waters, keep it clean. Get through your set list of questions. Once you have an established like, okay, I can see a pattern here, or I can see some ways that we can work together. Don't launch into a sales pitch. Ask permission. So, I usually would say to somebody, you know, based on what you've shared so far, I see some ways that we might work together.

Karl (00:16:11) - One of the things that I'll ask new consulting clients is around how they spend their time. I've got a tool that looks at it as a percentage, but I also look at it more qualitatively as well. And specifically, I'll ask, what are you thinking on a day to day basis? What do you love doing? What do you hate doing? And one of the things where you don't love it, but you're okay doing that kind of thing, you know, it's not the urgency to get rid of it, but if you could, that's ideal. And importantly, with agencies where there are multiple owners, each person will answer those questions. And so, as I'm doing my analysis and you can do this on your own, of course to I'm comparing okay. What do people like doing. What do they not like doing. What are the opportunities for quick wins to get the unliked things off their plate, but also looking is there overlap or is there lack of overlap? For instance, I worked with an agency earlier this year where there were two owners, and both said they really did not like doing sales.

Karl (00:17:14) - Like, all right, that's okay, but someone is going to have to do sales. And it turns out that for them, the thing they like least was dealing with time waster, unqualified prospects at the very early stage, like they like doing later, stage closing, you know, consultation and closing conversations, but didn't like dealing with, you know, people who are just flaky. I said, you know, you can delegate that to a more junior team member. You can have them do the initial screening, whether it's via email and a form or something else, or maybe, maybe going to a call, and then you're only on the phone or only on a video call with someone who is theoretically qualified. So that can be a good interim step. If you don't like, say, get someone else doing the baseline qualifying. And I mean, I do that. I, you know, as an advisor, I don't hear about people until my team has prevented them.

Jody (00:18:13) - Yeah, I love that idea.

Jody (00:18:14) - Karl. A question I would have for you is when, when you flip it over to the selling side, when you get to the point where you've got somebody looking to buy, does that help the deal? If you've got somebody that's part of that selling process, or do they still look and say, you know what Carl the Carl's is the man. He's the one. He's the reason why we lost the sales.

Karl (00:18:37) - oh.

Jamie (00:18:39) - We'll let him come back and start over. You have to ask your question, Jody, because we lost you.

Jody (00:18:45) - Oh actually we didn't lose me, but I just went to the backstage. Oh, so. So the question is, you know, when you have the when you have somebody helping out with the sales process, you know, and you're looking at the end game, you know, where, you know, you've got a buyer that's looking to buy you, you know, the of course the valuation is going to be determined if you're part of that process, if you are that process, whatever that that might be.

Jody (00:19:10) - Do you find that that really plays a big role in the buyer's head? If you're still part of the process, even though you're not in the entire process or you think it's actually a more of a benefit because then the buyer knows that, hey, somebody else could easily slide in and close that deal because you've got a lot of the initial workout of the way.

Karl (00:19:30) - Some of that depends on the buyer's goals. You know, some acquirers of agencies are looking for ways to slot your revenue into their team. Maybe they're doing some sort of accretion, some sort of a roll up where, you know, maybe you've got 5 million in revenue, and they've got ten. Well, put the businesses together now you've got 15 and they can probably cut some expenses. And, you know, if they're building a roll up kind of thing and the goal is for you to continue being involved, you know, you don't have to be as optional because you're still going to be part of the new business.

Karl (00:20:04) - On the other hand, if your goal is to retire completely or move on to something else entirely, then being more optional is helpful. I mean, in terms of what's attractive to the buyer, everyone's going to be unique. I would say that all things considered, the more modular the business is, rather than relying on one person or two people, that gives you some more flexibility.

Jody (00:20:30) - Yeah, I think I agree with you on that. Yeah. Just thinking through it, I think it probably even makes it easier to make the sale because you got the other person that's heavily, involved in the sales process. Because I know when we looked at selling our company, that was a big question that they asked, you know. Yeah. What if you go away, are you still going to bring in the revenue? And it's like, well, yeah, of course we've got this engine built up right behind us. I'm just simply there to look good or close the sale or whatever, you might want to call it.

Jody (00:20:57) - Yeah. I'm not the reason that the sale gets closed. And I think that's a big distinction between the two and it sounds like. Yeah, I 100% agree with you on that. Yeah.

Jamie (00:21:06) - So question on kind of what you talked about there. I think it's a really cool concept of people coming in and saying, oh, I don't like sales. And then you drill down into it and be like, well, actually you just don't like this first step of sales, or you don't like this last step of sales. How would you have someone do that on their own of like, is it is it starting, starting detailed and spinning out or starting wide and then going into the details like how would you decide that you don't like a whole process, or is there just certain parts that they don't like? Where have you got rid of these steps one and two. It'd be easier for you.

Joey (00:21:36) - So when thinking about obviously like we've now built, we've built a system, we've created an identity as a sales team.

Joey (00:21:45) - What sort of things need to happen in presentation in order to either because I think, you know, you could have the best system in the world, but if you're not presenting it properly, you're not properly. And I love the way you talked about it earlier, where we're looking at things and outcomes, like if we can get away from our clients seeing us as a cost and them seeing us as an investment because we're presenting our value properly, we're going to increase the odds that we're going to have a successful outcome with them. What sort of things are you looking for in presentation?

Simon (00:22:13) - You mean I'm in front of the client and they're asked. They want to work with us and we start presenting what we do. Okay.

Joey (00:22:19) - Exactly. Yeah.

Simon (00:22:20) - Okay. So, the first step is don't present. Don't present. I see still agencies presenting. Ten minutes. Five minutes. One minute is too much. So, I show you what I do in order to not present. Because I like to talk. And if you ask me, hey, how can you double my revenue? My natural impulse would be to talk for an hour.

Simon (00:22:46) - And that's the wrong thing, right? We measure talking time in the sales calls because, you know, zoom, etc. they have I mean while so you can live see. And our goal is to be below 31% speaking time. So, we track that and in the weekly sessions we talk about it. If anybody is below 31% we hey let's talk and my helper. So, if you are like me and you talk a lot, my helper is to have a list of questions in front of me and to have my talking points literally in front of me. So here are my talking points for the people watching. It's called repeatable says it's eight steps of every agency sales. But here are my personal talking points and favorite questions. Because it shouldn't. It should never feel like a script, but it should always have talking points. And you know, the important thing when we coach is you never jump like from step four to step five without making sure that you have validated. So, each step has an assumption and the validation for example.

Simon (00:24:01) - You talk about the scope of work. Then you talk about the budget. Scope of work, right? What are the deliverables? And then there is the budget stage. Step five. In budget there are two steps. Your assumption what their budget is, so what they want to invest. And then there is the validation that that's their budget. You don't move to the next step. Which is a statement of work before you have validated their budget. And there is a whole. There is a whole system how you extrapolate their range before you say any price. Because sometimes you can go much higher with the same thing. So, you have to wait until you know the real budget and then you will say the price. And sometimes it will be double the price of what you said to the other guy one day before, because they just have more budget and that's fine. So, you explore the range and how do you explore the range? Is that you? As you make an assumption.

Simon (00:25:11) - About what they are able and willing to spend, but then you validate the assumption. So, in the CRM for agencies, we literally have two different columns. And the one says budget estimated and the other one said budget validated. And you are allowed to move it to step six only after you have validated the budget. Is an example with double clicked into one of those eight steps to show you how seriously we take each step of the conversation. And because if you if you learn it once those eight steps, then it will be a natural flow. It goes. It goes like domino. Wow. You closed it in one. How did you close 25 K in one call and say, I just did the eight things that I always do. It's a natural flow and you have them lead and you help them decide and you help them buy. You don't sell in our method. You don't sell anything. You help them buy.

Joey (00:26:18) - And that's.

Joe (00:26:19) - That's the shrink.

Simon (00:26:19) - That's the shrink.

Joey (00:26:20) - And we we'd say something very similar to, to our team, which is the really, really good ones are able to ask questions without asking questions.

Joey (00:26:31) - Like, if you can get to a point where you're able to glean the information that you need through a conversation versus having what feels like a scripted set of questions, that's the magic where you're able to kind of get through those eight steps without them realizing that you're going through the eight steps.

Simon (00:26:46) - The more natural, the better. The only problem is if you skip one of those, you will get ghosted. Oh yeah. You will hear I have to talk about this with my partners. You will hear. Oh yeah sounds great. Let me come back to you which is that it's over. That's game over.

Joe (00:27:05) - Yeah.

Jamie (00:27:06) - Kind of like you talked about is a lot of it goes back to that first stage is those proposals. And how can you get them out the door quickly and sign quickly. So, as you said, you're a process person. So, give us your Halloween candy approach to getting a fast proposal out the door.

Joe (00:27:22) - Yeah, I love that. So, I would say the biggest thing I'm just going to go straight for the jugular.

Joe (00:27:28) - I'm going to do my biggest, best tip. and where I see a lot of agencies or even professional services companies, they don't do this. The biggest thing is creating a product catalog. Okay. There's a lot to proposals, you know, your team, case studies, testimonials, your terms, all that kind of stuff. But at our agency, the biggest thing was, you know, our prices and our services change between our proposals. Everything else is pretty static. How do I create a system so that I can generate a scope of work as quick as possible? And the solution is creating a catalog I believe. So, a lot of, you know, professional service providers, agencies don't think this way. They're grabbing a line item from this proposal. From this proposal, they're writing another line item from scratch, and they're Frankenstein ING them all together. When you create a catalog, there are just so many. I mean, I don't know how long you want me to go on this, but there are so many benefits.

Joe (00:28:33) - just to name two, I was able to hire a full-time salesperson and get myself entirely out of the sales process, which is.

Joey (00:28:41) - The dream, by the way, of, like, every client that I work with.

Joe (00:28:45) - Yeah. And it really is. And it seems so hard because, you know, as a digital agency, you're thinking, man, the stakes are so freaking high. You know, we were talking about in the green room here about scope creep. It's like scope creep is an issue when the CEO is creating the proposal, let alone a salesperson who's generally going to be non-technical. but if you can create a catalog all of a sudden your salesperson, they just need to be a good listener. They need to understand the catalog and they need to be able to put things together. You know, they wanted a blog. They wanted, an about us page, a home page. Maybe they wanted some ongoing SEO. And if they can just grab those line items that have been defined in a comprehensive way, already and then add them to a proposal, everything starts to change.

Joe (00:29:34) - It becomes, you can get you can break through to that next slide in agency life.

Jamie (00:29:40) - And I can tell you again, we're not an agency, but we are a service provider that has that exact sales process in place. Right. So, we have a very rudimentary spreadsheet that we could have built in in a couple hours that we use to do our sales. And like you said, it has a catalog in there, and we have conversations with our prospective clients. And within an hour of that call, people walk out knowing what their price is. Options are A, B, C, D, and they walk out of it. And I can tell you from being on hundreds of those calls that the it is such a difference maker. It is such a difference maker for people to walk out and know exactly what the pricing can be, what it's going to look like. And oftentimes it's like, oh, this is too expensive for us. And that's great. I'd rather come to that conclusion on day one, then four months from now in the sales process.

Jamie (00:30:23) - Right. And so I think it's been a game changer for us. And it's definitely our philosophy is that anybody in our company can sell, because all you have to do is know how to use a spreadsheet.

Joe (00:30:31) - Right, right. Yeah. And things come together so quickly. I remember at my agency, I would always tell my team, like, we've got to get back to people quickly because 2 or 3 days of delay because it takes you, you know, so long to create a scope of work or proposal could be the difference between them engaging with one of your competitors and building a lot of rapport. Right? Like they they're loving it. And then you, you finally submit your proposal. It's kind of old news. Now you're going against the grain and you're trying to, you know, you're on the defense a bit. and another big one is, you know, digital agencies, professional service companies, they hate writing proposals because of the fog. Right. Just like I sit down.

Joe (00:31:18) - I've got 15 minutes between these two meetings, like I'm super stressed out and it's like, I can't. I'm just sitting there and with a blinking carrot. I don't know what to do. When you have a catalog, you a catalog is a fog killer, right? It all of a sudden brings clarity. They wanted this. I add that line item to the proposal. That line item already has a lot of thought put into it. Restrictions, limitations. What's included configurations or upsells like to have all that and to be building a system like that ongoing proposal writing can darn near be fun. I would venture to say.

Joey (00:31:56) - Oh, the other thing I like about that catalog approach is it feels like especially if you're thinking about C, you know, founder type people creating and then delegating that down to other people, I would imagine that catalog makes it a lot easier for you as the founder, to maintain your brand promise in a way that you know you are comfortable with, because you've already defined the parameters, you don't have to think about it.

Joey (00:32:20) - It's already baked in.

Joe (00:32:22) - That that's the key. Joy. And so, the idea what we did and what I suggest is the CEO or leader, some leader at the company who has the authority is the architect okay. They're creating templates. They're creating line items and fleshing things out. And they're setting the parameters because that's the risky business. The salesperson is just simply adding them and then maybe adjusting, you know, if it's small, you know, maybe it's fine. They have a little bit of room. If it's seismic, then they need to get approval. I got to a point where I didn't even have to approve my sales guy's proposals. I mean, after a couple of years of doing this, I just said, you got it. Like, because I knew, like, unless you change something big, you need to tell me that, okay? But otherwise, he's just playing with the twigs or the leaves, right? He's not actually adjusting the trunk. And so, it's like, look, I got I got a lot of fish to fry.

Joe (00:33:16) - I don't need to quarrel over something that could change, you know, $100 of profitability. I trust you go for it.

Joey (00:33:23) - Yeah. You've got, like, a little buffer in there where you're like, this is your margin of error that I'm, like, completely comfortable with inside those parameters. I'm going to get out of the way. Right?

Joe (00:33:33) - Right. Yeah, yeah. And try training a salesperson without a catalog. Yeah. Good luck. If you could just read over the last ten years of my emails and every recording I've ever had and then just mimic me, then it'll be great. No, you can't like they need to, you know, they need to understand your services and you're and the things that you sell. And a catalog is a great way to do that.

Jamie (00:33:58) - I think that what I'm curious with the, with your tool is one of the things that we know with our Excel spreadsheet is we are making adjustments to it all the time. So just a couple days ago, I was looking back at one of our clients that's been with us for 3 or 4 years, and I was looking back at their original pricing tool and I was like, oh, wow, this thing is way different than the one we're using today.

Jamie (00:34:16) - And that's because we learn. We learned that the AP process needs three different levels versus just one level because it can be so complicated. And, you know, I think that's something that we've constantly had to do is every time something every time we get burnt on the backside. And we'll talk about scope creep in a second here. But anytime you get burnt in the backside, we go in and look at it and be okay. What in the pricing conversation could have made it so we wouldn't have got burnt. So how does your tool work in terms of making those adjustments and adding more items to the catalog?

Joe (00:34:42) - Yeah. Well, Jamie, I think you're reading from my notes. I haven't had anyone for a long time say it quite like that, because that's almost exactly how I say it. I know how hard it is running an agency and it's just when you're dealing with people, there's so much room for problems and challenges. What I advise agencies is take that pain, I feel you, I'm there with you, take that pain and channel that energy towards fixing your process so that can never happen again.

Joe (00:35:14) - Or at least it's massively mitigated. And so, you know, with a little bit of detail about my product, I don't like to talk about a ton on these podcast, but, smart pricing table helps you create really solid scope of work documents and proposals. And, part of how we do that is there's, you know, individual proposals, but there's templates and then line items as well. And I say, that's your system, okay. When you're creating proposals, you're executing, when you're working on your system, you're investing in your business. And so, what I'd say, you know, as an example, maybe, you sell a blog, and you sell it for $1,000. That's a part of a website package. and you find out that it like, you literally made, like $25 an hour, which is agency minimum wage. Right. you go back and you say, okay, what? Where did we leave ourselves open here? Okay, maybe I need to clarify the layouts that are included and even specify what's not included.

Joe (00:36:17) - Or in our product, like on a blog line item. You could have upsells like author bio pages or related blog posts, and each of those have a little price and the customer can just click on them. and so defining some of those opportunities and then checking your base costs. But if you don't have a repository, if you don't have a catalog, you can't do that. You're just hoping that you remember next time, or you have it written down. But again, that just goes back to the whole mental fog and anxiety with the process.

Joey (00:36:49) - Well, I love.

Joey (00:36:50) - Thinking about it from that perspective. And the other thing too, that I'd love to get your thoughts on is in those pricing tools, building in some dependencies like I'm thinking about ours in particular, where we have it's kind of a it can be all a cart or, you know, very much a package deal. But there are certain things in our product offering that we've decided you can't do this without also having this, because they're so related that if one is if one is chosen without the other, we can't provide the brand promise.

Joey (00:37:22) - So I think that's the other challenge that I would challenge agencies to think about is not just building in those things that they can check, but also thinking about, well, does it make sense for someone to be able to have a blog without also having an author bio page? If those two from a from a deliverable perspective are so interrelated?

Joe (00:37:40) - Right, I agree yeah. You never want to, make something missional. Mission critical. Optional.

Jamie (00:37:47) - Agreed. Great. Yeah.

Jamie (00:37:49) - So curious. Let's, let's go down the scope creep path a little bit. And I think what we're finding from a lot of our discussions with our clients, and I'm sure you're hearing this as well, is with the way the economy is and with what agencies are seeing right now is everybody wants more and wants to pay less. And so I think part of that is a big part of that is in how you price and I, I've talked to, clients about this all the time is, is like, okay, if you want to avoid scope creep, you have to make your pricing conversation as clear as possible.

Jamie (00:38:15) - So, that's always a tip I give. I'm curious what are some tips that you can give to kind of make sure that scope creep isn't happening, and clients aren't always trying to push those lines?

Joe (00:38:25) - Yeah. You know, I, I'd say one of the big analogies or ideas that I, I go over a lot is build a fence around your work. A lot of agencies, you know, there's a mean acronym in our industry. I think it's Peta or Peta. and the reality is, is that we're often the pain in the butt. Right? And because it's like you're getting irritated at your customer, it's like you didn't even describe what you were doing. There's a saying if there's a I cannot figure out who said this, but I use it all the time. but if there's a fault or if there's a missed in the pulpit, there's a fog in the congregation and the point there is to stop assuming your freaking customers know your world like you do.

Joe (00:39:12) - And if you don't know what you're offering, they have no stinking clue. Right? And so, when it comes to scope creep, like, for instance, I like, you know, you know, spelling this out with an example, let's say you offer Facebook, social media management. Okay. One way you can sell that is you can say we'll manage your social media for $1,500 a month, and I will take care of everything for you. You're basically courting disaster and practicing not making friends with some kind of setup like that. But imagine instead on that line item for Facebook social media management, you said, will manage a Facebook page for customer work includes. And then I like to break it down into a bolted list, ten posts per month. Okay. two-hour, 24-hour turnaround time needed for post approval. we're going to do two, two sets of them. Right? So, you're spelling everything out. and then, does not include, images, or at least does not include stock images, like maybe we'll do some free ones or something like that.

Joe (00:40:26) - Okay. So, what you've done there is you've built a fence around your work and you have handles you can grab on to. And then what I like doing and this is where smart pricing table is just so different in the market. but I like doing things like okay, do you want additional posts. That's a configuration inside the line item. So you can turn that on and you can specify a quantity, and the agency owner can say it's $150 per additional posts. Okay. Would you like, stock images. That's an additional, you know, $500 a month. Like, maybe like I stock high quality images. Well, what you've done there is you've provided clarity on the base offering and the configurations make it clear when that something's not included if you didn't check it right. And that's all part of the signed contract. So that goes. The scope of work goes with the terms, goes with everything else. And so, they come to you, and they say, actually another one. I'd have an upsell on there for comment interactions.

Joe (00:41:27) - Like a lot of people who had engaged in a service like that, they're not thinking about that. And, and little did you know, they would have paid for that. Right. So put that as an upsell. But, you know, they're frustrated because they have all this work, you can you can point back and you say, I understand that, and we're happy to help with content or comment interactions, but it's just not included in our base costs. And you can see we offered you that and you didn't select it. Right. And you've simply you diffuse it simply. But if you didn't talk about it at all, now all of a sudden you have a challenge.

Joey (00:42:02) - So, Joe, the thing, the thing I like about that the most is you remind me a little bit of our CEO, Adam Hale, where he's, he's told me on multiple occasions where he's like, yeah, everything we've done, we've made all, all the mistakes before and we're going to learn from them.

Joey (00:42:16) - And when you were saying that about the common interaction, I was like, man, I, I would have never thought to put that in. So, w and all I could think of was you. You had to learn that lesson the hard way at some point, either through a lost opportunity or someone assuming that and you eat in the cost. And that just was horrible for you. And yeah, I, I really just wanted to admire that piece of the puzzle because that is a skill is learning how to learn from that mistake and build it into the, you know, turn a negative into a positive.

Joe (00:42:48) - Yeah, yeah. And that's exactly. So, this is the full thought, right? So that happens. Life sucks. you do the comments anyways because you didn't communicate, and you want to keep the customer. Right? Right. So, you do the comments but then you go, you go to your template, you go to that line item and you add an upsell for it. Okay.

Joe (00:43:05) - You're happy to do it. You're having a conversation with yourself and you're like, I hate responding in comments. Now you don't you hate responding to comments without getting paid. But if the number was right, you might actually love it. maybe it's your highest margin thing in the future because you can outsource it to a low paid person, right? Like an entry level person. And so, you take that pain, that frustration, and you go back and you say, I'm not going to do this again. There are lots of pitfalls and no agency is perfect. But if I keep doing that, I will you're going to you're going to have smooth, so much smooth sailing and it really for us what that equated to, we were number two on clutch SEO for web design companies, for, for multiple years. In fact, we were number one for like three months. and it wasn't just paying for it. We had the reviews vouch for it as well.

Outro (00:44:02) - Enjoy this podcast? Visit our website summit CPA. Net to get more tips and strategy for achieving business success. We're here to be a resource in this ever-changing industry.

Sales 'Snacks' for Creative Agencies


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