Want to grow your agency in the coming year? If you need bigger and better clients, try my 37 agency sales tips!
The tips range from strategy to tactics—with a focus on helping you get better clients in less time. To dig deeper, I’ve linked to several followup articles.
Want private sales coaching for you and your team? I’ve advised more than 400 agencies worldwide. To see if you’re a match, please get in touch! [Last updated: January 2023]
Adopt the Right Mindset
1. Create a formal sales process, instead of “making it up” every time. Prioritize “fast failure,” to avoid wasting valuable time in poor-fit prospects.
2. Recognize that clients must want your agency’s help, not merely need it. Everyone needs help—you only care if they’re willing to pay for it.
3. “Strategically free” is OK; “secretly free” is not. Share benchmarking stats and the occasional free tip, but say “no” to spec work.
4. A full sales pipeline creates confidence. But never stop selling (or marketing).
5. Don’t over-grow your active client count. Active agency bizdev should help you boost client quality over time, instead of merely adding client quantity.
6. Yes, you should probably accept random LinkedIn requests if they’re from potential prospects. But you still need to qualify them.
Use Better Marketing to Generate Better Leads
7. Think about the Hero’s Journey. That is, make the client/prospect the Hero, with you as their vital Helper (or Mentor). This includes making a contact look like a Hero to their boss/board. More on this in my interview with Jay Baer.
8. Shorten your sales cycle by pre-addressing sales objections throughout your website—especially on your homepage.
9. Recognize that inbound marketing makes sales easier. Stop blaming the “shoemakers kids“—better marketing helps produce better prospects.
10. Be sure your content strategy includes answering “sales support” questions. For instance, your agency’s blog should have an article on how you help clients prevent content delays. Then, you or your salespeople can link to the article at an appropriate point in the sales process.
Qualify Your Sales Prospects
11. Define your ideal sales prospect—and get everyone on the same page about what “qualified” really means. (I recommend using “CRUX” instead of “BANT.”)
12. Use a brief (yet powerful) sales “pre-intake” survey—and position it around the benefits to them.
13. Understand the difference between each prospect’s “need vs. want.” That is, most people need your agency’s help—but not everyone wants to pay for it. (Focus on the ones who need and want your help.)
14. Profile your prospects by DiSC behavioral type, to look for buttons to push. To generalize:
- Dominance (D): They like a high sense of urgency. Show how you get things done.
- Influence (i): They’re “people people” who like having fun… and don’t like details. Consider focusing on the client experience instead of every line-item.
- Steadiness (S): They’re empathic people who care about others… and who don’t like saying “no.” Talk about your team unity, etc.
- Conscientiousness (C): They’re all about accuracy and detail, sometimes missing the forest for the trees. Decide how you’ll handle their flood of requests for details.
15. Dig into understanding each prospect’s unique business and personal goals. Are they looking for a promotion? Are they trying to sell their company? Do they want to spend more time with their family, instead of working late all the time?
16. Think about client-side politics, including how the client exec team knows each other. Are these people who’ve worked together at a few firms? People who apparently just met each other? Someone who was brought in to be the “responsible adult”? Etc.
17. Check the prospect’s LinkedIn recommendations—specifically, the ones they leave for others. You can often identify a pattern of what they like. (And if they’ve received many recommendations but given none or few, it may indicate their attitude about business relationships.)
18. Check their job tenure on LinkedIn. Are they stable or a job-hopper? Do they seem to get promoted regularly? I recently reviewed a prospect for one of my coaching clients. Their current prospect looked like a job hopper—apart from one exception, she hadn’t stayed anywhere longer than 15 months during a 15-year career. She was either a “mercenary” chasing money… or she was getting fired. Risky to the agency either way.
19. Don’t work with clients who have “Cheap” or “Discount” in their company’s name—or if you do, don’t be surprised to discover that’s how they treat their suppliers, too.
Be Smart About Sales Proposals
20. Ask about their agency selection process. See what they volunteer about other firms and where they are in the process.
21. Be smart about your pricing philosophy. Packaging matters, and value-anchoring helps.
22. When a prospect says they will get back to you with a decision in X days (or Y weeks), think to yourself—is that reasonable, or are they delusional/overly optimistic? You don’t want them “ghost” you by disappearing into “The Abyss.”
23. Decide whether you want to present proposals live, or send proposals after getting prospects to agree to a live proposal Q&A call. Either approach can work; you need to find the one that fits your culture. (But never just email a proposal without a prior commitment from the prospect!)
24. Have you become increasingly selective over time? As your agency’s reputation grows, you should get more picky about which prospects get a proposal.
25. Find the right approach to creating the actual sales proposals. I’ve identified 20+ sales proposal software options—but I choose to use a custom template I created in Google Docs. (You can get a copy of my proposal template when you buy the Agency Profitability Toolkit.)
26. Demonstrate your industry expertise, based on what you’ve observed from following client industry trade publications.
Upgrade Your Sales Negotiation Skills
27. Prioritize building trust throughout the entire marketing and sales process. It’s not something you can “bolt on” at the end.
28. Look for prospects’ decisionmaking “tells” along the way. They often reveal key things about their situation… if only you pay attention.
29. Don’t “sell against yourself” by making concessions the prospect didn’t request.
30. Use “Reason-Options-Choose” to negotiate scope when prospective clients want free stuff.
31. Yes, prospects will pay your deposit, if you frame it as a non-optional part of how your agency operates.
Be a Better Sales Manager
32. Do a sales management meeting every week. Use it to review the pipeline, track progress in your CRM, and troubleshoot problems. Having the meeting will help keep things moving, because your sales team knows you’re going to ask where things stand… and call out when something’s been stuck for weeks.
33. Be sure your salespeople have the right incentives. Create a strong sales comp plan that combines salary, commission, and bonuses. (And remember that commission-only salespeople rarely deliver the value you expect.)
34. Weigh when to hire your next salesperson, whether they’re your first or your fifth. (A potential sign: You have capacity to fulfill new work but you can’t keep up with current inbound leads.)
35. Watch the movie Glengarry Glen Ross for nuggets of sales advice. Although “Always Be Closing” is the scene everyone mentions, it’s not a good idea for consultative sales. To me, the most illustrative scene is when a struggling sales rep celebrates finally closing a deal. A coworker breaks the news about the prospect: “They just like talking to salespeople.” He didn’t qualify the prospect—they’re a couple of deadbeats who won’t honor the contract they just signed.
36. Do “ride alongs” with your sales team, to see how they’re doing. You might learn something new… and you can coach them (privately, afterwards) if there are things they can do better next time.
37. Monitor your agency’s sales trends over time. If sales is getting harder, be sure your team isn’t “fishing in the wrong spot“… or fishing in the “wrong river” altogether.
Question: Which of my agency sales tips will you try first?