The owner of an agency in Switzerland asked: “I can’t keep up with all our new projects, but I’m feeling pressure from my salesperson to keep saying ‘yes’ to new work. What should I do?”
Don’t stop selling. Being too busy to take new work is a nice problem to have—but it’s still a problem. A number of the agencies I advise have run into this at some point.
Want to turn this into an opportunity? Create a client waitlist for new clients!
This lets you avoid saying “yes” to work you can’t deliver, while letting clients prove they’re interested in your agency, while giving your sales team at least some commissions from the work. It also shows clients that you’re in-demand, which may make them want your services even more.
How to make a client waitlist work
Once you’ve identified what a prospective client needs, your salesperson would say something like, “We’re a boutique agency, so we don’t take hundreds of projects at once. For the work you need, we have a 3-4 month waiting list right now. We can add you to the next spot on the waitlist with a deposit of $10,000. In the meantime, we may be able to start sooner on strategy work.”
For your salesperson, you’ll pay their commission on the deposit. Your salesperson won’t love this as much as starting the entire engagement, but a commission on the deposit is better than getting NO commission because you had to say “no.”
What if a prospect pushes back?
If a client asks why you don’t just hire more people to do the work, you can say, “We’re a boutique agency. We work on just a few projects at once, to give clients the attention they need. We’re not right for everyone, but our clients like that we focus on them when we work together.”
If a client asks why you didn’t tell them before the first meeting that you had a client waitlist, you can say, “We needed to know what you wanted to accomplish. Once we knew that, we could share an estimated timeline.” (Sometimes, it may make sense to disclose the waitlist before the call, if it’s clear they need backlogged services.)
If a prospective client doesn’t want to wait, you can refer them to a partner. The agency norm is to get a 10% commission for referrals. For instance, a $30,000 referral would net you $3,000 without having to do any additional work.
Not every client will want to wait, but this approach lets you avoid a rush to hire and onboard team members (which never goes as quickly as you expect).
Preparing for the future at your agency
If your agency’s client waitlist gets longer and longer, it’s time to hire more people (if that fits your strategic growth goals) and/or time to raise prices.
Question: Are you overwhelmed with clients? (Good for you!) How are you handling the work?