Business Development

“Sales is Not a Dirty Word in the Agency Business,” with Chuck Meyst & Drew McLellan of AMI

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Chuck Meyst has been in sales all his life, from his childhood bike route to CEO and founder of AgencyFinder.com, a matchmaking service for agencies.

Chuck and Drew discuss the value in finding the right business matches for your agency. They cover everything from measuring the quality of potential match to how to stand out and create value as an agency.

The interview begins here: http://buildabetteragency.com/chuck-meyst/

Some highlights include: 

Have a clear focus of your goals and priorities going into a business match, and you will be a better client. Create something of value for potential clients, and you will be a better match as an agency. Chuck describes strategies to achieve this near minute 11:00 of our interview.

At minute 20:00, Chuck explains how the word “sales” is not something to fear, but something to embrace, and how to create maximum impact from it.

At minute 28:00,  Agencies make themselves valuable and different by being good listeners and asking pertinent questions to their clients.

At minute 37:00, Chuck describes the “power index,” AgencyFinder’s measurement tool of new business’ readiness. This index is powerful because it serves as a regulatory tool for an agency’s quality.

At minute 50:00, make your agency available for potential matches.  Chuck highlights simple ways to do this, without adding extra work to your agency.

That’s a wrap folks!

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Leads for Sale, Great Leads for Sale, Get Them While They’re Hot!

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Ridiculous you say? I would agree but when you take a close look at many agency new business services, they’re not far from suggesting that. On local radio, I hear ads for web services suggesting that all a business need do is let them know how many “leads” they want per week and they will deliver. Can you imagine!  Now let’s define a lead. Their lead is NOT someone ready to hire YOUR firm now; their lead is NOT prequalified and their lead is NOT someone who has even talked with this lead provider. Here’s what I call a lead … My friend Russell went to lunch yesterday at McDonalds. Sitting quietly by himself, he couldn’t help but hear what’s being said at a nearby table for 4. They’re not too happy with their agency; they talk about looking around. He listens to hear who they work for; when he learns he writes it down. Then he called the President of a local agency he knows and told him the story. That’s what I call a lead.

Here at AgencyFinder, our registered agencies have been getting invitations to speak with vetted and qualified advertisers for years. Those advertisers were ready to hire an agency and they had a pretty good idea what the agency should look like. Agency invitations go to those where their profile meet the client specs. Our agencies get “invitations” or as the dictionary says – a situation or action that tempts someone to do something or makes a particular outcome likely. Don’t find yourself doing business with a lead machine.

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Who is Going to Answer That Phone?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

I know of agencies paying $4,000 to $5,000 monthly to have third-parties working elsewhere make outreach calls trying to find someone, almost anyone who will agree to a meeting with the agency brass. On a score from 1 to 10, I rate those meetings at a 2. But who knows, once in a while it’s possible to strike Gold, so if the numbers work, why not? Now let’s take a look at that practice.  Contractors make the outreach call. That’s an expensive call, and I’m not talking about toll cost. Let’s assume the caller connects and has a good chat and asks for a call-back. Contractor has a process. Having implied he/she works for and at the agency, the number that was left goes to voicemail only, answered only in the contractor’s name and voice. That’s another story.

Now let’s say the prospect is in a hurry, so rather than waiting for a return call, they find and call the main number on the agency website. Now it begins – the looping “Who is going to answer that phone!”  Agencies nowadays have voicemail to cover the desk, so we get the – “Thanks for calling AgencyOne. If you know the extension of the party you’re calling, enter it now. For an agency directory, press 1. For this and that, press this or that. For New Business Press 4.” You’re routed to the Marketing Department. “No one can take your call. Please leave a message.”

I can be impatient, so I have learned to punch O for Operator. If a human is hovering somewhere nearby, that generally gets them. But as it stands, the O request too often loops you back to a voicemail announcement. At some smaller agencies, I have literally tried every extension they offer, yet that fails to surface a human. For that and any of the other important incoming calls, imagine the consequence of such treatment. Don’t let this silent killer cost you business. I suggest the “O” option should ring at 4-5 desks with Hell-to-pay when a phone goes unanswered by a human. One final note: please see that whomever answers NEVER asks the bane of anyone charged with agency new business – “will they know what this call is about?”

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Is Your Lead Gen Stalled? Do This One Thing

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

I want to share a recent insight about an easy way to break out of the lead generation rut.

In the Win Without Pitching program we spend a whole trimester on lead generation. Participants build a multi-tiered expert lead generation plan specific to their firm, and then in the trimester break they make a commitment to working that plan. When we reconvene for the next trimester they’ve developed some routine and are generating actual, live leads. These firms are in the groove – they’re turning lead generation activities into habits.

It’s pretty straightforward: craft a plan, work the plan long enough to make systematic lead generation a habit. It’s not rocket surgery. We help with the crafting of the plan but it’s up to the participants to work it.

As you might imagine, some work the plan and others do not. Some develop lead generation habits and some stick with their old habits of doing all kinds of things other than lead generation.

My recent insight is that the firms that break out of the rut and establish new, positive lead generation habits do one thing that we ask everyone to do. Those that do not do this one thing almost always remain stuck. It’s quite remarkable how the camps divide into the doers and the stallers based on this one thing.

The One Thing
I’m going to tell you what the one thing is and then I’m going to tell you why it works. My suggestion is, if you or your firm are currently in a lead generation rut, commit to doing this one thing now before you read what it is. Commit. NOW.

Ready? Read on…

The one thing we ask everyone to do and I’m asking you to do, is to publish on your website within the next 48 hours, the title, date and time of a webinar that you will deliver within the next 90 days.

That’s it. Think of a subject within your area of expertise, commit to the topic, commit to the date and put it on your website. From there you’ll have to add an abstract and a sign up form (you can do these later just be sure to do the first part with 48 hours.)

To be clear, the commitment is not to do a webinar within 90 days, it’s to make your commitment public within 48 hours. If you can do this one thing I promise you your lead generation fortunes will begin to change.

Why It Works
I’ll explain why this works to bust you out of your lead generation rut by first telling you why some people don’t do it, even when they’ve committed to it. They don’t do this one thing because they claim they’re not ready. Their excuse is they don’t have the content or the audience. And that’s exactly why this is so effective because content and audience don’t come first, commitment does. Commit to the event, publicly, by putting it on your website, and now you’ve put yourself in the position where you haveto develop the content and the audience. That will get you out of your rut.

Now you’ve got to make people show up so you’ll start thinking seriously about how to promote it. Your mailing list? Your social channels? Online ads? How are you going to get people to show up? You’ll wake up in the middle of the night worrying about this, therefore you’ll do something about it.

And then there’s the topic of what you’re going to say in this webinar. You’ve got 90 days to come up with content that makes you look like you know what you’re talking about on a subject on which you might only have superficial knowledge or a vague perspective. But 90 days is a long time. You can pull off a webinar on pretty much anything 90 days from now but if you don’t make the bet and put yourself in the position where you absolutely have to, you won’t do it, will you?

Commitment comes first. From that you will develop the audience and the content. Make the commitment. You have 48 hours. Come up with a title, a date and a time and let the world know what’s coming. Then add an abstract and a sign-up form. And then watch the magic begin. The magic is your own effort, effort that was previously missing because you did not have a real deadline. Now you do.

Congratulations, you’ve just put yourself into the doer camp. You’ve bet on your own future success and the outcome is positive. You’ve lent your shoulder to the lead generation flywheel and started it moving. Well done. Welcome to life outside of the rut.

Thanks to Blair Enns
Win Without Pitching
202 B Ave #454
Kaslo, BC V0G 1M0
+1.250.353.2951

A Mission With No Exit

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

by Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching

I’m a big user and raving fan of Evernote. I could never adequately explain to non-users why I like it so much. It’s software for taking notes. It works well. I don’t know – it just keeps getting better and I don’t remember what I did before it.

Earlier this year I was listening to a Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders podcast featuring Evernote co-founder and CEO Phil Libin as the speaker when Libin said something that explained in an instant why the product was so good. He said for him, there was no exit – he was on a mission, the mission would never end and he would never sell. He was dedicating his professional life to Evernote. I understood then the impact of the owner being all in on his/her business. My reaction to Libin’s commitment to Evernote was to match it. In a moment, I decided that I too was all in on Evernote. I still marvel at how instant my pledge of allegiance was upon hearing that Libin himself was that committed.

There’s a large segment of the tech world that lauds the serial entrepreneur, but I’ll admit I’ve never understood it. These people are admired for how many companies they’ve spun up and exited but I never hear anybody taking stock of what happens to those businesses after they get acquired. For sure, some go on to be great businesses or important technologies in other great businesses and I don’t begrudge anyone their success or their right to sell what they’ve built. I can’t help but think however that most of these businesses just fade away after the founder leaves. I wonder how many of these exits end up being good for both the acquirer and the customer? I also wonder what those entrepreneurs could accomplish if they focused all their superpowers on just one endeavour?

Entrepreneurs have more vision and guts than any CEO-for-hire could possibly have. They have too – they’re always betting everything. (Just ask their spouses.) When you take that vision and courage out of a business, what’s left? Optimization and the pursuit of efficiencies.

I’ve been thinking of my own experience as a user of a new technology (that I won’t name) which I discovered a couple of years back, shortly after it launched. It was pretty cool, so I signed on and started using it. There were a few bugs but the founder/CEO was fixing them fast. He was clearly committed to the vision of the company. I knew this because I would get emails from him asking me questions about how I was using the platform. I would send him suggestions and he appeared to take them seriously – his replies would often come in the middle of the night. I started reading his blog. When he announced the sale of the company I was happy for him, but it wasn’t long before things started to feel different about the product. I lost interest in the founder’s blog and the company he founded. He’s on to the next thing and so am I.

Maybe some people have strengths that make the serial entrepreneur thing work for them, but it’s not me. I decided I was going to follow Libin’s path: I’m never selling. Everything I want to do in business I’m going to do through this one. Everything I want to do in life, this business will have to enable.

The False Promise of Retirement
If the idea of never selling strikes you as a big commitment, consider that I added it to an even bigger one I had made earlier last year when I decided I was never going to retire.

I now see the idea of retirement, in this age of the knowledge worker, as destructive. It causes us to put up with less than ideal circumstances today as we wait for our reward in the end, except the idealized reward of the retired life isn’t really what most of us want. We’re not coal miners retiring from physically punishing careers, after all. We have the luxury of working with our brains and enjoying it. Plus, as entrepreneurs, we have the ability to shape our reality to whatever we want it to be. The only thing in my way is me.

I think many business owners forget how much power they have to shape their reality. They start out pursuing freedom and then get trapped in a role they didn’t anticipate in a business that just kind of turned into what it is today, instead of steadily marching toward a vision of increased freedom and control.

We all want purpose in our lives. We want to keep making an impact, to reap the rewards of that impact now rather than deferring them, and to live life today doing things we love and are good at. We retire when we aren’t getting these things in our working life. Well, they’re not there in retirement either.

Go ahead and try it on – the idea that you will never retire but you will start retiring immediately from the things you shouldn’t be doing, the things you don’t really want to do. (Another idea stolen from Strategic Coach founder Dan Sullivan.) It will change everything. You will be reborn. You will also rethink your tax planning.

It’s remarkably liberating for me to know that there is no retirement and no sale. I know that I have to get this right. I need to always strive to make an impact, always reap the rewards as they come and live life at the same time; to keep focused on the mission of changing the way creative services are bought and sold the world over while knowing the tools and methods will constantly evolve, knowing my own ideas and role have to change with time, but never, ever altering in the mission.

The Price of Eyeing the Exit
When I look at creative firms that are stuck, it’s almost always because the principal has quit making big bets. He or she has gotten complacent instead of making bets on future success. What’s almost universally true about these firms is the principal has one eye on the exit. He or she is neglecting the difficult decisions, shying away from the big bets in the hope that the forces of change can be staved off until retirement.

If there’s one thing I wish I could do for these people it would be to wave my magic wand and make their business a life sentence. I know then they would get it right. They would face the difficult decisions about their businesses, their roles inside and their lives outside of them, and it would be the best thing that ever happened to them.

Your Bonfire on the Beach Awaits
Like Cortez arriving on the shores of South America, I’ve burned the ships behind me, cutting off any escape route. I’m doing this Win Without Pitching thing until I die, so I have to get it right and therefore I will.

There are so many things to get right and so many skills that I don’t personally posses, so I have to increase the pace of my learning, I have to develop skills I’ve never had or really needed before, I have to rely on others (making culture and teamwork infinitely more important than I ever thought they could be), I have say no to the things I should no longer be doing, I have to keep bringing vision and guts – to keep betting everything on what I see and believe – and I have to live life now. I’ve put myself in a position where I have to do all the things I’ve ever wanted to do.

I can’t burn your ships for you, but if I could, I would. I would burn them to the waterline, drag what’s left up on shore, burn that too, roast weenies on the embers and toast to your glorious future with scotch whiskey from a chipped enamel cup. I would do it and you would thank me because we both know that bonfire on the beach would be the best thing that ever happened to you.

How great could you, your firm and your life be if you closed the exits and went all in on your business? Who would bet against you? Not me. I’d be all in on you, too.

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Well done Blair; this got me thinking!

The Power of Precision Guessing — Or Why There’s No Algorithm for Great Advertising

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Written by Bob Hoffman and posted to Agency Post

We know that consumer behavior is often irrational. That’s why there are large market share differences among products that are essentially the same.

We also know that consumers tend to be pragmatic and don’t like to throw their money around on crap. That’s why so many new products fail.

So how do we reconcile these two seeming contradictions? How can consumers be both strangely emotional yet essentially pragmatic? We can’t explain it. That’s what makes advertising so interesting. It’s like physics. There are two equally reliable, yet contradictory ways to explain the physical behavior of matter.
General relativity describes the world one way. Quantum physics describes it another. They are completely different, and often contradictory theories. And yet each is equally capable of explaining and predicting the behavior of matter — general relativity on a large scale and quantum physics on a small scale.

We face a similar (and far less important) enigma in advertising. If you ask an advertising expert “what makes a great campaign,” he/she will provide you with a list of adjectives — beautiful, persuasive, funny, entertaining, convincing … but the truth is, nobody really knows what makes a great ad campaign.

I can show you a hundred campaigns that were all of those things and failed, and you can show me a hundred that were none of them and succeeded.

The thing that drives ad people crazy, and makes advertising such a fascinating endeavor, is that there is no algorithm for great advertising. No one has been able to define the proper proportions of the emotional and the practical, the nonlinear and the utilitarian, the entertaining and the convincing.

And that leads us to the point of this piece. The present obsession with media delivery systems may help our media people locate a certain type of person more easily, but is never going to provide the spark of brilliance on how to motivate this person.

Understanding motivation still comes from the brains of talented people who somehow know what the right combination of ingredients is to motivate a certain type of person in a certain category.

They don’t know how they know it, and sometimes they don’t even know that they know it. But they do.

That’s why there are a few people who consistently create wonderful, successful advertising and others who create consistently mediocre advertising.

It’s a gift that some creative people have for precision guessing. That’s all it is, but it is the amazing gift that separates real advertising talent from the rest of us.

This article is an excerpt from Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey. It is published with permission from Type A Group.

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AgencyFinder comment: AgencyFinder agency profiles are populated with more than 500 data fields, yet that’s not enough nor will any number at any website ever suffice to pair agencies with an advertiser without the intervention and contribution of “humans.” That’s also why great advertising will never be produced or evaluated formuliacally. Bob and I are in complete agreement. That’s Bob Hoffman, The Most Provocative Man in Advertising at Type A Group, Oakland, CA

Should You Publish Your Advertising Agency Pricing on Your Website?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Today’s article is contributed by Blair Enns, Principal at Win Without Pitching

We’ve gone from an era where creative firms never published their pricing to one where, while it’s not yet common, there’s a bit of a trend toward it among certain types of firms.

There are right and wrong motivations for disclosing your pricing on your website and right and wrong methods of doing so. Let’s explore them.

First, let’s examine the idea of why a creative firm would consider publishing its pricing on its website. Let’s start with what I hope is the obvious wrong motivation.

Wrong Motivation: Demonstrating Affordability

A firm that publishes low prices is essentially competing on price and sending negative messages to the marketplace about quality, confidence and sophistication. Selling on low price can be a viable strategy for fully-productized businesses that have a production advantage or an economy of scale that lets them sell more cheaply than their competition. These businesses don’t mind dragging prices down and squeezing out less-efficient competitors as a means of gaining marketshare.

You’re not in such a business and therefore not employing such tactics. (If you are then you’re destined to always run your business from your parents’ basement.)

Right Motivation: Demonstrating Exclusivity

The opposite approach of publishing higher-than-market prices as a form of positioning is a more valid one. Pricing is positioning. Let’s be clear, however: where Logos-R-Us might price logos at $499, a firm trying to position itself as upscale isn’t going to price logos at $50,000. They’re going to speak in more general terms about the size of budgets they work with. More on that in a minute.

Right Motivation: Advance Client Qualification

Some firms do a great job of inbound lead generation but end up attracting a high volume of price buyers or other budget-challenged prospects. In such firms it can make sense to publish pricing guidance as a means of keeping the gnats at bay. Putting pricing guidance on your contact form is a good way to help vet such clients and ensure that anyone who does reach out has at least some idea of how much it will cost to work with you.

Now let’s look at the right and wrong methods of publicly disclosing your pricing.

Right Method: Minimums

I’m a fan of using a minimum level of engagement (MLOE) in the sales conversation. It can make sense to publish such minimums.

“Our minimum level of engagement is $100,000 in fees over the course of 12 months.”

Or the more subtle, “Projects typically start at $25,000.”

Right Method: Ranges or Examples

I think ranges and examples are the best ways of publishing pricing guidance, saving the more rigid MLOE for the sales conversation where you can imbue some flexibility and use it as a negotiating lever. Ranges and examples provide guidance but still leave the door open to opportunities just below the minimum level.

“A typical project ranges from $100k – $300k and our clients typically spend between $500k and $2m over the course of a year.”

Wrong Method: Package or Tiered Pricing

Increasingly, I’m seeing creative firms, and digital firms in particular, publishing tiers of services with pricing attached. This is a trend borrowed from Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, many of whom are sophisticated pricers. On Salesforce.com’s pricing page for example, I count seven obvious pricing principles, nudges or other tactics designed to leverage the mental shortcuts buyers use, sometimes irrationally, in their decision making.

Many of these pricing principles can be applied in a creative business, including the use of options and bundles.

There are important differences between SaaS companies and creative firms however and therefore implications on pricing strategies. Most SaaS companies are selling products in large scale which means they’re effectively pricing the product and not the client. (More correctly, they’re using sophisticated segmentation strategies on large markets to group clients and price the segments, but compared to your business where you should be pricing each individual client, they are effectively pricing the product.)

Price the Client

In your firm you want to price the client and not the service. That means taking full advantage of price discrimination (a good thing, in spite of its name) and the subjectivity of value which I’ll sum up thusly: a service you perform for one client can be significantly more meaningful and valuable to another client, therefore you should charge less to the first client and more to the second.

When you publish package pricing you remove your ability to practice price discrimination and you force yourself to make significant judgments on the value you propose to create for your clients before you even have a conversation with them.

It is a good idea to think and price in tiers, bundles and options – just make sure that each is constructed for the client, in the sale, and not an off-the-shelf package with a predetermined price.

In summary, it can make sense to publish some pricing guidance on your website to help you with positioning and to prequalify prospects, just avoid specific prices for specific services, and if you do employ the pricing tactics of tiers, bundles and options (as you should), don’t make the mistake of assembling, pricing or publishing them before any conversation with the client.

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Oh No – It’s the dreaded “S” Word! (Sales)

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Buck up Fellas (those doing anything for your agency on new business), it’s about time you heard the truth. If it’s your job to connect with new prospects, then pick up the phone when you’re told and stop hiding behind your keyboard! Stop staring at your call sheet and dial! Sales (the “S” word), as in the pleasant, professional art and science of commiserating with a prospect so as to share your “brand ambassador” story is NOT of itself a natural talent but a learned and practiced “skillset.” For starters, if you know a successful “New Business Pro”, seek permission to listen in, to witness, to bask in the majesty of one from whose lips the perfect, persuasive and yes “beautiful” sequence of words flow gently to the prospect. Not some slathering set of syllables from the lips of a “hot shoe” carney that offend upon impact, but the sweet, gentle flakes of new business persuasion.

Yes boys and girls, sales is an accomplished skill set worthy of respect and adoration.

Now that’s not to say some people don’t have an “inclination” towards sales. But even those naturals benefit from formal training. I urge and encourage anyone who wants to succeed at new business development to get formal generic “sales” training. My first exposure was with Dale Carnegie. (Not the man but the course) That or many others are available. If you’re the firm’s decision-maker, sign yourself up. If you have an employee in that new business role, enroll them. If you are that employee, ask your supervisor to get you enrolled. And don’t short-sheet their training. After that there are more than a few specific “agency” new business trainers. My favorite is Sanders Consulting. But in any of these, get the basic sales training first. And for any of you already in those roles, one thing you can do for immediate improvement is “role play.” You and an experienced colleague get on two telephones and start role-playing. Try various scenarios and work them!

My advocacy here is simply that “sales” ladies and gentlemen is a taught and learned skill set. We’ve also posted some relevant new business tips. So get cracking!

Let me know how it goes …

12 Dumb Questions Smart New Biz Pros Ask

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Let’s be real. Most salespeople are super annoying. They view their prospects as numbers in their sales funnel, not as people. They believe earning your business is a chess match and a signed contract means they “won the game.”

However, B2B buyers and B2C consumers generally do not know how to purchase anything that falls outside their area of expertise. Think about it. Do you really know how to buy a TV? Do you know what precise technical questions to ask? You’d probably like some help, right?

But ironically, when the salesperson at the electronic store asks if she can help, what do you typically respond with? “No, I am just browsing.”

The cat and mouse game buyers and salespeople play has created an environment of leverage and one upmanship versus understanding. And this hostile relationship often stems from the questions salespeople ask their prospects. Below are 12 common questions sales professionals ask prospects and why they should stop — or at least, rephrase.

1) What is your budget? / What would you like to spend?

Buyers often rationalize lying to salespeople about their budget because they feel it is the necessary first step in a negotiation. And why do you need to know about budget up front anyway? If the buyer has purchased what you are selling in the past, they will have money to spend. If they have not — how will they know what price is right?

Instead of demanding a budget right off the bat, strive to understand the prospect’s process for buying and their spend tolerance. Simply asking about their buying process for your type of product or service will get you a lot better information than asking specifically about budget.

2) Is price or quality more important?

Shame on you for asking this question. If you beat the competition solely on price, just come out and say it. However if you are not the low cost provider, you need to build value. Your prospects will naturally associate a given amount of value with “what the product is supposed to cost” so a good salesperson will try to understand that perspective and discuss price from there.

3) Are you the decision maker?

This is a bad question because it’s unclear. Are you asking if they’re the decision maker for which vendors move on to the next step in the buying process? Or are you asking if they can they sign off on the proposal? This puts the prospect in an ego predicament. No one wants to feel as if they are just the informer.

Instead, ask the question “Who is involved in this process?” Even the CEO gets input from others (or at least he or she should). This should reveal all relevant influencers, stakeholders, and the ultimate decision maker.

Salespeople need to identify the decision makers so they can work with these stakeholders throughout the buying process. Too often we leave it to others to sell our products and services to executives because we failed to appropriately engage them.

4) What is your pain?

You won’t get the answer simply by asking. Most salespeople stop probing for pain once they hear an indicator such as, “If this doesn’t go well, I will get fired.” However, pain is rooted in emotion. In this example, the pain isn’t the potential of getting fired — it’s the emotion associated with getting fired.

Everything we buy is bought emotionally, so unless you know the pain, how can you truly help? Seek to understand the prospect’s underlying emotional need for change.

5) How good are your products and services?

This is a legitimate sales question to ask if your product or service promises to improve the prospect’s business results. However, if you pose it in this way, prepare yourself for a biased answer.

How can you get an honest response? Ask questions around how the business is doing from a third-party perspective, or versus the competition. For instance:

When you lose, why do you lose?
What do your customers say about your products and services?
What percentage of your business is referrals?

6) How strategic are you?

Ego will not allow your prospect to say “not at all” (even if that’s the truth). On the other hand, if they do show vulnerability, they will likely blame the company or others for it (which shows they are not truly strategic).

Instead of asking this question at all, simply listen to your prospects’ answers to other queries. I guarantee you will discover if they are strategic or not.

7) Would you like a proposal or quote?

When you ask this question, you will likely get blown off one of two ways. You will be either be told “I am happy with my current vendor” or “I don’t want to waste your time.”

Another possibility is that the prospect will gladly take your proposal … and use it to price check their current vendor. Your proposal then functions as intel for your competition. Finally, the prospect could request your proposal simply to get you out of their hair.

A proposal should simply be a summary of expectations both parties have already agreed upon. It should only be sent once you have agreed on scope, pricing, timing, etc., and serves as documentation for the work being completed. It does not sell anything in and of itself.

8) Can I show you our capabilities? / Would you like a presentation?

Show and tell is for your nine-year-old. If you are presenting, you are not selling. You are bragging. Don’t brag.

9) Is this a good time to chat?

Do you think your prospects sit in their offices hoping a salesperson calls? There is never time, but people can make time if they want to. This question gives your prospect an easy out. A better way to ask this question is, “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

10) What level of service are you willing to pay for?

This question implies that your relationship is only about money, and that’s just not true. Sales is about balancing what the prospect needs with what they want. Your questions should inform you about the prospect’s business so you can discuss appropriate solutions.

Build value, not budgets. If your business offers multiple service levels, ask the relevant questions in order to make a recommendation.

11) What can I do? / What will it take to earn your business?

This sets you up for failure because you are now just an order taker. The prospect tells you in this moment what it will take to get a signed contract … and they will continue to tell you what you have to do for the rest of the relationship. This isn’t exactly the partnership you touted when trying to earn the business. This question also implies that you will take on anyone and are willing to be insincere to close a deal.

Get to know the prospect’s business, their pains, and how you can help. If it makes sense to work together, it will happen. If not, move on.

12) Who was the best salesperson who ever called on you?

Who cares? Are you going to be inauthentic and act like someone else to try to earn the business? Would you ask your spouse who was the best person they ever dated? Forgo this question in lieu of more valuable and revealing queries.

A good sales professional has virtually no cap on earning potential, but it takes more than practice to attain mastery. Top salespeople continuously develop and refine sales skills through learning — with the help of a coach, trainer, manager, or on their own. Don’t you think asking great questions is one of those critical skills?

Contribution by Jeremy King. Jeremy is part of the leadership team at Element Three, an Indianapolis-based agency that was one of the first HubSpot Platinum Partners.

When Clients call for Spec Work, is it Evil?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Contributed by Chuck Meyst, Chairman & CEO AgencyFinder.com

To hear some agency principals talk, they think so.

And frankly we shouldn’t blame them. We’re talking about a component of the process known as the agency review. The idea is to invite and examine a sufficient number of candidate agencies and winnow the group down to 2-3 finalists. Those finalists will make “final presentations” and it’s there that spec creative rears its ugly head! The requirement calling for “spec creative” is an element of the infamous RFP and is like doubling down on evil. Let’s start with that RFP or Request for Proposal. As first client contact with randomly selected agencies, the invitation often begins like a warrant. Often the RFP “document” is the result of the client searching the Internet and grabbing a “template.” Without giving any real consideration to what they need in the way of an agency, and how they will  find agencies that fit those criteria, they begin their convoluted search. Searching using Google at best is worst. Agency websites range from single-page scroll-down templates themselves, to “kitchy” and “we’re different and we’re unique arguments and displays”. Good luck finding an agency website that reveals their employee count and even more bizarre, won’t provide their physical location or contact phone. Yet we should think that any agency bothering to have a website is looking for new clients, right?

Not all RFP’s are pervasive, but most tend to ask for more than necessary to begin exploring the possibility of a working relationship. Many include Gestapo admonitions like “If you communicate with any employee of our company, you will be removed from the review!” Or “Send 4 copies only. More than 4 will call for disqualification.” A silly and egregious way to begin what is meant to become a partnership. And be reminded, the client has to sell themselves to each agency as much as the reverse is true!

Each agency tells their story. In the best reviews, this can be done while the client is visiting the semi-finalists. That’s where an agency tour, the presentation of case histories, and the examination of past work takes place. Some clients think and are inclined to identify their winner after seeing agency work. Each agency understandably presents their best work but the devil is in the details. Does the agency admit that their client suggested the layout, headline, shot angle and copy? And does the client even think to inquire? Past work is only one element of the consideration set.

Now to final presentations. As the search consultant we are, we believe prospects who ask for spec work are looking to establish two things. 1. Does the agency understand their business (has your team been listening?) 2. Therefore can you produce something that demonstrates that? I agree with everyone that says it’s expensive; I agree it’s almost impossible to debrief a prospect sufficiently to respond with any degree of precision.

So what to do? We suggest to all clients they should identify a business they know fairly well (but completely different than theirs) and ask for a spec presentation based on that business. There’s more to it than that, but you get the point? Do the same for all players. In this way, the client will be able to witness the agency’s approach and process but both parties are one-step removed. And to the delight of any agency, the creative can’t be used by the client.

The new standard for “spec creative!”

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