February 9

How To Sell Your Agency’s Services Even When You Hate Selling

Did you wake up this morning and think to yourself, "I can't wait to get to the agency so I can call some people and prospect for some new clients?" Or maybe couldn't wait to fire up the laptop and send that unsolicited cold email that you know is probably not getting read. Or maybe you're going to connect with a few folks on LinkedIn and wait days and days and days, only to find out that they didn't accept your connection. Was that in your list of daily goals today?

Well if that doesn’t describe you, BUT you are the person responsible for finding new client prospects for your agency, then this post, my friend, is written just for you. Give me a few minutes of your time and I’ll show you how to Sell Greatly — a relationship first, help based, digitally centric, sales prospecting approach that will make you a fabulous salesperson, even if you think you hate selling. 

Step One: Reframe Your Goal

Why is generating new clients so important? When I ask that question during my agency business development workshops, the answer is universally the same — new clients means more money. And that’s why agency owners engage in new client prospecting, even though they hate every minute of it. 

But what if there is a better, more motivating reason for winning new business? What if your goal wasn’t to make more money, but instead, create more freedom? Think about that for a second. If you had a constant stream of new clients, you’d have the freedom to do lots of things, including, but not limited to:

  • deciding which of those new clients you might actually wanna work with vs having to work with every potential client that knocks on your door or more likely, sends you their RFP.
  • charging more for your services, because if they don't wanna pay it, there's a line of potential clients right behind them that might.
  • define how you'll deliver your services vs twisting your agency’s processes to fit an inefficient client workflow.
  • set your billing terms vs accepting the client’s “standard billing terms” which usually aren’t all that favorable to you.

Step Two: Stop Doing What You’ve Been Doing

Chances are, if you hate selling, you’re also probably not very good at it. Let’s face it, human beings seldom hate anything they’re good at doing. So for the sake of argument, let’s assume you aren’t very good at selling or sales prospecting for your agency or at least you think you’re not very good at one or both. 

So, what do you do when you’re not very good at something? Especially something that is mission critical to your agency’s success.

You invest your time and effort in the wrong kind of sales education. 

  • You read blog posts like this one, hoping you'll learn a few things or pick up a few tips. 
  • You buy books on sales prospecting. Some of them are actually helpful. And truth is, books are probably the best educational ROI you can get. If you’re looking for a few good books, I put a list of my favorite, most helpful books here
  • You take an online course. These are great because they’re self driven, which works for your super busy schedule. If you’re one of these people, we’ve got a great agency business development course here. Maybe give it a look while you're here since we’ll be reopening registration soon.
  •  You sign up for a webinar… and another webinar,... and another usually, unhelpful webinar. I feel your pain. Seriously, I’ve stopped attending most webinars and I just watch the recorded version — usually at 2X speed because most of the content sucks. But if you’re willing to take one more chance, here’s a 15-minute, helpful agency business development webinar that I did for SharpSpring and folks seemed to like it.

But here’s the rub. If you don't really like sales prospecting, you're not really gonna devote yourself to getting good at it, because who wants to get good at something they don't really like to do? Right? Sure, you might read the books, sit through the webinars, etc., but to truly master something, you have to have the passion to master it. Otherwise, you’re primarily just going through the motions. 

But you have to improve your sales prospecting skills, because the alternative is… you guessed it, doing more sales prospecting! Woot!! Lucky you! 

So you end up calling more people, sending more emails, working longer hours because your agency needs that new client or that consistent influx of new clients. And of course, because you’re not terribly good at prospecting, you grow to hate it even more. 

And that is how your life is going to go until you stop investing in training and knowledge that purports to teach you how to do something in a manner you hate. 

Step Three: Reframe Your Idea of a Sales Conversation

What if a sales prospecting conversation isn't about selling? What if the goal of a sales conversation isn't to sell, but instead to help? Hmmmm, does that really change things or am I just playing with words. Let’s see.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, here are the definitions of Sell vs Help:

When you looked at those two definitions, did you think to yourself, hmmmm, those sound pretty darn similar. But yet, unless you’re a complete weirdo you probably don’t find helping people icky. Yet, you’re reading this post because you hate selling things to people. 

Why is that? 

My hypothesis is that you hate “selling” because traditional sales prospecting focuses on creating conversations and relationships that are transactional, self serving and frankly, selfish. When you sell something to someone, including the idea of hiring your agency, you’re trying to benefit yourself and your agency. Sure… you believe you can create value for each potential client, but that’s not your motivation here. Your true motivation is growing your agency’s billings or getting a marquis brand on your roster or maybe you’re trying to penetrate a new category you don’t currently have any clients in today. It doesn’t matter, because each of those reasons is selfishly motivated. 

And we’ve all been taught since we were little kids that selfish behavior is bad. Hence, the icky feeling you get when you’re doing those sales prospecting things you learned from all of those books, webinars and workshops. 

But when you reframe the goal of those conversations from selling to helping, you completely change the dynamic. If you enter them trying to help your prospective client solve a problem, discover an answer or simply teach them something useful that they didn’t know, those conversations will feel completely different. And I dare say, once you perfect this approach, you might actually enjoy them. I know — crazy talk right???? 

Step Four: Get New Tools

Today's prospective clients are self-educating. They want us to help them find the information, the content, and the answers, but let them educate themselves, so they can feel like they made a good buying decision as opposed to feeling sold. But to do this, you're gonna need a new toolbox and it's gonna be a different toolbox than the one that you're using today.

First, you're gonna need Embassies. Embassies are just what they sound like. They're a place you're gonna plant a flag. You're going to show up day in, day out. You're going to be helpful. These can be offline Embassies like your local Chamber. Chamber’s are great embassies. They give you opportunities every single month to fly your flag, to be around, to be helpful. Right? Your local advertising, PR or marketing trade groups and organizations are also great places to fly your flag. 

Do you have kids? Do their schools have parent clubs and organizations like that? Parent clubs are great Embassies. Let me show you how I’ve developed business leads from the Men’s Club at my kids’ grammar school without ever telling anyone to buy anything from me.

For a number of years, I handled the email marketing to promote monthly meetings, volunteer events, etc., because when I started, they had a title attorney doing all the email announcements. He was using a Yahoo listserv and the emails were all text and they were boring as hell. And they gave you absolutely zero reason to wanna go read them much less attend a meeting or volunteer to work at a school event. 

So they let me do it. And I had infinitely more fun with it. New parents come in and they're like, "Oh, my God, you're the guy that wrote that?" Yeah, I did. And guess what? Attendance at the meetings went up.

People were literally looking for that email each month. If they didn’t get the email, they complained. "Please have Tom put my name on the email list. I'm not getting the emails." Think about that. When's the last time you went and actually asked to be put on an email list, even for something you care about? I mean, it's not like they didn't know when the meetings were each month. They wanted the emails because they were missing the jokes. And that made them feel left out

And then a funny thing happens on the way to the office. I get a call or an email or maybe even a text from guys in the men's club asking if my agency can create email marketing campaigns for their company.  And the beauty is, they come to me, already teed up. I don't even sell. I just close.

In the online world, Embassies usually take the form of LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups or maybe a SubReddit.  The beauty of the online embassies is the amount and quality of information that prospective clients freely share inside those digital Embassies.

For instance, I'm in a 700’ish person travel and tourism Facebook group. Of the 700 folks, maybe 10-20  of us that are on the agency side of the world. Everyone else is a marketing director for a city, somewhere in the United States, and sometimes overseas.  

I don’t even have to talk. Often, I’ll just lurk and they'll tell me, and all of the members, exactly what they need or what kind of problems they’re attempting to solve. Honestly, 9 times out of 10, it's not something I do, but I know somebody that does. So I can drop in on their post and say, "Hey, you know, I don't know if you're looking at so and so, but you might want to because they're really good at that," or, "I know somebody else that used so and so to do this."

And they respond, "Oh my God, thank you." And they're so happy because I just did something nice. I helped them. The goal of my conversation was not to sell. It was to help. I liked it. They liked it. We all liked it.

Well, guess what? If you do enough helping in those Embassies, it's funny how your phone rings, or an email finds its way into your inbox, with a, "Hey, can you help me with..." message.

Second, you're gonna need Content.  

But the good news is, you won’t need to create the majority of it yourself. Instead, you're gonna build a Swipe File. In simple terms, a Swipe File is a digital folder where you keep all of the really good content you’ve encountered over the years. Think of it like a professional scrapbook designed to answer any question, provide a solution to any problem or inspire someone to devise their own solution to a problem they’re attempting to solve.

Importantly, you’ll need to organize your Swipe File in a way that makes it easy to search through and find the exact piece of content you need when you need it. There are lots of ways and tools to do this, I’ve used Evernote and more recently I’ve added Roam to the mix.

Then you’re going to share all of that great content. But not in some weekly newsletter. Nope. You’re going to wait until you think someone has an issue, or maybe you see them post about it inside an Embassy, or it just seems to be a consistent problem anyone in the industry wants to solve.

Then you’re going to send a personal email entitled, “Thought you’d find this interesting” to them and include the appropriate content.  I have never sent one of these emails that somebody doesn't at least send back, "Thank you. Thank you."  

It's simple. It's easy. It's sales prospecting… but it's helpful. And it makes you lovable and likable, and they want to do business with you because people want to do business with people they trust, like, and admire.

If you do not have a system like this, go build one today. Then, while you have your coffee in the morning, open up your swipe file and fire off a few of these “thought you’d find this interesting” emails.

Do this every single day. Every single day, give yourself an opportunity to enter into helpful conversations. And best of all, it only takes you 20 or 30 minutes a day. Super simple. 

Step Five: Practice Patience

And the last thing you're gonna do is replace quantity with quality. The traditional selling model is a numbers game because it's transactionally focused. Nobody wants to be a transaction. So, transactionally based sales approaches (which is basically all of them) result in the majority of people ignoring your outreach. They won’t take your call. They won’t read your email. They won’t accept your LinkedIn connection. And if you introduce yourself at a networking event, they will find a convenient reason to go to the bathroom or get a drink because they don't want to be prospected.

So it's a numbers game, not because of some law of science, but because the transactional approach creates a self fulfilling prophecy — that sales is a numbers game. It’s the underpinning of the entire Always Be Closing philosophy that far too many sales trainers preach 

But if you will give yourself permission to be patient, to replace the transactional mindset with a relationship focused one and redefine your sales prospecting process as nothing more than having lots of helpful conversations, you will get new clients.

Replace the Always Be Closing mindset with a new relationship based one— Always Be Connecting. Make friends. Lots of friends. Have conversations. Have lots of conversations — face-to-face, via phone, via email, on social media platforms or basically, anyplace a prospective client is willing to have a chat. Then just be helpful. 

And then wait. 

It won’t happen overnight. To Sell Greatly takes time. It’s like a flywheel. It takes an enormous amount of energy to start the flywheel spinning. But once it’s in motion, you can keep it spinning faster and faster with just a gentle touch of your finger. 

Oh, and if you find yourself actually liking this new Sell Greatly approach, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This post was originally published on Painless Prospecting, the weekly sales and marketing blog created by the fine folks at Converse Digital. If you want to learn how to create, engage in, and convert conversations into new clients and customers, give them a call

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