How To Improve Your Creative Agency's Sales Efforts

September 5

Is business back? 


If you’ve been feeling like your sales pipeline has been slow-flowing and running dry, you aren’t alone.


Why has this been happening?


Expectations have been changing, and so have interest rates. Creative agencies are in the phase of deciding, “Are we focused on growth, or are we focused on profit?” 


Nick Petroski, Founder of Promethean Research, wrote an extensive piece on this topic and explained it this way:


“When rates are high, companies should focus on expanding margins. When rates are low, they should focus on revenue growth.”


When interest rates are high, your agency should focus on cost-cutting. What areas of the business are you spending money on that you don’t necessarily need to be at this moment? This isn’t the time to do a full rebrand and spend money on new logos. If you’re purchasing services that won’t, in turn, bring you revenue, it may be a good idea to press pause on that project.


You aren’t in control when it comes to what your prospects are thinking. So, what can you control?


You can control your sales strategy. If your prospects are changing, maybe your marketing and sales messaging should adjust with it.


So, how do I build a sales team for my creative agency?


There’s no specific playbook on “how to build the right sales motion for creative agencies,” but there are options and conversations to be had.


You’ve already gone through your network; what’s next? Marketing team member? Lead gen service? Apply for awards? What’s the strategy?


Upsourced Partner Ryan Watson stated:


“In my personal life, if I want to go get in shape. Well, what should I do? Run? Buy a bike? Get a gym membership? Swimming is a thing I wonder if I’m good at swimming? In reality, these are all strategies, and in my experience, it’s about finding the strategy that best fits your skill sets, passions, and interests.”


Relating that to the agency world—there are some shops really good at generating inbound interest via content creation. Other agencies may not have a passion for a unique point of view, so content generation would feel unnatural. 


It’s important to pick something and stick with it. Don’t trial-run a tactic for a month or two and then move on to the next. There are no silver bullets - nothing works in the short run. 


The most common tactic we see is outbound business development. Professional services are relationship businesses, afterall, so nurturing relationships with active and prospective clients is a tried and true approach. 


A common trap we see in build mode agencies is attempting to prematurely outsource this function. Agency owners look to hire a salesperson because they feel like they’re not good at selling or don’t like or want to do that kind of work anymore. There’s nothing wrong for adding leverage to your efforts, but you still have to be part of the process. If your client is choosing a small agency, the owner is part of the reason. You’ll still be on some calls, and you’re still front and center of your pitch! 


Another approach is to outsource the lead generation function to an agency. Often, the mentality going into these relationships is,  “Okay, I’m paying them to do this, so now we’re about to start seeing it rain leads.” Not going to happen. If you aren’t involved in the process, they don’t know your messaging and pitches as well, and it’s going to fail. You can’t use this method as an easy fix. The only path to success is as a true partnership - someone that serves as an extension of your team.


You want to make sure whatever decision you make, you’re setting the agency up for success. If you bring on a sales member, give them the keys to success. Teach them about the business; don’t just abandon them and say, “I’m paying you to get business; go get it.” 


The best advice we can give you is to find that one strategy that fits with your business culture and goals. It's not about what you choose; it's that you choose.


For more, check out our podcast, Creative Outcomes

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