Selling creative services is not like selling widgets.
When you’re selling creative services, you’re never really sure what your client is buying, and they’re never really sure what you’re selling. In short, there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Your sales process should be focused on reducing uncertainty and aligning a problem with a set of solutions. It should never be about convincing someone to buy or pushing a prospect into a solution.
Many agency owners feel a sense of dread when they think about “sales.” Once you stop picturing your stereotype of a smarmy salesperson and start thinking about sales conversations as opportunities to showcase your expertise and solve problems for real live people, your performance will improve substantially. And you’ll be happier, too.
I’m trying to grow from $1 million to $5 million, how should my business development change?
Because growing from 10 clients to 50 clients isn’t 5 times harder, it’s at least 25 times harder, you need to focus on securing bigger clients, not more clients.
When you’re focused on winning bigger clients, say, those in the top 10% of your client roster in terms of total spend, you’ll automatically start marketing differently to attract those types of clients. As you secure larger clients, you’ll be ready to start letting the smaller clients go. Check out our article, Four Key Ways To Grow a Creative Services Firm for more tips.
I need more leads quickly. What’s your best advice for me?
The people most likely to hire you are people who’ve hired you in the past. So if you need business quickly, start by talking to past clients.
If you’ve already talked to past clients, consider reaching out to prospects you submitted proposals to in the last 6 months, or so, who didn’t purchase your services. You’d be surprised how many times they haven’t done anything to address the issues you discussed! Beware though, the more desperate you sound, the less likely you are to get new business.
And remember, each new project you onboard becomes part of your portfolio. So make sure you’re seeking out work that you actually enjoy; the more experience you have with a particular type of project, the more likely you are to land similar business in the future.
I have so many proposals in my pipeline, I’m not sure where to focus my energy. Help!
When you have a lot of open proposals that just aren’t closing, it’s likely you aren’t spending enough time qualifying your leads, and, instead, are rushing to create a proposal before you’ve sold the potential client on the work. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to shrink your pipeline so you can focus on generating qualified leads with a strong chance of closing.
When we’re talking about new business proposals, “yes” is the best answer we can get. And, “no” is the second best answer. If you’re getting “maybes”, see if you can move those prospects to a decisive yes or no.
Is there a big, scary problem that they urgently need to solve? (The problem needs to be something that they think is urgent and scary, it’s not enough that you see it that way!) If not, it’s unlikely they will hire you. Now, you can remove them from your pipeline and focus your energy on projects that have a chance of closing.
If I can get in front of people, I know I can close them. I’m just not getting enough opportunities to sell. How do I generate more leads?
If you need more leads, it’s probably time to think about specializing rather than trying to be everything to everyone.
By picking an industry or a problem to focus on, you’ll amass case studies that show off your relationships and your expertise. It’ll also make generating leads a lot easier because you’ll become known as the person who can solve a particular problem for a particular group of people. You’ll know who is in your pool of prospective clients, and they’ll know you.
Can’t I just hire a salesperson to create my sales process?
Sure, you can try to hire a salesperson to create your sales process. But, most successful salespeople want to work for a company with an established and effective sales process — a place where they know they can make money. So without a strong sales process, it’s going to be pretty tricky to attract a top notch salesperson.
More importantly, as the agency owner, you are the best salesperson for the business; you’ll be doing your agency a disservice if you cut yourself out of this work. The best sales process for your business will have your fingerprints on it. Need help with that?
As Principal Advisor, Brad Farris guides business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Brad is passionate about helping business owners find better ways to do things, make more money and enjoy life more. Brad is a speaker and author. Connect with Brad on Twitter and LinkedIn.