If you’re not paying equal attention to the three key sales activities that move you from intro to close, you’re leaving agency growth opportunity on the table. Prospecting, marketing, and sales conversations each plays its own part along the continuum of new client acquisition and each needs dedicated time, resources, and budget.
Prospecting is for generating interest and intriguing people enough that they want to learn more. This is the job of the producers and should be a weekly, if not daily, activity.
- Cold calling / emailing
- Networking (in-person and online)
- Client referrals
- Center of influence referrals
The excuse: “We don't track producer activity,” we hear from agency owners, almost with a sense of pride. Yet, the very livelihood of the agency and its team members depend on the producer doing their job of producing revenue. While you may not need to be measuring number of dials made per day, not holding producers accountable for healthy prospecting pipelines is a failure of doing your job as a leader.
When producers stir up interest from their prospecting activities, what happens next? Yep, those potential buyers go out to look you up online. When they search, they’ll typically find LinkedIn profiles and company websites, which should be some of your most important marketing activities.
Marketing is a role that has the ability to play double duty: 1) It supports prospecting efforts when people look you up to learn more. 2) It acts as a lead-generator on its own over the longer term when done well, with strategy, education, and consistency. Internal and external marketing team members should be leading these efforts and working in tandem with the sales team.
Regardless of marketing activities being either support or lead generation, the message needs to be the same as what those potential clients hear during the prospecting activity. And the information the buyer encounters needs to make the agency and/or the producer so interesting, thoughtful, and compelling that they’re intrigued enough to want to have an in-person meeting. If it’s not, then it’s just time-wasting activity.
The excuse: “We don’t have a budget or anyone on the team who can manage it.” Every agency desires a competitive advantage, to be differentiated from the competition. When a majority of the buying is made based on your marketing message, this activity has to be as required as any.
Sales conversations happen when the first two steps are done well. You’ve got to generate interest and continue pulling buyers in with relevant information, which prepares them for the conversation the producer is going to have when he/she shows up. Because honestly, if they’re not interested in what they see you saying online, they have no reason to believe they’d be interested in what you have to say in person.
And again, the message the buyers hear during the sales conversation needs to match what they’ve heard and seen from the prospecting and marketing. If it doesn’t match, it feels like bait and switch and the sales conversation comes to a quick end.
The excuse: “We don’t have a process for our sales team. We’re better when we wing it.” Again, lack of sales process is the result of leaders being unwilling to hold sales people accountable. But, when you are asking your buyers to make more complex decisions than ever before, you owe them a simple path to follow to make those difficult decisions.
Give yourself a fighting chance
There are enough challenges getting those first meetings, and you need to give them absolutely every chance for success that you can. Since so much of the buying decision is made prior to meeting with producers (think: online research), you need to increase the influence with your buyers by giving them compelling reasons, through your marketing information and consistency of message, to want a face-to-face meeting.
Thinking that you can skip any of these steps, give any one less attention, or pass off the responsibility for any of them to someone else, and you’re simply fooling yourself and trying to justify something.
- Maybe you don’t want to hold producers accountable to regular prospecting activity.
- Maybe you don’t want to spent time and money on proper marketing.
- Maybe taking the time and effort to create a consistent sales process is overwhelming or feels unnecessary.
Whatever excuse is getting in the way of equal opportunity focus, it’s time to do some serious reflection and find the answer. We hear every day from agencies of every size that a full pipeline of viable prospects is the number one challenge.
We also hear there is:
- A lack of accountability around prospecting activity.
- A lack of marketing activity and/or a disrespect for its role in the sales process.
- A lack of a consistent sales process to guide conversations and create a predictable buying experience.
Each area on its own will not drive activity and growth. Prospecting, marketing, and sales conversations need equal attention in creating a consistent message and dedication of time, effort, and budget.
Consistency builds brand recognition, increases trust with audience, and converts lookers into buyers. Set your team up for success with all the proper tools.
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