Let me go out on a limb here.

I’m going to guess one of your top goals this year (and every other) is to grow your business. You’re probably thinking, “You didn't need a crystal ball for that one, Captain Obvious!”

To drive that growth, you recognize the need to write new business. You also understand the need to hold on to the clients you have. The growth formula isn't rocket science, is it?

Growth = Consistently writing more business than you lose.

Are you REALLY serious about growth?

It may not be rocket science, but most agencies make both the retention and sales efforts more complicated than necessary. As obvious as effective performance is in each, I am reasonably confident you don't take either as seriously as you need to.

If I were to ask you what your client retention rate is, what would your answer be? And, if I asked about your annual sales goal?

Chances are, you feel your retention is 95% (give or take a point or two). But chances are also pretty good that it is a “gut call” and not something you precisely measure.

I am equally certain your sales goal is some round number; $100,000 or an increase of 10% are industry favorites. Chances are also pretty good you took about two minutes to come up with this goal with no actual logic behind it.

Guess what. Captain Obvious didn't need a crystal ball for these either. They are the default answers in the industry.

There’s a theme here

There is one critical thread that weaves throughout retention and sales efforts—the buyer. The better you understand your buyer, the more predictable your success becomes.

Other than identifying the number of employees you are looking for in a client, most of you would be hard-pressed to describe the buyer you are most likely to sell to and with whom you can establish a long-term relationship.

If you are interested in making your 4th quarter retention efforts more predictable and finish the year with some strong wins, spend some time working on the following areas to connect with your buyer more effectively.

Know Your Audience

Knowing your target audience better than they know themselves is the foundation for driving predictable and healthy growth. If you ever read our content and feel like we have been a fly on the conference room wall watching your meetings, you know what I mean.

We can do that because we have taken time to think through the following areas. You can create the same connection with your target audience once you've taken the time to put yourself in their seat.

Ideal client

Most producers and agencies have identified their target account size, perhaps focusing on the 50 – 500 employee range. However, many struggle to then find the discipline to stay within their self-imposed guardrails. Way too many default to working with “anyone who can fog a mirror.”

This is an unbelievably dangerous approach. It's dangerous for both the agency and the potentially misaligned client.

To ensure you are attracting the right clients and filtering out the wrong ones, it is crucial to have both demographic (size, location, industry, etc.) and psychographic (benefits philosophy, buying style, working relationship, etc.) profiles established.

Even more important is finding the discipline to stay within your established parameters. That discipline requires you maintaining a healthy pipeline of target clients. As soon as your pipeline starts to dry up, so will your discipline.

Understand your audience’s needs

Too often, salespeople talk on and on about their products and services. There is a time and place for this, but it isn’t right out of the gate as most do.

Buyers aren't interested in learning about a product or service until they understand they have a need that makes the product/service necessary. Some needs they identify on their own, but others they don't see until they’ve been pointed out to them.

I hear agencies focusing on the money they can help clients save and the level of service they provide. This is important, of course, but it just scratches the service. You know that, which is why you have invested in "value-added" services.

However, too many agencies don't take the time to understand the meaningful impact they can make with those value-adds. Those who use them most effectively focus on the problems they can solve using them. They help clients understand their own internal and external challenges better than ever before.

Tailor to influencers

How many times have you struggled to get the decision-makers in the room? I can see the eye rolls happening just thinking about it.

We all know how important it is to find a way to make this happen, but it's a struggle. We often fail to think about how many people may influence the ultimate decision that aren't in the traditional decision-maker category; people you may never even know exist.

Studies have shown that there are just under seven influencers who have some influence, formally or informally, on the final decision in a typical buying event of any significance. The likelihood of ever identifying all of them, much less having them in the room and engaged for your sales conversation, is unlikely.

However, that doesn't mean you can't "speak" to them indirectly. But, to do so, you must understand all the varied concerns (HR, financial, operational, strategic, engagement, etc.) likely to weigh in on your potential engagement. By addressing these concerns in your marketing messages, you will find a much easier path to building consensus in your favor.

Know where to find them

No surprise, ensuring your message and your prospects are in the same place at the same time is critical to them consuming your content. Depending on them to stumble up your messages results in a lot of wasted effort.

To maximize your reach and impact, it is essential to know where your buyers go to educate themselves, network, and generally hang out. Back to the influencers above, the more you are aware of the wanderings of each potential influencer, the more likely you are to put the right content in front of the right influencer at the right time.

It ain’t easy

No, it ain't easy, but neither is missing your growth goal. Invest the time to understand your ideal client better. Know what they look like, how they think, understand their challenges, connect with their influencers, and consistently show up in the same places.

When this happens, it’s magic.

 

Photo by kasto.