The 4 Worst Habits Of Advertising Agency Sales

The 4 Worst Habits Of Advertising Agency Sales

images habitsYes, just 4 worst bad sales habits.

After a few years of digging deep into the business development plans and the daily habits of a range of advertising, PR, design and digital agencies, a few common bad habits rear their heads all too often. Here are what I think are the 4 primary bad habits that can be avoided with sound planning and an ongoing system that yields  agency-wide ‘sales consciousness.’

Bad Habits Be Gone

1. No Business Development Plan – I Mean Sales Plan

Over 60% of agencies do not have a detailed market-ready business development plan. This plan must be objectives driven and reflect the changes in market behaviors – how marketers think and the evolving world of marketing tools  –  that are going on in B2B marketing.

When I say objectives, I mean the business development plan must be a part of a sound business plan.  I tell my agency clients that they must start with a business plan – even if it is one page long. One concise page can be a good thing. Admission: I could never get my agency’s plan on one page.

Back to sales. Here are some lean and mean bullet points:

  • You must know what you are selling.  Just saying digital or social is not enough. Some form of specialization is warranted. Read this on agency positioning.
  • Be able to express why you are unique. I won’t bore you by saying that you need a distinctive brand – you know that. The good news is that most of your competitors are not distinctive. And, most do not have messaging systems that bring the agency positioning alive.
  • Know how what you are selling will (must) resonate with the needs of your target clients. Obvious point: put yourself in their shoes. Today’s marketing director type is nervous. Help them do their job. Ongoing thought leadership rules in this space. It is also very SEO-friendly. Like, um, that’s probably how you got to this page.
  • Plan on how  your agency, its story, work and thinking will get found via both in and outbound strategies (you will need both).
  • Be competitive.
  • Going slow will not win. Here is a great quote from Mario Andretti:

    “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”

2. Taking The Eye Of The Ball

We all know this one.

Our unwavering desire to please our clients means that they most often come first. OK, I get it. But, the fact is that running a healthy profitable agency with positive skilled employees has to come before client service. If you don’t have a well-run agency that is financially secure, the idea of paying attention to client needs will be a doomed effort. Your company comes first because the client hired your wonderfulness in the first place.

In my opinion, the only way that you can get to well-run is to have a very positive cash flow and ROI. You’ll get there two ways. 1. Build a service package (agency management, pricing and costs) that helps to make your P&L sing. 2. Run a very smart 24/7 new business program that gets the right clients (you must clearly define right for your agency) in the door. As you know, older clients will walk out the back door. So keeping your front door top of mind is rather important.

3. You Do Not Have A Business Development Sales Culture

First, a point. We call it business development. But, it is sales. And getting it right inside of your company that lives in one of the most competitive service categories is critical. Just imagine a category where your competition are all expert marketers and have super articulate glib management that usually dresses real well. That’s your sales universe.

Yikes, I’ll repeat the obvious: Business development can be daunting. It is a team sport.

It is essential that everyone at the agency understands that growth is a primary objective and that they play a role in agency sales. They will be asked to help with marketing programs, RFP’s and pitches. They need to be aware of any opportunity that floats by via friends, ex-clients and reading the press. It is all about instilling a culture of sales- consciousness. Much of this will come from agency management’s focus on new business efforts, talking to the agency about what is going on in and outside the agency and by acting as  a positive role model.

4. You Hire A Business Development Director And Cross Your Fingers

One of the first things agencies say to me is that they have not had a positive business development director experience. Having been Saatchi’s business development director, running two internet firms and my own agency that had sales staff, I have a few thoughts on why this happens.

First of all, reread the first 3 bad habits. If you do not have a sales plan, an agency with the will and  time to execute, and an agency that recognizes that growth is critical and is to a certain degree, everyone’s job, virtually any good sales person will fail.

I have a couple of important blog posts on the business development function and how to help make them successful. Here you go:

Is Your Agency Business Development Director Doomed?

As you might expect, the answer is no.

How To Aim Your Agency Business Development Director.

This is the blog post with a sample contract.

That’s it. No, No! That Isn’t It.

Read my best-read blog posts – they are all about advertising agency sales. I’ve designed them to help you win. And, hey, while you are at it, why not call me? You might have nothing to lose except one or two nasty habits.



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