Tips for Managing the Marketing Agency Sales Process

By | June 13, 2012
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As the leader of a startup agency, you’re likely your own sales force until further notice. You basically roll with the highs and lows, working toward client loyalty and recurring revenue.

However, there comes a time when balancing your roles as CEO and rainmaker becomes a greater challenge than it may be worth. At this point, it’s time to think about growing your team and how they’ll fit into the sales process.

You might choose to hire someone specifically for sales or build sales responsibilities into the job descriptions of account managers. In either case, you add management issues to the mix, including training, time efficiencies, activity prioritization and executive oversight. You must decide:

  • How much time am I personally able to put toward building our lead pipeline and referral sources?
  • How much time am I willing to put toward nurturing leads, and the discovery and proposal processes?
  • Am I willing or able to pay someone to do both of these things? If so, am I also prepared to manage people and processes?

To ensure that growing your sales team alleviates your time burden (and doesn't add to it), establish a solid infrastructure for lead and personnel management.

Consistent, Predictable Lead Flow

To prioritize and forecast how much time to dedicate to sales, know your top lead sources, general monthly lead volume, and overall quality associated with each channel:

  • Personal networks and referrals
  • Organic and paid search
  • Inbound marketing activities (i.e. blogging, content marketing and social media)

Make channels that provide consistent leads a top priority and follow up with leads at a pace that works for how your agency is currently structured.

You can always ramp up or scale back efforts, but it helps to work toward a baseline goal for leads, like three to five campaign-based clients per month. This way, you can better forecast time and assign team roles. 

A True Team Effort With Someone At The Helm

steering boatAs your agency adds staff members, your entire team has the opportunity to generate sales—from personal brands and networks built online, to top-notch client services that garner referrals. This doesn’t replace, however, the need for someone to have accountability for the execution of the sale beyond that initial buzz of connecting with a prospect.

The research. The calls. The follow up. The reporting and analysis. The internal discussions. The proposal. The review. The terms and paperwork. There’s a lot involved. To make sure everything is completed, it’s often best to build business development into someone’s job description.

In addition to your lead sales contact, prospective account managers should be involved in the discovery process, offering strategic recommendations. This gives the chance for consultants to start building client trust and relationships early in the process.

Visibility into the Sales Process

As mentioned in The Marketing Agency Blueprint, agency managers (even if they are not responsible for business development) should have 24/7 access to lead volume and opportunities in order to effectively forecast workflow, staffing needs and revenue.

In addition, agency team members at all levels can benefit from being exposed to your business development process. Employees need the ability to consult and build proposal strategies, jump into support when needed, and contribute to other parts of the sales cycle.

Strict Forecasted Monthly Hours for Involved Personnel

Agencies need to fill the funnel at the top, nurture in the middle and convert at the end. Let’s say you forecast 25 hours in a month for all sales activities. Whether you designate official titles, or take a more informal approach, someone needs to own each element of the funnel.

Plan for reactive and proactive sales tactics as part of the monthly plan for any team member that has the ability to contribute. This way, you are able to manage the inflow of leads in feast and famine. If you experience a down period, your employees have second-tier activities to work on, such as agency marketing, lead nurturing or partnership pursuits. Along the same lines, should the agency bring in a larger number of leads to process, your sales leader has built-in, planned support from other team members.

During down times, resist the urge to redirect employees with sales responsibilities to other roles and assignments. It may offer a quick fix to meet client or agency demands, but you risk losing time for rebuilding the pipeline, and create a tough spot when lead volume increases.

All for One

Your challenges aren’t over when you decide to get others involved in your agency sales. A new journey in management is just beginning. Arm yourself with the plans and processes to meet your goals, scale your business, and grow as a leader and agency.

Looking to establish sales processes that define responsibilities, set performance expectations, and give professionals the knowledge and resources to excel? Check out the Marketing Agency Blueprint webinar series.

Image Source: iamjessekeating