Why we love raving (advocates that is)…
It was 1990-something, and while attending an industry conference I participated in a breakout session on business development/sales. The focus was “making the close”. The sales cycle of the time, as defined by Marketing 101 was the acronym AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action). Moving a prospective client through this process, we were told would comprised of: contact, needs analysis, proposal, countering objections and driving to the close. Much of the session was spent practicing systematically overcoming objections to allow a strong move to the close, with the close being the goal. I also remember feeling uncomfortable with this as we practiced drilling through the objections in order to eliminate all barriers to the close. Might just be me, but that was not how I wanted to interact with prospective clients.
Fast forward to 2016 and I’m feeling a little vindicated in my reluctance. With ever-evolving technology and its influence on how potential clients find and interact with us, has the game changed, or was it always about relationships? One updated theory on the sales cycle is comprised of; attract, convert, close, delight. Now I can get on board with this because the end game is to “delight”.
Prospecting for Partners
Sometimes more is just more. It’s critical to identify prospective clients that are a right fit for your agency. That can be hard to focus on when the bills need to be paid; however, the cost of attracting the wrong client is actually much greater. Take the time to develop buyer personas that fit with the long term goals of the agency and allow for the time it will take to attract and convert them. Great relationships don’t happen overnight.
Invest in Partnerships
When you identify a great prospective client, go above and beyond to build that partnership from the start. It’s not always about the money. Collaboration is a highly valued commodity and the bedrock of a long-term relationship. All other things being equal across competitors, your investment into the partnership adds value that will allow you to bring a prospective client onboard. Knowing “we’re in this together” gives them a higher level of comfort. Your investment may be in the form of terms that help the client move forward, advice outside the scope of work for their benefit, or something as simple as offering a greater level of contact and support in the early phases of the work. Get to know what matters to them beyond the basic scope of work and make sure you’ve provided it when you can. Charge appropriately for the work, but make sure you assess all opportunities to bring value above and beyond that.
Cultivate Within the Scope of Work
“Closing” is a term (as I said above) that just doesn’t sit that well with me. I believe that the moment you bring a new client on board is when the real work begins. It means cultivating the relationship, really getting to know your new partner and becoming a part of a team effort to grow their business. Defining success for your new client as a team and continuous monitoring of the movement toward those goals is key. Just delivering a scope of work is not enough, they need to know you care as much as they do about their success. With time, a properly cultivated partnership will definitely “delight” your client and create an advocate for your agency that will provide a benefit well beyond the scope of work.
The value of a client advocate is exponential to your agency. They will continue to engage in new work. They will sing your praises, for all the right reasons. Most likely, they will impact your sales timelines by providing warm introductions that have the potential to become more of the “right” type of clients for your agency. A little side benefit…you get to feel pretty darn good about what you do!
Making the close is not the goal, identifying the client that is the right fit and cultivating a great partnership is.