When I made the transition from the creative side of the business to the sales side, I had a lot to learn. In fact, I still do, but I have picked up on a couple important lessons since I started this position. Things like how you can't make everyone happy and that not all business is good business and when to get excited about a sales call and when to simply move on.
You can always guess which way a lead is leaning, but you never know what they are actually thinking. I have walked out of a few meetings and ended a couple of calls with total confidence. Things like “We love it. This all looks great. We’ll get signatures on here and have it back to you in the morning.” Doesn’t this sound like a really promising opportunity? Yes. Does this mean I will have signatures to review in the morning? Absolutely not. The fact is every situation is different.
Some people are too afraid to say what they really mean, so they act positively to mirror your attitude. Other people pretend like they are the decision maker even though they aren’t, and they end up getting overruled. Sometimes people just get really excited by things at the time and feel different later on. Most of these are hard to predict. Almost all are impossible to prevent, but the end result is the same. I am in line for a big disappointment, so I shouldn’t allow myself to get excited until I see ink on the paper.
The other important lesson I learned is that sometimes your best sales tactic isn’t to bend over backward for a lead. Oddly enough, and I have seen this work multiple times now, sometimes your best play is to simply be firm, stand your ground, and “go negative.”
Not every new client is a good thing
When I first started selling I was eager to make that first sale. No matter what it was, I didn’t care. I just wanted to finally have a client send me a piece of paper with their name signed at the bottom. It wasn’t about the client. It wasn’t about the commission. It wasn’t about the business. It was all about the sale, that first sale. Now, for any of you already in sales, you know this is a bad attitude to have. Sure, maybe some businesses are all about total volume, so any purchase is a good purchase, but that isn’t the reality of Revenue River. The truth of the matter is not every lead is a good fit for our agency, and not every new client is a good thing for us.
As our agency grows, we are constantly encountering our own limitations. Hire one extra person, and we need to add some clients. Once we add a few clients, we start to stretch our team a little thin. Then we are faced with trying to make due until we can get additional help. Or, god forbid, if we lose a client or two, we are immediately faced with whether we downsize or simply try to hold on until we get a new client. This is the life of any growing agency, and luckily for us our managing partner continues to invest in the team and bank on the idea that we will retain most of our clients while growing new business as well. So because Eric makes the decision to avoid laying off people at all costs, I too have to prioritize building the right business for our agency. Sometimes that involves nipping unhealthy work practices of future clients in the bud before they can grow into expectations and bad habits. Sometimes you simply have to go negative and say something like “Well, I'm certain you can find another agency that can accommodate that for you, but that simply isn’t how we do business.”
Don't establish bad habits early on
For example, imagine you have a new hot lead all tied up and ready to go. You have gotten past the initial numbers and agreement of service, and all that is left is for the client to sign the dotted line. Now imagine this future client then wants to get moving right away on a small project and asks if it is possible to build out a graphic for a CTA and have it back in two days. Yes, it is possible, but it will probably require our designer to have to push other deadlines in order to finish this project which will lead to a chain reaction of other issues down the line. Might doing this help assure the future client that we are team players willing to do what it takes and are worthy of their business? Possibly. Will it establish a terrible precedent for your relationship moving forward and ultimately set your team up to fail in the future? Almost definitely.
Don't be afraid to turn away bad business
The fact is you are better off being clear about your timetables and procedures on the front end because a client is going to leave you if they are unhappy. So if they feel you duped them into an agreement based on a level of service you can’t actually provide, they are gone anyway. But, if instead you take the time to explain a realistic timetable for how long it takes to complete impromptu projects like that, you are establishing trust on the front end and are setting your team up for success. The truth is you will lose some business by not bending over backward for leads, but you will lose the right kind of business.
Take the time to be honest and straightforward about expectations on the front end, and you are guaranteed to weed out some of the lesser quality leads that could have turned into your new least favorite client and made you want to pull out your hair every single time you interact with them. Simply going negative and telling the lead your agency might not be the best fit for them can both show them that you aren’t afraid to walk away from bad business while solidifying your stance as the organization that knows how to do things correctly. This should help to filter out the nonsense and ensure you only build your business around the right types of clients.Slacklining via photopin (license)