Getting Things Done sounds nice in theory.
But when your task list has 20 things for you to accomplish today, and you only have time for about 5 of those, where do you begin?
There’s no shortage of books, posts and apps promising to help you squeeze in a few more ways to get stuff done. To zero your inbox like a zen productivity master.
These tips might buy you a few minutes here and there. But between client deadlines, emails to return, employees to follow up with, and sales calls to return, you probably need another eight hours.
The trick isn’t to look for MORE things to do, but less. Find the big wins based on bad practices, and turn them upside down.
Here are 5 things you should be doing while running an agency right now, but probably aren’t.
1. Say “No” More
No one likes to say “no”.
One study from the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that around 50% of college students would willingly vandalize a library book just because someone asked them to.
Instead of simply saying “no”, they’d rather deface property.
Embracing “no” will help you sell more by disqualifying bad prospects earlier in the process.
What are all of the red flags you should be watching out for? The signals that it’s not going to end well? Noting these, and then rigorously rejecting prospects that aren’t a good fit, will help you prioritize time for the good prospects instead.
Because it should be HELL YEAH, or no. Maybes will kill you in the long run.
For example, go out of our way to turn prospective customers away. Because if your services aren’t a perfect fit with the client, one of the following typically happens:
- a long, frustrating sales process,
- an unhappy, churning customer, and/or
- bad PR.
Start qualifying (or better yet, disqualifying) with the BANT basics. (If you’re unfamiliar with BANT, check out this amusing wedding anecdote to see how it works.)
- Budget: Is there a realistic budget based on what they’re looking for? Expectations are everything in service businesses. If they don’t even have a budget identified, chances are they’re wasting your time.
- Authority: Dealing directly with a decision maker is the only way to successfully get the sale to go. All intermediaries should be bypassed.
- Need: Is there a burning need for what you’re selling them? “Nice to haves” equate to no urgency or investment behind it.
- Timing: Are they looking to start now, or in the near future. Again, if they’re just browsing around for something that might not kick off until next year, it’s probably a no-go.
But now dive deeper.
For example, does their business model make a difference in how your services might benefit them?
One industry might be willing to pay 10x more than another industry, simply due to the value they stand to gain. One insurance client is probably worth 100 eCommerce sales. So it might take you less overall work, and less time to deliver that extra value simply based on the client’s business model.
Another pro tip: people inherently view marketing as an investment or a cost. And there’s nothing you can do to change them from one to the other.
For example, start by figuring out how much they’ve invested in the past.
Find out who built their current website. Their in-house office administrator with zero marketing expertise? Or their brother’s sister’s friend’s cousin who puts together WordPress sites at night? Chances are, if they didn’t already spend some serious coin on their website, they’re not going to value your services.
The same holds true for other marketing software. Use BuiltWith to see what’s installed and what they’re using (or not using), to give you an indication of how much they’re already spending on marketing.
2. Sales Role Specialization
Multitasking makes you 40% less productive, according to research by Rubinstein, Meyer & Evans.
That’s not good, especially considering recent studies that have shown our attention spans to already be shorter than that of a goldfish.
Yet multitasking still exists. You’re probably doing it right now while reading this post.
Why? Because your environment – your office, company, department, or team – isn’t set up properly.
- Inbound Lead Qualification: Qualifies all incoming prospects.
- Outbound Prospecting: Generate outbound prospects.
- Account Executives: Sell! (Here’s your quota-carrying person.)
- Account Management: More customer happiness, upsells, less churning.
Specializing sales roles also makes it crystal clear when you’re too ‘top heavy’ in one area (like ‘sellers’), and not enough in others (like prospectors or account managers). Then it’s easy to pinpoint problem areas (like not enough prospects coming in the door). All of which helps you fix things faster.
3. Speed Up Workflows
Once roles are specialized, documenting workflows (and optimizing them) over time becomes easier.
You can see which tasks should be batched for efficiency; scheduled ahead of time and then completed all at once without switching between different types of work.
You can test which ones can be sped up; constantly iterating on small parts of the process to make big improvements over the course of a year.
And you can see which tasks can be eliminated completely. Like, why are you still doing data entry in this day and age?
There are so many good sales CRM options out there today that combine essential tasks like contact history, follow up, phone and email logs, even through to project management. Everyone knows about Salesforce, but it’s also incredibly bloated for smaller sales teams that don’t need all the heavy, ‘VP reporting’ like features.
The best tool for the job is the one that gets used. So instead, give one of these simple, lightweight and affordable options a try.
Pipedrive does just that – help you manage your pipeline more efficiently. The drag-and-drop interface, integrations, follow-up notifications, and built-in reporting is perfect quota-carrying agencies.
Contactually is focused on building relationships but is equally adept at helping you stay on top of lead management and collaborate with others internally throughout the sales process.
Last but not least, Sidekick is a wonderful little extension that keeps adding new features to make your life simple, like email activity tracking and letting you know when a prospect has clicked on a link or visits your site. (It’s an offshoot from the evolving HubSpot Sales CRM).
4. Spend Less Time Prospecting
Prospectors should prospect. However, the over-emphasis on prospecting (company wide) can (and should) be cut down.
Your chances of selling to new prospects are only around 5-20%, while selling to your existing customers is closer to 60-70%, according to the book Marketing Metrics. And 84% of B2B decision-makers start their purchase with a referral.
Think about it this way:
You’ll get new leads (hooray!), who are already qualified (no crap?!), with less work (okay, now I’m listening), because your best customers will be referring similar peers, and then you’re already being introduced by a trusted third party.
Instead of waiting until after an engagement with a client, start by asking for referrals at the beginning.
Right after they’ve signed on the dotted line and you’re getting ready to kick off the project, simply tell them how your business is all built on word-of-mouth (it even helps keep your prices lower because you don’t have to spend so much on marketing!), and how you’d love to help companies exactly like your clients. Then take the next step by already having a pre-built message or email that your new client can copy, paste, and hit send.
Another tip is to ‘create’ a lower priced consultation offer for sale and then offer it for free to friends or colleagues of your customers and clients. In this case, the consultation offer can be like an audit that now has a higher perceived value (because of that price tag), and you’re offering an incentive to help people your client likes (putting the focus on helping others, as opposed to selfishly asking for more work).
5. Pull the Deal Away
There comes a certain point in time when you should break up, instead of follow-up.
If the salesperson puts up all the effort, with little-to-no return, they undermine a relationship that’s supposed to be built on mutual trust and understanding. Breaking up with non-responsive prospects helps you turn the dynamic back around.
You can try to preempt this at the beginning of a deal, by openly telling prospects they can’t buy from you. This forces prospects to pitch you on why they deserve your product. And it gives you a chance to proactively chip away at objections, ultimately reducing buyer’s remorse.
You can (and should) try taking the deal away in the middle of your process if last minute issues begin popping up unexpectedly.
And what about the one who’s gone cold? The prospect who seemed ready, was willing to start ASAP, and then … nothing. MIA. Send a breakup email.
These effective little emails generate a 33% response rate according to Katharine Derum, a senior sales manager at HubSpot. My favorite goes something like this:
Hope you’ve had a nice week!
I haven’t heard from you, so I’m assuming you’re going in another direction or priorities have changed.
Please let me know if I can help in the future.
Yes, it’s that simple. Hit send and watch as elusive prospects finally give you an answer one way or the other.
The upper hand in a negotiation is almost always on the buyer’s side. While they don’t have to buy, you NEED to close this deal. That’s why last minute efforts to get you to discount prices always work. When you stop to think about it, the chances of you willingly walking away from a done-deal are extremely low.
But at the end of the day, desperation only undermines the services you’re offering. Life’s too short to spend in a one-sided relationship.
‘Common Sense’ isn’t Easy
These tips sound like common sense. What’s uncommon is their application.
It’s easier to appease the President and prioritize new lead generation than focus on growing through referrals.
It’s easier to blame lost deals on the prospect’s last minute desire for price breaks instead of being assertive and bold.
And it’s easier to scan Reddit for the latest tip or hack that will buy you a few extra minutes each day.
But here’s the kicker:
Big wins, like the 5 listed here, force us to change. They’re not difficult to implement, but they require us to embrace our own vulnerabilities and insecurities to forge ahead to make real progress.
Business problems are personal problems in disguise, according to Michael Port.
The good news is that if we’re able to recognize and address these in sales, then we can apply them again and again in other areas as well. The result is better performance with more confidence. And with a bit of luck, less time spent working.