Sales is an extremely fickle, nuanced, fluctuating, yet at the same time imperative aspect of any business. Digital marketing is surely no exception, due to the fact that it is such a technical industry. The reason sales and business development play such a large role here is because without an effective salesperson, who is able to articulate exactly how an agency like Power Digital can help online businesses, decision makers like marketing managers, and C-Level executives are left to their own knowledge to try to leverage this extremely technical aspect of their business on their own.
The whole reason that businesses like Power Digital Marketing exist is because of this fact; often times the decision makers don’t know what they’re doing in the online space. It takes an effective communicator to articulate that potential.
This is where a Business Development Director like Mike Iaco steps in, and through a tried and true sales process builds rapport with a prospect, establishes credibility, diagnoses any problems and goals the client has (with the help of the experts on our team), and then proposes how PDM can help fix those problems and reach their goals.
We mirrored this sales process in our mentorship program, as well as lined up specific group and individual goals to hit throughout the process to keep us on track.
In the spirit of that, here were our 3 S.M.A.R.T goals for the mentorship program and why we thought they would be significant in terms of developing a skillset for sales:
- Make 10 prospecting calls by the end of the program
This is hugely important, because the best way to learn the sales process is through trial and error. There is no way to learn sales theoretically at the same level that you can tactically, so in the spirit of that we decided to get out there right off the bat and pound the phones, thereby running through a multitude of scenarios in a short amount of time.
- Run 1 discovery call to identify if the prospect is a good fit
Another major item that was taught throughout this process is that we are qualifying the prospect in every phase of the sales process just as much as they are evaluating and qualifying us. A good way to do a lot of qualifying at once is a discovery call, which is why we included this as a goal as well.
- Create 1 proposal to understand overall strategy and deliverables
We felt that this was a big part of the sales process that often gets overlooked. You aren’t simply selling PDM as a potential marketing partner and advisor; you are also creating a strategy that is tailored to the business, their industry, and their objectives. The way that we communicate that custom strategy, and therefore our expertise, is in the form of a proposal.
In addition to the 3 over-arching goals for the mentorship program, as the mentee I also filled out some personal goals that I had for the program that correlated well with those aforementioned goals. This way, Mike Iaco was able to ensure that I personally got everything out of this program that I wanted to. Here were my goals for the mentorship program:
- Gain insight into the sales process so that I can reach a personal goal of mine for 2017, and bring in a new client to PDM
- Learn how to identify a good client that is a match with our service offerings, and sets our team up for success
- Understand how sales rapport differs from account management rapport
After we settled on all that we wished to achieve throughout the mentorship process, we worked together to build out a curriculum that hits on each aspect of the sales funnel; Prospecting, Discovery, Assessment, and Proposal & Closing. We also trained on how to manage HubSpot and other CRM platforms to stay organized with all of the different prospective clients that are at different stages in their respective sales funnels. This was super valuable insight to gain because it demonstrates the strategy and commitment that goes into sales and business development that a lot of people overlook, or frankly don’t even know exist.
Here is a look at what our mentorship curriculum entailed, and the principles that went into learning each step of the sales process:
Prospecting CRM 101
Prospecting, though admittedly a bit less pointed than other aspects of the sales process, is still extremely strategic. Best practice here is to have a plan of attack, i.e. choose an industry or vertical to go after. Once you’ve settled on the industry or vertical you want to prospect, spend some time doing your research online and create a working list to leverage in your prospecting.
Look to include the names of contacts at each company you’re prospecting, and what their respective positions are so that you know if you’re speaking with a gatekeeper, decision-maker, c-level executive, etc. Also, have a few different pitch angles ready depending on your objective. If you decide that getting an email address to add them to a sequence via Hubspot is the best course of action, you’ll be speaking to that person in a different manner than if you are trying to schedule a full-blown discovery call.
Also, Mike Iaco stressed the importance of not coming off overly salesy or pitchy on these calls. Right off the bat, our objective is to position ourselves as expert “Marketing Advisors” or consultants, as opposed to salesmen trying to get the company to buy pre-bundled cookie cutter marketing packages.
This adheres to the consultative selling approach that we employ at PDM. Lastly, when you’re trying to get to the decision-maker, always come off as someone that has spoken with them previously. Reference previous emails or phone calls with the person to establish credibility so that you can by-pass the gatekeeper.
Related: The Value of Business Networking
Use the CRM in conjunction with your prospecting, and continuously update it with all pertinent information as you continue through the sales funnel. Create an established system as far as the type of information you input and update, so that you can effectively manage your leads and time.
The type of information you’ll want to include are any points of contact you may be able to reach out to at the companies, their role, their email, their phone number, and quick notes on the most recent method of communication and how the interaction was left, including next steps. You’ll also want to create an email sequence that you can trickle out for prospects that you can’t get in touch with over the phone.
These emails should have the primary objective of providing insight, and informational value as opposed to language that is tailored to a traditional sales pitch. This way, we maintain our position as advisors and consultants, and build credibility with the prospect in the form of expertise.
Discovery Calls 101
The second step in the sales process is the discovery call. The objective here is to gather as much information as you possibly can about the prospect, so as to understand their needs and where PDM can fit into that puzzle. We are also using all of this time to consistently evaluate the company to ensure that they will be worth the time and effort of the PDM team should they close into a client down the line, as mentioned before.
Best practices here are to simply find out what areas the prospect is interested in, and gain ammo for the next phase in the sales process, which is the assessment or audit. Some of the things you’ll want to pull from your point of contact are company goals, past marketing efforts and pain points therein, their budget range, and what kind of timeline they may be working with (especially if they are in an existing agreement with another agency).
Also, be sure to stay focused on gauging their intent throughout the call, and determine how serious they are at the prospect of contracting our services. Continually engage with them instead of speaking at them, and let them do a lot of the talking. This will not only help gauge their intent or general attitude towards us, but help us feel out our point of contact’s personality, experience level, and understanding of digital, which helps inform our messaging and positioning strategy come audit/assessment time as well.
The basic structure or flow of the discovery call goes as follows:
- Introduction and rapport building
Be friendly here and come off as conversational as opposed to pitchy or salesy, as discussed previously
- Prompt the potential client to engage in conversation and start talking
This is a great opportunity to get a lot of general information about the company and their current marketing initiatives. What’s working and what isn’t?
- Ask deeper questions as the call ensues
This is where we already have a firm understanding of some pain points and the current landscape of the company’s marketing efforts, and we begin to position PDM as a solution to those problems. Also, be sure to get a budget range here – this is hugely important so that we don’t waste time chasing after a potential client that isn’t prepared to spend at levels that will maintain PDM’s profitability.
This is the stage of the sales process where our team really gets to showcase their expertise, and offer tangible and actionable advice to aspects of the prospective client’s online presence that can be improved to help their business. If you think about the entire sales process in a problem/solution context, the prospecting phase is discovering if a problem even exists, the discovery phase is understanding what the problem is, and the assessment is PDM’s proposed solution to that problem or problems.
During the discovery call, you have (hopefully) uncovered what areas the potential client may be interested in, and have gathered pertinent information around their goals, budget, level of expertise, past/present marketing efforts, and reasons they are searching for an agency to assist them. In response to this information you’ve obtained, we use the audit or assessment phase of the sales process as an opportunity to educate the prospect on different channel opportunities that exist in response to those factors.
We don’t “pitch” ourselves as an agency, but in true form to our consultative selling approach, we use audits as a change to inform them and bring their attention to issues and opportunities that are sitting right in front of them. This meeting is less about us, and more about enhancing client understanding of their current situation, so that they are able to understand and rationalize their need for our help.
Upon finishing the audit call, always be sure that you have a firm next step in place. You don’t want to have spent all this time nurturing the prospect through the respective aspects of the sales funnel only to have a cliffhanger ending after the audit phase.
Be sure to recap the findings of the audit at the end, and ask them their thoughts on everything. This is the part of the audit process where we almost revert back to the discovery phase and get them talking. If this is administered correctly, the client almost helps you co-author the proposal because they tell you exactly what they want, and you can tailor the proposal in the next step to fit those expectations and prospective client wants.
Proposal & Closing 101
This is the final step of the sales process. If all has been administered and conducted correctly to this point, this shouldn’t be the hardest part of the process – which is contrary to popular belief. If the audit is conducted and closed properly with clear-cut next steps being established afterward, this should be a relatively smooth ride.
Using Proposify, we put together a Schedule A proposal for the potential client where we customize the deliverables and strategy to adhere to their business objectives, industry, and past marketing pain points (which at this points all of this information has already been collected in the previous phases of the sales funnel). Once this is composed and ready for presentation, we schedule one last phone call with a screen-share to walk the client through the proposal, highlighting how customized this plan is to them.
Here is the basic flow to the proposal and closing stage of the sales funnel:
- Quickly recap the audit overview
- Summarize the core strategic needs that you both uncovered in the audit
- Present the Schedule A
- Upon completion, review the strategy with them briefly and ask if they have any questions or concerns
- Close – if there are no further questions, ask how quickly they can get the schedule and contract back to us
At this point, we can sell PDM to an extent using our “Mission & Values”, “Awards & Recognition”, “Our Specialized Team for Your Campaign”, and “Our Account Management & Reporting”. We use these aspects of PDM as selling points in terms of solidifying their decision to contract our services, along with the expertise and investment in the success of their business that we have demonstrated and established in previous steps of the funnel.
Also, as you get into each month’s deliverables, make sure you consistently tie those back to the bigger strategy and what you know will get them excited. A good way to do this is to reference any notes you’ve taken previously and refer back to specific aspects of previous conversations so that they know this proposal is as personalized to them as it can possibly be.
As for the close, this is simply asking about what kind of timeline we can expect in terms of getting the contract signed and back over to us. Again, this should typically be an easy ask if you are on the same page as the potential client, and have been throughout the process. This is why gauging intent during the discovery and audit phases is so critical.
Biggest Takeaways as a Mentee
Needless to say, as the mentee I learned an immeasurable amount throughout this mentorship process with Mike. I went into this thinking that I surely knew sales to the extent that if needed I could perform, but I had no idea the nuances, organization level, strategy and research that goes into effective prospecting specifically. I have been reflecting on what a rewarding experience this has been, and compiled my 5 biggest takeaways from gaining insight into the process and hitting my goals in the process
Takeaway #1: Quality prospecting is of the utmost importance
Takeaway #2: Make sure to operate within verticals where you can provide and exemplify expertise on the very first contact, thus building credibility
Takeaway #3: Aim to build rapport throughout the process through showcasing your expertise, not just by being agreeable or overly salesy
Takeaway #4: Constantly be qualifying the prospective client
Takeaway #5: Always end each step of the process with an actionable next step or follow-up in place
All in all, the sales process and mentorship ended up being an extremely rewarding experience that I am truly grateful to have been provided with. I find myself feeling very fortunate and blessed to have had it, and I’m looking forward to leveraging it in the months and years to come so that I can provide as much value to PDM as I can.