What it’s about
John Doherty is in the industry of helping people, whether it be by playing matchmaker between clients and agencies, or by working with agency owners to improve their businesses.
"There's a lot of bad actors in the SEO & digital world. People want to hire credible agencies."
In this interview, John shares some key points he believes every agency should follow to grow, what you need to do to close more leads, and the importance of managing your client’s expectations.
Focus on your strengths and recognize your limitations
When you start a company, you do it because you see a solution to a problem a client is having, or because you have a product that will fill a client's need. In the flurry of it all, it can be easy to forget what your role is in growing the company, and what your strength is in relation to the business; after all, you were the one to make an idea grow into something bigger in the first place.
John has worked with clients who might be experts at SEO, but for some reason are tackling other areas of the business in which they have no experience, like sales, instead of focusing on their SEO strengths.
“The skills required to run a business and do sales are very different from the skills required to drastically increase someone’s organic traffic and make them more money from that traffic.”
John suggests taking a step back to focus on your specific strengths, recognize your limitations, and know when you might need the help of outside resources.
Avoid sticker shock
When it comes to pitching your services to clients and giving them a cost estimate, John says it’s important to manage your client’s expectations.
You don’t want to give your client sticker shock. When you send a proposal through to someone, you never want them to come back and be like, ‘Woah, that’s way higher than I expected.’
To keep your clients from getting cold feet from big numbers, John suggests getting a ballpark idea of their budget first.
By figuring out roughly how much your client is willing to spend on the service before you pitch or send a proposal, you give yourself the opportunity to start with a higher price, then come down to accommodate the client.
You have to take the lead and run with it
As nice as it would be for a lead to automatically equal a sale, that just isn’t how business works. Sales is a hard, and sometimes lengthy process depending on the size of the client or proposal at hand.
To make the most of your leads, and possibly turn a profit from them, John suggests ensuring the proposals you’re sending out are polished, and your sales script clearly outlines your offer to the client.
“I’ve had clients that send proposals with typos everywhere, it’s not formatted, and they don’t make clear what the client’s going to get for the thousands of dollars they’re quoting them. I had one client who’s fantastic at SEO, but was struggling to close because his pitch was weak.”
On top of making your offer clear and having a good script, John says you need to understand the sales cycle per client. Clients who are larger may have a longer sales cycle when it comes to accepting an offer because there is more at stake, whereas smaller clients may accept an offer within weeks of a pitch.
“When you’re selling a $3000, $5000, $10,000 a month retainer project, you’re not just going to walk in and sell it like a Snickers bar. I’m not saying it can’t happen; some big accounts can close after five months, but it rarely happens.”
Pick a sales model that’s right for your business
With how quickly business changes and adapts to society, it’s easy to lose sight of where you should be going with it, and changes you should make. To avoid losing focus, John suggests finding a model that works for your business, your industry, and your clients.
John says that picking a sales model really comes down to your industry, your business, and how much your product costs. For example, if you’re running a $29 a month subscription tool, you won’t be able to personally onboard everyone. Instead, personally onboard the first few, then automate because you’re working toward a bigger scale.
If you’re unsure if your sales model is working for you, you can read John’s blog “How to Pick a Sales Model for Your Software Startup” to get a better idea.