One of the things I love the most about hosting the Agencies Drinking Beer podcast is that I get exposed to a wide variety of different opinions and ideas — and so do our listeners.
I've always thought that agency owners are the best at marketing their own business and that they shouldn't hire a "biz dev" person to go out and bring in clients. However, recently I sat down with Carman Pirie who is the co-founder and principal of Kula Partners, who made me reconsider.
The case for why agency owners stink when it comes to lead generation
A few years ago, Kula Partners hired an inbound marketing manager and told him that if he does any client work, he's fired. His job is to sell the agency, not execute on client projects.
The reason for this is because Carman believes that in order to scale an agency, you as the owner need to let someone else generate and evaluate leads instead of doing it yourself.
Let's face it, even though agency owners often know how to market and sell, they can't necessarily package their own agency services as effectively as someone else.
In addition, owners often bring in bad clients whose interests aren't aligned with their agency for fear of turning down any work — an easy mistake to make when you need to make payroll next week!
That's where bringing in an outsider helps.
What your employee will do instead
According to Carman (and partially quoting Herb Cohen), you should find someone who cares, but doesn't care THAT much.
Think of it this way — Someone who is employed to bring in leads is going to be somewhat removed from the financial side of the business, and thus able to evaluate leads more objectively based on fit.
They are going to take a hard lens look at a prospect and ask hard hitting sales questions to gauge whether or not the prospect will be a good client for the agency.
Find someone with inside sales experience who is a good writer and speaker.
Your employee should be able to do several things well:
- Create content that demonstrates thought leadership in your particular sector
- Nurture those inbound leads through email drip campaigns
- Field new business phone calls and emails to find whether there is a budget and whether the agency can fulfill the work
- If there's a fit, move the prospect further down the sales funnel
You should be training your employee to be disciplined to not take on clients that aren't aligned with the agency. They are going to want good projects that the firm can execute on so that the company is then in a better position to take on more projects. They are motivated to not bring in shit work.
When you bring in an employee to generate inbound leads for your agency and filter them out, you'll find that your sales process improves on a lot of levels.
So where then do you fit into your business as the owner?
Where the owner is needed
Carman recommends that agency owners stay involved further down the sales funnel — they are the closers.
As already stated, your biz dev/marketing person should be adept at filtering out good leads and moving them down the funnel. Once they are there, that's where they bring in the owner to close the deal.
There are two good reasons for doing it this way:
- It elevates the owner in the mind of the client, putting them on a pedestal.
- Agency owners are often great at telling their story and asking for the client's business (after all, payroll)
It's a fresh, streamlined way of approaching sales for your business and keeps you doing what you are best at.
Create a business that can be sold
Carman believes that agency owners often try to take on more tasks than they should. In reality, it's highly likely you are only good at a few things:
- Setting the vision for your agency
- Creating a culture that aligns with who you are and where you want to be as an agency
- Hiring great team members who can fulfill your vision and guiding them
- Keeping enough cash in the bank
Your goal as an owner isn’t to have clients rolling in just because you are there as the founder. In fact, Carman would prefer clients didn't know he existed. He'd rather build a strong team that can make clients happy and successful all without him being involved. It's more a more repeatable way of fulfilling on client expectations.
Owners often think of their agency as a "lifestyle business" when instead, they should be creating a business that can be run without them and sold one day (even if that's not your goal today).
As Carman brilliantly puts it:
"Your job is to work yourself out of a job. If you’re integral to the day-to-day operation of a business you can't step out if you ever want to. A lifestyle business distracts you from a better goal, which is creating a sustainable business that can exist without you. If you create an asset that’s sellable, that will be your best lifestyle ever. Stop succeeding through what you do and start succeeding through what others do."