If you’re like a lot of small agency owners or freelancers, you probably waste a lot of time selling to prospective clients who don’t end up buying your services.
Consider this scenario:
- You go out and have conversations with people.
- Someone expresses interest in your services so they ask you to book a coffee or meeting at their office.
- You have the meeting, learn what they want and follow up the next week.
- You send them a proposal and then… nothing.
Over the weeks and months you follow up to see if they still want to work with you and then you find out you didn’t get the job. Or even worse, they want yet another meeting before agreeing to move ahead.
Finally, you land some work with a client and spend your time executing, only to be back in the same position a few months later hunting for the next client.
It can be a frustrating, seemingly endless cycle where you bleed hundreds of hours selling to tire kickers.
Scott Gellatly, owner of Bollo Empire, wants to change all that and help you sell smarter and more efficiently. Kevin and I sat down with Scott to chat about how he helps other agency owners turn their sales process into a nearly automated system and increase their close-rates.
Here’s how he does it.
Understanding your client’s “true why”
All too often, we think that all a client wants is a website, or a logo, or a marketing campaign. So we sell features, or we talk about how great we are at design or coding or marketing.
According to Scott, this surface-level method of selling results in lower close-rates because clients view what you have to offer as a commodity.
He says that the most important thing to learn when talking to a prospect is their “true why”. In other words, what will that website or marketing campaign do for them on a deep, personal and emotional level.
- if you’re selling to a small business owner, their ‘true why’ might be that they want to make enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle and spend more time with their family.
- If it’s the owner of a large enterprise, their goal might be to sell their company for millions and create a legacy for their name.
- Or if they are a middle manager at a big company, their primary interest could be covering their ass so they look good to their boss.
Having a persona you sell to is incredibly important, since the same kinds of clients likely have a very similar ‘true why’.
The point is, when you have those first conversations, you want to break down their walls so you can learn what drives them on a deeper, more personal level. What are his/her deep fears, frustrations and needs?
When you articulate how your service is going to contribute to their higher vision, clients are more compelled to say yes to what you have to offer.
Once Scott changed his approach to sales and created a repeatable system, he went from spending 12-18 hours per lead with a 20% close-rate to spending only 4 hours per lead with an 80% close-rate. The system works.
To minimize, even eliminate the amount of bad leads that come in through your door, it’s important to have a solid qualification process. You should have a series of questions that you ask new leads to understand where they are in the buying process.
In most cases when people buy something, they go through a series of steps.
- I need something done
- I’m going to research what’s out there
- I found what I want and now I’m ready to buy
Often leads don’t turn into business because we’re selling them too early in their buying cycle, so learning where they are in the buying cycle will ensure you’re not wasting time on proposals when they’re still in the research phase.
What if they aren’t at the purchase stage yet?
Don’t write a proposal. Instead, educate them in a way that costs you very little time. Add them to your mailing list so they get automated emails with information that addresses their problem. Connect with them on social media and send out links to blog articles. In other words; use content marketing to your advantage to nurture them so they are primed to do business with you once they reach the buying phase.
Don’t make the mistake of getting caught up in endless meeting requests. Clients will often want to get a coffee or have lunch to talk about their upcoming project, but this drives up your cost of sale and doesn’t necessarily get you closer to a signed contract.
Instead, when a client asks you for a coffee or lunch, ask for a call instead and keep it to 15 minutes. Always end every conversation with an action. Don’t leave it too general like “hey let’s chat again in a few weeks”. Instead pick a specific day and time for the next step, like “I’m going to research your questions and I’ll call you next Wednesday at 10 am to show you how I’m going to achieve what we talked about”.
The next step should be a proposal, and if you’ve done your work upfront to get to the proposal stage, you’ll only be sending proposals to qualified prospects who are at the buying stage and primed for what you have to offer.
Using tools to automate the process
Software becomes important when you want to automate your processes.
Use a good CRM to make sure you’re logging information about your leads. It’s important to add their “true why” to your notes so that people on your team have access to this information.
Scott emphasizes the need to leverage a virtual assistant to do the grunt work involved with a proposal. He has his CRM set to auto-trigger a task to his VA once a deal gets to a certain stage and requires a proposal.
He uses Proposify as his proposal software of choice, and while we're naturally biased, it's specifically made to automate your proposal process.
Scott has his proposal template set up with reusable sections and snippets clearly categorized and tagged so it’s dead simple for his VA to drag and drop the sections required for his proposal.
He’s reduced the time he used to spend on proposals from a full 8 hour day down to 15 minutes. He pays his virtual assistant $20 to put together a proposal.
Closing the business
What’s next after the proposal is done? Some people just email it to their client and wait for them to review it. Scott books a phone call with the client and emails the proposal 5 minutes before the call.
Then over the phone, he walks through the proposal. Instead of talking about feature X, Y and Z, he instead starts with their “true why” and discusses how he’ll solve their deepest frustrations, alleviate their fear and help them achieve their dreams.
Once he’s done presenting, he asks them if he’s addressed their needs with this solution. If they say yes, then he talks price and tells them what they’ll need to invest to make it happen.
A lot of small business owners get uncomfortable discussing money, but it’s important to remember:
- Every client has money, they just choose where to spend it and where to scrimp. You need to bump yourself up on their priority list and convince them to spend it on you.
- If you’ve addressed their deepest needs instead of surface-level features, they’ll be more inclined to spend it on you.
- They shouldn’t be surprised at the price once you’re down this far in the sales funnel. You should have already given them a ballpark early on to weed out clients with unreasonably low budgets.
It’s ok if a client takes a deep breath when they see the price. You want to make sure you’re maximizing their budget and not leaving money on the table. On the other hand, if they just can’t afford to pay for the solution up-front, give them the option to spread the payments out over six months.
If you follow these suggestions, you’ll find sales becomes much more streamlined and predictable. What are some ways you are systemizing your sales process? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.