What Every Agency Wants to Know—Feedback from the Other Side

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Every month, our agency invites a guest speaker from other startups and agencies around town, typically offering related but different services. The goal is always to expand our knowledge base and develop deeper relationships for strategic partnerships. We do these in the form of a “brown bag” lunch session for a more casual lunch-and-learn type vibe. This month, however, we decided to switch it up and invite a past employee of ours that has since moved in-house.

We thought it would be insightful to get the perspective from someone who not only has been on both the agency and client side, but who knows the ins and outs of how we as an agency operate on a day-to-day basis. An insightful experience, indeed it was. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite takeaways as they relate to both sales and account management.

 Top Sales Takeaways

1. Getting budgets approved takes a lot of legwork.

Depending on the size of the company, there can be A LOT of red tape in getting the green light to sign off on new budgets. For starters, many companies may need to write an internal brief detailing the pros and cons of working with the new vendor, making the case for outsourcing versus tackling in-house, projecting ROI, and more.

So, what does this mean for us vendors as we wait for proposals to get pushed through? For starters, manage your own expectations and be patient. Getting approval may take some time, depending on the number of hoops the prospective client needs to jump through. In the meantime, while you are being patient however, be helpful. Provide case studies, testimonials, references, etc. Anything that can help to build the case for internal buy off.

2. Understand what level of priority your solutions are to the prospective client.

This is something I’ve never consciously sought during discovery meetings, but makes perfect sense. If your solutions are #10 on a laundry list of the prospect’s priorities, chances are they will not be willing to make such a significant investment right away. Thus, a good sales approach is to understand their pain and your solution enough to make it a higher priority. If that doesn’t work, consider taking an incremental project based approach to get your foot in the door and prove your solutions can and should be a priority.

Furthermore, don’t rush it. Take the time to educate and develop a relationship with your prospect so that when they are ready, they’ll be sure to call you and not your competitor.

3. Make sure you let the prospect know you have their back.

This can happen in a variety of ways, but essentially going above and beyond to let your prospect know that you’re looking out for them and will be able to serve as a trusted partner. This will not only differentiate you from the competition, but help to develop the critical level of trust required for any successful engagement.

So, take the time to get to know and understand their business, send them kudos for any exceptional coverage their company receives and pass any relevant industry news along that they would be interested in.

Top Account Management Takeaways

1. Take the time to understand their brand.

And I mean, really understand. Not only does it mean a lot to your client, but it will make you more effective. Whether it’s getting the right ad messaging or understanding the complexities of the buying cycle, truly understanding your client’s brand can help take your strategies to new levels.

In the beginning of every engagement, make sure to ask your client for their brand guidelines and either go through them on your own, or set up a dedicated time to have the client walk you through.

2. Get a handle on reporting needs and customize accordingly.

This is something I think we do well, but always a great reminder. Whether that means being flexible on the frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly) or the formatting (some clients may prefer to have you build slides with their branding so they can simply plug them into their internal reports).

3. Remember to have some empathy.

It’s easy to get frustrated when your laundry list of action items hasn’t been implemented and YOU KNOW they will move the needle. Just keep in mind that those recommendations usually require ticket queues, limited IT resources, and sometimes could clash with overarching strategic initiatives.

So, what does this all boil down to? Basically, regardless of what side you’re on (sales or client management), your chance at a successful relationship hinges on your efforts to truly help your client and understand their business. Sometimes that falls outside of search-related activities and that’s fine. It’s our job as search marketers to educate, empower, and empathize with our clients.

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Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman

Rachel Freeman works for the Jive Software, the pioneer and leading provider of social business solutions. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine... Read Full Bio
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