I’ll kick off this blogpost with a confession—I’m not, and have never been, a sales person. I just wasn’t born with that sales DNA. When I was a kid, I went to a parochial school where the nuns attempted to cultivate our sales skills early-on (or they were just dead set on running successful fundraisers).
Each year, we were given a quota of candy bars we had to sell to friends and neighbors to support school programs. I remember my siblings and me donning our uniforms on Saturday afternoons, strapping huge boxes of candy bars around our necks, and hitting the streets to peddle the candy. Unfailingly, an hour or two later, we’d arrive home with empty boxes, not because we’d sold our quota successfully, because we’d given up and just passed the chocolates out to anyone who wanted them. Exasperated, my mom gave up hope and began buying our candy bar quota herself.
When I joined the Customer Success Team at WordStream, my client portfolio included tons of small digital agencies. During our SEM consulting calls, I started to realize that more of their questions were focused on sales than PPC strategy. The reality was, these people were highly skilled marketers—they could work wonders in client accounts. However, they struggled to land new accounts and even upsell existing customers. I realized that these people were just like me—they were missing the sales DNA.
So, I embarked on a quest to find a strategy that small agencies, who are not sales-oriented, can use to build their client base.
Before I share this secret-sauce with you, I should point out that the goal of the program is to land a “big fish” account. Small agencies don’t have the time to dedicate to sell services to a bazillion tiny advertisers—instead, you should be focusing this manpower on actually managing your existing clients’ accounts. Direct your sales efforts to big accounts. If you can score just a few big spenders, you can focus the majority of your time to doing what you love—managing paid search.
So, without further ado, here are my top five hacks to help my fellow non-salesmen land a whale of a client:
What do the big guys have that your agency doesn’t? A golden reputation that they’ve spent years (and a hefty sum of money) cultivating. They may even have an entire team dedicated to amplifying their online presence, nominating them for industry awards and boosting their social followings. You, too, need a stellar online reputation if you want to compete with these mega-agencies.
The good news is, you CAN jumpstart your reputation on the cheap. First things first, you’ll need to create a couple pieces of amazing content to prove that you are, indeed, an expert in the field. Then, throw a little money at the problem. You can’t build a huge Twitter following overnight organically, so buy one.
Don’t worry, I’m not actually advocating that you take the black-hat route. Instead, create a followers campaign in the Twitter Ads interface. To keep costs low, limit your ads to show to a highly-targeted audience using tailored audiences.
By starting with a highly qualified audience, you can build a following of people who are in the marketing space that will engage with the content that you share. As they favorite, retweet and reply to your tweets, you’ll gain exposure to their followers, which could even further boost your follower count. (For more tips check out Larry’s post on buying legit Twitter followers.)
The top ten biggest AdWords spenders, by industry.
Next, identify the type of company you want to pursue, using the list of options above. Start by picking one industry, which will be your primary focus.
Once you’ve selected the types of businesses you want to focus on, get to know the ins and outs of their industry. Understand their KPIs, common challenges that they face and industry-specific techniques. For example, if you decide to target e-commerce retailers, it’s critical that you’re well-versed in Google Shopping. You can even take this one step further and get to know exciting new betas that are pertinent to them.
Now that you’ve souped up your online presence and identified whom you wish to target, it’s time for them to get to know you and your brand. Start by connecting with key prospects on LinkedIn—but first, be sure that your profile looks better than my dad’s.
Real professional, Dad.
Take the time to bling out your profile so prospects can get a good sense of your skills and expertise. Be sure to include your AdWords and Bing certifications, in-depth work history and recommendations from colleagues and existing clients. You can even boost your Skills & Endorsements section by asking colleagues to endorse you more frequently, in exchange for endorsements from you!
Pretty impressive, huh? All it takes is a little reciprocity scheme!
Now, you may be wondering, how on earth can you convince these strangers to connect with you? Turn to Larry Kim’s not-so-secret formula for writing irresistible LinkedIn connection requests, which is founded on the principle of the 5 P’s. According to Larry, if your message is polite, pertinent, personalized, professional and praiseful, the recipient just can’t turn it down.
As it turns out, Larry knows a little something about writing persuasive LinkedIn messages.
When I first heard this, I was beyond skeptical of the strategy. So, I put it to the test myself. I selected five “big fish” that I never expected would accept my request. I wrote each of them thoughtful messages (that included all 5 P’s) and, sure enough, it worked.
Not only do you, personally, need to get in front of your target audience on LinkedIn, you also need to familiarize them with your brand. So, use Facebook ads to infiltrate their feeds with your branded content.
To do execute this on the cheap, create hyper-targeted Facebook campaigns. Start by plugging your big fish hit list into the Demographics > Work > Employers section.
Then, further refine your target audience. Remember, you don’t want to show ads to everyone who works at Nordstrom. Instead, you want to get your brand in front of people who are likely to be decision makers for their paid search efforts.
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you can finally begin reaching out to your prospects for a sales conversation. Unfortunately, this step will require some tenacity; it can be tough to connect with your targets. According to InsightSquared, the average connect rate is just under 16% for the first contact attempt. From there, the numbers dwindle.
Since your first attempt is the one most likely to yield a conversation, you’ll want need to be prepared from the get-go. When you get ahold of your target, resist the urge to lead with a sales pitch. No one wants to pick up the phone and get accosted by an over-rehearsed, gimmicky “elevator pitch” (non-gimmicky elevator pitch examples here) Instead, be an active listener. Let your prospect talk and reveal their pain points to you.
The best way to kick off these conversations is to be prepared with three discovery questions:
As they answer these questions, your prospect will paint a picture of the challenges they’re facing and give you a clear idea of their goals. From there, the sales conversation will flow naturally. All you need to do is show them how your services can bridge the gap from “A” to “B” in “C” amount of time!
If you don’t make contact with your prospect at the first try, don’t be deterred. Remember, your likelihood of connecting with them doesn’t plateau until 6+ attempts. For those of us who aren’t super sales inclined, continuing to call someone who hasn’t responded to our first message feels invasive. However, it’s critical to defy your natural instincts and keep calling.
As a general rule of thumb, I recommend giving low-quality prospects a minimum of three unanswered touches before abandoning your sales efforts. Your medium-quality prospects should get at least 7 contact attempts. And finally, I recommend relentlessly pursuing your very best prospects until you are able to connect with them.
This model may sound extreme, but we’ve seen great success with it thus far. The key is to be respectful. Don’t pummel your prospects with multiple phone calls in a short period of time. If they do respond and say that they’re not interested at this time, ask permission to get in touch again later down the line. And finally, be sure to make every connect attempt, be it a voicemail or an email, matter. Explain who you are, outline your intentions and give them a reason to get back to you.
Regardless of your level of sales prowess, prospects are bound to raise objections during these conversations. Luckily, you can predict many of their objections and actually use them to strengthen your case. To see the most common objections we encounter (and how we combat them), check out Margot’s post, Does Google AdWords Work?
Not only should you be prepared to tackle these subjects head-on, you must also support your arguments with real-life examples that are pertinent to the prospect’s industry/account. Take the time scout strong examples ahead of time—it will surely pay off!
Erin Sagin worked at WordStream for five years with roles in Customer Success and Marketing. She lives in California.
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