January 8, 2016
Going through your list of necessary questions to ask a potential client on a sales call is crucial to identifying possible fits for the agency, as well as raising red flags on prospects who aren’t. Every salesperson has a checklist, so to speak, knocking them off the list as the answers roll in from a prospect on that first call.
- What is your monthly budget?
- What engines are you currently running with?
- How has past performance been?
- What are some pain points with your current agency?
All of these are pretty straightforward, but what questions really tell you what you need to know to make this a successful partnership? I worked to identify a few questions that may be more telling than what is on the surface and could lead you to the answers you need.
Talking Through Strategy
After getting through the basic questions, some of which I mentioned above, you’re left with the essential information. That’s all well and good, but you need to learn more about the company you may be partnering with and whether it’s a good fit. The next step would be discussing strategy and their general willingness to test, expand and grow into new platforms/engines.
While some clients are willing and open to testing under the right circumstances, others are hesitant about trying the unknown. The constantly evolving landscape of digital marketing begs for continuous testing and trying something new. You’ll want to gain a better understanding of the company’s mindset prior to agreeing to work together. Even if they are a bit unwilling to test new ideas and platforms, at least, you know that prior to an agreement being signed and can relay this information to the rest of the team.
Another item you may consider is where they see the budget going for the upcoming year. While it may be taken as a general question about budgeting and for the agency’s pricing structure, it can be rather telling on the current situation within the company. For example, if the prospect talks about the company’s willingness to expand budget exponentially it tells you not only that there’s strong opportunity for growth, but also that the company is in stable condition financially. If the client is struggling financially as a company, guess which department gets the ax first? Marketing.
Dive Deeper, Past Their Marketing Performance
One crucial part of these discussions is figuring out and fully understanding why it is they’re speaking to you in the first place. If they’re coming from another agency and looking for a change, it’s important to dive deeper and find out what the issues were in the past. Was it overall performance? Problems with the team and lack of communication? Capabilities of the other agency? Learning more about their marketing history is usually very telling.
If they’re mentioning a marketing issue to you on a first or second call, even if it’s mentioned nonchalantly, chances are it’s been a major issue and a huge point of contention within the company. Make a note of this and discuss potential solutions on the next call. They will appreciate your attention to detail. Another item you may consider asking is what their current agency does that they do like, giving you a good idea of what needs to be carried over to your relationship.
Try to gain a better understanding of the company’s hierarchy and how things are structured. Understanding who’s who and what is on the line for your direct point of contact gives you a good understanding of the partnership, how communication will be and the pressures being put on the services department within the agency. These type of questions reach the prospect on a more personal level, which typically leads to them opening up more about the company’s situation.
Prior to the end of the call with a prospect, you should always ask what their timeline looks like for a decision moving forward. This will help to determine how quickly you should push forward with next steps and any discussions you will need to have with the team internally. There’s always a fine line within sales of being too aggressive and simply being in control of the situation. It’s important to give a good sense of competence to prospects. After all, you are the first impression they’re getting of the agency.
Every agency has its own sales process and steps for onboarding a client, but they need to be somewhat flexible to cater to their needs. Addressing their timeline, how quickly they’re looking to move, and who else needs to be involved in future discussions allows you to match up your own sales process with the needs of the prospect.
In the end, the entire sales process is structured to meet, filter and onboard clients who are a great fit for the company. Going beyond asking the obvious questions to prospects is crucial in building a successful, long-lasting client base the company can rely upon and grow with. Work to identify the characteristics your successful clients have in common. With that information, you’ll be able to ask the right questions in the sales process and bring aboard the right clients for the company long term.