Get Ahead in Sales

So many services claim they can help you get ahead in sales. If only it were as easy as throwing dollars at services with insane sounding names like Koalified Leads (ok ok I kind of love that name but still).

There is no single way to get ahead in sales, no silver bullet, no life changing Medium post (but keep reading…?).

My advice is adopt a new posture. Where you are ahead of where you need to be in sales. Scale up in anticipation of your future needs. Don’t lag and drag, scraping together your sales resources months after you actually needed them.

A Tale of Two Agencies

The first agency decided to invest in expanding and extending their largest client relationship. They have a staff around 20 people with a principal leading business development. Historically an account manager led this crucial client relationship, but ownership had a sneaking suspicion there was a lot more opportunity un-mined. Their spidey senses were tingling, but they weren’t sure why. By the time ownership decided to do something, however, they had long ago blown right past “critical” on the pressure gauge and the relationship they thought was ready for expansion, was in fact about to blow. They realized the reason they were suddenly so inspired to invest in a shiny new fire extinguisher was because they’d been smelling their house burning for six months. Their big client fired them, torpedoing their revenue projections and plans.

The second agency has a team of around 18 people and employs three full-time business development staff members. How are they so deeply invested in business development? Do they expect 1–2 of these sales people to flame out. Did they hire three people for one chair, then let them duke it out. The agency owner explained to me that this three person team met the needs of his future goals. They may be more than his current 18 person team needs, but they meet the needs of the 30 person team he wants to be next year. He wants to double in revenue annually for the next few years and exit. His goals are aggressive, but clear. His investment in sales reflects it.

These are two edge cases right? Two extreme ends of a long continuum.

Not in my experience.

Of the hundreds of agencies I’ve consulted with, interviewed, or spoken with just in the past year, many are in the same boat as the first agency. Not only understaffed and under-resourced in sales relative to their future goals, but understaffed and under-resourced with respect to their current needs. In many cases agencies are behind the ball relative to what they needed six or twelve months ago too.

Sales as a Center of Excellence

If you run a client services organization your future hinges on sales success. Period. Full stop.

We can have a chicken-or-the-egg argument about “What’s more important? Delivering for your current clients? Or landing your next client?” Let’s agree at a minimum they’re equally important to the future of your agency. Is that reflected in your investment in sales?

Too often the internal conversation I hear about sales sounds like this:

“We need to update our case studies on the website, but all of our resources are consumed by billable work.”

“We need to define how we’re differentiated from our competition, but I’m so consumed by operations that I can’t stop long enough to think it through.”

Billable work. Operations. These feel like responsible reasons for pushing sales to the back burner.

“We have billing clients to service.”

“We have bills to pay, benefits to administrate.”

You won’t have either for long if you don’t have a successful sales organization.

I don’t have a silver bullet. I don’t have a magic solution. What each agency needs in terms of sales support or strategy is wholly distinct. If anyone says they have the secret recipe that works for all agencies slowly…back…away…Don’t break eye contact! They see that as a sign of weakness. Keep backing away…

I urge you to focus on getting ahead in sales. Get ahead of what you need. Stop playing catch up. Get it off the back burner.

Make it a team sport. Make it the area where you are your most creative. Make it the space where your best and brightest team members contribute. Give it a home at the center of your agency’s ongoing conversation. Get ahead in sales.