I talk with agency owners all the time, especially when they’re first starting out. One of the questions I get asked the most is “What’s the real ‘secret’ to closing clients?”
It’s a valid question. And one that can have a lot of answers.
My response can vary on a multitude of different factors based on the particular client or the service being offered.
We are all spending time prospecting…cold-calling…researching…presenting…when we really just want one outcome: a close.
The crazy part is that purchasing decisions are constantly changing. So, of course, that means we have to change too.
And not only are decisions changing. People are changing.
Gone are the days of people reacting positively to high-pressure sales techniques.
So, our job is to find that balance between being persuasive and annoying. Nobody wants to be “that annoying guy.” You know the one.
But, as an agency owner, you want to see your bottom line grow, too.
So, what do we do? How do we avoid being a nuisance? What steps can we take to close prospective clients? I’m convinced you’ll find some valuable answers below.
Three Steps for Finding the Right Clients for Your Agency
Step 1 – Awareness
I know I don’t have to tell you how important it is to your business to find clients. Duh.
Finding the right clients, however, can be challenging.
So many times, I think we, as agency owners, can spin our wheels when interacting with new clients – and a lot of it can be avoided by one step.
Make yourself aware of who the decision-maker is – and get in front of them as early and often as possible.
We’ve all seen it. Many businesses have gatekeepers who have been instructed to guard decision-makers like Fort Knox.
What is a gatekeeper? They do exactly what you might think – they’re posted at a business’ entry point with the purpose of preventing unwanted traffic. They are responsible for determining who gets through to a decision-maker by preventing unwanted visitors or callers.
So, how do we get through?
Make a friend. Spend time getting to know the gatekeeper. Ask meaningful questions about the business and develop a rapport with them. Find your “in” and when the moment is right, make your intentions known.
“I’ve got this new tool that I know your manager would be excited to hear about because it could easily double your weekly business. Could the three of us go to lunch this week to talk about it?”
But, awareness goes even further. We’ve got to engage in the art of listening first, selling second. Know your clients’ needs and instead of making assumptions, ask questions and take good notes.
“Dr. XYZ, you’ve mentioned a few times that you’re having trouble earning repeat business. My team and I are going to come up with some specific solutions that will do just that.”
Beyond that, even, we have to be fully aware of their competition. Do your research and highlight what you can offer them to stand out in a marketplace that can easily become more crowded, mature and competitive with each passing day.
“I’ve noticed an ad campaign one of your competitors is running and it’s given me a great idea. We’ve got a tool that will help resolve the concerns you’ve mentioned.”
More often than not, the answers are right in front of us. We just have to be fully aware when they present themselves.
Step 2 – Acknowledgement
There’s a reason you decided to take a shot at ditching your day job, right? I know there was for me.
It was because I saw an opportunity. I saw a chance to improve my community by providing services that helped businesses grow.
I acknowledged that the right clients were out there just waiting for an agency like mine to come along. For you, it can be just the same.
It all starts with recognizing that your agency can provide real value to the business. You’ve got to believe in what you offer and that it can ignite real change.
So often, clients (and, for that matter, all consumers) tend to purchase based on real value. Even more than price.
Think about the last time you made a big purchase. Maybe it was a car? Or some furniture? Or a TV?
Sure, the price itself – the money you actually paid – probably played into your decision. But didn’t you really make the purchase because you thought it was available to you at a real value – or what it is actually worth to you?
Your clients are thinking the same way. The dollar amount is important. But what are they truly getting for their dollar?
Acknowledging the value you can provide will go a long way in finding the perfect clients for you – and, eventually, closing them.
You’ve put in the time. You’ve committed yourself and put in the elbow grease. You’ve honed your services and determined how best to tailor them to your clients’ needs.
Now your job is to make it clear to them.
Step 3 – Connection
Finding the right clients can often be about connection. True connection with your clients is paramount.
I recognize that this thought may seem elementary, but I promise there are agency owners out there who are skipping right over this step and are missing out on closing clients because of it.
Sometimes, it pays to put the sale aside and just focus on connection.
Ask questions about their business. Dig deep into their wins. Open the wound on some of the losses they’ve had along the way.
Take time to discover what about their business is truly unique.
At the end of the day, when closing a client, one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give you: Get them talking about themselves.
I mean, who doesn’t like talking about themselves? Everyone really just wants to do that and your clients are no different – so, appease them.
Imagine the sense of trust a conversation like this can open between you and your clients.
I don’t think I’m overstating that this could be the most essential ingredient in making the close.
Three Steps for Perfecting Your Pitch
Step 1 – Aspiration
You’ve found the right clients – now, it’s all about your pitch. When you begin working on your pitch, aspiration is a great, and necessary, place to start.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? An astronaut? A firefighter? Lead singer of a rock band?
What about now that you own your own agency? What do you want to be now? Your answer likely includes some form of “I want to be the go-to resource to grow my clients’ businesses.”
How do you get there?
It might surprise you that the answer to becoming the go-to resource for your clients is the exact same as the answer to becoming the lead singer of a rock band.
You have to set goals. Now, when I say that, your goal can’t be the same as your previous answer. Being the go-to resource in growing your clients’ businesses is the end game.
Your goals have to act as your road map to get there. What specific steps are you going to take to become that resource? What measures have to be met for you to attain those goals? What time frame are you going to give yourself to reach them?
It can be as simple as:
Goal #1: Within 3 months, I will have signed 10 new clients.
Goal #2: In the next 6 months, I plan to grow each client’s business by 20%.
Goal #3: By the end of the year, I will hire 3 new staff members to better serve my clients.
Obviously, you can’t just set the goals and walk away assuming you will just magically reach them. You then have to break down each of your goals into actionable steps, lining out the details of how you will attain each of the goals.
When it comes to setting the goals themselves or subsequently putting them into action, I can’t say it enough – make them specific and measurable. You know your business better than anyone, so set your plan in place.
Step 2 – Be Precise
What makes a good pitcher in baseball? They have to be extremely precise, right? When your agency is making a pitch, it is no different.
I’m a sports fan. For many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is that I can’t help but be impressed by how impeccably accurate so many athletes can be at their craft.
It could be a quarterback dropping an absolute dime in the corner of an end zone to his wide receiver. It could be a bowler in the last frame putting just enough spin on the ball to drop every pin. It could be a golfer hitting that pitching wedge just right to get himself out of danger and safely on the green.
On my best days, I want my agency performing to that same amount of perfection. Obviously, some days are better than others.
But, when it comes to dealing with clients, the more precise we can be, the more likely we are to close their business.
When we develop our game plan for what we want to accomplish, we try to be as specific as possible. Think along the lines of “Our services will bring you, five new clients, this month.”
Sounds pretty precise to me.
When building a precise plan, our job is to not only help the client see the ROI we anticipate them to receive from our services but to show them how much NOT using our services is already costing them today.
Imagine yourself in a negotiation with a client. Think about how powerful a statement it will be if you run numbers on how much business they’ve already missed out on by not aligning with your agency.
“Mr. XYZ, I’ve taken the liberty to put some figures together that show the number of clients, and thus, the revenue, that I anticipate our agency’s services producing for your business. Had we partnered together 6 months ago, you would have already seen a 15% increase.”
Impactful? You better believe it.
Another reason it is important to be as precise as possible when closing clients is for the sake of clarity. You never want to leave a doubt in their minds as to the exact services and results you plan to deliver.
Ask yourself “Did I clearly describe all the benefits of my products or services and what they will do for this client?”
If you can comfortably say yes, you’ve got yourself a precise pitch!
Step 3 – Customize
Presentations are the main event of the pitch. Think about some presentations you’ve been a part of during your career. Ever been a part of one of those that seems like it was recycled content from any number of other audiences? I can’t even count all the times I’ve endured it.
I can typically smell a cookie-cutter sales pitch or presentation coming from a mile away.
Guess what? So can your clients!
We have to be acutely aware that every single client is different.
It’s on us to know that. Furthermore, it’s our job to cater our agency’s skills to each individual client.
It seems so simple but I guarantee you there are agency owners out there who are using templated approaches in meetings with their clients. And I can almost guarantee that many of them are struggling to acquire new business because of it.
The difference between closing a client and closing a client NOW (during your pitch) can come down to your ability to customize to their needs.
Three Steps to Take to Be a Better Closer
Step 1 – Be Real
Let’s start this section with a confession: I’m a full-on believer of being REAL with clients throughout our relationship. It’s ethical…it’s pertinent…it’s just how I believe in conducting my business.
And being real with clients during your close can’t be overstated.
Being genuine is an art form. We’ve all experienced those that aren’t. The term “used car salesman” comes to mind. I almost even hate to use that analogy, because the truth is, most used car salesman I’ve encountered are quite genuine people.
But the minute I brought up a used car salesman, I’d be willing to bet every one of you know someone who sells in that certain manner.
High pressure. Untrustworthy. Do or say anything to make the sale.
Maybe they’re successful. Maybe some people find a certain charm to that style. I am not one of those people.
When it comes to dealing with clients, one of my top priorities, and something that I continuously remind myself, is to be about the business – not just about the deal. I never want my clients to think that I’m treating them like I’m just trying to close them and make money off them.
For example, I’d much rather say something like “I understand if you can’t decide on this today. I know that my services can help your business grow and I look forward to working with you in the future.” than “What is it going to take for me to earn your business today?”
My goal is that they feel that I am nothing but genuine from the very beginning.
At the end of the day, they’re going to jump on board if and when they want – not when we want. So, we should aim to take the focus off closing any one specific deal and instead put it on building a true business partnership or relationship.
When you do that, who is the first person they think of when they finally are ready? That’d be you.
Step 2 – Be Patient
Patience can be so hard. Patience during a close can be downright brutal.
I wish I could tell you how many times the voice in the back of my head has flared up on me.
“Dude, what are you doing? This dentist is obviously not responding quick enough. It’s time to double down and put on the full-court press to close this thing.”
Don’t fall into the trap. It can be so easy to want to push hard to close your clients, but when you were a kid and they told you “patience is a virtue” they weren’t kidding.
In fact, in my experience, just like in my personal relationships, the more I push, a business client will pull back every single time.
Play the long game. Water the seed. Insert whatever analogy for patience you want, just do it.
We’ve talked about it before, (check the “Always Be Educating” section of How to Keep Your Clients Coming Back…And Spending More) but all my best client relationships I’ve built are the ones where I’ve taken real time to educate and cultivate.
After you’ve done that, through follow-up and careful attention, you’re able to close what you wanted to right off the bat.
Those Guns ‘n Roses guys really knew what they were talking about when they sang “All we need is just a little patience.”
Step 3 – Call the Shots
Calling the shots during the close seems like a no-brainer, right? My point here is that we have to actually call the shots if we want to be better closers.
Fine, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a control freak. Not to the extent where it invades my personal life or anything, but I do like to be the one calling the shots on all my business proceedings and I’d be willing to bet you do too.
We want to have control. We want to retain control. At the very least, we want to exude the appearance of control.
When dealing with clients, it’s important that we’re constantly calling the shots – on the negotiations. On the planning meetings. On the information and services we’re offering.
It’s not about domination or wanting to put the client in their place. It’s specifically about being the voice of expertise. That’s why they’re going to hire you.
I once had a conversation with a great salesman who talked to me about the importance of making lots of “little closes” along the way in a pitch.
That had a profound effect on my business. It just makes so much sense.
If I can gain some control with buy-in throughout the process, it sure makes any big decisions that come the client’s way seem way less intimidating.
Call the shots in baby steps. Prove your worth and watch the business and your agency prosper.
Time to Turn Your Client Relations Into Profits
I’m convinced that agency owners across the globe can put these steps we’ve outlined into action immediately. Obviously, my experiences are going to be different than yours, but these methods have proven extremely valuable to my agencies over the years. If you can internalize these steps, I’m confident you’ll be finding the right clients, perfecting your pitch and closing new business in no time.
After you start rolling in those profits, we want to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comments below and let us know what worked best for you.