Your Agency Has a Sales Problem. Here's How You Can Hire to Fix It.

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Justin Hiatt
Justin Hiatt



If your agency has found success in running inbound marketing programs and generating leads, then you’ve likely experienced a surprising problem: You’ve got too many leads to follow up with and manage.

As your inbound marketing programs have scaled, it has likely become more difficult for your new business director or sales rep to make contact, qualify, and nurture these leads to the point where they are ready for a sales conversation or a proposal.Free Download: Sales Plan Template

You’re missing out on valuable opportunities.

This is why some agencies are following in the footsteps of software companies and are introducing the sales development role in their firms. A sales development rep (SDR) focuses on the front end of the sales cycle, specifically:

This is all in an effort to move prospects further through the funnel -- to a place where they want to have a serious conversation about the value of your agency and how it can help their business.

This person also helps bridge the gap between sales and marketing to handle the growing lead problem and to cater to inbound leads.

The SDR  ensures that leads that are sales-ready get attention from the right people in your agency, and leads that need more nurturing are provided with tailored content and nurturing that moves them closer to becoming a client. The rep weeds out leads that are not worth the time of your sales team, starts building trust, and readies the sales person to do what she does best -- sell. Basically, this role makes sure that your inbound sales efforts are as predictable as your inbound marketing.

But that’s not all. Here are eight reasons why you should create a sales development role in your agency to help increase sales and scale your business.

1) You're a rockstar inbound marketer

Your first problem was lead flow. But now that you’ve fixed that with a solid and scalable inbound marketing program, you’ve got another issue to contend with: You’re spending a large amount of time following up with unqualified leads and prospects who just aren’t a good fit. Consider this: 98% of marketing qualified leads never result in closed business.

While more leads equals more opportunities to win new business for your agency, there’s still an education and qualification process that needs to happen to transform leads into sales-ready prospects.

In addition, you want to get the most qualified prospects in touch with your new business director or agency owner as quickly as possible. While lead scoring can help with this, it’s more effective for someone to pick up the phone, determine the needs of the person, start to build trust, and determine whether more education is necessary or if the prospect is ready for an initial meeting with your executives.

2) Interested in expanding your services

Adding a new service line to your agency’s offerings is a big investment. A sales development rep can actually create demand for that service, rather than having to wait for the agency to market the service to new clients or bring up the offering when it’s time to renew a client’s retainer. The SDR would evaluate your current client list to determine who might find value in investing in the service, and then she would work independently or with the client’s account manager to grow that client’s business with the agency.

The SDR could also cultivate a list from your lead database of prospects who weren’t previously a good fit but now are because of this added service/offering.

3) Increase your average revenue per client

It can cause confusion when the account manager -- the person who builds the most trust with a client, manages communication, and basically serves as an advocate for the client’s needs to the agency’s team -- also acts as a sales person. This can cause the client to keep back information from her account manager or even distrust the AM’s motivations.

An SDR is useful in situations where for example, a client has signed on to do a project and works closely with the account manager. The SDR can come in to have the sales conversations with the client about signing on for additional project- or retainer-based work. This alleviates the conflict between servicing and sales.

4) Struggling to reach your target market

You’ve just defined your positioning and have started marketing your agency. Yet, there’s a lag. Typically, inbound marketing takes months to see the initial results, and you don’t have months to wait for people to learn about your agency. An SDR can help to bridge the gap between your marketing efforts and sales. This person can introduce your new ebook or blog posts to your newly defined target market, driving interest and new prospects to your firm.

5) Looking to shift or pivot your target market

This is similar to #4 in that an SDR can be the person to inject energy and velocity into lead generation and sales while you are waiting for your marketing efforts to catch up.

6) Interested in improving your conversations with prospects

Oftentimes, people want to move from an initial conversation to the proposal process too quickly. The result is time wasted on a proposal that doesn’t address the client’s needs.

An SDR can increase the quality of conversations throughout the sales process by slowing things down and taking her time to truly understand the budget, needs, goals, challenges, etc., of the prospective client. She can determine both if the client meets your ideal client profile and what knowledge the client might need about your agency and the services you offer before she can buy into and commit to seeing results from your service. If more education is needed, the SDR can add the prospect to an email nurturing sequence and then analyze the person’s engagement and progress.

This will prompt more in-depth, honest, and useful conversations when the new business director/owner finally meets with the client and her team. They can spend their time talking about business issues and concerns, rather than only marketing challenges. This all will help to improve your proposal conversion rates.

7) Planning to grow your sales team over time

In 80% of agencies, the average tenure of a new business development director is less than two years. People in this position manage the majority of the relationships with your agency’s future clients, so that short tenure should scare you.

By creating a sales development role in your agency, you’re building a training and development program for the future success of your sales effort. According to Mark Duval of The Duval Partnership, which provides business development solutions including sales training and coaching to agencies, it typically takes 3-6 months to find a new business director (this may depend on the seniority). For a new biz person -- even with previous experience -- to ramp up and be fully trained, you’re looking at around six months. So it could take a year before you see the full impact of a new business director on your agency.

An SDR gets the chance to learn the agency business, the front end of the sales cycle, how to build trust, how to qualify and establish urgency, and how to prospect. This creates high-performing new business directors in the future and more results for your agency right now. At HubSpot, our sales reps who start out in the SDR role typically move on and perform better than their peers.

In addition, there’s lower risk (and a lower cost) when hiring this role over a new business director position, and it allows you to maintain stability in the most important role at your agency.

8) You want to sell more, period!

It’s simple math: The more leads you communicate with, the more prospects you talk to, and the more people you quality, the more sales your agency will see. By improving your connect rates and conversion rates through the addition of a sales development rep, you can have more meaningful conversations with leads that results in a bigger client list and more revenue for your agency.


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