When companies are considering a digital agency partner, typically one of the things that is not considered is an agency's own inbound sales prowess. This is arguably one of the most overlooked skills to be evaluated when selecting an agency partner and here's why.
What you want from your digital agency partner are results. You want to be able to look at your ROI and know that the work that was done achieved the goals you set forth. In order to do that, your agency partner must have a firm understanding of how to sell, what makes people move further down the buyer's journey and how to close a deal. If your prospective agency partner can't do that for themselves, then how can you expect them to help you grow your business? I'm going to help you understand what to look for in a digital agency.
Here at Mighty, we take great focus on continuous improvement in our sales process. Every step of our inbound sales process is evaluated and tweaked based on performance. While the framework stays the same, the approach will change to adapt to feedback and responses we experience. Even our pricing changes based on our prospective clients' buying processes. Some prospects are looking at hourly rate while others are more concerned about the total package price and less about how we got there. It's important to note that this continuous optimization isn't done blindly. As a HubSpot partner agency, we leverage the extensive resources available to us for sales training and we are also able to pass those resources along to our clients. Each of our team members is required to take a course in inbound sales training and completes a test at the end of the course. Members of our team have also completed the HubSpot Sales Skills Bootcamp, an 8-week training program that includes one-on-one role play, weekly homework and live webinars with David Weinhaus, HubSpot's Manager of Partner Sales Enablement.
While you may already have a list of questions to ask your digital agency, here are 5 questions to ask yourself that will tell you if you're dealing with sales lions or lemmings:
1. Does the agency REALLY understand your situation?
The first sign that you are dealing with a good digital agency is if they are asking a lot of questions. Not just top level questions, but questions that make you rethink what solutions you may need and why you need them. The agency should be digging deeper into your business to understand what goals you've set, why did you set those goals and what impact does hitting those goals have on you personally and your business. You should walk away after one to two conversations feeling confident that the agency has a clear understanding of your situation, and you should feel like you have a better understanding as well.
2. Did the agency help you identify SMART goals?
Going into the second conversation, a good digital agency should help you in establishing SMART goals for yourself and your business. By setting these goals, the agency is 1) making sure that you have a clear path to focus on and 2) setting goals for which they can hold themselves accountable. This is the first sign that the agency you are talking to is more concerned with achieving measurable results than selling you a product or service.
3. Did the agency send you pricing without ask more questions?
Sometimes we all want to jump to the end of the buying process—"show me the numbers." Agencies are just as guilty in wanting to skip the discovery phases and close the deal right away. Beware of any agency that sends you pricing without first knowing the goals and what strategy they plan on using. Even if the price comes in lower than what you expected, this is a recipe for disaster later and here's why. Your agency may unknowingly under price the workload required to achieve your goals, and this will result in them trying to renegotiate or ask for more budget later and also ill-equip them with the resource to reach the goals set. This of course will come as a surprise to everyone on your team, and you will ultimately begin the buying process all over again to find a more suitable agency. That's time and money lost 2x, all because the front end work was skipped. Make sure your agency takes it nice a slow in the beginning.
4. Do you feel like you were sold on tactics or value?
Agencies will wow you with awesome looking concepts and designs. They'll try to close the sale by getting you excited about a shiny object. I can't stress this enough. At the end of the sales process, you should be buying because the agency has demonstrated the value they will generate for your business, not because of the things that they can create. Good agencies can all deliver great design and ideas. Great agencies will take that a step further with a solid strategy that works as a road map to achieve your end goal. That goal is measurable and meaningful, and that is the value that they are selling, not the tactics that are utilized in the process.
5. Are you being sold or advised?
Throughout your entire buying experience, be sure to always take a step back from the conversation and know whether the agency is trying to sell you something or advise you in the right direction. Just as you expect a financial adviser to be a good steward of your money, an agency should do what is in the best interest of your company—even if it means recommending to not do what you came to them for in the first place. There have been instances where a prospect came to us wanting a new website and we told them that they don't need a new website but they needed to be doing something else to achieve the results they were looking for. The end goal for your agency should always align with your end goal. If they align, then the tactics are irrelevant—it's the strategy that matters.
Ask yourself these questions throughout your digital agency selection process and you will end up in good hands. Overall, you should enjoy the agency's sales process and feel like you learned more than you knew going in. If you come out of the process with a list of tactics that you started with and pricing alone, then you are probably not at the right place. A digital agency is a partner in your business and you should feel that way throughout your entire engagement.