Read More
IgEuN_c-_400x400.jpg

If I say the word “sales” I bet a lot of you will stop readin… WAIT! Come back right now! This is important. For some reason in the digital services world, we get creeped out by that word. But this isn’t about wearing polyester and convincing you to buy the 2-year warranty that you don’t want. But it might include cold calling. And today more than ever it feels like digital agencies are maturing when it comes to how they manage not only inbound but outbound, too. So listen in as Dan Englander from Sales Schema talks about selling in a way that doesn’t make it feel gross. Nice work, Dan.


Carl Smith:
Hey everybody and welcome back to the Bureau Briefing. It's Carl, and with me today I have the author of Mastering Account Management, also the author of the B2B Sales Blueprint, and the founder of Sales Schema, Mr. Dan Englander. How's it going, Dan?

Dan Englander:
I'm well Carl. How are you?

Carl Smith:
Doing well. Now, we bumped into each other, I believe, on Linked In.

Dan Englander:
Correct.

Carl Smith:
Was that how we met?

Dan Englander:
Yes, yes. You probably got into one of our cockamamie funnels and [crosstalk 00:00:28]. No, I'm just kidding. I've listened for quite a while and reached out.

Carl Smith:
You trapped me.

Dan Englander:
Yeah.

Carl Smith:
You trapped me in a net.

Dan Englander:
Exactly, yeah.

Carl Smith:
You said, "The only way out"-

Dan Englander:
Right.

Carl Smith:
"I've got to be on Bureau Briefing."

Dan Englander:
Give me your social security number. It's the only way.

Carl Smith:
I would've given you that, actually. That's everywhere, but the Bureau Briefing is the hottest podcast, at least in the 32257 zip code.

Dan Englander:
Absolutely. If not, then into the next neighboring county.

Carl Smith:
It could be. It could be. I'm glad you're on the show today. The thing that struck me, and we had one conversation ... A lot of the stuff that you do is the kind of stuff that it almost feels repellent sometimes to people running digital agencies. We had Joe Renaldi on the show. We talked about Biz Dev. Joe's an old timer like me. I think you might be a little bit younger blood, I'm not sure.

Dan Englander:
Less than, but not too much.

Carl Smith:
But we get into it. When you and I started talking, I was like, "You know what? We need to be open to a lot of different ideas." I was hoping maybe you could start off. Just give us a little bit of background on yourself.

Dan Englander:
Yeah, absolutely. I moved to New York in 2010, and then had a series of internships. Eventually, I landed a job at a boutique agency here in New York. When I was there, I was kind of doing all the grunt work and all the proposals. That's not all of it, but a great deal of it. We were doing social media work for Fortune 500s and that sort of thing. I was sort of on the proposal end. Most of the leads were from referrals and personal networks from the company. I had very little to do, in terms of bringing home the bacon. I was just sort of doing various grunt work. From there, landed a gig as the first employee at this creative services/animations shop, also here in New York. 

That's when I became a glorified order taker. I was tasked with business development, and I was basically a sales guy and didn't know I was. I was also wearing a million other hats. I was doing all sorts of things that needed to be done in a small what started as a two person company with a founder and me. We were selling enterprise video to the Fortune 500 market, as well as big agencies. Basically, what would happen is we would get a lead through in bound. We would often get referred or we were doing lots of PPC at the time. Then, I'd create a proposal. Then, I'd shoot it off to the lead. Then, I wouldn't do anything else and I wouldn't follow up. All of sudden, it would just be crickets for months. 

Finally, my boss at the time, he's a close friend of mine still, was like, "Hey, do you want some sales training? Do you actually want to figure out how to do this?" I was like, "Eh, I guess I am a sales guy. Maybe I should do that." Went through training with a great kind of traditional sales guy trainer named Mike Ganzel here in New York, and learned the trade. I got really lucky because I was able to practice on what must've been into the thousands, in terms of the numbers of calls I was on because we were just running so many ads and getting so many leads. That's really where I learned how to do what I do. 

Then, eventually wanted to strike out on my own. I started Sales Schema as a consultancy. Naturally, most of my clients were agency owners because that was the space that I had background in and those were the sort of people that I would be getting in touch with. Then, I would give people different ideas. I would say, "Hey, you could try this. You could try that. You could try email, you could go out there and do this. Here's all these new lead generation strategies." Then, what would happen is over and over again they would get busy with stuff, client work would come up, fires would come up. 

Then, eventually it would just ... Everything would go on the back burner. This would happen over and over again. Eventually, we thought why not solve the most time consuming consistency reliant part of the sales process, which is getting that first hand raise from a busy marketing leader. That's kind of what we do now. We generate qualified leads for agencies. We have different programs for doing that. Out bound's a big part of that, and we have in bound programs as well, and so on. That's kind of my life in a nutshell, canceling out high school and all that stuff that I won't get into.

Carl Smith:
What ... And I'd say, it was great having you on the show today.

Dan Englander:
Yeah, thank you.

Carl Smith:
No, so these are exactly the things that I think cause worry with digital agency owner, right? We talked about this a little bit, but when you start saying out bound, in bound, PPC, none of us want to be sales people.

Dan Englander:
Right.

Carl Smith:
I don't think. I think there's a new wave of shops coming in, and they are a little more sales oriented. The only thing that I think traditional digital agency owners want less than being a sales person is being out of business. It becomes this thing where we realize that the great work that we do is going to get us great work, but there's a lull in between. There's all this other stuff in there, these ways to find new people. When you start talking about being able to help us, and now specifically by helping us find those ideal clients, by out bound, and it's not a dirty word. It's so funny, but it's like, for so many of us, that's kind of how it's felt. I'm just curious, how do you determine or how do you work with us to find out who that ideal client is? Because, I'll say, I think that's the biggest knock when somebody brings a sales person in house is that they never knew what it was we were trying to find.

Dan Englander:
Right, right. To kind of answer that question in a round about way, I think you have to first talk about the clients that you're getting already. If you're not doing out bound, you're not doing any sort of strategies, which are people that are being referred to you through your network or through seeing your work once they have a need. At that point, they're kind of in Goldilocks mode. They're trying to find somebody that's not too hot, not too cold, just right. They're putting you into a spreadsheet. They might not know everything about what you want to do, about what they want to do. They might have to learn a little bit, but they're generally very problem and solution aware. When you're doing out bounds and you want to find the right client, you're reaching people at a different stage, unless you get lucky and they happen to have a need when you hit them, which is rare, but that can happen. Generally, you're hitting them when they're at this problem awareness stage. They know they have a problem and they know somebody can solve it, but they don't exactly know how.

To answer your question, in order to identify that right client, you really have to be selling against their pain. You can't just say, "We do great work. We're going to make you 10x better," because that's not really compelling enough for them to pay the cost of actually changing. In order to identify that client, somebody who fears loss or fears deterioration. That means figuring out one or two verticals that you can make that argument for. Now, it's easier with some ... I'm going to put it out there and admit the obvious that certain services, it's much easier to do that for, like our services. We help you get more business. Okay, that's ... I'm basically of sunshine and rainbows as a problem resolve, I'll admit that. 

It's harder for design and development shop, but I think it's definitely possible. If you can say, "You guys are going to be investing this much anyway in the next year in design and development. If you did it with us, and we have a specialty with travel and tourism, you're going to also get X, Y, and Z. You're going to save all this money. You're going to be this much further ahead. You're going to avoid X problem," then that's a lot more compelling than just kind of putting your work in front of people and hoping for the best.

Carl Smith:
Right. Explain the process. If you were to ... Say that I was still running my shop and I decided that I wanted to bring Sales Schema on, how would you approach me about it? What would I need to share with you? Just how would you help me?

Dan Englander:
Right, right. First, we want to hear about where you've had success in the past. Then, what's worked and what hasn't worked. We want to hear how you've traditionally gone about winning new business, which for our market, is nine times out of 10 referrals, and then your personal network.

Carl Smith:
That's it, yeah.

Dan Englander:
We have to sort of get beyond the point of knowing that you're ready to have a sales process and to do all the things that you need to do to be a good sales person. The problem that we're solving isn't replacing your sales process, isn't selling for you. There are companies that do that. They're generally very high commitment and they require lots of learning. It's basically like hiring a sales person yourself. For some context, we were at the crossroads of going to way and decided not to because it's just a completely different business model. We're a lead generation company and that's the problem we're looking to solve. First off is making sure that you're actually ready to do this and you're ready to take it on. That means being persistent, working a pipeline, being able to do what everybody else in the enterprise world has to do as a sales person. For some reason, and I love agencies, I'm not disparaging anyone, but for some reason agencies have just always functioned according to different rules until relatively recently.

Carl Smith:
Yeah.

Dan Englander:
That's the first thing. Then, to answer your question in terms of how we would identify the right clients for you, it's basically figuring out, like I said earlier, what central problem you're able to solve. It's always there, but it just requires peeling back lots of onion layers and basically figuring out how to make one compelling line that makes somebody agree to speak to you. It's really a destructive exercise in that way.

Carl Smith:
Then, we go through that. We find out that I was right all along and it's video game companies because absolutely ... We did great work frat pick. We weren't able to ever maybe showcase it correctly or we couldn't find a way to get into the decision maker's front tier. Once you know that, what do you come back to me with?

Dan Englander:
Right, right. Often, what we find, and this can be applicable if they've actually tried out bound campaigns before, but not always, is that people will say, "We've gone after XYZ group in different ways and it didn't work for us in the past," or, "This is a new group for us." What we often find is that A, agencies will stop before they know what's going on. It turns out nobody's read the emails that you've sent. Or due to some technical issue, or you just don't have enough data yet. Maybe you send your portfolio to 50 companies and nobody got back to you. That could be that's really just not enough data to say anything. 

From there, the first thing we want to make sure of is what your actually experience was like and why it might've played out like that. Then, from there it's really about targeting the right people. To use your example of video game companies, and you say that you're awesome with that. Maybe you've gone after certain titles before, maybe not. What we find is that once you're going up to larger companies, there's very little title consistency. It can really run the gamut. You might have a bunch of people in the company doing different things. It's going to be like, "I'm specialist customer engagement superhero XYZ title."

Carl Smith:
We all have our clever names.

Dan Englander:
Yeah, and it becomes tougher to identify. That's the second thing is once you know that you have data on something ... This applies ... I'm using it in the context of email, but it could easily apply to an ad campaign, or speaking engagement, or anything else. It's kind of perineal in that way. Then, it's basically figuring out the people that you're going after and getting it specific to a vertical and specific to an ideal set of titles. Then, from there, it's the message. A lot of times people will flip it first, so they'll start with how do I send them as much cool stuff that's visually amazing. Then, forget about the first two steps, which is basically how do I get enough data, what outcome am I looking for, and who is this going to, who's the audience.

Carl Smith:
When you put together a plan, you include things like speaking engagements, if that's something that they've gotten in the arsenal at the shop?

Dan Englander:
We could, yeah. We have in the past. That could be something that you do later on. Usually, what we're going for is an agreement to a conversation, which is not too much to ask, if you show enough specialization. If you can say, "We focus on video games shops. Look at all this great work we've done. Can we find 15 minutes next week?" That's compelling enough to get a good rate of return. But sometimes, as a fall back, we'll talk about speaking engagements, we'll talk about events. If somebody hasn't responded after a month or so, then we'll go with something that's a little softer.

Carl Smith:
I think part of what gets a lot of shop owners is that we get in on these drip campaigns that are targeted at us. Right? We know that the person that just reached out and said, "Can I have five to 10 minutes of your time?" probably said that to 1000 people. Then, we delete it or we go away. It's funny because my company nGen has been out of business pretty much for two years, and yet I keep getting put up for business of the year awards. It's just intriguing, but I guess what I'm going at is I think that's part of what we aren't comfortable with is jumping in there. How do we make it, I hate to use a buzz word because it shouldn't be a buzz word, but how do we make it authentic-

Dan Englander:
Sure.

Carl Smith: When we're doing that?

Dan Englander:
First, I want to ... I'll answer that question, but first I'll just say that for one, the bar's low. Most of the emails that you're getting are not well targeted.

Carl Smith:
Sure.

Dan Englander:
You're getting exposed to people that aren't doing it right a lot of the time.

Carl Smith:
Right.

Dan Englander:
Secondly, I think that you can, and this is a problem that all sales people have, is using yourself too much as that barometer, as opposed to what your clients are thinking. The fact is if you could think the way that your clients do, you wouldn't have any problem. You would know exactly where to go to reach them, you would do everything right, but you can't. You really can't. You can get inside their head to some extent, but you can't ... All the objections and all the head trash and anxiety you have they don't necessarily have. You can't let what you would do trip you up in the face of people that could buy from you. It's better to get a no and take that as data than to have never made the ask, I'd say. 

The third thing is you're going for a certain rate of return, and that applies to any marketing channel. Advertising the number of meetings you're able to get out of a speaking engagement, the number of ... Whatever channel you're looking at, you're going to get a certain rate of return. Email could be quite high. We've had campaigns get 10% lead rates where if you hit up 100 people, 10 of them agree to speak, which is great. Even with a crazy high lead rate, you're still going to get a lot of people that don't want to talk to you right now. 

I think that a lot of the times when you hear that, you assume that the people that have unsubscribed or haven't gotten back to you hate your guts and think that you're an Albanian spanner working out of an Al Qaeda compound somewhere, but that's not the case. What happens is they, say, unsubscribe or they don't get back to you, and they promptly forget about you because they've got a million things to do and so on. Then, guess what happens a month later when somehow you get back on their radar through whatever channel is they say, "Oh yeah, I think I remember that agency." They don't remember that they said unsubscribe.

Carl Smith:
Right.

Dan Englander:
It's just another sign of familiarity and trust at the end of the day. Unless you say something truly offensive or you do them really wrong, but that's easy to avoid. With that, I've forgotten your original question.

Carl Smith:
I have, too. But I have to say, the very first outreach that nGen did, my shop, in 2000-

Dan Englander:
Oh, authentic. Okay. Sorry, keep going and I'll get back to it. How do you make it authentic?

Carl Smith:
Yeah. So nGen, 2003 we sent out probably 3000 postcards that had a photo of one of my partners. You could see his back and he was at a urinal. Then, written on the wall, it said, "We give good web," with our phone number. We spent a lot of money and sent those out. We got a lot of calls, mainly saying, "Never do that again." Landed two clients that were not worth it. It was the worst idea that we loved.

Dan Englander:
I love it, too. I'm glad you did it, so now nobody [inaudible 00:16:56].

Carl Smith:
That's the thing, right? You're not going to land Harvard sending them some photo of you at a urinal.

Dan Englander:
Right, right. I think that that kind of has the answered buried is that, yeah, you want to be authentic, but you also have to be speaking to the audience that you're going after. I applaud you for what you did, but I guess it didn't speak to whoever you were going after well enough. I'm not going to be able to give everyone a one size fits all approach because obviously it's going to depend on your situation, but what we've seen work is that the data's kind of leaning towards piffy. Overall, people tend to trust you more when you can use less words and you can appear more as somebody that they might have met a cocktail party, as opposed to someone pitching them on something. That involves really getting everything boiled down to a single one liner that kind of gets across the problem that you're solving. Then, make it easy for them. Make the call to action, "Can we chat at a particular time?" The little things like that really do make a difference.

Carl Smith:
Now, do you find referral programs effective? Is that anything that you ever get into or is that just too much work for the return?

Dan Englander:
It's hard to say. I think referral programs make a lot of sense when you actually do have a strategic partner that sells a service that's related to what you sell for a particular industry that you specialize in because then it becomes kind of a quick pro quo. Even if it's not literally like that, even if you're not literally passing business back and forth, even if it's a one way street, they get that resource. Where I've seen it not work is when agents ... I've had agencies pitch us on it all the time. It's sort of just like, "Hey, we'll give you a kick back if you see business like this and so on." It's like there's just not enough volume for any given agency to randomly come across your ideal buyer, and then pitch it. Then, even if they do, there's just so much trust that has to be built first. I much rather send the business to somebody that I really tryst, as opposed to get $1000 kick back or something.

Carl Smith:
It's always so weird, the referral, especially with formalized because then two shops that were formerly friendly now have this weird kind of relationship. I think the biggest thing for me is anytime at nGen that we tried to hand somebody off to somebody, the client didn't want it.

Dan Englander:
Right.

Carl Smith:
They selected one group, and then they're getting sent to another group. I'm glad you said that because I always thought maybe there was some way to crack the code on it, but I think it just sounds like a good idea because we all realize we're sending away a quarter million, $300,000 of work a year and we feel like we should be able to capitalize on that some way, but maybe we should just be better at having resources to do that work.

Dan Englander:
Yeah, I think there's ... It really depends on the situation, so it's hard to give an answer for everything.

Carl Smith:
Yeah, yeah.

Dan Englander:
I think that there is a lot of value in the clients not feeling like they're adopted children being bounced around between houses or something.

Carl Smith:
How do you help ... You're going to turn on this lead generation machine. How long does it take, would you say, on average for a shop? You're dealing with the creative industry overall, not just with digital agencies. But with digital agencies, how long do you think it takes to start seeing some of the impact of the work?

Dan Englander:
Yeah, good question. Obviously, it can vary, but I think what's cool about out bound is it doesn't work overnight, but it moves a lot of faster than if you were to do a content campaign for yourself, or you were to spend a bunch of money on PPC, or something. We've had campaigns where we'll get leads within the first two weeks or so. A lot of the times though, it takes some experimentation. It takes sending it to a certain group, and having that not work, and having to go back to the drawing board, and so on. There is learning involved. These cadences are playing out for anywhere from seven to 30 days, just depending on what we're doing. I think that's what's cool about out bound is that it's more likely to keep your pipeline full and it's a little bit less experimental than if you're doing other sort of in bound tweaking. If you're doing, like I said, content and all sort of other things, that can take a long time to know what the second or third order effects are. But with out bound, those effects happen a lot quicker.

Carl Smith:
That makes good sense. I guess I'm trying to think ... What kind of inflow would you see three months in, in terms of the number of leads? Obviously, this depends on the type of shop and the type of work, but a percentage increase or something like that. What would you tell people to expect?

Dan Englander:
Yeah, it depends on the size of the companies that you're going after. If you're going after big enterprise, it's going to be a lot lower than if you're going after S&Bs or something because people are ... Just for a number of reasons. I'd say, for most of our clients, we're going after five to 10 leads per month. I think that it's really good for agencies to be on the same page about KPIs, and what to defines a lead, and so on. The way that we define a lead is it's somebody that fits the right criteria, it's somebody that's the right titles or the right set of titles at the right industry, at the right sized company, so they could afford you. They've raised their hand and shown genuine interest. What does that mean? It basically means that they've agreed to speak to you in the short term, they asked that you follow up at a more relevant time in the medium term, or they want to talk to you, but they might have a reservation or do, like, "Send me more information. Do you have a case study I could look at first?" Et cetera.

Carl Smith:
Basically, your role is to set up the conversation for the shop, at which point you're out. Is that right?

Dan Englander:
Correct. Yeah, yeah. The reason for that, and like I mentioned earlier, is we were toying with the idea of being an outsourced sales team that's calling and doing all these other things. There are companies that do that. The problem is the amount ... Joe talked about this I think and did a great justice, is basically the amount of learning that you have to do to sell a complex agency service and to sort of internalize that history is a lot. You can have a lot of control over lead generation when you're doing it on this automated basis. Because everyone's living in their inboxes for six hours a day and generally prefer to be contacted like that first, you can get really far in terms of generating leads. 

Once you introduce the phone, there's this whole other level of complexity not just for [crosstalk 00:23:42] risk. It's not just on our shoulders, it's also on the client's because we've got to be able to represent people the right way. Once you have a human to human on a line, that all changes. That's one of the biggest pieces of negative feedback we get about clients' previous experience with companies kind of like ours is the, "Hey, yeah, they were calling our prospects." People are going to have questions they're not going to be able to answer. You get somebody that's a good lead, and then it becomes a bad lead because you're getting somebody on the phone with them that can't really describe the agency well enough and can't really sell for you. That's the problem we're solving is basically getting that first degree of interests.

Carl Smith:
I think what you just described in terms of people calling on behalf of a company is so on point because there's nothing worse than somebody hurting your brand while they're trying to extend it. 

Dan Englander:
Right. Right, exactly. Contrary to an email that somebody unsubscribes with, if you have a call with somebody, you're just going to be more likely to remember it more if it goes wrong. That's something that we take pretty seriously. Yeah.

Carl Smith:
Okay, so million dollar question. Cold calling, is it ever a solution?

Dan Englander:
Absolutely. Oh yeah. Yeah, just because we rely on email to get that first degree of interest doesn't mean that the phone shouldn't be the quickest next step. I think cold calling's great. I just am a big fan of starting with a list that is at least lukewarm, that shows you some indicator that it's worth your time to pick up the phone and call them, as opposed to just the phone book basically. Like, "Here's a list of video game companies size 11-50. Let me just call and get a bunch of gatekeepers." You might as well whittle it down to one degree or one layer, rather, and go from there. 

The other thing is there's certain industries that we don't really touch because we found them to be very hard to reach on the phone. If you're a restaurant owner, not a restaurant group, but you're going after restaurants specifically, then that's going to be ... and you're dealing with an owner that's running back and forth between the kitchen and the front door, they're going to be pretty tough to reach over email. You're going to have to go door to door, get somebody that cold calls to reach those groups. There's certain other examples of that, but yeah. Yeah.

Carl Smith:
I might catch hell for this with the people listening, I know both of them. The thing that gets me is we cold called at nGen when we first started. Now, the thing was I was the one doing it. I couldn't design, I couldn't code, so I would call companies that I liked their product, but thought their web stuff sucked. I would get the highest person on the phone I could and I would be like ... For example, Bubba Burgers was one of them. Bubba Burgers is a Jacksonville chain. I just called them and I said, "Hey, Bubba Burgers are amazing. Your website is horrible. You understand Bubba Burgers and we understand websites, so please just let us help you." 

Sure enough, three weeks later they called back. They were supposed to have a sponsorship in football with Kingsford Charcoal, and Kingsford pulled out because their web property was so bad. It paid off. Then, Firehouse Subs. These are all Jacksonville chains, but Firehouse Subs, called them. Said, "I don't know what the hell's going on with that flashing little animation of a firetruck going across the screen. I'm trying to find out about the food, which is amazing. Why are you getting in my way?" The director of marketing basically said, "Don't do that." Then, a year later, we ended up on an RFP for them.

Dan Englander:
Right, right. There's [crosstalk 00:27:29].

Carl Smith:
When I went back and looked, she said, "Well, you cared. You didn't just call and say, 'Hire us.' You called and said we were doing it wrong, which, of course, impacted everything about my psyche, so thank you." That's the thing, it's interesting. I know it's not something that you do, but I think we turn away from it when what we should do is focus on it, but more as if we're calling people that we understand what they do.

Dan Englander:
That's the thing. If you're contacting the right people, and it's companies that you can help, and you have a lot of experience in that field, you're kind of doing them a disservice by not getting in touch with them and not letting them know that you exist. In terms of some chicken soup for the agency owners soul sort of thing, everybody has resistance to cold calling. It's not fun. There's very few people that get energy from it. The difference is knowing that, whether it's cold calling, or doing out bound, or keeping your pipeline full, knowing that this is on you and this is something you need to be doing I think is important. 

I think that there is a big mindset problem with agency owners where they didn't get into this to be sales people, but most of them are going to have to be. If they're not, if they are going to hire out sales people, that's fine, but it can take a while to be able to afford good people and to be able to get people that are coachable, and that can be ramped up, and sell what you're doing over time. I think that if you're not doing it, you need to be thinking about that, and planning for that, and so on.

Carl Smith:
Well, Dan, thank you so much for being on the show today. I have to say, I learned a few things. I hate to acknowledge that I don't know everything, but there were a few things that you mentioned that I'm like, "You know, that kind of makes sense for the Bureau, if we could position it correctly." Our whole mission is just to build community. We do that by finding people, so thanks so much for being on the show.

Dan Englander:
Oh, thank you. Yeah, I appreciate it. It was great.

Carl Smith:
Alright. For everybody listening, we'll be back soon and we hope you'll tune in then. Have a great one.

Comment