four core themes of successful sales & service

I was drafting an email to a client for a potential project a few months back. About mid way through my respond was my time to answer that question we always have to answer in a pitch or interview “What makes me unique?”

As I typed my usual answer a small “a ha” moment occurred in my head. There were many similarities in how I pitch myself for projects and consulting work and how I pitch our services at HireInfluence. I thought a bit deeper and realized this pitch had similarities all the way back to the first agency I worked for out of college. An imaginary top-of-the head lightbulb lit up.

You can say that it’s just what I “learned” and that would be true. These were things I came to really value about the way that my former agency handled and scoped new business projects and it was something that I continued to bring into my own work as a freelancer. But it was the fact that I noticed these same core themes at the start of my tenure as a Strategy Director with HireInfluence that I came to label these themes as keys to a truly successful business across many disciplines, including marketing, sales and consulting.

There were four schools of thoughts and four main pillars that each agency had nailed: CUSTOMIZATION, PROCESS, BOUNDARIES and RELATIONSHIPS.

The companies believe in CUSTOMIZATION. My “bread and butter” is program writing. It’s engineering a plan from a set of objectives, using knowledge and research to piece together something that supports what any client is trying to do. Every client and company that seeks your services is different and should be treated as a new case. Successful ideas can be repeated but must be re-engineered to fit into a new “ball game”. In my time with both agencies, we put an emphasis on collecting information and thinking before we told a client what he or she needed. It assured we didn’t take a cookie-cutter approach to every client. Scopes and services were customized to the individual client to best suit what mattered to their end-goals.

EXECUTE IT: Not every client or customer is the same and they do not have the same needs. Step one, prior to selling anything – whether it be a product or a piece of advice is to understand the needs of the clients as it pertains to what you can offer as a product or service. Your service or product will likely affect each customer differently – your goal is to figure out HOW your service can affect each customer differently and then design the roadmap [a “custom” road map] to get there.

Each company had a tried and true PROCESS. While plans and services were customized to a client needs, the approach that the business took to creating the scope and executing on the scope was based on a tried and true process. This helps a client understand how to get started with you and what your relationship is going to look like. The need for a process and approach is one of the reasons I prioritized the creation of a deck that overviews my approach to creating social media strategies. Your success and your approach are correlated – both should be communicated.

EXECUTE IT: Don’t wing it. Human psychology – we FEAR the unknown. So eliminate it. Have a document or speech that let’s a client overview what your relationship will look like, and if you don’t have that, be sure it’s one of the first things you work on. Blend Social Marketing currently utilizes a four phase approach to developing social media clients – which I plan on improving and adding to in the next several months. HireInfluence has a bullet-proof 7-step process for campaign execution – one of the most efficient processes I’ve been able to be a part of it.

The companies draw BOUNDARIES. My favorite quote, “If you try to be someone to everyone, you are nothing to no one.” Your services and a client needs are not always going to be a perfect match. These companies, while hungry for growth, were not hungry for business. They knew to what clients their services would add value and were not afraid to walk away from scenarios where it was clear a client needed something different or something more than they could offer. It wasn’t about feeding the bottom (monetary) line, it was about adding true-value and that could only be defined in situations where we knew we would meet the expectations of the clients.

EXECUTE IT: Understand the client expectations and whether or not you can meet them. If you know a client is expecting a growth of 10-20k new Instagram followers in a month with limited OOP budget and no automation, ask yourself if that is really something you are able to accomplish. I know in my years of social media marketing this is an outlandish ask and I know that if a client is expecting that and I try to sell them on 100% organic growth methods with advertising, they will not be a sticky client. When it comes to influencer relations, we make sure to be upfront an honest about the manner in which influencer marketing can help drive sales, noting that it’s often indirect and unpredictable.

The companies excelled in building and managing RELATIONSHIPS. One of my first managerial positions with a former agency was titled “Client Services Manager”. My job was to basically monitor accounts to assure that clients were happy. While it wasn’t my favorite position, it did teach me the value in establishing a more long-term trust and rapport between key staff and clients. It helped me understand that the way you handle yourself in a client relationship affects your relationship with that client. I think good companies treat clients as more when appropriate – and I’ve seen this successfully played out across multiple former jobs and agencies.

EXECUTE IT: Ask for feedback. Be kind. Be happy. Professionalism is key, but not in a manner in which you become unapproachable or robotic. Connect on a human-to-human level. Share laughs when it’s authentic and appropriate to do so. More importantly, seek feedback at several points during and after your relationship and be sure to listen and act.