In this guest post, Greenpoint’s MD, Ash Denman (pictured below), asks should creatives be asked to sell or let their work doing the talking for them?
Sales shouldn’t be a dirty word, but in agency land, there’s an underlying distaste towards the practice, with many creatives expecting their work to do the talking for them. Despite traditional misconceptions, in particular, the sleazy salesman perception, it is, in fact, possible to sell with integrity in what is historically a word of mouth driven industry.
Traditionally, the PR and broader marketing industry is not seen as ‘sales’ driven. But in an ultra-competitive and shifting landscape, your sales strategy must pivot and adapt to the industry as a whole. With the prevalence of technology, customers are now demanding a more solid ROI and in turn, end-to-end brand awareness and conversion campaigns. Gone are the days of fluffy PR.
In order to sell effectively, agencies now need to transcend traditional PR and instead incorporate a media mix that focuses on reach, frequency and conversion. By doing this, it becomes possible to innovate and sell in a sector that traditionally did not allow you to do so; by having the skills internally or by creating strategic partnerships.
As a small agency looking to scale, it was important for us to determine how we could break out of the networks of our founders and instead build a reputation through great work, allowing for inbound opportunities and organic referrals to support a sales team.
In an effort to innovate in sales and extend this notion further, we created a hybrid position cemented in between the creative and sales team. This decision stemmed from a simple idea: you must live and breathe what you’re selling.
By understanding what the business does in its entirety, your salespeople gain an intrinsic understanding of what they are selling. By initiating, developing and executing strategic client campaigns from the ground up alongside the team, they operate from first-hand experience. Although perceived as a longer term play than what most businesses will allow, it is crucial in PR and marketing that your business developers know the impact your campaigns are generating and as a result, can believe in the mission from personal experience.
Aside from the growth team, everybody in the business must know that every position, whether entry level or senior has an element of sales. Encouraging individuals to grow their networks, in addition to leveraging each team member’s existing contacts not only benefits the team, but also helps develop their careers. Your team should be actively networking, interested in what’s going on in the sector, enquiring about upcoming projects and scoping out any potential opportunity to grow the business, because in a small business, this directly correlates to personal opportunities.
So, how can you not be viewed as the slick, sleazy salesperson?
● Believe in the product and service – ensure there is an emphasis on client delivery post sales.
● Have integrity, and walk away when you can’t add value.
● Know that what you’re selling has an impact, if it doesn’t – don’t sell it.
● Don’t fake it til you make it. Know your product inside and out.
● Don’t oversell or overpromise – Know your team’s strengths and weaknesses to make sure they can actually deliver what you’re promising.
● Relationships – value client touch points moving forward post the win.
Make sure your sales team don’t just sell and walk away.
The sales approach of a business will directly impact the team as a whole and by successfully demonstrating drive, determination, and hunger to make it happen, this inevitably becomes instilled in the company culture. Valuing grit and determination over an always polished performance, hustle over holding back and over-delivery rather than just the bare minimum – all values that penetrate the greater business model, ultimately impacting the mentality of all involved.
So, how can PR agencies (and any other service business) transcend the norm and ‘sell’ in an industry with outdated limitations? In our experience, integrated sales positions with creative strategy ensure the growth team can comprehensively understand the business. We are all salespeople – so support the growth of every team member and leverage their network. Leverage networking to create valuable business partnerships as a means to grow. Showcase integrity in your sales efforts.
Above all, know that your sales strategy, and your integrity towards it, has an inherent flow on effect to the entire team and company culture.