Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant, from Account Management Skills Training. I'm on a mission to help those in agency client service keep and grow their existing relationships, so their agency business can thrive.
Welcome to Episode three of the Creative Agency Account Manager podcast. I'm honoured to have a very, very well known salesman and sales trainer in the UK joining me today. My friend Marcus. I was lucky enough to be trained by Marcus when I was at Publicis, and he was actually the one that inspired me to set up Account Management Skills training to provide agency account managers with selling skills. Now, in this episode, Marcus shares some absolute gold for both agency account managers expanding the business but also for those in agency new business. I really enjoyed this discussion. Marcus does not hold back when it comes to how he feels. Agencies need to up their game when it comes to professional selling and no one's ever going to accuse Marcus of being a shrinking violet when it comes to speaking his mind. He's going to share with us the key to being successful in sales and the essential things you have to do when looking to expand the business. What not to do at the point of contract renewal, if you want to avoid a bid situation, what you should be tracking and measuring in your new business activities and the cure for a weak and empty pipeline where the area of really organic growth comes from, and why very few agencies recognise it. And what the transition looks like when your new business person hands over to the account management team. He's going to share loads more tips, loads, more advice and words of wisdom. He's even going to share with us the top 10 books he recommends every agency account manager should be reading. So I hope you enjoy this episode.
Jenny: So today I'm delighted to speak to probably the most well known salesman and sales trainer in the UK, Marcus Cauchi, who I also had the pleasure of being coached by in 2010, which you probably don't do anymore, Marcus, do you?
Marcus: I do. But there's a twist.
Jenny: Okay, because you're far too important to do one on ones, I'm sure.
Marcus: Love doing one on ones.
Jenny: But you fundamentally changed my career. And you were the most inspiring person I've ever met in my career. So I'm delighted this morning. And he's also happens to be the author of the book Making Channel Sales Work, who I'm holding a picture of now, and also the host of two fantastic podcasts, the Inquisitor podcast, which if you are in sales, or in the business of sales, or you're a business leader, then I highly recommend you read because it's like a master class in selling, frankly. And also a newer podcast called Scale Ups and Hypergrowth, where he interviews leaders of disruptive tech companies about how they reach massive scale and hyper growth.
Marcus: Without losing control, is the important bit in that. Most companies that scale fast so you know, hit the edge of a cliff and then fall off it. They don't go over. And the important thing about scale is that you can sustain it so that you end up creating a long lived business with customers for life.
Jenny: Well, I've been following your journey and I listened to the podcast and you've had some really, really high level people on there. It's been really impressive. How do you manage that?
Marcus: Well, just by asking, they’re incredibly generous. But I've learned so much from those podcasts, you could not even begin to imagine.
Jenny: I honestly every time you ask a question, I think I was nervous about asking you on this podcast because I thought I'm not going to be able to reach that level of questioning. But listen, tell me, give us a bit of a short intro anything that I missed out on just for the audience.
Marcus: I've been selling for 35 years, been with a company called Sandler for the last 17 years, and just about to embark on a new journey. So I've got some really exciting plans ahead. And the podcasts are really an opportunity for me to learn from the best in the world. And that's working out really nicely. And got married, three kids, worked in probably about 450 - 500 different segments of the market. And that range has been really useful, because what I've discovered is that in a specialist field, people who come with a broad range of experience and they have exercise creativity tend to be far more successful. So what I've found is that with minimal knowledge about what the product is, but an understanding of their customer, the kind of problems they have, the kind of better future they're looking for, I'm able to help people. So my typical client will grow three, four or 500% in a year, if they apply what I teach. And what I've seen is people who were on their last leg in sales, suddenly become top performers. And so, I think people who, if you find their motivation, and you understand what drives them, and they're willing to be helped, then pretty much anybody can be helped. But it does require the willingness, not just the ability, and I think what you have is a dearth in sales management skill. Sandler did a study in January, it came out and found that only 6% of sales managers were actually fit for purpose. And last year, only 44% of individual reps hit quota, and only 13% of teams hit quota. So that gives you an indication of just how far we have to go. And if you ran a finance team, or an engineering team, with those sorts of results, I think you'd have a very short tenure.
Jenny: There's no doubt that your skills of helping people grow their businesses and get better at selling are so spot on. I mean, I've watched it myself. I've experienced it myself. But just going back one step, you mentioned that you're on a new journey. Is there anything that you can share right now?
Marcus: Nope. I'll tell you offline.
Jenny: Okay, cool. So basically, Mark my audience are creative agency account managers, so they're less about landing the business, they're more about expanding the business. So for those who perhaps don't have any sales training, they haven't got a background in any sort of techniques or strategy. Can you talk a bit about where the hell they should start?
Marcus: Yeah, you should speak to your customers, speak to your clients, and find out what it is they're trying to do and speak across their organisation. The problem with so many creative agencies, is they're fixated on winning the pitch, and then they're fixated on not being kicked out. You know, I remember learning from you. This one choice turn of phrase, which is you're never more than three years from being fired by a client. And so that was from your days at Publicis.. And the reality is, there's no need for that if you develop two skills, listening and questioning. I've never listened my way out of a sale. I've talked my way out of plenty. And most people when they're asking questions are asking questions to gather information to gain understanding if they're slightly better, but the best questions are the ones that deliver insight. And this is where people go horrifically wrong because they don't prepare. They turn up and they prepare the pitch. But the pitch is broadcast. It's not collecting useful insight. It's not gathering the quality information. By the time you've turned up, you should already know most of the answers to the questions you were going to ask. Because you can do WWGS - what would Google say? It's not like that information isn't out in the public domain. And your buyers are very savvy nowadays. They've got the sum total of human knowledge with a few clicks of a mouse available to them, so they've done a lot of their research, and they're familiar, I think with their symptoms, but they're not necessarily au fait with the cause of their problems. And it's your job to get beyond that. Because if you are making this initial sale, your job is to beat the status quo. 60% of buying cycles end up with the incumbent solution, whether it's homegrown or another agency, of the 40%, 74% of those will go to the company that displaces their current preferences, helps them recognise what the cost of staying stuck will be. Creates enough points of difference. And this isn't about the product, necessarily. It's about what matters to the customer, and creates enough white space between you and the competition and the incumbent. And most importantly here is being able to allay their anticipated fear of regret and blame. And that's how you win business. To keep it, what you need to do is not introduce the shiny new object at the point of renewal. If you introduce that concept at the point of renewal, you almost guarantee it will go to a bid. Now, the actual win rate on buy cycles that get started and then end up in a bid is 2.6%. Very few agencies, very few vendors take the time to actually track and measure how many opportunities they engage in. And then how many of those actually resist in business, and when you consider the cost of pursuit, which is massive, you know, I don't know, what your audiences are made up of whether they're small, medium, or large agencies, but in large agencies, you know, 20-30 people might be involved for two weeks. Now, when you think about these people being billed out at 500 to a grand a day, that's a shitload of money - the technical term! And the problem is if they win one in four of those that they get to pitch, then chances are, they are going to end up eating into their profits, but they sink it into cost of doing business. Well, it shouldn't be a cost of doing business. That's just a lack of imagination. And if your imagination’s out of focus, your eyes won't see. And most of the time, we're steeped in tradition. This is the way we've always done it. It boils down to and I'll eventually stop ranting. But it boils down to sellers not understanding their rights.
Jenny: There's so much that I want to dive into there, but just to get stepping back to the questioning. I don't know if you remember this, but when I first met you, you came into the Publicis office, and I was thrilled that I was gonna get my own coach. But within 20 minutes, I was in tears. Do you remember that?
Marcus: That’s the usual reaction, and it’s not just women. In my training centre I’ve always had boxes of tissues for just that reason.
Jenny: But what I realised afterwards was that you were doing a fantastic job of pain discovery on me. And like you said, I at the time in my role as general manager, who ultimately the buck stopped with me in terms of the business. I understood my symptoms, but I didn't understand my cause. And what you did was have a conversation with me, not about you, not about what you could do. In fact, I know I knew nothing about you. You were doing all the listening and asking questions, and I was just pouring out and what you managed to do was make me realise what I didn't have in place. And for me that was so powerful, and transport transformative. So this skill of asking the questions in the right way is so it takes practice, doesn't it? It's not something you can acquire overnight.
Marcus: Like any skill that's worth acquiring, it takes time, practice ,reinforcement, you have to fail. But the most important skill of all of those is listening. And listening is a whole body experience. It's not something you just do with your ears. You do it with your eyes, with your gut. You pay attention to how the person is responding, not just the words. I'm having a row with my former associate, because he's a huge Trump supporter. And he's justifying and defending the Draino scenario because he's using the literal words. Whereas when you look at the rapper, the context in which that happened, it was fairly clear, he wasn't suggesting for a second, that this might be something useful to explore. He genuinely believed that you could inject Draino into people and it would kill the virus. You could see that from the body language, the context of everything that went on around him. And the slightly vacant and dumb look on him and the poor medical director who is shrinking into her shoulders. So, you know, the reality is that the words themselves convey only part of the meaning. And when you're meeting with a prospect, your intent must be right. So the first two questions you must be able to answer yes are, can I help? And if I can, am I the right person to help? Because if you're not, get the hell out of dodge as quickly as possible. Do them a favour, do you a favour, save everyone time. And now the problem there is that so often we have a weak or empty pipeline. So we need every deal. And the cure is prospect consistently, little enough and every day. So that eventually, and you end up with a sales funnel. Well, there are four things that I always get people to measure. And the first one is daily unique, effective conversations with prospects. In the agency business, five to seven a day is probably more than adequate. If you have five to seven, where you make the call, you get past the gatekeeper, you get through to the decision maker, and you engage in conversation around their pain with a contract that says at the end of this conversation, you will either invite me in or you'll not. And we'll part friends. And if you do five to seven of those a day, then chances are you will fill the top of the hopper. Second thing is the velocity, and the velocity with which opportunities go through your funnel. Now, the problem is that often you end up and this is the non PC version, you end up with either a Dolly Parton or Kim Kardashian pipeline. And on them the bulges are in the right place, but in your pipeline though, they’re in the wrong place. And because your funnel should really look like a thong, it shouldn't look like a baggy old pair of grey granny knickers, which is just bulging with stuff that isn’t moving, you don't really know where you are, and a load of non prospects. That kind of sales funnel is built on hope and hope is a shitty strategy. Now what it should look like is wide at the top with lots of opportunity, and you're filtering and disqualifying, and disqualifying and disqualifying, and all the good stuff should be in the gusset. And there, you're looking for three to five times more at the qualified moving to closable stage, than you need to hit your quota. So if you have a million dollar quota, you need 3 million to 5 million at the qualified moving to closable stage. And within seven months, it should be three times, within 12 months, it should be five times. Now if you have five times as much at that stage in the hopper at that stage, then you have choice and you prospect for choice. The other thing that I'm looking at is the conversion rate of first to second meetings. When you consider the cost of acquiring a lead, the cost of pursuit and you consider that seven out of eight first meetings did not result in a second meeting on average, that is a crashing waste. So you need to rehearse or you need to plan, then you need to rehearse. My rule of thumb is for every minute you're in front of the prospect, you need three minutes of rehearsal time. And especially when you're in an account management role, you need to rehearse and prepare. You need to have a cadence of accountability, you need to have regular contact with your customers, or your clients.And these would vary from maybe fortnightly calls with different people in the organisation, not just the immediate buyer, but the people who are affected by the work that you do - senior leadership, marketing, operations, sales, legal, finance, all these different departments, you need to engage with them because they're a business and they are a system and if you change one thing, then it affects other parts.
Jenny: On that point you mentioned before because I can imagine someone's listening to this as an account manager. And first of all, one of the things they always say is many account managers in creative agencies have like a dual role. Half of it is kind of project management, essentially. And the other half is actually where they're tasked with growing an account and developing relationships. Now, when you say, look, you've got all of these opportunities to expand your relationship building within the same client company, finance, procurement, etc. You said earlier on about having their rights, you know, where's the confidence level on how do I even start that conversation? Why would they want to talk to me, kind of thing?
Marcus: Well, first of all, the most important relationship you have is the one with yourself. And this is your self concept, you will only perform to the level that your self concept will allow. So if you were to rate yourself on a scale of one to 10 in terms of your role, you might give yourself a seven. And on a good day, you'll be a nine and on a bad day, you'll be a five. Okay? And you average around the seven mark. However, role and identity are very different. Role is what you do, your functions. Identity is who you are. Now, if you cannot look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person that you are, then you're going to have a problem. If you run negative scripts, like who am I to speak to the chief executive? Who am I? You know, I'm just an account manager, or an account director. So what? . And these are people who have problems that you are the expert in helping to fix. If you don't see yourself as having equal business stature, then you've automatically given away your power and you've created this disparity. So you've turned it into a parent child relationship, and what you need is adult to adult. You need two grownups meeting at the table to try and resolve problem. And what you want them to do is step out of the goal. And it's both you and them kicking into an open goal against their problem, you need to be partners. Now partners help each other get better. And so another right that you have is to establish very clearly upfront, what the terms of engagement are, how you escalate, how you will hold one another to account. And we use a tool called the client centric satisfaction tool. And it lists a number of areas that we are in control of, but directly affect the customer's experience. And we get them to pick five of those, and every quarter, we are held to account, our feet are put in the fire until they're good and crispy, and they're allowed to tell us the truth and we're allowed to tell them the truth, because we hold them to account as well. But the problem is that because agencies have historically bought into three really awful lies - The customer is king. The buyer is always right. And the man with the gold makes the rules. Okay, let's deal with them. First of all the customer is not king. The customer is never more or less than your equal. The buyer is not always right. But when they're wrong, it's often your fault. And, the man with the gold has the commodity, which is cash in 2010 in the depths of the last recession, tramps had cash, you know that that must give an indication of just how ubiquitous cash is. Today $5 trillion is going through the global economy just today. Okay, so it's not that there isn't money around. People want to spend it on something other than what you're selling, because you've been outsold by their internal narrative, or by something else, by a competitor by the status quo. You've been outsold. And so the responsibility comes on to us. And if we don't understand that, we have the right to do business with the right kind of people, we have the right to say no, we have the right to equal business stature. We have the right to have fun. We have the right to lunch once we've earned it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. This is tough. And account management is a really difficult job. But it's simple. You have to do the basics well consistently over time and mean it, but very few people do. I remember working with one agency years back, and one of the two founders kept blathering on about being creative. And no one buys creative. They want to sell more shit, okay. If your advertising is boring, but it works, who cares? And the fact that you've got lots of awards doesn't mean that you've actually helped them sell anything, because let's face it, agencies with awards generally bribe the publication to get them.
Jenny: So you talked about something earlier on that I want to go back to, because this for me was probably the biggest powerful element of the Sandler Training System, which is transactional analysis. And actually, it's about your own internal internal state and how you react in the moment, because we're talking about people to people relationships, aren't we? So can you talk a little bit more about transactional analysis. You referred earlier about being in an adult to adult state. And how it relates to sales selling specifically, from an account management point of view?
Marcus: Of all the psychological models or methods I've come across TA, transaction analysis, seems to be the one that works universally. And it's unfussy. And there's a really good book called ‘How to run your own life’
by a guy called Jut Meininger which I urge everybody to get a copy of it. Now it's only available second hand, it'll cost you over 100 quid. But it's one of the best introductions to TA but also to life. It's all about a martian who pops down to earth, and then discovers just how screwed up we are. Now, another good book that's really worth a read is TA for kids (and adults) by Alvin Freed. And TA is essentially understanding how we engage in communication transactions, and how we play games with one another. Now this is the negative side of it. And this can be described on three points of a triangle. It's called the drama triangle and ego thrives on drama, so bear that in mind, when I described the three positions. If you imagine an equilateral triangle on its sharp point, with the victim at the bottom. The voice of the victim goes, ‘It’s not fair, this always happens, you always do this to me, save me’. Now lots of customers play the role of victim ‘poor me my wooden leg, you know I don't have any budget times are tough’. Yeah. And that encourages two other types. So if you imagine on the top left hand corner, you've got the persecutor. Now the persecutor comes with a jabby index finger, ‘you piece of shit, you always, you never, you’re such a disappointment’. You ad people, you branding people, you PR people, you're all the same. Yeah, you make these promises and you do nothing. It comes with the jabby index finger and the pronoun ‘you’ and diminishes you an identity level. And then you have the rescuer. Now rescuing is helping without boundaries or permission. Rescuing is molly coddling, it's permissive and allows people to take the piss and allows people to bully them. And, what it also becomes is micromanaging. When we first engaged you were quite a rescuer, you're trying to rescue your people, you're trying to rescue your clients. And the problem with that is that you end up run ragged. You get upward delegation, you create learned helplessness around you. Persecutors create the conditions for the minimum amount of work and effort necessary to not be noticed. You don't put your head above the parapet because it will get shot down, and you try not to be noticed by being average that creates mediocrity. Which again, was your previous bosses in those companies without wanting to get you into trouble? So they used to be very persecuting and there was this, you know, what's happening about this, what's happening about that and you will get sucked into all these bids that were pointless, because they were confusing activity with meaningful action. Okay, now anytime you hear anyone playing the role of the victim, the persecutor or the rescuer, that's someone's ego being hooked. Now, that means that you tend to be stuck in the past or worrying about the future. And it creates a blame culture. And there's a lot of prejudice, pre judgement. Not only you've been judged and judging yourself, but there's excuse making, there's blaming. It's where agencies create these fiefdoms and stovepipes and you end up with political infighting. It's tough enough, what the hell are you doing fighting amongst yourselves, you should all be aligned working with the customer against their competition. And that way you're serving them and the individuals within those accounts, they have problems that they need help with, and it's your job if you can't help them to find someone who can and become a partner, so that you're raising the tide and raising all boats. Now, my favourite philosopher Bruce Lee was asked what's the best way to avoid a punch? And he said be somewhere else. So instead of this drama triangle, victim, persecutor, rescuer, go what I call below the line and this is a triangle on its stable flat base. And, at the bottom left, you have vulnerability, you need to be vulnerable. The word vulnerable comes from the Latin vol nebulous, which means to make yourself wounded, to put yourself in harm's way and do it anyway. It's an act of courage, vulnerability is probably the pinnacle of courage. And then you have on the top, nurturing and assess, nurturing and empathic. So you nurture these people, but so you empathise without falling into buyer empathy. So buyer empathy is where you say, you know, if it were me, I'd probably want a discount. That's bad, ok, but if you can empathise with the pressure that they're under, the stress that they're feeling, the worry that they're experiencing, and then you have a fighting chance of actually doing something to help them because you're staying in your rational mind. And also, then bottom right, is being assertive. Now, that doesn't mean being aggressive. It means establishing clear boundaries and clear expectations. And this is where things go wrong very often. Ambiguity is the mother of all fubars. And this is where ambiguity at the top of your organisation leads to politics at the bottom. So ambiguity is another example of what happens in that drama triangle, whereas within the winner's triangle, you are absolutely clear, specific and certain about what both sides have agreed. Everyone knows what their roles are, what their responsibilities are, you know how to escalate. And you know how to confront constructively the problems, and so you're not afraid of conflict. And agencies should be challenging their customers, their clients, they shouldn't be passively taking whatever their crappy brief is. You know a great example of this is one consumer brand that was following the CMOs vision. And bear in mind, the brand is determined by your customers, not by your CMO. And he had this vision that they were an adventure brand. So all of them, media and advertising was geared around people base jumping, and windsurfing and climbing El Capitan and all that crap. But in their biggest market, Hong Kong and China, people saw their brand as an opportunity to go out and be seen in public as being smart and sophisticated. So the minute they got rid of that idiotic message, sales went up 62 million in one quarter.
Jenny: So it's starting with the customer?
Marcus: You start with the customer, you need to speak to the customer, you need to listen to the customer. And, again, I do a lot of work in tech where they're fixated with big data. Actually, it's small data that matters in my book. And it's the individual conversations that you're having, Record them, get transcriptions of them, break them down, look for patterns, look for the clues in those small conversations and that small data as to what the customer needs and wants, what they want to know, what they want to be known for, what they want to have happen.
Jenny: And the thing is this on the surface, it seems so easy, doesn't it? Listening, actively listening, asking the right question, empathising, but actually in reality, this is my experience. People don't do it that well, like I remember going back to the conversation we had at the beginning was, I really felt heard, I felt understood. You know, within minutes of meeting you, I felt like I'd known you for years. So you obviously were putting all of that in place, to not only build the rapport, but also to make me feel that I actually was being heard and listened to. No one knew actually in my job that at the time, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Now that added another layer to all of the political bollocks that was going on, you know, at the time. I look back on this and think you came into my life at the right time with the right skill set to help me and it wasn't just empathising. It was about making my business better. Getting all upset now. But going back to, I know that you feel passionate about sales management. And I do too, because actually, when I'm invited in to help account managers, I often realise that actually the problem doesn't lie with the account manager, it lies with the management.
Marcus: Yeah, a fish rots from the head down, an old Russian proverb. And the pressure that you were under was astronomical, it was heartbreaking to watch as well, because it was utterly unfair. And what you were acting as for the rest of your team was a buffer. Now you were doing a great job of doing that. But it was exceptionally unfair and more often than not, it's because senior management is so fixated on the wrong things. And I put this down to a large extent to the work, their business model, because if you publicly listed and then you have to work towards quarterly reporting, and you have to keep your investors happy, which is not the way to build a long lived sustainable business that has strong fundamentals. And what you end up doing is creating a business that is chasing logos, chasing revenue, not profit, and isn't focused on the long term. They say that they are but the reality is, I mean, get this, depending on your industry, it costs somewhere between six and 21 times more to acquire a new customer than sell to an existing customer. If you're selling to an enterprise, the enterprise actually is a marketplace in and of itself. You have the organic growth, which is sell them something similar but different, more of the same. And then you have grow what you've got. Then you have their supply chain, you have their partner network. And again, most account managers are not really looking at that. It never crosses their mind. But if you ask for referrals into those organisations you can build your pipeline brilliantly. And alumni is another area. You can look at the organic structure of the family, so parent companies, sister companies, subsidiary companies, and all of those and also look at the customers’ customer. And why is it so few salespeople, whatever industry, are spending any time at all either on the supply chain and department network, or the customers’ customer, all of those could just as viably be customers or clients for you. And part of the problem here is that leadership and management is fixated on the numbers. You cannot manage the numbers. The numbers are a byproduct of the behaviour of the inputs. And they're fixated on lagging indicators because by the time the revenue number comes in, you've already hit the iceberg and you’re two thirds of the way to the bottom of the Atlantic. I remember when when we first started working together, having these conversations with you trying to work out, okay, what is it that we need to be seen to be doing versus what we're actually going to do, so that we can get a strong foundation. You focusing on building the pipeline up, making sure prospecting was happening, making sure that you're having the right conversations with the ideal customers, because I remember there was a guy in your sales operations team, whose name sticks in my mind, and he ended up ploughing 3 million pounds worth of pointless pipeline into your business, that you could never win, but you had to go after it because your leadership had this idiotic lottery mentality, which is, you know, you've got to be in it to win it. No, you don't. You only want to be in the ones you can and will win, and you need to disqualify hard. And this is the other thing coming back to our rights. You have the right to say no. And don't go after to companies that are 72% fit your ideal customer only go after the companies that are 100% fit. In fact, my newsletter this month is exactly on this. I'm just finishing it now. And, you know, focus on your ideal customer. But to do that you have to know who your ideal customer is. And be clear about who your ideal customer is not, so you can say no. Don't get involved in those bids and tenders. Don't get involved in those proceeds. Because if they're not absolutely right, they will suck you dry. They'll ask for things that you can't deliver or that will be non core to your core customers. And they'll drag you in with complaints and frustration and they'll suck your leadership and management dry as well. Meanwhile your higher ups are sat there quietly counting the coin, and because they're working everybody to the point where they're burning out. That's crazy.
Jenny: It was probably one of the most frustrating things for me, once again, we'd started working together was understanding, why are we qualifying, right? Because we didn't qualify, it was saying yes to everything, which obviously has an opportunity cost because it's putting a strain not only on the team, but also on the current clients that you've got back. So it I think I felt very sort of powerless. I mean, for agency owners that are in control of the qualifying process, I think the other downside is, if your business isn't strong, you don't have a strong cash flow. Don't forget, most of us are pricing on hours, number of hours rather than outputs or outcomes. So again, from a pricing perspective, you've got problems. And also from a positioning point of view, like you said before, we don't have a narrow enough focus a lot of the time and therefore you can't charge more. So I think there's lots of elements.
Marcus: In the absence of value, the conversation will descend to cost very quickly. And agencies, media companies across the board, whether you're web development, whether you're SEO, whether you're advertising, whether you're branding, whatever it happens to be digital, the conversation invariably turns into hourly rate in a very short space of time. And I remember I was working with our colleague Mike, and he was invited to pitch for a piece of business. And we worked on this response, which was WPP only sells at rate card, to every question when they were in this 19 way bid, 19 people and 19 different agencies, and they ended up winning it. And the point being, they only sold a rate card because it meant that they were in a position to offer the best service, because if you're not scrambling around for profit, because you're under pressure for that one as well, then you don't have to worry about where the next penny is going to come from. If you've got the right customers, you're serving them really well, you're focused on service, not servitude, and you see yourself as equal, then you can challenge them, you can bring your best people to bear. They're not being stretched on seven other bits that they shouldn't be involved in. Your creatives aren't being sucked from pillar to post. There are clear demarcation lines as to how often revisions can happen in order to ensure that the customer doesn't take the piss, because God knows they do. They have to be clear about their thinking and that's your job. That's a sales disability. And, you know, like I said, when the customer’s wrong it's often because it's our fault. We haven't established clear boundaries, we haven't established exactly what is required. And we haven't made clear the process to make sure that they don't flip flop and chop and change. And because I saw that in media all the time, for the last 20 years. I've seen agencies being dragged around by the scruff of the neck and being told, oh, well, why don't we focus on shampoo this week, so we're going to do body wash, and oh, no, we're going to move to toothpaste next, and so nothing ever gets done. And another really important skill is this whole process of contracting. It's agree the beginning, what you both intend to happen by the end, and make sure at the end, that someone is accountable. One individual is responsible, with a date and a time by which they will deliver a certain piece of work or an action. The people who need to be consulted and informed are also identified. You understand who has high, medium or low influence over a decision and also understand the different cast of characters who are involved, so you have ultimate power. So sign off authority, you have decision makers, and there are many decision makers often. In an enterprise, on average, you're going to be somewhere between six and seven influencers and the account coverage is generally very poor. There needs to be someone with chief in their title ideally. Because if you're only dealing with managers they have to defer up for sign off. And you need to make sure that you are looking at the influencers, the recommenders, the specifiers, the technical buyers, the user buyer, the financial buyers, and this is stuff that most agencies do none of. They just go in blindly to take a brief and then come back four weeks later or two weeks later to do a load of free consulting. And then they wonder why their win loss rate is so terrible. And then they blame the customer. It's not the customers fault. You cannot blame prospects for doing something you never said they couldn't do. So tell people you don't get involved in beauty parades and bids, see how they respond and say no three times because if they really want you, then you've got some leverage. If they don't, and you’re just column fodder, which is what most agencies act as. And then all you're doing his free consulting because they're looking for you for the cheapest price. You know, Joe Bloggs up the road for the most innovative ideas and Fred Jones for best service and they give all three of those to their preferred supplier, and they get paid for all of your hard work.
Jenny: You've shared so many tips for people responsible for new business in agencies, Marcus this is brilliant, and the benchmark data as well, which is fantastic. And this is professional selling. I'm interested to ask you one question, because it's been coming up quite a lot recently. When in an agency it goes from the new business team to the account management team? What should that transition look like to set the account manager up for success.
Marcus: First of all, you need to make sure that the relationships are handed over, so introductions need to be made from the new business to the account manager to all the different cast of characters. The expectations need to be documented and a cadence of regular contact needs to be put in place. I would look at a quarterly value review rather than a quarterly business review. Quarterly business review is typically where you turn up with your market stall and you try and pitch something else. A quarterly value review is about holding each other to account. It's about establishing right from the outset what their vision is over the next. 6/ 12/ 18/ 24/ 36/ 60 months and looking at the direction they're trying to take their business so that you can stay ahead of where they are. Making sure that your co developing a plan so if resource is required, identify what those resources will be, when they will be required, what the trigger points are and identify what budget is going to be required in order to be able to recruit them. Make sure that you understand the competitive landscape. So as an account manager with the new business person, what I would do is sit with the customer and spend time understanding the impact of their various competition. So not only your competition you need to understand, but I think you also need to understand your customers’ competition. If you understand the customers’ competition, then you can identify a whole raft of stuff. So, for example, you can identify what the facts are, what their products and services are, how well they perform, which markets they operate in, who their people are, how they're positioned, what their value proposition and pricing is, their accounts, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what their plans are. The question I always like to get an answer to is what is the weakness in their strength? Because if we can exploit that weakness in a competitive strength, then it allows us to start creating campaigns and messaging to exploit it. Now, the beauty of that is that you can start taking market share away from the competition, which is where you should be taking it from. And helping your customer to do that makes them look good. Your job is to always help make your customer the hero of your story. Stop talking about you, your agency, your past glories. No one cares. That's like showing photos of your ugly children to strangers. Focus on how you helped a client achieve their strategic objective. How they benefited from it, what they learned, what journey they went through, the ups and the downs. Because I think that makes a story real. Make sure that you are very clear in your messaging, how it serves them and that handover piece needs to encompass a lot of that. You need to understand where they've come from, where they are and where they're headed, and that needs to be part of the hand over. You need to have a regular cadence of meetings, typically every quarter where you get together on and you work out what's working, what isn't, what you need to do more of what you need to do less off. Every fortnight I would have what's called a re-con call with someone within the organisation as the account manager. Have them remind you what you agreed to do between now and the last time you spoke, or remember what it was like before you came in. Then what are you not doing? Well, what are they not happy with? Because you don't want mole hills to turn into mountains and if they've identified something, then give a commitment as to when you will come back with action. It's like when you go to a hotel and they ask you for feedback and you never hear back from them as to what they've done with that feedback. That's frustrating. So that's why you end up with 0.3% response rate. And, you know, that kind of response rate is awful. Who on earth would throw that much shit at the wall and hope just a fraction would stick. Customer surveys again be really careful about customer surveys because they are built in with intrinsic bias from the questions and often the customer survey questions are intended to try and make you look good. It's free form conversation, spontaneous conversation with customers that's got the really rich, useful data. Once you've identified the negatives and you've given a commitment when you'll come back and what action you will take, then ask what's changed for the better because that allows them to warm up and it sets you up for the next thing, which is where the opportunities for us to help you over the next 3/6/9/12 months. Because this is where they will tell you how to sell to them and what to sell to them and what are the next steps. So you always have to agree the next steps. Now, other things that you should be doing at the handover stage, you should make sure that you've done your research. You need to understand where this company is and the pressure that they're under. So two great sources of information, the annual reporting accounts section 1A is made up of all the blue sky bullshit the CEO and Chairman are peddling to their investors. Section 1B is the really interesting bit. This is all the caveats as to why Section 1A is full of lies. Now the other thing that you can do if you're selling to a publicly listed company is listen to the quarterly analyst calls where they're being taken through the gristmill and being held to account by the markets. You can get hold of those transcriptions and that will then tell you where you need to focus your attention to help them at a strategic level and stop selling advertising. Stop selling media. All media is is a means by which they can get their work done or their job done and achieve their goals. You can probably save them money. I can save the money - that puts us in competition. You can help them be more effective, more efficient, acquire new customers to grow, open new markets and those are the things that they care about.
Jenny: It’s about helping them with solving their business problems. We're selling business outcomes and we're helping them not only from the business perspective, but from the personal perspective. Marcus, this has been absolute gold. You've just shared tip after tip after tip. I've been scribbling notes. I know that everyone's gonna take loads of value from this. You mentioned a few book recommendations, but apart from your podcast, obviously, to be listening to, are there any other book recommendations, particularly for account managers that you can think of? Because I know you're an avid reader.
Marcus: ‘Just listen’
by Mark Goulston is a must read. I mean, if you just park the species, you should read it. ‘Talking to Crazy’
by him is also very good. And that's really dealing with your own demons first, because, as Philip Larkin put it, you know, they fuck you up your Mum and Dad they don't mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra just for you. And everybody that you know is a sick puppy, so understand that. I would read 'Essentialism'
by Greg McEeown and the basic premise there is do less, but better on purpose. What you say no to is more important what you say yes to you. I would also read ‘Asking Questions’
by Antonio Garrido.
Jenny: Oh my God, that is just such a good read.
Marcus: I mean, it's a packed full of useful clickable technique. Quite fun. Jodi Williamson's ‘The Contrarian Salesman’
is a really good one as well. That's a little parable about the journey someone goes through to move away from the free consulting model to actually selling. ‘The Sales Coach's Playbook’
by Bill Bartlett is a must read.
I would also suggest ‘The Road Less Stupid’
by Keith Cunningham which a fabulous read for managers and leaders. ‘The Right Use of Power’
by Peter Block is a fabulous read as well. Just trying to think I've been reading so many. Oh, ‘The Context Marketing Revolution’
by Matthew Sweezey and ‘Marketing Rebellion’
by Mark Schaefer because they all talk about humanising your marketing and personalising it. And the really important thing, let me give you a useful actionable item, ok? I have a framework for getting testimonials that tell the story that I want. Okay, so this is a testimonial template. Question one. Who are you and who do you serve? Question two. What problem initially caused you to invite me in to help you? Question three. What results have you had? I want pounds, shillings, pence percentages all that stuff - hard and soft. Okay. What initial reservations did you have about working with me? Because that helps me neutralise objections. What surprised you about working with me? Was it fun and would you recommend me? And why? If you look through my length in profile, you will see well over 100 testimonials that followed that framework and they’re that long, they’re a full page.
Jenny: I mean, that's so golden for anyone listening because they're not asking for testimonials or referrals. But when you do, having them structured that way obviously is a lot easier. I mean, I love a format or a framework anyway, but that's going to be so much easier for people looking to work with you, isn't it?
Marcus: Well, people struggle to answer a statement, but they find it really easy to answer a question. Your brain is always looking for the answers to questions and you never suffered from writer's block. I mean, another good tip, if you're producing content. Virtually all my business comes from either content production, which makes the customer the hero and puts them in the story and enters the conversation they're already having. It comes through personal referral and warm introduction/ recommendation. And it comes from actually people seeing me do what I do either on podcasts or live events, that kind of thing or joining one of my classes. Now, if they see that, then they can experience it for themselves. They make up their own mind. The reality is that the most powerful content is the stuff that my customers write about me that's golden. I mean, the flurry of enquiries that come off the back of that, they are worth 10 times, 20 times a cold lead.
Jenny: I absolutely agree. This has been so valuable not just for account managers, but also for agency leaders, owners. Because you're absolutely right. I mean, if you're not following Marcus, you should, because what he shared today has just been fantastic. But I know how active you are on LinkedIn and how much value you share for free markets. So to that point, where can people reach you? And who do you want to reach you as well?
Marcus: Well, the people that I'm really interested in are owners and founders who want to grow their business by 200% per annum compound over a 5 to 8 year period. And they're not afraid of breaking the mould, breaking the rules. They need to be ambitious. They need to be honest. They need to be willing to take direction and they need to understand the difference between risking and sacrificing. Risking is going from lower to higher value with the possibility you might lose some or all of what you've got. Sacrificing is going from high to low value, and there's no upside and most people confuse the two, and they spend their life in sacrifice. So what I'm looking for in particular are tech companies in the 10 to 50 million mark who are really looking to expand and they want to grow but build a really profitable, sustainable business with a long lived future where they secure lifetime customers. Where they are in control and they don't have to give away either equity or power to private equity or venture capital, who are the devil incarnate.
Jenny: Brilliant. And if anyone wants to follow Marcus on LinkedIn, you spell Cauchi C A U C H I and any other email address or any contact details?
Marcus: I’m on Twitter as @THE_Inquisitor
. You can catch me on Facebook, although generally that's me just ranting and the Inquisitor podcast which is marcuscauchi.podbean.com
. It's on Apple and Spotify and all other platforms on. If you really want to scale up, then the scaleupsandhypergrowth.podbean.com
also available on Apple and Spotify.
Jenny: Marcus, this has been fantastic. Thank you so so much for joining me. I know that everyone that listens to this is going to take loads of notes there’s loads of gold there. Thank you so much for sharing so much value.
Marcus: The other thing is I’ve started a newsletter aptly called The Grumblers
, so I'll send you the link for that as well. If anyone wants to get in time to get in touch.
Jenny: You’re always approachable. Thank you so much. Marcus, this has been amazing. You are amazing. You are a legend.
Marcus: Thank you. You are too.
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Marcus. And if you don't want to miss an episode, please subscribe to the podcast. If you like it, I'd love it if you would leave a review. And if you don't love it, I would like to give me some feedback. Please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
. Thanks for listening.