The agency’s guide to winning ideal clients with Vendasta’s George Leith

Historically, sales leaders followed the Pareto Principle. About 80 percent of your sales come from the top 20 percent of your customers. By contrast, around 20 percent of your customers are costing your agency more than they bring in.

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In today’s tough business environment, those percentages have changed. In some cases, just the top 10 percent of customers account for 150 percent of sales. The bottom 30 percent erode those profits (HBR).

Growing your agency, then, isn’t just about winning a large number of accounts— it’s finding the right accounts. In this master class, Vendasta’s Chief Customer Officer George Leith looks at how to win ideal clients for your agency.

  “It’s not about hundreds of accounts, it’s about the right accounts.” –George Leith, Chief Customer Officer, Vendasta

Deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time

One of the keys to finding your ideal clients is to understand their customer journey. It’s no secret that today’s customer has a more nuanced approach to buying. There are more decision-makers involved (Forbes), and there is often more than one path to buying.

The challenge for your team is understanding the exact path your customers are on. “Some of the things we thought weren’t what customers were saying,” says Leith. Salespeople were seeing steps that didn’t seem to be in their pipelines.

Understanding the customer journey lets you meet the customer where they are. In turn, you can deliver the right messaging to them at the right time.

To get that messaging to them more effectively, you can “nudge” the customer. When they’re thinking about buying, your team can send over a case study or a report to help them move to the next stage.

Understanding the modern customer journey

Despite extra steps, the modern customer journey isn’t overly complex. In fact, as Leith indicates, it’s simple. The modern customer journey, he says, breaks down into some familiar stages:

  • Awareness
  • Findability
  • Reputation
  • Conversion
  • Advocacy

While the base components remain similar, Leith says sales teams need to think about the buyer and how they’re interacting. He associates key questions with each of these stages:

  • Do I know you?
  • Can I find you?
  • Can I trust you?
  • Do I like you? Do other people interacting with you like you?
  • Can I convert—by making an appointment, etc.?
  • How easy is it to become an advocate?

Answering these questions lets salespeople know what they need to do for the customer at each stage.

Leith also points to changing trends in how buyers interact during the journey. “B2B will go to up to 15 different places to do research,” Leith says. “It’s very easy to do research.”

A change in the age demographics of B2B buyers has also been mixing up the buyer journey. While Leith reminds us not to discount older buyers—especially those who have been early adopters—he says younger buyers interact differently. “Younger buyers only know technology, and they want to use it to do business more efficiently.”

Using technology to adapt to customer expectations

Since buyers are purchasing in a new way, it makes sense that your agency needs to switch up how you’ve been selling. Adopting new automated components for your sales pipeline can help buyers transact the way they want to.

Using AI-driven marketing tactics helps agency sales and marketing teams be more efficient. “If there’s something we’re doing repetitively, let’s get a robot to do it,” Leith recommends. “That gives us more time to bring what we bring to the table. And that is to be that trusted expert” for clients. Using automation can drive the self-serve options buyers look for early in their journey.

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Providing the right materials at the right time is one example. Leith recommends showing a client a case study to help establish your expertise. A sales CRM can also be helpful, by providing insights about when to follow up. It can also help deliver personalized content, which drives more productive and insightful conversations with leads.

The art of the start

“Winning the customer is not the holy grail for sales and marketing today,” Leith says. Instead, he advises that sales teams think about how they can “grow” the customer.

“We don’t necessarily need more customers—we need better customers, who we can … solve more problems for,” he explains. To do that, your agency teams need to be able to tell your story in a compelling way—and in a way they can prove to the client. Case studies are a prime example.

Leith reminds us that it usually costs a lot to acquire a new customer, requiring heavy investment from salespeople. Existing customers tend to get the cold shoulder, even though it costs less to keep them (The Ascent). Salespeople tend to assume the new client is going to find value, even without continued support.

“We need to superserve the customer in the first 90 days,” Leith says, “and then figure out other ways we can help them.”

Leith advises a shift in thinking about upselling too. “We actually want to expand our relationship with the client.” At the core, the goal is to provide more value to the customer. AI and other technologies can help agency teams do that.

Identifying your ideal clients

One reason salespeople tend to move on after the “close” of a deal is bandwidth. That’s why you want to be sure you’re finding customers who are a true fit for your agency. The wrong customers, after all, can use up a team’s bandwidth—and end up costing your business.

This is where it pays to think about the ideal client for your business. Leith points to technology like a CRM’s sales intelligence report here: it can help you see patterns in your client profiles. If all the businesses in a certain category are doing well, you can use the data to decide which vertical is the best fit for your agency.

Leith suggests agencies should transition from horizontal to vertical.

We can’t be all things to all people. When someone says they work well with everyone—every kind of business—do you believe them?
George Leith

Chief Customer Officer in Sales, Vendasta

Discovering who your ideal clients are allows you to create an ideal customer profile. From there, you can go out and look for more customers who “look” like them.

How do you know you’ve found your ideal customers? Data inside your CRM platform helps. You can see which customers have the best margins, the biggest baskets, and the best performance.

From there, you can use data to discover if there are similar businesses in your market. Data can even help you get insights into how to create raving fans and get more referrals.

Find the best, automate the rest

Leith says the “recipe” for modern sales success lies in answering the question, “Who are my best fit customers?” These customers are more profitable, but salespeople must work to become trusted experts. When they can do that, they have an opportunity to turn customers into fanatics.

From there, Leith recommends “automating” the rest of your clients. These are the customers who won’t increase their budgets or refuse to let you help them solve more problems.

Leith suggests starting by automating customer onboarding. The customer education stage is a prime candidate. He also suggests top-of-funnel automation can help customers move through the modern buyer journey.

From there, Leith recommends thinking about the investment of time. When you invest more time in your ideal clients, you’ll get a higher return—through increased budgets and even referrals.

“We can get more money, we can get more resources. But what we can’t get more of is time.”
Brendan King

CEO, Vendasta

If you’re not finding the return on your time, then it’s time to automate that client. Automation allows you to scale parts of your business and grow. At the same time, you can ensure your reps have the time they need to attend to those ideal clients.

Building trust with your ideal clients

Finally, Leith reminds us that winning ideal clients and turning them into raving fans doesn’t happen without hard work. Today’s customers are cynical, and that is not going to change.

“I agree 1000% on this–business owners don’t trust marketers.” – George Leith, Chief Customer Officer, Vendasta

Your ideal customers want to know that you can deliver. That’s why insight-based selling works. A sales rep who arrives armed with data-backed insights and research is going to be better received than someone who comes in with the product catalog and says, “What do you want to buy?”

Using AI and data to figure out where the customer is and what challenges they’re facing will go much further. Customers often already know their pain points. If you can offer insight—and then present solutions—you’re positioning yourself as a trusted expert.

Using data can also help you become more innovative. In turn, you can deliver better outcomes for your customers. Beginning with data allows your team to create a map for the prospect. In turn, it can help you deliver the right solutions when they need them.

About the Author

Solange Messier is the Content Strategy Manager at Vendasta. Solange has spent the majority of her career in content marketing helping companies improve how they connect with their prospects and customers. Her diverse background includes magazine publishing, book publishing, marketing agencies, payment processing, and tech. When she's not working, Solange can be found spending time with her family, running, and volunteering.

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