Pipeline problems: What to do when you need more revenue

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Running an agency isn’t easy. Especially if you're a small team in the early stages of growth. Taking on more talent, even freelancers, requires more revenue.

These additional resources - which are at the centre of every agencies revenue model - mean higher running costs and potentially more problems. Or rather, the problem is ensuring you always have enough cash flow to pay bills, salaries and set something aside for those lean periods.

And yet, many agency founders unwittingly treat revenue as a tap they can turn on and off as needed. Freelancers have the luxury of being able to work this way, but with increased responsibility comes the need to build and maintain an active pipeline of prospective projects and clients.

Sales: The Always On Mindset

Feast or famine is a common problem amongst agencies. Too much client work can move business development and marketing to the back-burner. Before long it can be neglected, until you lose a big account, or a project budget suddenly gets cancelled. Suddenly your sales pipeline becomes a priority again. You need money, fast!

Maintaining your sales an ongoing priority can avoid that situation. Here are five steps you can take to keep that revenue flowing:

1: Assess your current pipeline and accounts

Before you go rushing into a new marketing campaign, take a moment to review the deals in the pipeline, and existing clients. Are there additional services you can upsell? Can they recommend you to others? It's far easier to generate more revenue from happy customers than brand new ones.

2: Work with channel partners

Do you already have channel partners? And more importantly, can you motivate them to bring you more leads?

Commission, profit sharing or them adding a markup to your services are amongst the top three incentives for any potential channel partner.

Review the ones you do have and then identify whether you can make improvements. You may need to source new partners, possibly working alongside larger agencies, consultants, incubators, or recruiting agents.

3: Pick up the phone and start dialling

For some sectors, or types of clients, such as tech startups, the internet and email will always be the first point of contact. This approach doesn’t always work with other sectors or more established firms. Go analogue in a digital world. Pick up a phone.

Sales data can be bought or found several different ways, but sooner or later a prospect will only turn into a client after a conversation.

Get the data, send an email, and then follow up with a phone call. Your competitors emails could be sitting in their spam while you are sitting in their office signing a deal.

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4: Attend networking events

Every chance to speak to people is a sales opportunity. Face to face interactions gets your business card in the hands of potential clients, channel partners and those who will tell others about your work.

5: Start building an inbound pipeline

The basics of inbound marketing are quite simple: give something of value away for free, get email addresses in exchange. Start blogging. Start sharing stories and interacting via social media. Answer questions on Quora and LinkedIn. Write an eBook. Giving away some of your unique knowledge can get your foot in the door with potential clients.

Be consistent with this approach, and then when you do call or email, they, at least, know your name. Your brand won’t be unknown to them, meaning those in the market for your services will be more inclined to trust you and your agency to deliver.

Keeping the pipeline full

That’s what sales is all about: building trust, establishing a positive working relationship and listening to the needs of a potential client. Listen to everything a prospect is saying, and not saying. Ask questions, and then seek to handle any queries or concerns they have.

Always finish a call or meeting on a positive note, even if there’s not an opportunity to work together at present: every interaction is another prospect in the pipeline. The aim is to keep that pipeline full, with new leads coming in from channel partners, existing clients, referrals and inbound marketing.

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Posted by Jerome Iveson