Managing your clients; This is how we roll, DistilledLive video

It’s not always about SEO keywords and outreach tactics at Distilled so, with that in mind, this week’s DistilledLive video gives you guys the low-down on how we do ‘sales’ a little differently here. Tune into the video below where Stephanie Coles and Amanda Marquez, from our Seattle Client Development team, talk you through how to manage your client’s expectations during the sales process.

You can read the full transcript of the video below.

Over to you, dear reader

Is company culture important to you and building your brand? How are you working towards your client’s long term business goals? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

DistilledLive | Managing client expectations during the sales process

Stephanie: Hi, I’m Stephanie.

Amanda:   And I’m Amanda.

Stephanie: Welcome to another episode of Distilled Live. Amanda and I are both on the client development team here at Distilled, working out of our Seattle office, and we wanted to talk to you guys today about managing expectations during the sales process.

We both spend all day long talking to different people from different sides of companies who have different needs, and we’ve really learned how to refine this process to make sure that we are really communicating expectations from both the client and consultant side so that we can really set the tone for the project and make sure that we are set up for success for the remainder of the relationship.

So I think a good place to start would just be to talk a bit about our role here as client development, maybe versus more of a traditional sales team that you’d see at a larger company or another organization. And really we embrace the client development team name here because of the word ‘development’, and the sense that it is a development process as you take a client through the sales process. We need to get to know them, we need to really understand who they are, the ins and outs of their company, how they like to work, and that’s will really set the framework up for the rest of the projects.

Amanda:   And for as much as Stephanie was saying that word ‘team’ here, we want to make sure that word ‘team’ with our clients as well. For any consulting agency, it’s really important to get to know your clients and be able to work with them for the long haul, because, with a lot of our projects, we’re with clients for at least six months. We want to make sure that our engagement is a good one, and that we’re a good match for them.

Stephanie: Absolutely, and as Amanda said, making sure that we’re a good match and also, establishing those really good partnership habits will ensure that you can work together and so you’re maximizing your results and your resources in a project and that will really help us work together as a team. So also understanding, kind of as we mentioned, more about the internal structure of the client’s company. Maybe they’re really into email or reports or they like to speak on the phone. That’s going to ensure that the recommendations the consultant is providing, or the bigger strategic plans that they’re providing to the client are both understood and actionable. So really using these different tips, right away with your initial contact with any new leads is going to be important for setting the tone, not only for the rest of the sales process, but also managing expectations for the remainder of the relationship.

Amanda:   And here at Distilled, I’m actually in charge of that initial conversation with all the leads that come to us, and it’s really important for me to set the tone of our team to let them know what the expectations are right off the bat. But first learning about their company and making sure that we are the right fit for them. So there’s a few topics that I like to discuss with people when I’m going through the sales process with them, which is [sic]: First off, learning about their company culture. What is their company all about? What do they like to do and what do they want to accomplish in the overall run? 

Second is their internal team structure. We work really closely with development teams, PR teams, marketing teams, kind of all over the map. I like to know who our teams are going to be working with and how they like to work with people.

Third is the time line. A lot of people come to us with different time lines. They may be building a new website that they want to launch within a few weeks, or looking for an SEO company later on down the road, so it’s good to know our time line versus their time line. And then lastly is their goals. It’s really important here at Distilled that we help people with their marketing goals as well as their overall business goals. We really want to match those up to make sure that we’re providing the most value. So that when I talk to the sales consultants and allow them to dig a little bit deeper into the process and get proposals going.

So the next step in the process after we communicate with the client either through email or on the phone is to set up a meeting with them with Stephanie as well as myself and all of the relevant parties at their company in order to dig a little bit deeper into how a project can be developed.

Stephanie: Yeah, exactly as Amanda said. We want to use this next meeting to really just dive into another layer. So we want to know again, more about the company, but also really talk about their goals right off the bat. What are they really looking for out of this project so that we can be sure we shape a project plan that will make sure we accomplish and hit all those targets?

The crucial tip for this, though, is to really push back on the client and make sure that you get to the heart of not only their goals for an SEO project, but really their business goals. Take for an example, let’s say we have a sock client come and contact Amanda, and she’s excited about it, and they come to us saying. ‘We want you guys to build links for us’. So maybe that’s what they need, but we want to push back and say, ‘But really what do you want out of your business?’ They’re likely going to say, ‘Well we want to sell more socks’, and that makes complete sense, we have a ton of e-commerce clients that come in. So is [sic] links really going to help them sell more socks? Maybe, but maybe not, maybe we want to look more at conversion rate optimization for them. So really getting to the heart of those business goals is crucial for making sure that we set up a project that is really going to hit those overarching objectives long term, and not just build them quick links that really isn’t going to have a return on their investments.

Amanda:   And once we know exactly what those goals are and how a project can be shaped, we start talking to them more about what internal teams that we’d be working with. How are their schedules, how do they like to work and communicate? It’s really important for us as well as our consultants to know how people work. Is it easier to pick up a phone and call them on the phone? Or is it easier to write them a quick email? Also, what type of reports do they like in what format?

We’re really flexible at Distilled, and I think that’s a really great way to work with clients and to see and get them on board to work with you, especially if they have a great product that you’re interested in.

Stephanie: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, moving into the next section here, we’ve talked a lot about setting the client expectations. So it’s also as important to set the consultant expectations. Whether or not you work at an agency that’s similar to Distilled, and you have a separate consulting team, or you’re a consultant yourself. You need to be realistic about what this project should look like, and really what kind of value or can deliver for the clients. So making sure, whether you’re an actual consultant yourself and you need to do additional research on the company, or if we are, Amanda and I, going back and talking to one of our consultants here. We need to fully prep them on what we discuss. What we know about the client, their personality type, what their approval process is, what their goals are for the project so they can feel fully up to speed.

The next step will be to actually get the consultant to create the project plan. This is, I think, really, really important because they’re the ones who actually have to deliver the project, so allowing them to shape the time line and the deliverables can make sure they feel confident in what they’re selling to the client, and that they can go back and say, ‘I feel this is a big opportunity for you, and we can really provide value in the long term’.

So the next step after creating the project plan will be for us and the consultant, or if you’re the consultant yourself, to go back and have another meeting with the client to discuss. Now it sounds like a lot of meetings, but again, this goes back to developing the relationship and setting yourself up for success, so it’s really important. Having that next meeting we’ll walk through the project plan and allow you to talk about the time line and deliverables. And just make sure that everyone knows what to expect and when. So when you start the project there aren’t going to be any surprises and people will all be on the same page.

Amanda:   To summarize this whole section that we’ve been talking to you about right now, it’s really important to loop everyone into the discussion, especially at the kickoff of the project. You want to make sure that all expectations are set so that no one doesn’t [sic] understand a certain requirement on either side, and you have a great kickoff to the start.

Stephanie: So now that we’ve completed the project plan and had another conversation between the consultant and the client, we’ve had a chance to really discuss what the time line is and the deliverables, and make sure that everybody is on the same page.

The final piece to this is really to be explicit with the client about what we’re going to require from them during the project. So this could be requiring a certain number of hours a week, or even having access to their different teams internally, PR, social media, their developers. For example, we worked with site migration projects before with certain clients, and we’ve been very involved maybe with creating wire frames or just giving feedback to their developers. Almost always we’re working under very tight deadlines, so if we’re getting feedback and expecting the dev. team to turn that around and give us the updated version so we can give more feedback, we’re going to need that to be done in a timely manner, so we can stick within the timeliness of the site redesign and get it up and live in the appropriate time frame.

Amanda:   That’s a really good point, and going off of more of what Stephanie said, letting them know your time expectations on their side is really important. A lot of the time at Distilled, we’re very collaborative with people, especially for creative pieces, and we like to brainstorm with them on creative the pieces to make sure that it’s going in the direction of their goals. So we’ll need somebody for a few hours, maybe one day, and to have that communication process that allows us to set that time aside and be very direct with them to let them know that we need that time in order to make their deliverables, is really important.

So all in all, I think what you really want to do is be upfront about what you need, what types of resources you need, what kind of time you need from them. That will be a clear and easy way to have a great project start off.

Stephanie: Yeah, and I think that’s a really good way to kind of wrap up the tips and the approach that we take at Distilled in what really works for us, to set client expectations throughout the sales process.

So just to kind of recap what we’ve discussed today, I think the first point is really spend the time to develop a relationship and get to know your clients.

Second, involve the consultants as soon as you can and have them help you build out the project plan and make sure that they can meet with the client before the project begins. 

Lastly, be very explicit with the client about the time that we’re going to need from them and the different resources they should expect to devote to the project with us.

Amanda:   Well that’s all for us today, thanks for tuning in to Distilled Live, Seattle, we’ll see you guys soon.

Cheri Percy

Cheri Percy

Cheri joined Distilled as a community intern and now heads up the Marketing department in the London office. She has co-ordinated and project managed some of Distilled's biggest content pieces to date and has doubled its social media growth.  When...   read more

Get blog posts via email

2 Comments

  1. Great advice Steph / Amanda,

    Completely agree that "getting to the heart of a clients SEO and business goals" at the outset of a project is important, as is understanding which client-side team members hold pivotal roles (input / feedback etc) that are key to helping reach agreed project objectives.

    Being realistic (and brutally honest) is vital, as many don't know (and haven't been educated) in what can / can't be achieved online, based on timescales.

    And this is where, I believe, many marketers let themselves down. We have to learn how to say "no" and advise alternative routes accordingly. Too many agree to unrealistic client expectations and create a false sense of security in both their and their clients minds, only for problems to occur later.

    I'd also add that we need to develop a holistic, multi-disciplined approach to helping clients. Although putting this into practice can be hard and depends on client needs vs agency scalability x depth of available resources.

    If our skill-set is limited to one or a few disciplines, we need the foresight to turn to those that have those skills, to ensure client objectives are met.

    In our industry, managing client expectations (and therefore, their perceptions) can make or break a project's successful outcome.

    Tony

    reply >
  2. Totally agree with their sentiments.

    It would be unrealistic to make oneself believe that you can always see eye to eye with your clients. That’s impossible. But one can always try to be positive about it.

    Focusing on the betterment of a particular project rather than on ourselves will help the process.

    reply >

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>