Sales Pipeline Stages

Episode 77: Sales Pipeline Stages, with Jason Swenk

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Sales Pipeline Stages —  Gain insights to refine your strategy. Navigate Sales Pipeline Stages successfully for heightened success.

My Predictive team and I are looking forward to helping you close out Q4 strong so you can roar into 2024 and crush the year. In the fast-paced reality of marketing agencies, your success depends on more than just creativity and strategy. It’s about building an effective sales process.

That’s where my very special guest expert on this episode of Sell With Authority, Jason Swenk, and I are focusing our time and attention. Agency owners and consultants — just like you and me — are facing common challenges. Clients and prospects are taking longer to approve work, delaying payments, and making the business landscape a bit trickier to navigate.

Jason Swenk is the Founder of Agency Mastery 360, a very unique consultancy designed to help marketing agency owners just like you and me, grow their agencies faster.

Sales pipeline stages? A discussion about the sales process has never been more relevant. Candidly — clients and prospects delaying work is a reality we all face, and now is the time to cast as many fishing lines as possible in the right ponds. But remember — those lines must be connected to an effective sales process to avoid driving yourself crazy with extra work and limited results.

I encourage you to listen to this episode as Jason shares insights on building a top-notch sales process to catch the right clients, reel them in, and juggle the endless responsibilities.


What you will learn in this episode about sales pipeline stages:

  • Why having a great biz-dev system in place transforms your agency from a burden to an asset
  • Sales pipeline stages: How to understand your ideal client profile, or ICP, and align it strategically
  • How to find and train the right sales people
  • How to pick your niche
  • What are the components of a top-notch sales process
  • How to knit together niche and team to create an effective sales process



Sales Pipeline Stages: Full Episode Transcript


Welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast. I’m Stephen Woessnerr, CEO of Predictive ROI, and my team and I created this podcast specifically for you. So if you’re an agency owner or a strategic consultant, and you’re looking to fill your sales pipeline with a steady stream of right-fit prospects and get the at-bats that you need in order to build and scale the right fit leads that you need, then you’re in the right place. So before I introduce you to today’s very special guest expert, I wanted to take, take a quick kinda 180,  in the opposite direction, and I wanna take a quick minute to say thank you.  so thank you for your time. Thank you for listening. Thank you for stepping into our community and playing full out, whether it’s inside our Facebook group, our open mic Q and A’s, or taking advantage of some of the resources that we have in our free library.


I wanna say thank you for all of the encouragement along the way. I also want you to know that my predictive team and I look forward to helping you close out your Q4 strong and doing everything that we can in order to help you roar into 2024 and crush the year. So, based on that very lofty goal, it seems only fitting that we focus our time and attention today on biz dev because candidly, what I’m hearing from agency owners and consultants on a daily basis, at least feels like a daily basis, is that clients and prospects, their clients and prospects are taking longer to approve the proposed work. Or if the work has been approved, has been delayed, so it can’t be billed, or the work’s been performed, but you haven’t been able to have the receivables paid, or they’re extending them even longer than normal.


So the 45 days become 60 days, which has become 90 days, and maybe that’s become 180 days. So one of the strategies to resolve this issue is to ensure that your agency has an effective sales process in place and that all of the aspects of BizDev don’t have to rely on or rest on your shoulders and your shoulders exclusively. And candidly, aren’t you a little bit tired of being the primary person or the only person inside your shop responsible for BizDev in closing deals? It’s a heavy responsibility to be the one who’s fishing all the time, to find the right pond to fish in, to bait the hooks, to reel them in, to clean ’em, to fry ’em, and to serve them up to the team so everyone has enough on their plate to eat so the shop stays healthy and profitable. And then you also get to do the dishes, and you get to take out the trash before you collapse into bed at night, feeling accomplished but exhausted, and then buckle up because tomorrow is a brand new day, and you get to do it all over again.


Learn more about sales pipeline stages by reading this blog: 3 Elements of a Proven Agency Sales Process by Jason Swenk


Sales Pipeline Stages: Jason Swenk’s Introduction


What are the sales pipeline stages? I know I’m painting such a pleasant picture of Biz Dev,  but if you’ve been in the trenches in this business long enough, I can almost certainly guarantee that you have had days that have felt that way. Hopefully, not many days, but I know that you’ve had some. So how about we reverse that? How about we build a top-notch agency sales team to fish and land opportunities with the right-fit clients that you’ve always wanted to work alongside? And that’s where Jason Swenk, our very special guest expert today, and that’s where he and I are going to focus our time and attention for this episode of the podcast. If you’re meeting Jason for the first time, he’s the founder of and runs a very unique consultancy designed to help marketing agency owners just like you and me grow their agencies faster. I promise Jason will share more context about his path and journey in just a minute.


But I invited Jason to join me for this episode of the podcast so we could learn from his unique insights about how to build an effective sales team for your agency. And more specifically, Jason and I are likely going to focus on three big things. First, how to best understand your ideal client profile, or ICP, what we call the right fit client. Second, how best to find and train the right salespeople for your team. And third, we’re going to bring it home by knitting all of that together into a sales process that works for the team and your agency alike. In my opinion, the sales process discussion is becoming so key right now because the pain of clients and prospective clients delaying work by a quarter or two is as real as it gets. As in times like this, it’s even more important to have as many fishing lines in the right ponds as possible. But it’s also important to ensure that your lines are connected to an effective sales process as you’re running in the back of the boat because if you don’t, you’ll only drive yourself bat-crazy with all the extra work and limited results. I’m telling you, there is a much better way. So, without further ado, welcome to the Sell with Authority podcast. Jason.


Hey, thanks for having me. I love the intro, and you should read my book on audiobook. I love your voice; it’s so calming.


Thank you for saying that. I’m excited about this conversation because, as you and I were talking about in the Green Room before hitting record, your advice, your expertise, your insights from working alongside agency owners and their teams on a daily basis on this particular topic and many others is gonna be incredibly helpful,  for our audience to not only close out the year strong but be ready for 2024 when it comes. And holy bananas, it’s not that far away. So before we dive in,  take us behind the curtain. I promised, obviously in the introduction, that you would share more about your path and journey. I always like for you to be able to have that opportunity so our audience can hear that in your voice. So give us a couple of minutes of context about the path and journey, and then we’ll dive in.


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Unplanned Career Trajectory


Yeah. So,  I went to Florida State University and graduated with a MIS degree and went to work for Arthur Anderson. Now, there was a problem when I went to work for Arthur Anderson. I had a computer programming degree, but I was really good at delegating and outsourcing. And so when I got to Arthur Anderson, I had no idea how to program because I outsourced. But I was lucky enough; I only worked there for six months, and I left before they could get rid of me, I guess. But, I left before the paper shredding incident with Enron for the older people listening to the podcast. One of my friends looked like Justin Timberlake. And I created a fake band, a fake website called Inchi, making fun of Nsync. And it got really popular. That was the first website I ever created. That’s how I was an accidental agency owner: people started asking me to design websites.


And I feel a lot of agency owners are accidental. They knew how to do something cool. Someone offered them money, and they just started down that road. And, you know, I remember my first client asking me to send ’em an invoice. I didn’t even know what the invoice was. And this was in 1999,  you know, before Google, before social media, all these different things, right? And then eventually, years later, we became a really big agency, a little over a hundred people, right? Figures. We sold, and we worked with clients like LegalZoom, Hitachi, and AT&T, to name a few. And then, after that, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was like, ah, just sit around, do nothing. And just like every other business I’ve had is, you know, people start asking me, Hey, how’d you sell? How’d you get these clients? How’d you do this? And then that’s kind of where Agency Mastery was formed.  you know, helping them out and doing our podcast called the Smart Agency Masterclass.


Sales pipeline stages? Well, because of the exit, right? Being able to sell and ride off into the sunset are most agency owners’ dreams.  many don’t realize it because they think it’s just going to happen someday, that somebody’s gonna walk in with a bag of money and say, I would love to own this business.  It doesn’t happen that way. You have to pursue that with intention. One of those things is having a great business development system in place, right? Nobody wants to buy a job. Would you agree?


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: From Client Burden to Agency Asset


Oh, yeah. I mean, and it’s, you gotta kind of build an asset rather than kind of, what I experienced for many years was it was an agency burden, right? Like, all these clients were coming to us and they were the wrong clients, right? Because they were all based on referrals. And there are a lot of agencies out there whose business is based on referrals. And I always kind of tell people, I’m like, referrals aren’t scalable because it depends on other people.  and you keep getting the same type of business over and over again, and sometimes even less, because the bigger businesses don’t listen to the smaller businesses,  in most cases. So, like, you just keep getting smaller and smaller clients that want more and more, which, if you create a factory in agency factory, which, you know, I’ve worked with many clients that have done that and been really, really successful, right?


Sales pipeline stages? But most don’t want that. Most want 25, 50 clients maybe paying a good fee, you know, making a lot of profit. So they can hire the right people, and they don’t have to do everything, right? Because we want that freedom, which is more important. Like, I only work 10 hours a week, right? Like, I only do meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at a certain timeframe, right? So that’s, I’m not all about certain people out there, which I respect, and they love working all the time. I’m like, that’s not me.


So, let’s go back to the factory for just a second, and then we’ll go into the sales process piece, I promise. So, how do you define the agency factory?


Example of sales pipeline stages? So I had a client,  David, and he had a social media,  management company where they managed the reputation for apartments. Okay? And I would always have him stand up in front of our mastermind events, and I would always like to have our members guess how much he actually charges. So he would go, Hey, I do this, this, this, and this. And so I’d go, all right, everybody, guess how much he charges? Okay. Because I’ve, I’ve always been the mentality of, you want to charge more? He had a different model, and he actually proved me wrong. From there, I was like, oh, okay, if you want the factory, I’ll show you how to do this and how we help David. But everyone would guess like 2000, 5,000, 10,000, he’d be like, $200 a month, what? $200 a month?


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Navigating Agency Success


Right? It was a stupid number. Like, it was just so low. And I was like, oh my God. For example, you could charge 10 times more and make more. But he had such a factory like he had such great processes and had all these young people and just boom, boom, boom, boom. Like, it was just easy. And he wanted to create a service where you didn’t even really think about it. You’re like, ah, 200 bucks, a hundred bucks here. Right? Whatever. But if it’s 5,000, 10,000, you’re gonna think about it a lot quicker. Well, fast forward two years later, he sold for well over eight figures. Now, he travels the world with his family, does amazing things, and doesn’t even worry about money anymore. So, like, there’s, what I’m just trying to explain is there are so many different ways to set up your agency, whether it be you wanna be hot like I like to race to the top rather than racing to the bottom, right? I don’t wanna, that’s not my mentality. So that was kind of a challenge for me with David, but obviously, it worked. So it’s just everyone; there are so many different ways to get to the end goal.


Yeah. And I think that’s the key, right?  But then, not just having a goal and then aimlessly wandering through the wilderness, hoping that one day you’re going to actually find it, is having the intentionality of doing it. Lots of different ways to get there, but the intention is what makes it work. So, as you and I were going back and forth, thinking about today’s conversation, I mentioned to you that you had done an episode, or recorded an episode on, your podcast about the top-notch sales team and process. And I’m like, Ooh, would really love to lean into that,  with our audience. ’cause I think it’s gonna be really, really helpful. And there were three sort of big kind of pieces. They’re all kind, maybe cornerstone lessons in that episode.


Sales pipeline stages? And the first was, you know, how to understand your ideal client profile or ICP. And the second was how to find and train them the right salespeople that, okay, great, now we know who we’re fishing for, but then how do we find the sort of the team to, to be able to do that? And then how to knit all, have all of that together in the process. So niche, the team, and then into the process. So why is the ideal client profile? I use the word niche, but why is the ideal client profile? Why is that?


First, you have to figure out how to separate yourself, right? And if you, a lot of us as agency owners, and I was, I’m guilty of this too, so I can make fun of all of you for this, right? Like, we’re like, oh, the big guys out there, they’re going after anybody and everybody, and we wanna be where they’re at. And so you start modeling what they’re doing right now, which is a mistake. What you need to do is you need to model how they got there. So use Facebook as an example, okay?


Mark Zuckerberg was bad before he wanted to do cage fighting, and before they hacked my account, they did not let me back in, which I don’t have a bad, personal opinion about.


I’m glad you’re not bitter about that. Jason, you’ve moved on.


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Avoiding Common Mistakes


Gave him a little bitter. Yeah. But I do respect what they built. They built an amazing platform that connected a lot of people, and everyone jumped on it. All kidding aside. And so when they started out when he was competing with MySpace, for the people that remember MySpace, he didn’t say we’re going after everybody. He was like, I’m only going after Harvard students, and then I’m only going after Ivy League schools. So, they started small with their niche, and they started building upon that. Once they started mastering that. And that’s what agencies need to do. So if you think back, and here’s the big mistake too, or here’s two huge mistakes people make when they’re niching down, okay? One is thinking that once I pick a niche, I need to get rid of all my clients, and I can’t take on any people outside of this niche.


That’s a mistake. Like, you’re just marketing to this niche, right? Right. Like, I still get companies that come to me. I actually turn ’em down, but they’re like, Hey, can you help us with your marketing? And I’m like, I only help agency owners. They’re like, but I don’t, but I like what you did. I’m like, but you still attract those people. Right? Right. It’s kind of like, that’s how Gary V started. And I’m sure he probably, you know, he didn’t start going after everybody. He did the wine library. The other big mistake is looking at your past clients and going, oh, we have the most clients in this industry, so let’s go there. Like, that’s a mistake. You need to think about who the audience is if they were only gonna pay us after we got them results and you were gonna get paid on performance, which type of clients?


Sales pipeline stages? What do they look like? What industry are they in? What do they actually need? That’s how you pick your niche. You know, we have a foot in the door, a niche decider, sorry, or niche grader, I think I call it. Okay. We created so many different names, and I’ll share that with your audience. If you guys go to, then there’s one for convert, but you can get access to all the resources out there.  I’ll email you the links, or you guys can, you know, do the URL. Okay. But we have a niche grader in there, and in the second part of the conversation, foot-in-the-door decider as well that they can have access to that helps them decide.


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: A Buffet of Possibilities


But you need to think about which ones could make the most money from our performance. Look, anybody can start an agency, but not everybody can get results for their audience. And then, if you can drill it down for a particular audience, that’s even better. And then, if you can even think about what are their biggest problems, right? What are they, what keeps them up at night? Yep. And if you can really kind of drill that down and drill down a couple of layers, that’s how you should pick your niche. And really, and it takes a while. There are no courses out there about. You know, like, I always laugh at some of the people out there that are like, like, here are the top niches for agency owners. I’m like, it’s different for everyone. I literally remember one of my first clients in this type of business; they actually started going after stuntmen of Power Rangers. Like, really? Like, there’s a niche for that. But there is. And so you, there’s, there’s the right niche for you, and then there’s a ton of wrong ones. So you just kind of, kind of, I look at it as it’s like a Vegas buffet. Try everything out, see what you like, what you don’t like, and then go, man, I really like that shrimp. . I’m gonna keep hitting that shrimp. That’s my niche on this, this buffet.


Let’s learn more about the sales pipeline stages. Okay, this, this is fascinating.  I love how you mentioned the two huge mistakes and started off with, you know, essentially, don’t fire all your clients. You make a decision on Friday. Don’t fire all your clients on Monday. That, that, that would just be ludicrous. I mean, we’re often asked like, well, how long does it take to niche down? And, we typically say that, like, if you’re super committed to it, it should probably take two or three years, that it’s a transition, that it’s a path, that it’s an evolution. It’s not fire all your clients on Monday. That would be ridiculous. But I’ve never heard someone say this before. And what you said was I would like to peel back and learn more from what you were saying when you said, if you were to be paid on performance, like, oh, that’s an interesting way to look at that.


And so, my assumption is, and maybe I’m wrong here, so, please tell me if my assumption is like if you’re thinking, if you were to be paid on performance, which means what do you know about, like, what’s the shortest path to revenue? Do you have connections? How do you monetize that? How do you build a strategy at it or around that? How do you hit the ground running? So, is that what you’re thinking about? If you were to be paid on performance, how fast would you start actually generating revenue? Because you already know some things?


Sales pipeline stages? Most definitely. I mean, like, thinking about getting the business is the easy part. Keeping the business and growing those accounts is the harder part. Like, there are lots of people that are really good at marketing and sales. Okay? But if you can’t deliver, you can’t build a reputation. I’ve seen so many agencies go down. So, let’s start with the winning percentage, right? Like, you want, you want more chances to win. Well, let’s start off with just going after the people that we can hit home runs or score all the time. And then you can even go to them and be like, I never liked the guarantee. ’cause I always think of the Tommy Boy quote, like, you know, they’re just selling you a guaranteed piece of crap. I can crap in a box and market guaranteed I got spare time. Right? Like, that’s what I think about when I see the guarantee, right?


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Know Your Worth and Close Deals Faster


We all get those LinkedIn messages, like, I’ll get you 50 appointments, I guarantee. Like that’s full of, right? But like, if you can go to someone and you could charge whatever you want. Like, here’s another story. I remember my business partner, my old agency, he, I let him pitch one deal, and then I was like, you’re never pitching anyone ever again. And he went in, and he was like, it’s 80 grand for the website. And I was like, is that a freaking question? Like, and then, and then he started proceeding like, I love him to death. He was great. But then he literally said, is it 80 grand. And then he was like, and this is why it’s 80 grand, like, throwing up on them. I’m like, say your price and shut up. But he didn’t understand the value that the clients were getting, right?


Sales pipeline stages? Okay. So I could say it’s a million dollars for this website. And I wouldn’t even blink an eye. And I would, I would shut up afterward, and I’d let them take that in. And whoever talks first loses; they would talk first, and they go, why is it a million? Well, maybe I did a bad job at explaining why it’s a million and kind of going over your problem. You told me you have a $10 million lead generation problem, right? And they’ll be like, yep. And this is how this is going to solve it. And I would break that down. I’d be like, so a million dollars is cheap, man, you’re getting 10 x results. And they’d be like, okay. Right. Like it’s all about, here’s where they want to go. Here’s where they’re at. We’re building a bridge to get there. And I know confidently I can build a bridge without it falling down and killing people.


Yep. It’s the people that build a bridge. And we’re like, you know, it’s only rated for five people, and then a hundred people walk over, and they’re like, oh, you know, I’m confident. I’ll be like, yeah, put a million people on the bridge, it’s gonna hold, like I know what I’m worth. And that’s one of the most important things. And then you can show that to your team that will build that confidence, and then you win deals way faster. And then you also have the confidence to walk away from those bad prospects. I’ll say, there’s no bad agency client, there’s only a bad prospect or a bad process. You’ll walk away from those bad prospects and say, like, when they go, oh, it’s a net 60 days. I’m like, okay, I’m not working with you. I literally had a sponsor for a podcast. Okay. You know, on the, on the stock exchange and all that wanted to sponsor. They’re like, well, we’re, you know, we’re an international company on the stock exchange. You know, we only pay in ni net 90 days. I said, well, we’re the best. You know, our podcast is the best for a reason. It’s pay before we do the podcast. Right. I don’t want your work done. I move on. Right? And bragging about the fact that they’re on the stock exchange.


But not being able to pay an invoice in a timely manner with a partner is really dumb.


Yeah. I’m not a bank. I’m not your bank. Like, all these people want us to be a bank, and that aggravates the hell outta me. I mean, sure, you can use companies for factoring, and if you know, here’s the thing. I know we’re getting off-topic, but I think it’s an important point or something that will help people out if, you know, they’re going to have really crappy terms. Increase your fee for the pain in the fee. I call it the PIA fee. Increase it, and then go use a factoring company. And so you’re still making money on it. Right? And the company gives you money.


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Matching Skills and Values for Agency Growth


Sales pipeline stages —That’s really smart, actually baking that in all, all great points. Why does the ICP have to be dialed in? if it’s not dialed in, you don’t have a clear understanding of the ICP. Everything else downstream feels like a crazy bag of cats. So now let’s assume that ICP is dialed in and the agency owner wants to get biz dev off of his or her plate. How do they start to find and train the right salespeople? How do they even know how many they might need for this process?


Well, you gotta think about what role you want, right? First, because a lot of us, you know, back in my day, you know, when we were looking for, we were creative in a development shop, right? Okay. And so I had always been like, let’s find a des a graphic artist and a web developer. They have to exist. And there are people who can do graphic design and programming. And they can do both. Now, can they do both really? Well, I found one person in 20 years that could do that. It’s the same thing about salespeople. Do you want a hunter? Do you want a farmer? Do you want someone that can grow? You know, do the little tidbits. It’s like there are a couple of different roles in there. A lot of times I look at, and it’s getting harder and harder to have someone do the hunting.


So let’s just talk about kind of doing the farming, right? Yeah. For this conversation. We could talk about hunters later on, and I could go over some strategies that work for that as well. I just put out a video about how to, almost like, about 70% of the time, if they’re in B2C, you can get a meeting with a bigger brand.  so remind me to tell you about that strategy.  okay. So they can, they can go do that. But,  let’s talk about the farmer. Okay. I would start looking at the people that have sold you in the past that you really appreciated, or like, man, they did a really good job. They weren’t selling me, they were helping me. This could be anywhere. This could be who you bought a car from, a refrigerator, a house, whatever.


It’s because a lot of people go, I need to hire an agency salesperson from a bigger agency, or the biggest agency now that’s gonna work like office space and like the stapler, right? They’re gonna come in thinking you have all these resources and all this budget, and, and they literally have like a team of people helping them do everything. And they’re just like, the figurehead. You don’t want that. I’ve hired those people, and they’ve been a complete nightmare. But what I’ve done is like, you have to find the people that were really good. Like one of our salespeople who sold floors in the past didn’t even know what an agency was, right? Crushed it for us. But what I did was think about why agency owners are such good salespeople stories, they tell stories. And so if you find a salesperson that understands sales that has the same core values you guys do, and believes in what you do, you can train them on your business.


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Streamlining Sales Training


Sales pipeline stages? So what I would start off doing is training them with some stories. So I would say we have a methodology, you know, at Agency Mastery for attract, convert, and scale; that’s how you can really create the wealth, the freedom, and really turn your agency from a burden into an asset. To attract, convert, and scale. So scale, I literally would think of stories that I know in my head for a track convert and scale. And I’d say, okay, this is, if this person’s having this problem, they have an attract problem. So here’s a couple stories to remember. And then, eventually, they start building their own. So then when you’re chatting with a prospect, you can be like, oh yeah, David, man, he wanted to build an agency factory, and here’s what we did, and here’s what, what happened. And Right. You’re gonna be pulling them in more.


The other thing that works really well for getting someone up is not training them on every freaking service you do. Like, stop. Like really, like, it’s like me going into,  for people in the states, like, you know, you go into those breakfast cafes or there’s restaurants with the menus that look like encyclopedias. Yeah. You get so overwhelmed and like, I don’t know what to pick, right? Cheesecake Factory is a great example of that. Oh my God. Like, I get so stressed out like I’m like, I don’t know, like just gimme four options. Right? And so the salesperson feels that way, but also the prospect. So what we do is we just have them sell what I call the foot in the door. And this is kind of what I was alluding to: How do you pick your foot in the door?


What works? Like if you go to the You can get that template, and it goes over about eight different things, and it grades you and all that kind of, it’s a cool little resource, but a foot, the door is basically designed to slice off part of your offering and actually build something with the prospect, but they’re paying for it. And a lot of times, agencies are actually giving this away for free. Like, you’re giving away strategy, and then you’re charging for execution, which now puts you in a position of like no power, no leverage. And, like, why would they come to you? They’re just barking orders at you. 


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Winning Sales Strategies


And so the foot in the door, basically, increases your chances of winning three times faster. Yep. It increases their chances of paying you 20 times more if they have a good experience. So you want to come up with a foot in the door. And then if your salesperson is just selling that foot in the door, it’s very easy for ’em. Our foot in the door would be like a lead generation blueprint. We’d say, Hey,  you know, Stephen, we chatted with you and, and you’re having issues attracting leads, what I recommend, and that’s key what I recommend, rather than giving them options, like really you’re gonna give them options ’cause you don’t know what you’re doing. Like, oh, let you decide because I don’t know what the hell you want. Be like, well, based on what you told me, I think we need to do this,  lead generation blueprint that we do now.


We charge for this. Now, we’re not trying to make money on this; we’re only doing this for cost, and we only charge for it because we wanna make sure you’re serious. And here are three possible. Here are three possible outcomes I hold. I held up four fingers. If you pick up on that dyslexic, I guess, or I don’t know. But, the first option, you’ll love the plan. You’ll go do it yourself. Perfect. I’ll wish you luck. Which is the second plan the most common? You’ll love the plan. If you want our help, we can talk about the next steps. Third, you hate the plan. I give your money back. So there’s nothing for you to lose if your salesperson cannot tell stories and sell that you got the wrong salesperson. So that’s how I would make,  the, I would start onboarding the salespeople that way.


I love selling the foot in the door because it gives a narrow focus of something to sell over and over and over and over again. Really, really smart. And then,  I also like how you said in full transparency, or you would say in full transparency in front of a client, that these are the outcomes in your case, the three outcomes that, that when this is completed, you know what the next steps are. So you’re helping the client see what their future is with you, that once it’s done, you’re not gonna abandon them. They can take it and use it on their own if they want, but you’re there to provide assistance. But it’s a standalone deliverable that they can execute on their own. That’s really smart how you’re setting up the future so they can step into that.


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Sales Pipeline Stages: Smart Client Qualification


Yeah. I mean, it takes the risk out, and, you know, it lays everything out for them. It’s like, you know, your closing rate will go way up, and then you’re not banging your head doing a stupid proposal forever. Like you’re qualifying them. And a lot of times with the bigger companies, you’re well under the minimum that they need to get their stupid committee approval. . like I remember Lotus Cars came to us, and they had like a huge RFP . for a couple hundred grand for this microsite. And I was like, I think anybody that does this is gonna be kind of crazy. And they were like, what do you mean? I was like, you’re asking them to, like, this is, there’s not much information here. You want to judge on paper. Why don’t we get together for a couple of hours? I’ll go through, you know, our blueprint with you. You know, we do charge a little fee on this, dude; we were the agency of record until the UK took it back over years later.  but that’s okay. That’s a whole nother story.


But the foot in the door. And why I think that this is a smart strategy, too, because it goes back to step number one about the ICP. It gives like your assumption, or the assumption is yes, they are ICP’s ideal client profile, we’re going to sell the foot in the door. Awesome. But when you’re working through the foot in the door to deliver that work, you’re also evaluating as they are also evaluating you if the match is actually a good match. Right?


Exactly. Yeah. Cause if they turn out, there is a bad kind of client. Right? If you didn’t do a good job qualifying them, you can walk away. Right. Rather than, you know, it’s harder to walk away from a couple hundred grand from a painted client that’s a, like, you don’t see it in the future, but they’re gonna cost you a million dollars versus a couple hundred grand or a thousand or whatever ratio you guys wanna, you know, break it down to. But if you do the foot in the door before they give you a lot of money, you’re like, man, this client was a pain in the. Like, I don’t wanna work with this person. So, you know, it saves you and, and it keeps your team, like, you gotta remember, like when we were building our agency and building the second agency, we’re always thinking about what is our number one asset? It’s our people. So I will take my teams,  back anytime over a client. I will fire any client who is disrespectful to the team or does anything shady. They’re gone. And they know that, right? Both my team and my clients. So, let’s find it out sooner than later so you can avoid some of those nightmare clients.


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Sales Pipeline Stages:  Building a Top-Notch Sales Process


I love that. I know that we’re quickly running out of time, and I’m grateful for all the expertise that you’ve shared. So, as we think about knitting this together into an actual process, if you were to think about that at a high level, what does a top-notch sales process, in your opinion, look like? And what are some of the components?


Well, it has the sales being done, not by the owner. Okay. Right. Like, if you guys want to get to a point where you have freedom, and you have the option to sell one day, if the owner’s doing sales, we’re gonna devalue. Like we’ve bought 10 agencies in the past two years,  and we’ve walked away from a lot of ’em because the owner was doing too much. And you want to have a good sales system, which doesn’t require the owner. ’cause if we buy someone, right? And then the owner’s doing all the sales, well, we gotta put someone in there, and we gotta train ’em up and figure out what they were doing and all that kind of stuff. But if there are systems in place, they’re gonna be a lot more, you know, a lot more attractive. Right. The other part is we need to think about kind of three different pillars for bringing in business.


I look at an outbound strategy, right? Like, what’s the outreach? Like the one I told you guys about. If you’re going after a B2C client, let’s say you’re going after a makeup, makeup industry,  for example, here’s a sure way to get their attention.  and then you just keep hitting them up and buying their product. So if I was going after a lipstick company, I don’t know what lipstick company is,  they’ll wear lipstick. But you use that as an example. I would go to their site, I’d buy their lipstick, and then I’d wait for them to send that to me. So then I would get it and then I’d get it and be like, Hey, you know, I just bought your lipstick bomb or whatever it’s called. And I put it on, and it’s amazing. But the packaging or whatever it is, like what, like if you’re a packaging agency or maybe a social media agency or whatever it is, be like, Hey, notice you’re not posting many stories, or you’re not posting daily on this.


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Transforming Your Sales Approach


Like, I think you could reach a lot more people like you’re getting their attention by buying their product. And then they can confirm it by, oh yeah, Audra bought this product. Now you’re gonna have their attention. Then you could say, Hey, I just, if you have 10 minutes, I have a couple of ideas for you. And then you just keep hitting them up or do some remarketing campaigns to them, all that kind of stuff. You are going to get a meeting with them because you’re doing it way differently. You bought their product, so now you’re a customer. So now, like, they want to hear from their customer. And then you, being an agency that is a customer. They always wanna work with people that understand them. That’s the biggest thing. So that’s a, you need to outbound strategy. You also need an inbound strategy.


I think you hinted at this in the very beginning: creating content is one of the best things that you can do as an agency for that particular industry. Because if you can get them to listen to your stuff, they’re gonna trust you. And then you’re not even selling like the people that,  you know, become members and work with us. You know, they’ve listened to the podcast for years and years. Yep. I can’t tell you, like when someone,  joins the membership, I always look at the comment like, why did you join? They’d be like, we’ve been listening to your podcast for four or five years. Perfect. Right? Like, I’m patient. All that kind of stuff. And then the third is strategic partnerships. Like what other companies are going after that niche that you’re wanting to go after, like technology, publications, media, whatever it is.


How can you form a relationship with them? We did this with Microsoft and Sitefinity. That’s how we got LegalZoom and Hitachi from this. So form those channels and then also make sure you have a good qualification. Make sure you have that offering ladder. We really didn’t have a chance to go over, but, you know, if, if you guys go to the resources, I told you the and then also slash convert. You can get all the resources. There are four or eight videos in total that go through this. A little bit more detail for you.


So I know this is a little bit off-topic here, but it kind of ties in with some of the things we were talking about earlier.


What we were talking about was the exit. As I sketched out in my notes here about the sales process, the more owner-centric that sales process is, whether we’re talking about sales being made by the owner, then whoops. But then you mentioned the three pillars: outbound, inbound, and strategic partnerships. And if the owner is really in the center of outbound inbound strategic partnerships, that still fails the litmus test, doesn’t it?


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Maximizing Agency Value


Oh yeah, it does. I mean, it’s just that it devalues what you’ve built, and we want to get the most value you possibly can. Like, and the funny thing is, a lot of times my partners when we’re buying an agency, get mad at me. ’cause I talk people out. I’m like, why do you wanna sell? You’re making over a million in EBITDA, you’re making a million in profit, and you’re not doing much. So why do you wanna sell? Right.  I’ll be like, keep it, like, I wanna get, I want to get agency owners to a point where they can pick and choose to do what they love in the agency, and they’re making a ton of money, and it just doesn’t depend on them. Like that’s our whole goal. Like that’s the, the reason why we do all these episodes and podcasts and all that kind of stuff is to be that resource I wish I had when I was running the first agency and be like, here’s what you need to go do.


Right. If you can do that, then you’re like, I don’t have to sell it. I own five years. For if you’re a million in EBITDA, you’re worth five to 6 million in valuation, but you’ll probably only get half in cash, and the other half will be in some kind of earn-out or equity or whatever it is. Right. But if you’re making a million in EBITDA, you personally, you know, you’re gonna have, in five years, you’re gonna have hopefully more than that anyway. Right. You know, because if your growth trajectory is going up, it’ll just keep going up. So I’m like, why sell? Like, what are you gonna do after because you’ll be depressed when you sell? Like, I can pro, like that’s how I was. I was like, ah, no significance anymore. I need to go do something.


But, all joking aside, I mean, that is a very real thing. So your question is a great litmus test. Think of the 13 Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon. I might be a little fuzzy on my statistics, but there were 13 Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon. I think there were only two who didn’t fall into severe depression: alcoholism and drug addiction. Because once you’ve walked on the moon, like, what else is there?


Improve your sales pipeline stages by tuning in to our “ROI of Community” Framework


Sales Pipeline Stages: Navigating Agency Ownership and Beyond 


Yeah, you’re trying to get that high back or that, you know, that intensity, you know, I’m constantly chasing that myself. Like I started,  I’m a student pilot about to get my private pilot’s license. Like it’s always, you’re constantly chasing new things, right? Just ’cause you feel like you reach the top and you’re like, and it kind of, you kind of go down. You’re like, I sold agency had didn’t have any responsibility, here’s a warning to all of you. When you get to a point where you kind of reach the five roles as an agency, CEO versus an owner, which are set the vision for the agency and communicate it to your team. Number two, coach and mentor your leadership team. Only three, be the face of the agency.


Four, understand the financials, and five, build the key relationships. When you’re able to hit those, you’re gonna be completely depressed because you’re gonna go into meetings that used to need you, creative meetings, sales meetings, whatever. And they’re gonna say, no, Jason, we don’t need you. And then you’re gonna think the agency doesn’t need you. The agency doesn’t need you for the old stuff. It needs you for the new stuff. So you’ll be depressed until you think about it; here’s the new thing I need to do. Right.  so when I found, you know, when I fell into this and, and, and working with all these agency owners before that, I was depressed after selling the agency, but then I found my significance again. I found what I should be doing. Right? Same thing. If I ever sell this business, I will probably go into depression till I find the next thing. So, a hint: if you guys do get to sell your agency, think about what’s the next thing you wanna do, and don’t sell your agency unless you already have that thing lined up. You’ll skip that depression.


 I love that. That’s, that is a great bonus. Golden nugget.  thank you for that. So, Jason, I know our time is quickly coming to an end, and we need to come in for a landing. But before we go, before we close out and say goodbye,  you’ve already shared a few links, which is great, so thank you for that. But first, do you have any advice, any final recommendations, or anything you think we might have missed? And then, what is the best way for our audience to connect with you?


Yep. just remember, focus, and I look at focus like, as agency owners, we have so many different things that are going on that are pulling us in all different directions. If you can just focus on one thing per quarter, like one big thing, that’s it. Finish one commitment until success. That’s what focus stands for me. Right. Don’t move on. Don’t do it half-ass. Like finish it. You’ll be so much more successful, and in order to focus, you have to figure out where you are going rather than just being reactive to your email or reactive to what’s coming to you. So if you can focus, you’re gonna change, and you know, little by little, just keep focusing every quarter, your agency’s gonna be that much better. The best way to reach out to me, you know, is to hit me up on LinkedIn or go to I already shared the resources slash attract slash convert to get those,  those videos, and those resources. But yeah, that’s it.


Amazing. Okay, everyone, no matter how many notes you took or how often you go back and re-listen to Jason’s words of wisdom, which I sure hope that you do. The key is you have to take his generosity of smarts, insights, and expertise. You have to take it and apply it because when you do and when you focus on the application of what he shared with you, you will accelerate your results. And Jason, we all have the same 86,400 seconds in a day and I’m grateful that you said yes to come onto the show, to be our mentor, to be our guide, to help us move our businesses onward to that next level. Thank you so much, Jason.

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Sell with Authority Podcast

The Sell with Authority Podcast is for agency owners, business coaches, and strategic consultants who are looking to grow a thriving, profitable business that can weather the constant change that seems to be our world’s reality.

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