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One man's PPC agency arc: from services to sales

Published: February 20, 2013

Author: Sean Marshall

If she wanted to sell you a cutlery set, she’d know how to pitch it.
I get a lot of funny looks.  This mostly happens because I say a lot of weird things and will work hard for a laugh, but in the context of work, I usually get these when I tell people PPC Associates doesn’t have a sales team. This revelation usually comes on the heels of discussing our consistent growth since opening up our little agency, and the response is always a mix of shock and surprise.
Based on past experiences – either hands-on at Webtrends or from dealing with the brilliant sales minds at Meltwater Reach – I’ve come to understand the value of a well-oiled sales org. More specifically, figuring out just how critical a sales team is to growing a business – and in planting the seeds for a good, honestly established relationship between client and provider. Given our success in scaling our PPC agency in the last four years, one might think we were largely supported by a proper sales team. Well, we aren’t. Our sales team has been an army of one – our CEO – and our leads come from only one place: word of mouth.
PPC agencies are a lot like most services orgs: reputation is key. We pride ourselves on delivering superior service and results, and this means people end up referring us to their friends. This has, in turn, helped us improve our stature as an agency. The market is crowded, and countless agencies provide SEM or PPC services. Standing out in the crowd is hard, but we’ve managed, and I’m proud that our services team has led the charge here. You could easily say that we DO have a sales team.  If service drives reputation, which then drives leads, isn’t the services team doing all the selling?
Obviously, there’s more to sales than just driving interest. It takes a compelling story and alignment of goals to go from interest to signed contract. Too often, however, the role of sales is occupied by someone with minimal understanding of the service they are selling. While I think software sales offers a bit more flexibility, you can’t sell a service if you aren’t intimately aware of how said service applies to a prospect. This is especially challenging when the long-term value of a client to a PPC agency comes from growing spend – something which might not always be in the client’s best interest. This is something that must be done the right way, and it means a sales rep needs to know just what the “right way” is.
If the handoff from sales to implementation teams can cause friction in software, imagine how tumultuous things can be between sales and services. As much as we want to create repeatable processes and provide total clarity around what is feasible, much of services is reactive and unpredictable. If someone’s setting the wrong expectations from the get-go, trouble will ensue.
So, just where am I going with this? Sales.
That’s it. I’m hanging up my services hat and putting on a shiny new sales one. As much as this agency has grown without sales, it’s time for us to double up our resources. If you believe half of what I wrote, you’ll realize why there really isn’t anyone better suited to sell a service than someone who’s delivered said service for you. What that might say about my selling skills, we’ll have to wait and see, but I know I won’t be the guy who promises unachievable things and saddles the team with unrealistic expectations.
If our mission is to save the world from inept agencies, it stands to reason that knowing the difference might be a good sales tool. So watch out, PPC agencies…I’m comin’.
– Sean Marshall, Director of Client Services

25 E Washington Street
Suite 420

Chicago, IL 60602(650) 539-4124


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