I consult with one new agency every week through our TBR, and a question that comes up regularly is how to transition a new client from the sales team to the account team. Here's how to do it well.
- The sales person is primarily charged with evaluating the fit between the client and the agency. After the prospect grants permission to be sold to, and when a good fit becomes apparent, it's time to bring two other parties into the discussion.
- The principal makes a brief appearance (in person or not) to demonstrate that this is a weighty moment in the agency's history. They drop in and talk about four specific things: the agency's history, their culture, their commitment to hiring great people, and their standards of customer service. That's it, and then they are gone. If they linger, the client-to-be will then expect to work with the principal.
- The account person is charged with two things at the outset: managing the early stages of the relationship and selling the first project. In accomplishing both of these objectives, they should begin leading the meetings as soon as they are present. Their presence signals that the sales person's role is becoming secondary.
This dance has a beautiful choreography to it! If you get it right, you can avoid some of the perennial mistakes that agencies seem to make around this issue:
- Sales people feel pressure to stay involved in the account instead of doing the job that the agency most needs from them: more sales. Their job is to kill something, drag it back to the cave, and let someone else prepare it while they go back out and kill something else.
- Ditto for principals, who should be leading the agency. When a firm reaches 22 people in size, the principal cannot do anything but lead the agency, shape the positioning, and drop in and out of closing opportunities. If that principal is the primary sales person, the agency can comfortably grow to only 15 people before delegating some of those sales responsibilities. (Our Functional Model provides guidelines for each role and every agency size.)
- An account person really hates being handed a large project that someone else scoped and priced. It's a disaster in the making, and sales people have never demonstrated that they can be trusted with pricing! Every aspect of this transition can be handled better by involving the account person as early as possible.
- Clients are suspicious of bait and switch tactics. They don't want to bond with one team and then be stuck with an entirely new one after they sign on the dotted line. Part of their decision to hire your agency involves the chemistry of personal relationships.
Talk through this with your various teams and write out the policy that you'll normally follow, and then incorporate that statement in your client orientation handbook.
Best wishes to you.