“How do I keep sales efforts for my agency on track?”
Whether you, the agency owner, are selling… or you’ve taken the plunge into hiring salespeople for your agency, you have asked or will soon ask yourself that question.
I hear some variation of this question on a daily basis.
Here’s the deal…
Sales is hard for a reason. It’s hard because it’s both a science and an art. Some focus on the art too soon. Some only focus on the science. You need both… eventually. (I’ll explain)
And some don’t know what they’re focusing on, as the case is with most agencies.
So, before I tell you about the methodology that will completely transform your sales process, let’s talk about the science and art of sales.
The Science & Art of Sales
As mentioned above, effective sales is not an “either/or”. It’s a “both/and”.
To be really effective at sales, you need to master both the science AND the art.
So, let’s break those two down.
Have you ever heard “it’s a numbers game” in the context of a sales conversation?
Sure you have.
What this is essentially saying is that sales is a quantitative game. It’s a game of “if I do that for this amount of times, I will yield X amount of leads and convert Y amount of clients.”
I don’t disagree with this.
Sales is a game of numbers at a basic level. It just makes sense.
If I am going to do the exact same thing the exact same way 50 times and yield 1 client, then I should expect to yield 2 clients if I do it 100 times.
Right? Basic math.
The science of sales takes discipline and structure… We want to build this in ourselves and in every sales player on our team.
The problem arises when we want to stay there; when we make sales ONLY about the science and the numbers.
Once we have the science down, we must then introduce the art.
If the science of sales is all about quantitative, then the art of sales is all about qualitative.
Art isn’t rushed.
It’s thought out.
It’s meant to be finessed and well-crafted.
It’s not about the number of activities; it’s about the quality of the activity.
The art is all about the quality of the email copy, the incredible strategy you put into a video message, the crazy amount of time you put into a direct mail piece, the meticulous attention you give to the small things… It’s all about increasing the conversion percentage at the end of the day on whatever step you’re on in the sales process.
This is where I see most agencies BOMB.
They get so focused on the quality of a touchpoint that they have zero systems in place and thus have very unpredictable results. They don’t even have enough prospect touch points to test whether all of that attention to quality even matters.
It makes sense though, right?
I mean, most agency owners are creative, visionary types. Which is why I love you… you’re my people. You’re fun to be around and you’re crazy talented.
But, it’s why I will always have a job helping agency owners with sales (thank you).
You have to combine the two: Science & Art.
And though I focus all of my time on the art of sales, I can only do that because I’ve mastered the science of sales.
So, that’s what I’m going to help you with today through our sales process methodology we call the Stacking Methodology — strap in, this is going to revolutionize your sales.
The Stacking Methodology
Staying on top of your sales process, creating consistency, and increasing efficiency are nearly impossible for most people who haven’t had a career in sales as I have… especially agency owners because you’re trying to juggle so much as it is.
So, I’m going to teach you our revolutionary process that will help you or your salespeople do just that… have a process that creates consistency and effectiveness.
Table of Contents
Before we jump into the different stacks in our stacking methodology, you have to understand what we mean by a “stack.”
A stack can essentially be thought of as a “label” or a “tag” for a given prospect or lead.
Every prospect or lead will ALWAYS be assigned to a stack until they become a confirmed client.
And every stack has specific activities or duties attached to them that are specific to that stack (this will be very important).
(I promise the light bulb will go off soon and I will bring all of this full circle.)
So what are the stacks?
There are a total of 5 stacks (technically you can say 6 if you count Stack 0).
Stack 0, Stack 1, Stack 2, Stack 3, Stack 4, Stack 5.
Remember: A prospect or lead will always fall into one of these stacks until there is a signed contract and paid invoice, that is, they become a client and get labeled “client.”
Stack 0 – Account Identification
This is the only stack that I would not include in your CRM, but I would include this on your calendar (more on that later). This stack is meant to be where you have identified an account to go after but haven’t found out who the person is that you would like to target inside of that account.
When you come across an account that looks interesting, you should document it somewhere. Sometimes this can be as simple as a “Stack 0” spreadsheet, but have somewhere that you are writing down the accounts you want to go after. Once you’ve identified a key player that you want to target, then you will drop that individual into Stack 1 and into your CRM. This will make sense later.
Stack 1 – Researching/Uncontacted
A prospect falls into Stack 1 for one of two reasons: first, you still need to do the research on this prospect, or second, you’ve done the research but you’ve not yet initiated outreach to them.
Stack 2 – Contacted/No Response
A prospect will fall into this category once you have initiated your first outreach touchpoint with them (aka “contacted”), BUT this prospect has yet to respond to your outreach (aka “no response”).
Stack 3 – Engaged/Priority (but not scheduled)
This stack is when someone is moving from cold prospect to a warmer lead. The types of prospects that will fall into this category are prospects who are somewhat engaged with your outreach (they’ve opened a certain amount of your emails, visited your website after an outreach, you’ve had a conversation with them that had some promise but didn’t convert into an appointment, etc.). The second type of prospect in this stack is someone who came in through inbound means (i.e., referral or opt-in).
The biggest difference between Stack 3 prospects and Stack 4 prospects, which you will learn about next, is that the prospects in Stack 3 may be engaged, interested, priority leads BUT they HAVE NOT scheduled the first time appointment yet.
Stack 4 – Scheduled
These are the prospects that you have scheduled a first time appointment with and are officially on your calendar.
Stack 5 – Pipeline
Lastly, this is where you officially create a “deal” in your pipeline. This happens during or right after your first time appointment assuming they didn’t scream at you on your first time appointment and tell you to go kick rocks (hopefully that never happens to you explicitly… if so then maybe you need to fix something).
Now that we’ve got a grasp of the STACKS and who fits into each stack, let’s start diving into how you practically use this: stack-specific activities.
The power in the stacking methodology is that every single prospect or lead has a place. There will never be a single prospect or lead that is not categorized in a stack.
What this will do for you or your salespeople is give you extreme clarity on who is where in the sales process.
BUT just because you know who is where, it does not mean that you know what to do or when to do it… until now.
Before we talk about each stack’s activity, I think it’s important to note that there should be a block on you or your salesperson’s calendar every single day for each stack like you see below…
I’ll get into a specific workflow in a few sections but for now just know that in order to create consistency, you must have your stacks on your calendar every day…
Cool? Cool. Now let’s talk about the what…. What you are doing in each stack.
Activities for Stack 0 – Account Identification
This is more for exploration and validation that accounts fit your ICP (ideal customer profile). When you come across an account that you may want to work with, drop them into your spreadsheet as a Stack 0. Some of the specific activities that you are doing during your Stack 0 time are:
- Search for new accounts that fit your ICP.
- Submit those accounts to the spreadsheet.
- Take the accounts on the spreadsheet and identify the key players that you are going to be targeting (just the person and their title, not their specific details).
- Import the accounts with the person(s) attached to the account into your CRM and label them Stack 1 now.
- You can do this in bulk in most CRMs (i.e., add dozens/hundreds at a time and mass label them as “Stack 1”).
Activities for Stack 1 – Researching/Uncontacted
Now that you’ve found the specific people that you want to target, you need to gather intel, create outreach strategy, and initiate outreach. The activities that you will be focusing on in this specific stack are:
- Research the prospects in Stack 1 to find contact info, personal interests, goals, pain points, and all forms of necessary intelligence to make you a smarter salesperson in your outreach.
- Take that intelligence and craft your outreach strategy or categorize which sales workflow/sequence you are going to send them into.
- Make the initial outreach touchpoint or contact and then move them over to Stack 2.
Activities for Stack 2 – Contacted/No Response
This is where you will likely spend most of your time. This is really the repetitive activity that happens sequentially until you’re either told to go away or until a prospect is somewhat interested or engaged. The activities that you will focus on in this stack are:
- Continued sales outreach touchpoints
- Ongoing strategy and research
- Engaging with marketing to create relevant content
- Tracking metrics like opens, conversations (for cold calls), clicks, website visits, etc.
- Setting up rules for engagement (if/then rules) that moves a prospect to Stack 3
- Example: If a prospect opens 3 straight emails, then move them to Stack 3.
- Example: If a prospect visits at least 2 pages on your website, then move that prospect to Stack 3.
- Example: If a prospect responds to an email AND doesn’t tell you to go away, then move them to Stack 3.
Activities for Stack 3 – Engaged/Priority
These are your first “glimpse of hope” prospects. Based on your criteria, they are now your priority prospects, meaning they are “closer to the money” than any of the prospects in Stack 2 because they are engaged in some capacity. Whether they became priority through outbound engagement or through inbound opt-ins, they are a priority. This means that you are going to start doing things a bit more “out-of-the-box” and a bit more non-scaleable and tailored. Here are a few activities that are associated with Stack 3:
- Analyze the data to gather what they are engaged in.
- Example: Which pieces of content on your site did they visit?
- Example: Which emails did they click through on or respond to?
- Pick up the phone (especially if they are an inbound lead that came through) and call them as quickly as you are able.
- Craft unique strategies tailored to them.
- Try new approaches to gain their attention again.
- Work with the marketing team to create a specific piece of content for them.
- Get a first time appointment scheduled and move them to Stack 4.
Activities for Stack 4 – Scheduled
Where a lot of agencies fall short is thinking that there are no activities between landing a meeting and showing up for the meeting. Your goal in this Stack is to prepare yourself and eliminate no-shows to your meeting. There are only 2 activities for this stack:
- Research the company and equip yourself for the meeting.
- Gain confirmation from the prospect on your upcoming meeting and move to Stack 5 and create a deal in your pipeline.
Activities for Stack 5 – Pipeline
In the next section, you are going to see how we set this up in our CRM from a technical perspective. Most companies create “deals” in their pipeline way too soon. There isn’t anything wrong with creating a deal too soon, but if you’re going for efficiency and discipline then we want to keep it as clean as possible and thus eliminate the clutter of unnecessary amounts of deals in your pipeline.
Another thing to note is that when someone makes it to your pipeline, they are being worked through what we call the “right of deal” process. Everything up until this point is what we would call “left of deal.” So, a prospect will stay in Stack 5 through every stage of your pipeline from the First Time Appointment stage all the way through the Closed/Paid stage.
Hypothetically, let’s say your pipeline stages look like this.
Your activities will look like this:
- Gathering payment from your new clients
- Drafting the contract
- Prepping for the close meeting
- Drafting and sending the proposal
- Prepping for the follow-up meeting before the proposal
- Crafting a strategy to bring back to life a lead that went dark after the first meeting
- Staying top of mind with a lead through tailored content
- Fulfilling any promises that you may have made (intros you need to make, content you need to give access to, etc.)
- Holding the first time appointment
When you put all of this together (the who, where, how, and when) and you combine this with the discipline to stay on top of this, you will begin mastering the science of the sale.
But, now that you understand this in theory, we need a way to actually visually stay on top of this. So, in this next section, I’m going to show you how to actually set this up in your CRM (or in this case Pipedrive CRM).
Setting Up The Stacking Methodology In Your CRM
Hopefully, you have at the very least come to the realization that there is a really simple way to know exactly what should be going on in your sales efforts. Let’s take this one step further and actually look at the technical setup that needs to occur to pull this off day-to-day.
The first thing that you must have is a CRM that allows you to do a few things.
- [Need to have] Ability to create custom fields at the contact and company level
- [Need to have] Ability to set up custom filters for your contacts
- [Need to have] Integrations with external tools or Zapier
- [Nice to have] Ability to use native automations within the CRM for efficiency
Because of the above criteria, I highly suggest getting in with Pipedrive CRM. The UI/UX is super clean and easy to use. It also allows for easy reporting and transparency (important when you have multiple reps which I will get you to a large producing sales team if you’ll let me).
**If you follow that link above, you will be given a 30-day trial instead of a 14-day trial.
Creating Custom Fields for Your Stacks
The walkthrough below is Pipedrive specific but you can take a lot of the setup and transfer over to your CRM.
The first thing you need to do is to create custom fields for your stacking methodology to make labeling simple.
- Navigate to the top right, click on your user profile, and select SETTINGS.
- On the left side under the “Company section” select DATA FIELDS.
- You will see 4 categories to select from. Select PERSON.
- On the top right, click on the green button ADD CUSTOM FIELD and then PERSON FIELD.
- In the FIELD NAME section, type “Stack” and then in the FIELD TYPE dropdown, select SINGLE OPTION.
- Once you’ve selected SINGLE OPTION, create the following options (1 per line) and check the boxes you see below:
Creating Custom Filters
The purpose of the next exercise is to make it simple to log in every single day, select your custom filter, and have an instant list to work on. Create filters based on our stacks by following these steps:
- On the top bar, select CONTACTS, then PEOPLE. This will bring up your entire list of contacts no matter how they are categorized.
- On the top right, select the square dropdown that likely has your name in it and select the FILTERS Section, followed by selecting ADD NEW FILTER.
- This is where you will create your filters. You will create the following filter names.
- Stack 1 – <Name of Contact owner> (Example: Stack 1 – Joey Gilkey)
- Stack 2 – <Name of Contact owner>
- Stack 3 – <Name of Contact owner>
- Stack 4 – <Name of Contact owner>
- Stack 5 – <Name of Contact owner>
- Under the “show people that match ALL of these conditions” section you are going to create 2 conditions — 1 for the stack and 1 for the contact owner (in this case it’s me, but it will be either you or your sales reps):
- I will show you how to do Stack 1, but you will need to repeat this for all 5 stacks.
- When you are finished with all 5, you should see the filter section looking like this when you select FILTERS.
Creating Custom View for Easy Contact Visibility
Now that you have your filters set up, you want to quickly set up your custom view so that you can quickly see the information that you have on each contact.
- Make sure that you have CONTACT then PEOPLE opened to pull open your contacts list. There is no need to open a filter for the purpose of this particular setup.
- Click on the “gear icon” on the far right hand side of the top row of your contacts column.
- Select the columns that you want to see. You may select whichever make sense for you but I typically like to see the following at the very least (you may have to create some of these as custom fields if you don’t see them):
- Job Title
- LinkedIn URL
- Your view should now look like this. If the columns are not in the order that you would like, you can drag columns into the appropriate order.
Ok, that’s all for the technical setup. Now we are going to wrap this up with how to actually use this in a workflow on a day to day basis.
The Stacking Methodology Workflow
Remember a couple thousand words ago when I showed you a screenshot of a “day in the life of using stacking” via the calendar? Well, that is pivotal to set up with you or with a rep. You need to be consistent with this or else you’re eventually going to drop the ball and this will all be for nothing.
Before we jump into the workflow, I want to talk about structuring and prioritizing stacks as well as my theory behind it.
As you’ll notice on the calendar screenshot below, I start my day with the highest stack, Stack 5.
We do this because I ALWAYS want to prioritize whatever is closest to the money. So, as you well know at this point, what is closest to the money are deals that are in the pipeline (Stack 5).
But that theory doesn’t stop there. It goes one step further.
Remember how I said that Stack 5 is everything that is “right of the deal?” Well, this same principle applies to your Stack 5 time too. You always want to prioritize whoever is closest to the money, even inside of a stack like Stack 5. For instance, someone who is about to get a contract out is far more valuable and close to the money than someone who is between the first time appointment and the follow up appointment. They’re both Stack 5 prospects but one is much closer to the deal being done.
So prioritize as such.
Everything making sense? Of course, it is. That’s why I built this methodology. It’s simple, yet revolutionary.
Alright here goes an example workflow for a sales rep or for an agency owner who is still selling.
I look at my calendar and it’s 9:00 am — Stack 5 time.
I open up Pipedrive, click on contacts, and choose the filter “Stack 5 – Joey Gilkey” OR if it’s easier for you to visualize the pipeline at this point, just click on DEALS at the top bar and start there. That’s my personal preference.
From there, I take a look at every single deal in my pipeline starting with the deals that are farthest along.
- Any outstanding contracts that haven’t been finalized? Think about the next steps.
- Any contracts that need to be sent for the first time? Talk to my admin when I can expect that done.
- Any “closing meetings” coming up? What can I do to prep for them? Take a look at the proposal that my admin finalized for me.
- Any proposals need to be created still? Write out the details for the proposal and send off to my admin with a deadline.
- Any follow up meetings coming up today or tomorrow that I need to prep for? Do some research on the company, review past notes, think through content that exists that I can equip myself with. Write some notes and drop some links in the deals notes section for the call.
- Any prospects that are between sales meetings right now or are stalled? What can I send them that bring them value at this time of waiting? Craft the email or phone call strategy and send/call/text/send direct mail.
- Any first-time appointments coming up today that I need to prep for? Look at how they converted, any information they gave me that would be helpful and look at my notes that I took in Stack 4 time.
It’s now 10:00 am, stop what I’m doing and move on to Stack 4 time.
Go to my next filter inside of contacts titled “Stack 4 – Joey Gilkey.”
There is my list of upcoming first-time appointments. This shouldn’t take too long.
I go one by one and I either do my research and prep for the meeting or have my sales admin do it for me (depends on what you have available to you).
Next, I (or my admin) will send a very brief templated email confirming our call coming up.
When that is confirmed, I change the STACK label to “Stack 5 – Pipeline” and create a new deal in the pipeline under the “First Time Appointment” stage of the pipeline.
Clock strikes 10:30 am, and I move on to Stack 3.
Again, open up the next filter for “Stack 3 – Joey Gilkey” and there is my list of engaged/priority leads.
I check the status of each of these leads.
Did any of them convert on an inbound channel? If so, call them right now. The longer I wait, the further away from the conversion we get and the less fresh our brand is on their mind.
If I talk to any of them and convert them into a First Time Appointment, I will change the label to “Stack 4 – Scheduled” and move on to the next contact on the list.
Alright, some of these are considered engaged/priority because we’ve been doing outbound outreach and they’ve matched some engagement criteria.
I work through each one. Maybe they’ve been to a particular page on our site that we have flagged as a high-likelihood to convert page. I’ll either pick the phone up or shoot off an email or create the strategy for later in the day when I have another “Stack 3 time.”
I’m always sure to use the “Activities” feature in Pipedrive to set up my next activity. That way when I open up a contact, I always know what I need to do next with them.
Again, any time someone converts into an appointment, move them to “Stack 4 – Scheduled.”
The day is flying by, we’re now at 11:00 am and I have to do my Stack 2 time according to my calendar.
Open filter. There’s my list of prospects that I’ve already contacted. They’ve not responded, and they aren’t engaged yet.
What needs to change? I check my activities for each of the people on my list and I work them for the next hour.
This is when the drudgery starts to kick in. Don’t worry. You have a break coming up.
I look at each contact, perform outstanding activities, set the next activity, and analyze my metrics on campaigns.
Is anything performing well or underperforming? Make some changes or notes to talk to other salespeople or leadership.
Is anyone matching our engagement criteria? Move them to Stack 3.
Use this time to unplug for at least 30 minutes. Don’t do work and don’t be afraid to take the full hour to yourself. If you finish your lunch early enough, go back through the activity you did that morning and see if there is anything you can tighten up.
If there’s nothing to tighten up, let’s get started on Stack 1.
1:00 pm – Stack 1 time
In an ideal world, you have a sales admin doing this work for you, but if you’re not there yet, then you are going to have to do the research for each prospect and data entry.
This can become redundant and boring but it’s critical.
You open up your filter and see what data is missing in your view that you set up earlier.
Missing an email address? Use your resources to find it.
Missing a mailing address for direct mail? Use your resources to find it.
…and so on.
Then begin to think about the outreach strategy that you want to perform. This may be an existing workflow or it may be a one-off campaign. That’s case by case and company by company.
Nonetheless, create the strategy and execute the first touchpoint for the prospects that are well researched.
Then move that prospect to the label “Stack 2 – contacted/no response” once you’ve initiated the first contact.
From 2:00-4:00 pm you’ve specifically blocked off time for meetings/FTA’s
This is the block that you always try to schedule your external meetings in.
You open up the deal associated with each meeting and you work them through your sales meeting process.
You set expectations and next steps, confirm the next meeting while you have them on the phone, and then set your activity inside of the deal for the next time it’s Stack 5 time.
Closing down your day at 4:00pm
Everyone is different, but this is when I like to revisit my Stack 3 prospects to see if any inbound leads came in, any movement has happened with prospects from outreach, and so on.
I’ll plan my next day and I’ll wrap it up.
Make sure to tighten everything up before you leave.
You’ll find even through reading the workflow above, this is very simple… but it’s not “easy.”
That day you see above takes an immense amount of discipline.
BUT IT’S SO EFFECTIVE.
Your agency will revolutionize and start making leaps and bounds in the sales department if you can really hone in on this “science” we speak of.
I’d encourage you to implement the stacking methodology in your agency, whether it’s for you or your sales reps. This will change the way you do sales for the better.
You’ll have clarity and consistency.
That’s a recipe for a sales-driven agency.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, let’s chat.
Contact me and we’ll get you sorted out.