Like a lot of other digital agencies, the agency I co-founded started out with just a handful of people. First, there were just us co-founders. Then, gradually, we hired a few web developers, a designer, and a project manager. My co-founders and I were responsible for the “business-side”, which included everything from day-to-day operations, finance, marketing and sales (...and the occasional office sweep). On top of that, depending on our backgrounds, we helped out with design, coding, and architecting solutions.

But as opportunities – and with them, our business – grew, we got to the point where we needed to hire someone to help us with new business generation and Sales.

If you run a digital agency, you will know that this is easier said than done! Finding a good salesperson (and keeping them) is hard, but finding a good salesperson with the right skill set and motivation to understand and sell for an agency is even harder.

But why is that?

Digital agencies sell “bespoke solutions”

As digital agencies, we are (for the most part) in the “bespoke solutions” business. We take something intangible, a problem that needs solving or a customer’s need and turn it into a tangible solution for our clients.

There is a lot of uncertainty:

  • The scope and costs to build the solutions are mostly unknown and need to be negotiated.
  • The technology landscape we operate in is in constant flux, and with it are our client’s requirements.
  • Almost every solution we create is unique. No two sets of our customers have the exact same set of problems. And even if there are parallels, configurations, circumstances or budgets will most likely be different.
  • We depend on our employees and contractors to build out solutions, but labor resources are finite, which puts a restriction on how much new work we can take on at any given time.

All of this makes for a pretty complex environment for salespeople (and everyone else in the agency) to operate in.

Products, like cars, laptops, or even SaaS products are quite different. Their defined feature set and cost make it easier for a customer to understand, and easier for a salesperson to explain and sell. Once purchased, the product is ready for the customer to use. The Sales mantra, “the more and quicker, the better” and a traditional commission-based compensation model works well here. Generally, a business that’s focussed on selling products will be able to scale quickly to accommodate new clients.

Selling bespoke solutions requires a different mindset

With all of that in mind, it’s easy to see that selling bespoke solutions has a unique set of challenges and requires a different approach to traditional product selling:

It calls for a high-level of involvement and close cooperation between the customer and the solution provider - not just at the start but throughout the entire creation process.

It demands thought leadership. Your clients don’t just look for a product, they look for expertise and guidance.

It requires a consultative Sales approach, one that not only involves the sales department but other departments too, especially the team that will build the solution, in order to create something of value for the customer.

So when it comes to hiring a new salesperson for your agency, keep the above in mind. Make sure you go for someone who understands your field of work and give them the time to familiarize themselves with your agency, team, toolsets and processes.