Book a call

Episode 21 – Mark Colgan – Agency Sales Design

Like what you hear?

Apply as a guest

Apply now

Episode 21 – Mark Colgan – Agency Sales Design

Chris Simmance (00:38.902)
Thanks voiceover guy and on the podcast, I’m really pleased to have one of our illustrious agency advisors and partners, Mark Colgan, how are you doing?

Mark Colgan (00:46.978)
Very good, Chris. Very happy to be here.

Chris Simmance (00:49.294)
Thank you very much for joining us today. And I suspect you are, judging by your background, you are working from home in your home office, which is in Portugal. How about that for a memory? I can’t remember what day it is, but I remember that. Mark, tell us a little bit about yourself. Like, you know, who are you? What do you do?

Mark Colgan (00:59.13)
It is, yeah, Lisbon, Lisbon. Great memory.

Mark Colgan (01:11.71)
I know we don’t have too long to go through the whole history. So my name is Mark Colgan. I’ve spent the last 14 years in B2B sales and marketing. More recently in my career, I’ve even managed an agency or I grew an agency from co-founded it and then exited in December, 2022. I took some time off. And then after I decided to take some time off, I worked out who I wanna work with, which is agency owners.

Chris Simmance (01:38.418)
And sorry, it cut out there. I’ll try and snip that. Just give it a second.

Chris Simmance (01:47.434)
So you’ve, after leaving the agency fold, having some time off, just prove to me you’re not insane. Why did you come back to Agencyland?

Mark Colgan (01:59.966)
Great question. So I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do next. And I actually didn’t want to rush into building another agency. So I’ll put it out there. Never say never. But for now, that’s not what I’m interested in. And when I was reflecting on what I really enjoyed about building and running an agency, and the moment that it changed for me in my previous agency was when I stopped doing the sales. So when I hired a salesperson and got that person up to speed,

doing some of the other stuff, but I just wanted to do the sales stuff. And I enjoyed that whole process of having conversations with people, understanding what their challenges are, if you can help them, help them, if you can’t help them, then point them in the right direction. And after speaking to a few friends, I did loads of catch up calls, Chris, with like friends and business friends. And I realized that not every agency owner has a sales background. And oftentimes agency owners get very frustrated with themselves because they can’t sell.

But then they’ve never had any formal or any education about selling. And I thought that there’s a gap that I could potentially help with. So that’s why now agency sales design, the idea is to help with generating net new pipeline and then also closing deals. Typically, I help with the pipeline first, then help closing the deals.

Chris Simmance (03:11.927)

Chris Simmance (03:15.51)
So I want to scratch into this a little bit, because I’ll put my agency leader hat on. It’s hard. How do I even start building a pipeline? Where do you start with that kind of thing? Because understanding the value in a pipeline, we all get. Understanding the end result of a pipeline, hopefully we all get. If you’re listening to this and you don’t know what that is, maybe you should have a chat.

What where do you start as a as an external coming in? What’s what has it? How does it begin?

Mark Colgan (03:49.518)
Yeah, so I think the expectation before we start working with each other is they think I’ve got a brand new shiny tool that I can just plug into the agency that’s going to magically make leads and deals happen. But I don’t know, they don’t grow in Lisbon. But really where it all starts for me is really understanding what that what their ideal customer profile is and their

Chris Simmance (04:01.174)
you don’t have a money tree magic money

Mark Colgan (04:17.29)
obviously a hypothesis, others is looking at their current clients. But what I encourage my, my clients do is when they’re looking at their best customers or best clients that they’ve worked with in the past, what are the patterns that make them the ones that you want to work with moving forward? So rather than look at all clients, which ones have been the least pain in the backside and which ones have you enjoyed working with the most? So really is about nailing down who do we want to work with?

And then how do we match up the service that we offer to the challenges and the pain points that those prospects have?

Chris Simmance (04:50.706)
And then your experience, you know, working in an agency and running.

essentially what you sell now as an external. How, how, say quickly is probably the wrong, wrong question, but how, how much value do you see out of these things? You know, quite a lot of agencies, I’ll be speaking to them, and you’ll see, are we tried that for six months, and it didn’t work? Or and oh, yeah, we’ve been doing that a little bit, but we switched off because of insert.

Mark Colgan (04:58.991)

Mark Colgan (05:21.731)

Chris Simmance (05:22.022)
reason. How do you start to see results? Because pipeline is quite hard because it’s quite a long game, right?

Mark Colgan (05:30.674)
Yeah, yeah. So the first thing that I do with clients is so I want to try and provide as much value as quickly as possible. Now setting up an outbound prospecting campaign or sequence is going to take some time. So the first thing that I do is first of all, work out the ICP and buy a persona. And then I look for some low hanging fruit opportunities within their existing pipeline. So I start really closest to revenue. So if they have deals that are in there, a pipeline that are open, I

Chris Simmance (05:41.453)

Mark Colgan (05:57.274)
I don’t really coach them, but I just ask, what are you doing to try and close this? The answer usually, Chris, is nothing. Uh, I’ve sent an email two weeks ago and they, they haven’t come back to me yet. So it’s like, okay, let’s get on those. Let’s chase those. Now, what about the, um, the proposals that you sent out have a few months ago, for example, so past business that you haven’t closed, have you spoke to them? Have you found out if they’re, if they’re, if they went through with the solution that they went with, so I used to work in recruitment and one of the biggest wins for me is.

Chris Simmance (06:02.602)
Yep. And the chaser and another chaser.

Mark Colgan (06:26.386)
I may have lost out on a role. So another recruitment agency placed a candidate in a role, but I would then call up that hiring manager on the day that person was supposed to start and say, how’s Chris getting on? And that hiring manager goes, oh, Mark, they didn’t turn up or they pulled out at the last minute. And I’m able to sell in an immediately available candidate to plug that gap.

Chris Simmance (06:31.278)

Mark Colgan (06:46.818)
And I have that same mentality with sales and try and teach that to agency owners. Just because you’ve got to know a couple of months ago, doesn’t mean that they’ve actually done anything to change their current state. So there’s some opportunity there. And then also people that have booked a call with you but never showed up, that’s getting pretty bottom of the barrel, but they’re still worth at least a message just to see if there is an interest now.

Chris Simmance (07:05.442)


Chris Simmance (07:20.502)
Honestly, this guy comes back and again should never buy on Fiverr unless you really want a good service like this voiceover guy and sorry about that mark, I’m looking forward to asking this question because you’ve been Insane enough to come back into the agency land after a very good clean break and What do you love most about working with agencies now?

Mark Colgan (07:43.15)
I feel the thing that I’m motivated by, so I love the whole process of selling, as I mentioned before, and I celebrate the wins when my clients close the deals. What I really love about working with agency owners is that genuinely two or three new clients can make a huge difference. That feeling of being able to pay payroll without stressing, paying yourself some more money, giving yourself some time off as well.

Chris Simmance (08:00.212)

Mark Colgan (08:08.67)
All it takes is two or three clients, potentially. It depends obviously on how much your service is and what your average order value is. I used to work with B2B SaaS companies and they’re looking for hundreds and thousands of new signups every month. Whereas most agencies, if you gave them 10 new clients, they’re not gonna have the capacity or the operations to be able to fulfill those. So really it’s not because it’s easier to close those three, it’s still very challenging to build out your sales process and manage your pipeline, but…

Chris Simmance (08:14.975)

Chris Simmance (08:27.083)

Mark Colgan (08:37.866)
It’s so great to see the difference that just two or three clients can make.

Chris Simmance (08:41.458)
Yeah, and moving the needle. I like I love seeing that with agencies, whether it be finance, sales, marketing, ops, or whatever that when they have a win, you have a win, completely understand that feeling.

Mark Colgan (08:56.946)
Yeah. Another thing as well, Chris, that I feel the thing that I enjoy, especially if the, the agency owner doesn’t come from a sales background is just doing the fundamentals of sales, what a good sales process is, what a good qualification call and a good discovery call that makes a huge difference as well. And then usually I sit back a little bit, listen to a few more of those calls. So I asked them to record the call and send it to me. And once I see that they’ve got their script in place, they’re following an outline.

Chris Simmance (09:05.358)

Chris Simmance (09:14.771)

Mark Colgan (09:25.886)
then I’m able to give more suggestions. So rather than overwhelming them all in one go, it’s more about start here, we’ve made some incremental improvements and then everything compounds after that. And one client, the difference between a call I had with them in the first month versus the third month, he knew exactly where every deal was in his pipeline. He had an action item on each one.

He said, this person’s going to come back to me next week, but I’m already going to send him a calendar. And he was just on it. And just that energy and confidence in his own ability to close deals went through the roof. And that made me really happy as well.

Chris Simmance (09:52.79)

Chris Simmance (10:00.402)
And there is a really good feeling in that, isn’t there? It’s almost like fatherly, parental kind of, you feel like, yeah, I had a call yesterday with an agency owner and it’s just from a mentorship point of view. We haven’t spoken since before Christmas and she came onto the call and she went, before you even start.

Mark Colgan (10:08.426)

Chris Simmance (10:20.918)
I’m going to share my screen. And then she showed me the P&L and she said, I’ve been preparing this because I know that you’re going to need it. And I understand it this time round. So I know exactly what you feel. I’ve still got a warm feeling in me from that as well.

Mark Colgan (10:29.95)

Chris Simmance (10:34.838)
What do you think in the sales and pipeline and things like that not withstanding? Because I know that, you know, that’s something that I suppose you’re eagerly keen on growing and improving. But what is it that you see in your experience that separates the best agencies from the rest?

Mark Colgan (10:54.898)
Yeah, I think one of the telling signs for me is how the handover process between whoever’s done the sales to the actual client success team or the onboarding team and what that process looks like. For me, I can learn a lot about how an agency operates and their approach to things by that. Because the moment you sell to a client and they go from a prospect into a customer,

they are looking for reasons to confirm that they made the right decision. And if you mess up the onboarding and it could be as simple as you spoke to one person and told them that your concerns and that didn’t get through to the person who was doing the onboarding and you have to repeat yourself, that feels that leaves quite a negative experience for that prospect or for your new client.

Chris Simmance (11:24.268)

Chris Simmance (11:35.958)

Chris Simmance (11:41.326)

Mark Colgan (11:41.826)
which we don’t think about, but it’s called buyer’s remorse. And I think we’ve all felt that when we bought, I bought this chair, I’m not sure if you can see it on video, but I bought this chair, Chris, and it doesn’t actually go back. It doesn’t, the back of it doesn’t go back or forward. I can’t adjust it, big buyer’s remorse. I’m gonna have to go and buy another chair now. I wasn’t looking for that, but it’s something I noticed after I purchased it. So going back to that, if they don’t have a clear…

Chris Simmance (11:55.96)
Oh. Yeah.

Chris Simmance (12:02.678)

Mark Colgan (12:06.978)
onboarding process and a really rigorous approach to making sure that client doesn’t feel that remorse or if that remorse comes up they can overcome that feeling. That’s a real telling sign for me.

Chris Simmance (12:18.154)
Yeah, I’d argue that, similarly to the objection handling aspect of the trying not to have the remorse at least, a big part of selling to a client and getting that signature, an agency leader often has to remember that you are consistently until that client eventually in the future leaves, selling to that client. You’re selling the

Mark Colgan (12:40.462)

Chris Simmance (12:41.939)
reminder of why they bought in the first place. And as you say, they need to feel like they’ve been, there’s a consistency in that.

Mark Colgan (12:50.41)
Yeah, and Chris, I think that carries through to communication with your clients as well. So I used to tell my team communicate, say it again, say it again, say it again. I’m never going to be angry with you if a customer turns around to me and say, Mark, can you tell your team to not message me because I get it now? We think that because we know our process as the agency leader and we know the ins and outs of it, we assume that the people that we’re selling to also have that understanding. And even though you say it in a call, maybe in a follow up email. And once again,

Chris Simmance (13:05.839)

Mark Colgan (13:19.51)
We have to remember that as the service providers, we are just one part of a huge, huge list of things and items that they’re going through and that’s in their minds. So don’t be afraid to over communicate. That’s something that I always instilled in the whole team.

Chris Simmance (13:27.367)

Chris Simmance (13:31.892)

Chris Simmance (13:35.762)
And rather than the thing you dislike or think that a not that great agency does, but what’s something that, you know, kind of niggles at you a little bit that you kind of wish that everyone was to notice or know?

Mark Colgan (13:54.398)

something that niggles at me in relation to cells or…

Chris Simmance (14:00.15)
I didn’t in general for me, for example, every time I ask an agency leader for the first time I have a discussion with them, I asked them for their numbers, you know, number of clients, number of staff, revenue, gross profit and net profit. And it’s almost every single times that the not knowing of the top let top numbers basic top numbers, that niggles at me a bit because I just that that’s like,

Mark Colgan (14:22.103)

Chris Simmance (14:28.162)
the beginning start of running a business. Where do you sit? What’s your niggle? Oh, go on then. You started with none. Ha ha.

Mark Colgan (14:31.486)
Yeah, okay. Two, two niggles now, now that you reminded me. Yeah, the first is when I ask you their ideal clients, their perfect prospects are, they say everybody, we can sell to everyone, everybody could use our services. So that’s the first one. Usually the same person will ask what AI can they put in their agency and what tool they can use. And my response to them is,

once you tell me exactly who your ideal client profile is, then we can talk about AI. Because I think everybody’s looking for a shortcut and they think it’s a shiny tool or AI is going to help them. But getting those fundamentals right first, then leverage the tools, then leverage the AI.

Chris Simmance (15:16.03)
Yeah, yeah, I agree. And the, I think the thing with all of with all of that stuff is in this industry in particular, the pace of change and the general archetypal agency leader, shiny things and new stuff and anything that requires a login, is usually a distraction. Having a real kind of

Mark Colgan (15:32.012)

Chris Simmance (15:40.198)
long-term vision for the business allows you to really distill down to that, you know, ideal client persona. Because, let’s say in three to five years, I need to be in XYZ financial or scale position, map that back to a number of clients, map that back to, that means a value of this per client, that then immediately discounts a huge chunk of the everyone. And, and then

Mark Colgan (15:46.179)

Mark Colgan (15:55.822)

Mark Colgan (16:05.051)

Chris Simmance (16:06.122)
What are we great at doing that allows us to relatively easily get this number of clients over the line, this insert service or insert niche area? Well, that makes an awful lot more sense. Okay. So now we don’t just sell everything to everyone. We sell this service to these people at this value times this many to get to where we need to be.

Mark Colgan (16:12.74)

Mark Colgan (16:26.154)
Mm-hmm. Sounds so simple when you put it out like that. But it’s so hard when you’re in the day-to-day in the grind of running an agency. One thing that I use personally and also professionally is I have a Google Doc, which is just called Phase 2. Now, Phase 2 is anything that I’m interested in or have an idea that I just pop in there. And that process of just putting it down on paper, Phase 2 doesn’t have an end date, doesn’t have a beginning date. It doesn’t have any formatting. It’s just…

Chris Simmance (16:31.094)

Mark Colgan (16:55.286)
a place for me to drop the ideas. And every now and then I’ll go in and have a look at it, but I’ll only approach anything in phase two once my phase one is done and phase one is never done. So it’s like a good mental exercise for me that works for me. So maybe try that out.

Chris Simmance (17:09.694)
Lovely. Mark, what’s, if you’ve been spending your free time, let’s say, because you’re crazy, for example, you spend in your free time, you create Mark’s magic wand. Mark’s magic wand isn’t that great though, because it can only be used once. What one use are you going to use that magic wand for that will change one thing in every agency across the planet? Like that.

Mark Colgan (17:35.386)
I would love, okay, so the magic wand should increase every agency owner or the person who’s doing the sellings, their confidence. So I think a lot of times we’re selling from a lot of the clients I work with are selling from a position of I need this deal to close. So they’re still better close. And I’m not saying they come across as desperate, but the actions that they then take.

Oh, I’ll discount. We can offer a discount just to get them across the line. If everybody had the confidence in their service and the understanding that the next deal might close, the next deal might close. So I think confidence in themselves and confidence in selling.

Chris Simmance (18:01.452)

Chris Simmance (18:13.758)
Yeah, no, I completely agree. And I’m doing Do you know what, that’s probably one of the best answers I’ve had for a while, not discounting any of the other fantastic guests, but the that bridges an awful lot of different areas across the business. If you’re confident that you’ve got the right people, and you’re confident that you know the service and you’re confident, you know,

Mark Colgan (18:22.35)

Chris Simmance (18:38.082)
the industry or niche that you’re working in and you’re confident you’ve got the right tools and the right softwares and blah, then you can confidently walk in a room and say with confidence.

Mark Colgan (18:50.563)

Chris Simmance (18:50.966)
This is the price for these services, but I can relatively confidently say, we’ll generate these leading measures of success or these future results for you. That then makes it a lot more likelihood that you’re gonna win that contract over someone else and more importantly, keep it.

Mark Colgan (19:09.038)
And Chris, I’ve been there in the seller’s position where I won’t say the company I was working for, but the service wasn’t great at the time. They were going through issues with staffing and capacity. I did the same sales call. I said the same thing. I did the same follow-up. I ticked all the boxes, but I just wasn’t able to close. I was able to close, but not at the same rate as before. And I was doing nothing different other than the fact that in the back of my mind, I knew that if this client signed up tomorrow.

Chris Simmance (19:16.407)

Chris Simmance (19:29.004)

Mark Colgan (19:38.594)
they’re going to have a pretty bad experience. And that vibe just went across same script, same follow-up, same message, but the vibe was just off. And it really does make a difference.

Chris Simmance (19:48.814)
Um, final curve ball question for you. Feel free to be as honest as you like on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on TikTok and on Twitter, I don’t know about you. You probably even get it yourself. I see. And a lot of agency owners see, uh, I will appointment set X and number of Ys in Zed time or your money back kind of things. Um, we’re, and I know what I feel about that.

How do you see those kinds of outfits?

Mark Colgan (20:21.762)
So I’m passionate about outbound prospecting, cold emailing. It’s a craft. It’s something that I love. What I’ve disliked, especially in the last year, 18 months, is the kind of AI copywriting tools that have come out to make cold email effective. And what happens there is that people jump on, if they’re not drop shipping, they’re now doing AI agencies. If they’re not doing AI agencies, they’re doing cold email agencies as well. I…

Chris Simmance (20:28.01)

Mark Colgan (20:49.274)
I haven’t met an agency owner that wants 20 to 40 qualified leads a month. And I, and I then, I then asked myself to these people who are running these agencies, have they ever ran an agency before? Um, if you’re selling a course or something, which is a transactional, then great, yeah, you need that volume, but you can’t, you can’t spend that much time having calls 40, 40 calls is maybe 20 hours in a month.

Chris Simmance (21:18.017)

Mark Colgan (21:18.066)
as well as everything else that you have to do. And the majority of leads from cold outbound close a lot longer than inbound. And there are other ways to generate pipelines. So Chris, I feel like you and I can have a separate conversation about this and share our opinions. But yeah, ask yourself, do you need 40 leads a month? No is the answer.

Chris Simmance (21:31.01)
Oh yeah.

Chris Simmance (21:37.998)
Thank you very much for that. I’m, it was a burning thing that I had in my head to ask you. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Mark. It’s been great to talk to you. Hopefully we’ll have you back for one of our webinars or another podcast in the future.

Mark Colgan (21:50.202)
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Chris. See you soon.

Chris Simmance (21:52.606)
And in our next podcast, we’ll be talking to another either agency leader, agency advisor or agency partner and to hear their advice, their lessons and things that they’ve learned along the way.