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A Talk with Agency Guru Dan Englander of Sales Schema on his Agency, Career, and of course, Sales!

Updated on August 13, 2020

5 Min Read
Dan Englander Agency Interview

Sales Schema’s founder and CEO Dan Englander is a man of many interests, from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and playing the guitar, to hosting the Digital Agency Growth podcast. He has also authored the bestsellers Mastering Account Management and The B2B Sales Blueprint. So we’re understandably quite excited to chat with him on Agency Gurus! Read on for his insights on customer retention, lead generation, sales, and more.

Cloudways: So, you were the first employee at IdeaRocket. That must have been a new experience, jumping from waiting tables to a video animation studio. How’d you cope with the change in the beginning? What do you think were the key lessons while working to grow IdeaRocket?

Dan: Before IdeaRocket, I was working as an accounts coordinator for a boutique social media agency, and I think the biggest change was that at IdeaRocket I essentially landed in a sales role, and I had a blank slate to maneuver. It was a very entrepreneurial role. Beyond that, at first, I didn’t take pride or ownership over being sales, and there aren’t many very good templates for how to sell creative services effectively – most of the books, coaches, and courses are built around selling things that are tangible.

There were lots of big lessons, but I think the biggest was pretty cliché and was built around lots of practice and getting on lots of sales calls.

One that came later is that sales is a compelling field for continuous learners and that the discipline broke the stereotypes that I had and most newbies have.

Cloudways: You started as an account manager, but your performance led you to become the Head of Business Development there. You also founded Sales Schema and wrote two books, and you currently run a podcast. How have you seen the industry evolve since 2010?

Dan: The way marketing services are sold has changed in that there is a lot more competition across the board – yes, there are a lot more agencies, but more importantly, competition for attention. This makes it imperative to specialize and then have the courage to break the rules in terms of the way you sell and market your service, focusing on what will actually work for your niche.

A Compilation of Top Marketing Agencies that Clients Recommend.

Cloudways: You founded Sales Schema while working at IdeaRocket. What made you come up with the idea for it? How do you think Sales Schema is different from other agencies out there?

Dan: Sales Schema started as basically just me doing sales consulting and coaching. I wish I could say I had a grand vision, but we organically moved to the agency space relatively early on because that was the area I knew best.

We’re not an agency, but a fractional new business team for agencies. Our three uniques are that we are agency-specialized, bespoke, and agile.

Cloudways: The pandemic has changed the way people do business. Many web agencies have been affected, though many have been quick to adapt to global economic changes. How do you think lead generation tactics for the agencies have evolved in the past few months?

Dan: We’ve seen all of our successful campaigns move toward lower-volume, less automated, and more personalized – I think this is because of the mass acceleration of the trend toward digital and the resulting increase in competition for attention. For example, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, “We used to do trade shows (or lunches or whatever) to drum up business, and now we can’t, so we have to figure out digital.”

Expert Tips on How to Get More Clients for Your Agency

Cloudways: In one of your blog posts, you mention that agency owners shouldn’t only rely on marketing and referrals alone. What other methods do you think they can use, especially keeping in view the changing marketing dynamics in 2020?

Dan: I think there are a lot of methods that can work, but in our experience, knocking on the doors and doing outreach tastefully is one of the most straightforward ways to build relationships. Beyond that, using similar approaches to plug your agency into the right audiences on podcasts and niche digital publications is a highly effective, albeit longer-term, demand generation approach.

Cloudways: Mastering Account Management focuses on customer retention and generating repeat business. In fact, in an interview, you call existing customers the most neglected element of the sales ‘food pyramid,’ because they become awkward around old customers. How do you think agency managers can change this?

Dan: I think one of the best ways is innovating so that there is new stuff to talk about, and having the courage to build in public and talk about tangible, useful work (not just case studies). Beyond that, it’s the usual stuff – listening and asking good questions.

Cloudways: You have a great deal of experience in video marketing. What’s the process you follow for approaching a client? And, how do you increase your chances of getting them to sign up? Any tips you’d like to share?

Dan: It’s been a while since I’ve leaned into video marketing per se, so grain of salt, but back to the usual dead horse we beat – specialization is the foundation. There’s no one blueprint for this, and we’ve worked with successful production houses who make it work in different ways – one for example focused on video production exclusively for hospitals and healthcare, while IdeaRocket has done well being the “Mercedes for business animation” (my comparison, not theirs), and so on.

Cloudways: In your book The B2B Sales Blueprint, you talk about sales professionals “atrophying.” In fact, it also affected you at one point in time. Why do you think that happens? Things have changed since you wrote the book, but you’re absolutely right when you say sales professionals can stop evolving over time. How do you think, in this day and age, that can be avoided?

Dan: I think the thing to remember is that all sales and marketing performance fluctuates over time, but we’re humans, not software so we actually feel the pain, unlike the algos in Hubspot or whatever – so to answer the question, I think the most important thing is to do a modest amount of performance tracking and numbers crunching, that way you can see downswings for what they are.

Beyond that, revisiting your favorite sales books, coaches, or teachers can be more useful than constantly looking for new approaches.


Source: Amazon

Cloudways: Your podcast is a wonderful source of new information for agency owners who are struggling with scaling their businesses. But, things have changed quite a bit in 2020, especially with the pandemic. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs today?

Dan: First specialize based on your historic success (not shiny objects); second, get to work and be proactive every day on the new business front.

Digital Agency Growth Podcast

Source: Sales Schema

Cloudways: So, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! That’s a fun interest to have. Do you think martial arts training has had any impact on your professional success?

Dan: Ha! I think so. BJJ has helped give me another medium for performance to smooth out the ups and downs of running a business. Also, it’s non-stop fuel for metaphors when I’m talking with BJJ friends who also run businesses – nothing like comparing some various marketing campaigns to an “ashi garami-to-x guard-to heel hook” combination.

Cloudways: And finally, who would be your pick for us to interview next?

Dan: Rory Sutherland.

And that’s a wrap! Keep an eye out for the next installment of Agency Gurus, where we chat with Agency Growth Consultant Kelly Campbell.

You can find Dan on Twitter, or contact him at the Sales Schema website.

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Arsalan Sajid

Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!


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