Integrating Creative & Traditional Sales Teams For Great Results
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to sell my services and my facility’s services to clients. I think constantly about how to make that process better and more efficient, how to close more deals and how to attract more clients doing projects that I want to be a part of.
As a small business owner, there are a couple of undeniable truths that govern my life. Probably the biggest one is that to put food on the table, pay bills, and keep the doors open we – everyone involved in the business – always have to be selling!
Here’s the thing – I don’t like being a sales person; I like being a colorist!
Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor!
I don’t know about you, but every time I think of a sales person I think of that sleazy guy who won’t take no for an answer, or cold calls you at really weird times of day, or sends you 50 emails by lunch time encouraging you to use his company’s services. If you think about it, you’ve probably run across this person in your career!
Even though I have a slightly negative feeling about sales folks, there is another truth that I’ve learned over the years – sales people in facilities and larger companies play an essential role to the health of that organization. Indeed, as a facility grows it’s almost impossible to function without them.
In this Insight, the first in a two part series on sales, I want to discuss how you the colorist, the technician, and the creative force behind the services that your company sells can help your company develop a better sales process and get more interesting and more lucrative projects through the door.
I also want to share some additional thoughts about how you can help quantify the sales process and bolster your position in your company.
Part 1 of this Insight is targeted towards the facility colorist or a colorist working for a larger company. What if you’re an owner / operator without a sales team?
Owner / operators have additional challenges when it comes to sales and attracting new clients. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll explore how to streamline and how to strengthen the sales processes for single person and small team shops.
The Science Of Not Selling Yourself Short
In case you’re wondering about the title of this Insight, I can’t take credit for it!
I’ve always loved the song and the title of the song and NOT selling yourself short is a perfect analogy for making sales in any business but especially in a creative one like postproduction & color grading.
I also think there is a process or science to the sales pipeline and I’ll share that with you in this series.
Dedicated Sales Person – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Let’s start out discussing a traditional sales person.
In a large shop, or as part of a larger corporate structure or agency, there are probably dedicated sales professionals whose job it is to land new clients, and new work.
In the world of postproduction, a Sales Rep usually handles the following tasks:
- Identify new clients and new projects
- Make contact with a decision maker for said client or project
- Open lines of communication and set sales meetings to offer options and pricing
- Explain how the company can make the client’s post workflow smoother, faster, better – and generally how your company will blow their mind!
All of those tasks are HUGE. As companies grow from single person shops and and then just a few employees—they realize that they need sales staff to do these things.
The role of sales person can be an endless cycle of emails, calls, and meetings without knowing if the job is going to land. In other words it takes a special breed of person to be a great sales person. But the problem with most sales teams, at least in my experience, is that they are far too keen to leave a huge sales tool behind at the office…
It seems so simple, yet it is often not used as a sales tool. In fact, this simple sales tool is often seen as a threat to the Sales Rep.
What do they see as a threat (and consequently under-utilize)? YOU, THE TALENT.
Don’t misunderstand me. Plenty of sales people use the talent of the company they represent as a sales tool – but they speak of you in the abstract, as commodity that you can shop for on their website.
The traditional sales process often skips what I think a fundamental need in closing more deals, diversifying clients and project types, and making more money – having you the creative, the colorist, directly involved in the sale.
Yes – that’s bad. And you’re going to need to overcome your resistance to being involved in the sales process as well. Besides, as I explain in a moment – you’re already part of the sales process, whether you like it or nor. You might as well step up to the plate stop selling yourself short.
Thats the good and the bad of a sales person, but what about the ugly?
In many companies and facilities sales people are compensated mainly through some level of commission, or big annual bonuses paired with small salaries.
While there are certainly sales people out there who are only compensated with nice big salaries they’re not the norm.
What that means is that many sales people are fiercely territorial about their contacts, leads and sales.
Unless compensation is modeled around overall facility performance—and not just the sales persons performance—things can get ugly. In these situations, outside help (you) on closing a sale can (and will) lead to infighting.
There’s another ugly thing that can happen with traditional sales folks – they’re just not knowledgable about what they’re selling.
You’ve probably heard the adage that ‘a good sales person can sell anything’ – and in general, I think that’s true. But a sales person who doesn’t have knowledge about what they’re selling can actually be more destructive to a company than if a sale is missed entirely.
I’ve seen a lot of companies struggle because their sales person simply doesn’t have the appropriate knowledge about what they’re selling.
If your facility has sales staff it’s important that they be trained about all aspects of postproduction, workflow, equipment and techniques that your facility offers.
In the rest of this Insight we’re going to talk about strategies I use to align the Sales team more closely with the overall goals of the facility. And that includes bringing you, the colorist, into the Sales process.
But I’m Not A Sales Person, I’m Colorist!
You are a sales person, you just don’t call yourself one. And worse yet, sales staff don’t want to consider you part of the sales team either. This leads to a disconnect that results in huge problems within many post facilities.
You, the Sales Rep
Think about your role as colorist – you spend a lot of time with clients. There are endless hours of refining a grade and talking about the art and technical side of a project, taking breaks and making small talk that gets the client comfortable with you and your facility.
In your role, you probably have more direct face time with a client than anyone else in the facility. You should be “exploiting” what you are doing, because while it doesn’t seem like it, you’re grading AND you’re also selling your capabilities, your technical and atheistic knowledge plus your facility or company resources.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Robbie, that’s not sales – it’s client services!”
There’s two parts to sales: Acquiring the client. Retaining the client. Both are sales. And you, the colorist, are definitely in the second half of that equation.
I agree, what you do is not direct sales because the client has already made the decision to work with your facility and is sitting there in your suite. But the mechanics of Sales (acquisition) and client services (retention) are almost identical.
I know many of you are nervous about sales; you like grading. Get over that fear because you are already selling!
Now that we’ve cleared up that you are actually a sales person – how do dedicated sales people feel about your new realization that you can help in the sales pipeline?
You Are A Colorist, Let Me Handle The Sales
A traditional sales person in a larger facility can be pretty territorial about the sales process.
It’s not uncommon to hear about sales people fighting with other sales staff, or leaving one facility to go to another over some dispute about commission or who actually landed a job.
Before staring my own company I worked at a large facility with 6 or 7 sales staff.
The sales team was strong, but always fearful that other employees where trying to somehow “steal” their commissions.
In one case, I became aware that (through a relationship with a producer on the possible project) there was a very cool but very complicated video installation piece that I thought would be really fun to work on.
The sales person was working hard to sell the client on the facility, but just wasn’t able to close the deal. When I made the suggestion that I could go along to the next meeting because I knew the producer, understood a lot about the projection technology that was being used, and had several ideas about best workflow, guess what happened?
I got a tongue lashing! I was told to know my role – I was the colorist and not the sales person. In other words, shut up and get back in the grading suite!
Sadly, this type of interaction is more common than you’d think.
I know the reaction and the treatment I received had nothing to do with me personally, but everything to do with a fear by this sales person that if the deal was closed, and I helped, I might ask for a cut of the commission.
The interaction left me feeling a little useless – I knew I could help, but was being told I couldn’t.
And the worst part?
We lost the gig to another shop.
A Facility-Wide Sales Approach: Talent Supporting Sales
So we have colorists who don’t realize what they already do is selling. We have traditional sales folks that are territorial about their sales. And in general we have the potential for a fragmented and ineffective sales pipeline.
Before I make my suggestions below on how to improve this process, I do want to say that these are suggestions, and there are always variants on this process. I firmly believe that the traditional sales process in many facilities is flawed and that change is needed. How you employ that change is up to you and your team.
So let’s discuss a new approach to sales in a larger facility.
First, for any system to change it’s 100% necessary that this be a top down mandate.
Please don’t go out and just start implementing change on your own. For a new system to work it needs to come from ownership or the person in charge of the facility.
Some points to keep in mind about this change:
- There are no “my sales”. All sales are facility sales that benefit the entire team. If possible, eliminate commissions which inherently lead to competition and a “me first” attitude
- Sales staff have the responsibilities of finding, making contact and researching client needs
- Sales staff will consult creatives, engineering and support staff on workflow, aesthetic, and other client questions
- Creative, engineering and support staff will respond promptly to sales staff via phone, email or in person regarding their questions
- Operation staff will schedule time for creative staff to attend client sales meetings and help close deals
- Creative staff, when at client meetings, will let sales staff “run” the meeting.
- Creative staff will refer any sales opportunity they hear of to sales staff
The point of all these bullets is to make the sales pipeline about the facility, and to leverage the communication and sales skills of all involved for the benefit of the facility.
I want to be clear about one thing:
I’m under no illusion that you as colorist have the time or desire to do the upfront work that a traditional sales person does. I’m not saying that should happen.
But what should happen is that the sales staff leverages the natural selling abilities of the creative, engineering and support staff and that in turn those folks support the sales staff with prompt responses to questions, attend sales meetings when scheduling allows and appropriate.
The big thing about this system: It doesn’t work unless EVERYONE takes a team- / facility- first approach.
If there are staff members who can’t buy into that approach then they might not be the right fit for this different approach.
I think a big part of this process is eliminating a commission based system and have facility ownership/management start thinking about a profit sharing model especially for top tier, high draw talent.
Of course, management may have trouble with this since it means revealing sales figures—but in this Three Musketeers approach, if everyone is selling all the time without territorial disputes… then revenue figures will have to be shared—at least amongst those with revenue-sharing components to their salary.
Being The Known Quantity
As you go further in your grading career or start working at larger facilities, an interesting thing starts to happen – you get groupies…err dedicated, loyal clients.
Take a look at companies like MPC, Company 3, Technicolor and others. All of these facilities have big time colorists who have graded some of the most highly regarded films, commercials and music videos of the past 30 years.
Clients come to these facilities in large part because of those colorists.
At some point the colorist or other post talent becomes aware that people are coming to the facility because of them – and you know what that means – I want some of that money!
I think this is a natural response to the attention that high profile work brings. As an operator, you see thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars being pumped into the facility but your paycheck doesn’t change – that doesn’t seem fair.
On the surface its not, but if facility staff can buy into the Three Musketeers approach of “all for one one for all” and facility management can set up a profit sharing model for top sales folks and top talent then all involved are motivated to work harder and more importantly for (and with) each other.
Know The Value You Bring To The Facility
Assuming that sales and creative staff are working on all cylinders and the sales pipeline is going well, I don’t want you to get the impression that individual performance is something that doesn’t matter.
Sales metrics are important data points, but they shouldn’t be used to define someone. For example, maybe there is a sales person that consistently brings in good volume, but the work is pedestrian.
Then there is another sales person that has landed a job that opens the door to a whole new market.
Sure person one has sold more dollar for dollar, but person two’s sale might mean more in the long run for the company.
For colorists I think it’s really important to track your role and value in the sales pipeline while keeping in mind the following things:
- Keep separate ledgers of work that was brought to you by sales staff and work that you funneled to the sales team.
- Know your hourly rate – in general – and the applied rate per project
- In flat bid situations know what your services were flat bid at
- Keep track of your real hours spent on a project
- Make sure you know how many hours were actually billed
- Do the math
By knowing your sales metrics, you have a good idea of what your services are really worth to a facility. And if you have this hard data at your fingertips, present this data and use it as leverage for salary and profit sharing adjustments… and over time the historical trends will reveal how well you’re doing (or not).
Closing Thoughts & Next Steps
If you’re a colorist at a facility with sales staff, hopefully this Insight gives you a few ideas about how you can better integrate what you do and how your sales staff can leverage your natural sales skills in the overall sales pipeline.
I feel strongly that the best sales approach for a facility is as a team. When you as the creative can assist the sales staff and in turn the sales staff trusts you and depends on you to help close sales, everyone wins.
Also I think by cutting out some of the traditional compensation techniques, like commissions, and in turn changing to a profit sharing approach (something ownership and management must agree to) in the long run everyone will feel compensated and have good motivation to put the facility first.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll talk about how to approach sales as an owner/operator or when you have a small shop with no dedicated sales team. So stay tuned for that!
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