GUEST: Mike Moore, Partner and Chief Commercial Officer at WillowTree
The digital agency space has seen a lot of consolidation over the years, with many getting bought up by “the Big Four.”
Today, independent agencies struggle (at times) creating and maintaining a sustainable pipeline. So it’s worth asking: How do those that survive work to make their revenue more predictable?
We recently interviewed Mike Moore, Partner and Chief Commercial Officer at WillowTree, who covered everything from the “real” social selling, some of his agency’s greatest hits, and why WillowTree isn’t aiming for intergalactic domination.
This post is based on a selection of Mike’s full podcast interview, which you can listen to above.
How WillowTree Works to Make Revenue More Predictable
The WillowTree team stick to their core values. They put their clients first, suspend disbelief when faced with a challenge, and they try to get the most appropriate people around a problem or opportunity as quickly as they can.
As far as how they do it, part of their sales philosophy is “getting the business folks out of the way.” It may sound counter-intuitive, but they’ve had real success having their business folks focused on framing opportunities and problems and simply listening, digesting, and understanding. The biggest challenge is how to extract the best thinking from all the best experts they have at WillowTree then effectively get out of the way.
New clients are looking to get to the solution as quickly as they possibly can. People expect to get to the root faster, and they’ll judge you on your merits. So WillowTree keeps it lean and gets the experts in front of the client as soon as they can.
What Real Social Selling Looks Like
By social selling here, we don’t mean selling on LinkedIn and Twitter. We’re talking about real human connection. Mike is proud of how his people are doing that.
Their business is based in Charlottesville, VA and Durham, NC, which has many benefits from an operating perspective. They can attract top talent without being susceptible to assembling a team in a “traditional” tech hub. But it also lends itself to their personality.
He wouldn’t go far as to say their commercial approach is “folksy,” but a word they like to use is “authentic.” If they don’t make a genuine connection with clients, it’s all for naught. Therefore, WillowTree hires have a mix of technical skills and great human skills.
They’ve been able to make great connections at the highest levels with clients. They have relationships at the C-level and help them out at the edges whenever they can.
They also spend good quality time with them on or between projects. They look for executives who see the world the same way in how they do business and ask if there are others in their network who see things the same, either for referred business or simply for good relationships.
They arrived at this approach to revenue generation organically, but they also intentionally used tech and campaigns. Mike says you can’t divorce the two things.
“You can’t be a great relationship executive in our business and not have the technical ability and/or insight.”
For example, almost everyone on the business development team at WillowTree has an engineering degree somewhere. That technical appreciation for how things work is critical. They just happen to be great at relationships on top of that.
For WillowTree, it’s less about process and even coaching, and more about hiring. Maybe you’ve heard it said that the best hiring managers bat .500.
Mike says WillowTree is certainly better than .500, but they’re also not the largest organization in the world. While there’s urgency to find more business development folks, it doesn’t have to come at the sacrifice of quality and patience. He’d put the number around .850.
One Cool WillowTree Project
We asked Mike to share one cool project they’ve done, and he recounted some work they’ve accomplished on behalf of Regal Cinema. What’s been great about the relationship is that neither side has been afraid to go after “big ticket” experiences.
Their first work was reimagining the loyalty view. Regal had millions of people in their loyalty program, and they wanted it to be a mobile-first experience. WillowTree did some really cool things around location-based services and demystifying what it means to earn points.
That’s been received really well by the Regal/Crown Club faithful. The momentum just keeps rolling, too. Check out the Regal app and see for yourself the work they’ve done.
“We’re fortunate to have clients like Regal who are committed to mobile and digital as their core strategy,” Mike says. Clients like that are open to finding out where “mobile meets mortar.”
WillowTree has thrived because they understand what they’re solving for. For clients who are getting it right, as the tech gets more complex, the goal of the tech should be getting simpler.
At the end of the day, what are you solving for? Are you solving for a better workflow for your team or for more seamless shopping for your end consumer?
They like to ask simple questions: “How would we better…?” The days of people waving their hands and saying they need apps are over. They even talk clients out of apps sometimes. But if you can answer those simple questions, the tech can get you there.
Check out www.willowtreeapps.com for great case studies.
In each episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we’re going to ask our guests for one nugget of wisdom they would impart to a sales professional. Here’s this one:
“I mentioned being honest about your pipeline and where you think you are in the cycle. That coupled with the question of ‘Did you make a connection?’ is what would be my advice to sales professionals.
Coach your teams and yourself to measure where you are in your sales lifecycle, pipeline, quarter, week… and measure on real connections. If you measure yourself in that regard, I think you’re going to be more effective with challenges in any industry. It simplifies your life.”
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.