Karl Sakas: Don't Just make The Logo Bigger Transform Your Agency

In this Inbound Speaks interview, we chat with Karl Sakas about his INBOUND 2020 session Don’t Just ‘Make the Logo Bigger’: Transform How Your Agency Handles Difficult Clients. He shares who should be in the room and why. A hurdle, myth, and tip along the way as well as seven magical words every agency needs to know.

Don’t Just ‘Make the Logo Bigger’: Transform How Your Agency Handles Difficult Clients

What if your agency ran more smoothly and profitably? It starts by making a key shift in how you handle relationships with your most demanding clients! Agency advisor Karl Sakas (@KarlSakas) will share a simple yet powerful negotiation technique to help you successfully navigate difficult client conversations. You can start using the free, three-step process immediately.

In the past 20+ years, Karl's clients have included small businesses, large corporations, non-profits, and even an Olympic athlete. Since 2013, Karl has advised owners at nearly 400 agencies worldwide. With concrete tips, bonus tools, and interactive Q&A, you’ll head back to work from INBOUND 2020 with ideas to help you improve your agency.


About the Expert

Karl Sakas

Agency growth is good… unless it gets out of control. Karl Sakas (@KarlSakas) helps agency owners increase their profits and reduce their stress, by conquering growing pains. As a management consultant and executive coach at Sakas & Company, Karl has personally advised hundreds of agencies on every inhabited continent. He is the author of "Made to Lead," "The In-Demand Marketing Agency," and more than 350 articles on agency management. A multi-year INBOUND speaker, Karl has written for the HubSpot blog and presented HubSpot Partner webinars. When he’s not helping clients, Karl volunteers as a bartender on an antique train, mixing martinis at 100 miles an hour. Get free agency management tips at SakasAndCompany.com.

Full Transcript

George Thomas 0:00
Hey, inbound attendees. It's your boy George B. Thomas and we're back with another episode of inbound speaks where I speak to inbound speakers who are speaking at inbound about inbound topics. Anyway, today we are going to dive into a little bit of an interesting zone a deep end of the pool, if you will. But before we get there, let's go ahead and run that bumper and get into the good stuff. All right, I'm here with Carl and Carl, we're talking about your session. Don't just make the logo bigger transform how your agency handles difficult clients. There's a whole lot in that title. But before we get into the deep end of the pool, why don't you explain to the inbound attendees, the viewers, the listeners who you are as Carl, and a little bit about what makes you tick.

Karl Sakas 0:47
My name is Carl seikos. I run a business called saygus and company. I'm an agency consultant coach and trainer. I focus on helping agencies grow profitably while helping the owners and leaders work hours while they make it happen. I love

George Thomas 1:02
the idea of working fewer hours. I have a question what actually kind of led you in that direction to be helping agencies and to kind of focus on, here's how you get stuff done in less time.

Karl Sakas 1:15
I come from an agency operations background. I've been an agency project manager, a director of client services, a director of operations, supporting the owners at one agency and then another and I realized there was an opportunity. I've been in digital marketing since I was in high school, designing websites back in the days of dial up, grew up helping my family small business, and then in that supporting role in agency operations, and I decided to put all that together in 2013 to launch what's now it's a custom company, because people start agencies because they love the work. Maybe it's strategy, maybe it's design, maybe it's development, maybe it's something else. And suddenly though now they're running a business, they are dealing with managing your team hiring and firing Working with clients finding clients in the first place, not doing the thing that got them into it. And I realized there's an opportunity to help them out. I'm good at helping people through the things they often don't like doing. And since then I've worked with nearly 400 agencies in every on every inhabited continent.

George Thomas 2:18
It's a good bit of background to kind of get us going. Now let's talk about your actual session. I think I know but you know what you never want to assume who should be in the room for your inbound 2020 session and why should they be in the room?

Karl Sakas 2:33
If you're at an agency and you either work with clients or you manage people who do work with clients, you should be at my session, don't just make the logo bigger at inbound 2020 why clients are a natural part of agency life and difficult clients are a typical part of agency life. And a lot of people are in difficult client situations and it feels like there's nothing you can do right you know, the client is always right. If the client wants something, you have to do it, you worry about maybe losing them as a client. But it doesn't have to be that bad. You are able to push back to clients on unreasonable requests, set boundaries, maintain those boundaries, if you know the right way to approach it. And in the talk, I'll introduce a simple yet powerful step by step negotiation framework to help you transform your agency's client relationships to help you handle those difficult clients ultimately, make your work more rewarding. And more profitable.

George Thomas 3:33
Man I like simple and powerful Carl, I gotta be honest with you. So I'm looking forward to that session for sure. Now, there's, it's a while before we get to inbound inbound is September 22, and 23rd. So is there just one tip because we don't want to give the whole farm away here, but is there one tip that you can share with the inbound attendees that they can kind of lean in or leverage between now and actually attending your session?

Karl Sakas 3:58
Let's imagine one of your clients out For something that is not in scope, maybe it's not part of their retainer, maybe it's not part of a project you're working on. And you get the sense. Maybe they're asking for it for free. Maybe they're not, you're not sure what you you know what to do. But you definitely don't want to say yes, we'll do that. for free. You can use these seven magic words to stop scope creep, those seven magic words for the clients like, Hey, could we do blah, blah, blah, and you're thinking, Oh, that's not included? Or maybe it's not, I need to figure that out. The seven magic words to stop scope creep are would you like an estimate for that?

George Thomas 4:34
Yeah. I mean, it's funny, because sometimes we get in a pickle, because we we, please. And yeah, before we think, right, and there's a whole probably piece of conversation that could happen around there. So here's the thing. It's funny because one of the things that you talked about is, the client is always right, which in essence means maybe the client isn't always Right, which then led my brain into, you know what I want to ask Carl, if there's any myths about working with clients that we should debunk before we actually get people to come attend his inbound 2020 sessions. So why not just ask you, Carl, are there any myths that we need to debunk about working with clients to just kind of help people unlock their mind and move forward?

Karl Sakas 5:24
Yeah, well, I've worked with hundreds of clients over the years both in my agency consulting work and ad agencies and as a freelancer before that, and other roles. And I think there's this myth that you can't say no to a client that whatever a client asks for, you have to say yes, or else you might lose them as a client. The reality is, that is not true. That is a myth. There are some clients who expect everything for nothing and you'll never make them happy. But for everyone else, you can say no, the key though, is to frame it in a way that they don't feel like you're rejecting their ideas. You're rejecting them as a person I'll be sharing that with that simple negotiation framework at inbound 2020. Love it. Carl

George Thomas 6:05
is good at throwing the teases out there. By the way, that's probably the second or third tease that we've had why we've been on this interview. So one like I have a final final question. So this is maybe the second to final question or however you want to kind of think about it. Obviously, with all the folks that you've helped, you've seen some hurdles, what would you say like a number one major hurdle is that you see people facing and maybe a way that they can kind of sidestep that and not get stuck by that in the future.

Karl Sakas 6:35
One of the big things is around knowing where you want to go, you know, if you're the owner of an agency or if you're in a leadership position, where are you going and the framework I've developed I call it your values, goals and resources, your vgr values around how you choose to operate goals around where you want to go, and resources in terms of time people money and other things to support getting there. If you understand your vgr is at an agency level, everyone on your team can make better decisions. If you understand your client's unique values, goals and resources, you can ultimately make better choices to help them, keep them happy, retain them longer. And so ultimately, you know, if you're going into things unintentionally, if you think about what are the relevant values, goals and resources to consider, you can make better decisions and everyone around you can make better decisions and you're not going to be so exhausted and frazzled.

George Thomas 7:27
Yeah, because exhausted and frazzled is not a place that you want to be, especially when you're trying to deal with other human beings. It's just that's a bad mix. So Carl, last year, I would always do these interviews and I would talk about Okay, you get done on stage and the audience stands up and they give you a raving round of applause. And well, this year, that's not really happening because it's a virtual digital experience, if you will. What though still as a speaker, even though we'll be like on our couch, hitting the applause button, probably order app on our phone. So we get the applause. But still, as a speaker, usually we have this like one thing or this big takeaway that we want people to grab and run with. So after folks attend your session, don't just make the logo bigger transform how your agency handles difficult clients. What's the one thing that you hope that they grab a hold of and run with

Karl Sakas 8:22
as they move forward? That there's hope that their difficult client relationships don't have to be that difficult? And if they join the live session, or watch the recording, I'll actually share free access to a set of dozens of scripts like step by step say this then say this for a couple dozen clients scenarios so you can use the framework I introduce into even get a cut and paste version. Thanks to free of charge thanks to attending and participating in inbound.

George Thomas 8:51
First of all, Carl, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. It has been enlightening. I can't wait to see the rest of the tea. That you've been teasing out during this interview attendees and viewers what I would say to you is remember those seven magical words that well, they're pretty dang magical if you rewind and listen to them again, also keep hope because it doesn't have to necessarily always be the way that it's always been moving forward. And while you're trying to figure out how to work with those fun clients, we'll say we'll be here waiting for you in the next episode.