Agency Founders: Where Should You Spend Your Time, Selling or Becoming an Expert?

Agency Founders: Where Should You Spend Your Time, Selling or Becoming an Expert?

As I was perusing Quora this evening — as I often find myself doing — I ran across an interesting thread that I thought would be not only interesting, but relevant to the Stride community. The questions was simple:

 As a consulting agency founder, which should you focus on: becoming an expert or sales?

Without looking at the answers, I pondered the question. My initial reaction was selling. But then, as I thought about it a bit more, I started to move more in the camp of becoming an expert. The thought process there, was that as you become an expert, the sales will come to you, in a sense. But that may be wishful thinking.


My thoughts aside, there are far smarter people on this topic (and many others) than I. So, let’s revert to them. The responses were somewhat split:

Short term, focus on sales.  Sales will bring you more work, which will build your expertise.  There’s no better way to becoming an expert than practicing your craft, and if you don’t sell, you’ll be studying your craft instead of practicing it.

Sales will bring you clients to make (and keep) happy.  Happy clients translate into a growing reputation (based on your expertise) and more happy clients – both of which add up to more sales. In other words, focus on sales (because expertise with no outlet doesn’t pay the rent).  And be confident that doing so needn’t detract from developing your expertise – unless you let it.

In my opinion, I’d start by spending 80 percent of your time on education and research, and 20 percent on sales. Gradually, you’ll reach a point where you can effectively communicate value and deliver results effectively each and every time. That’s your decision stage gate, use that momentum to hire someone who’s a rock star in either operations or sales, then for the time being assume the other role. Always evolve, always improve, always adapt.

For the full round-up of answers, feel free to check out the original thread.

After thinking about the answers, I see merit to each position. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make your business a success. For some, that’ll be selling to new clients. For others, that’ll be putting your head down and producing the highest quality of work possible. But don’t forget the underlying decision of which makes you happier. For most small agencies, the founder made a conscious decision to start the company, and if they’re spending their days selling when they’d rather be producing, it’s going to be a long road.

What do you think?

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