John Doherty: How Top-Performing Marketing Agencies Close More Clients 

During challenging times, closing new clients can be difficult. That’s why I brought on John Doherty, the founder, and CEO of Credo. 


Credo is essentially a resource that many businesses use to find and hire marketing agencies, so John is the perfect person to break down what clients want in an agency and how to close more deals. 


We also uncover how he was able to find and work with high-level coaches and the three levels of inspirational people. 



  • How to position yourself as a partner rather than a service (and why it’s important)
  • The sales strategy that helped one agency grow from $1.5 million to 4 million in 1 year
  • How to win the attention of a superstar mentor (and when it’s appropriate to approach them)


Do you see any trends in agencies that consistently win clients?


Absolutely. First of all, agencies that close a lot of work are specialized and don’t try to serve everyone. For example, they may only serve B2B SaaS or Direct to Consumer. Often times they actually know the business and industry better than the client does.


Another trend is that agencies that close the biggest work are usually full-service, meaning that they have experts in each area (SEO, PPC, etc) in-house. 


Finally, the agencies that close the most deals are the ones that are looking to serve.


They really come on as a partner looking for ways to help the company grow and use whatever they have in their “toolkit” (SEO, PPC etc) to get the job done.


If you reposition how you sell and offer solutions rather than services, you’ll close many more deals. This is how you can achieve higher level buy-in (director of marketing, VP of marketing), and command higher budgets because you can justify the value of your services.


If you’re selling services you’re just an expense, so you need to figure out how to become an integral part of the team. The solution, of course, is to become a partner that offers solutions. 


People cut expenses and invest in solutions.


What’s you’re opinion on agencies that offer services that are very structured vs more experimental?


There’s definitely a balance. Clients need to know what they are going to get. Look at their website and if you think that they need 4 blog posts per month, tell them that and that that will be their deliverable. Links can be a little bit different, but there should still be some underlying deliverable the client can expect every month.


Give them a map of where they are going and make sure that the services fall in line with it. 


One of the biggest problems he sees is that agencies tell prospects that it will cost them $2,000 per month, but the client doesn’t understand what they are paying $2,000 for.


Do you have any examples of really good sales processes?


Yes! Go check out this video here:


He uses the DSSP framework.


Discovery Call

Strategy Call

Scope Email



The problem with marketers doing sales calls is that they make everything too complex.


Keep it simple.


We know you could do another million other things.


But keep it simple.


He had one agency on Credo that was struggling with sales. When they first came onto his platform they were at about $600,000 per year. They grew to about $1.5 million per year from working with Credo for a year but were still having trouble closing deals. John taught them this sales process and they scaled to about $4 million per year just by using this sales process!


Chris Lema also taught him to spend your time getting to know them and what they need and then send them a few different options when you send the proposal. Offer a three-tiered package that is basically a done by them, done with them and done for them package. 


Done by Them: They are doing the majority of the implementation and you’re basically just sending them audits


Done With Them: You might be doing some things and they are doing some things. For example, you might be writing content but their developer is actually putting it on the website, scheduling posts, etc.


Done For Them: They don’t have to do anything. You handle everything from start to finish.


Obviously, the pricing increases for each one.


You can sometimes do a paid discovery process that is time-bound and scope bound and from there you can create your proposal. During this you show them:

  1. What your opportunity is
  2. You can give them first-hand experience of how you work together


He often sees people that try to sell 6-12 month SEO engagements and then the client doesn’t even understand what the opportunity is. 

What are the most common problems companies come to you with when they realize they need to hire an agency?


He asks this question on the initial discovery call to see if it’s a good fit.


Guess what the secret answer is?




You’ll find that they are more than happy to tell you what problems they have in their business.


Don’t talk about blog posts or backlinks. Just listen to them.


What’s going on in their business? This puts you in a partner position rather than a sales position.


After listening, you’ll find that most fall into two different buckets:


  1. They are seeing a drop in their business and they want to get it back

These ones are ideal because they really know what they are looking for and understand how to work with an agency. They have realistic expectations and close pretty well.


  1. Then there are businesses that have never hired an agency before

These ones don’t usually close very well and they might well with a discovery call (paid) just to teach them a little more and show them the value. They usually aren’t ready to jump into a 6-12 month contract.


Are the people coming to you usually from one industry?


It’s usually pretty broad, but there are certainly a lot of B2B, eCommerce and SaaS customers. It’s pretty evenly split between the three of those.


If a company comes to you with pretty good overall SEO and marketing in general, what is usually your approach to helping them?


His role is basically to look at what prospects coming into Credo are trying to accomplish and see if marketing is really even a good fit. If there isn’t an opportunity, he’ll let them know.


Outside of Credo, he usually starts by checking if it is really a solid technical foundation and if they really have a good content strategy. Unfortunately, about 98% do not.


Many companies will tell you that they have a content strategy, but if you look at it, it’s usually a 500-word article and not very useful. Educate them and let them know why it isn’t working.


This comes back to taking the stance as a partner and showing them what they need rather than selling them services.


Where did you find mentors and how did you go about asking them for help?


He thinks about professional relationships on three different levels.


The first one is peers. These are people that are on about your same level and might have come up with you.


Then there are coaches. These people you pay and they hop on a weekly or biweekly basis and answer any emails and questions you have.


Then there are mentors. These people you aren’t really ready to work with yet. Say you’re a 3 (on a scale of 1-10), these people are an 8. You really only need someone that is a 5 or 6. 


You might outgrow your coaches and then be ready to move onto mentors.


To get in touch with higher-level people, he started by just being helpful. He would engage with their content and share it out. He would also sometimes email them if he saw something wrong with their website. Be careful how much you do this, but if you only do it once in a while, it can be helpful. 


Eventually, after engaging with their content and emailing them, the people John wanted to work with reached out and offered to coach him (for pay). 


Overall, don’t worry about being annoying. If you think that you’re being annoying you probably are. Instead, shift your mindset to helping them. 


For example, if you see a typo on their sales page, you might want to let them know. (If it’s just a blog post, it’s a little annoying).


Email them maybe every 3 months with a specific question. For example, if you’re struggling with broken link building, you might ask if they have any training or blog posts on broken link building. 


In this case, you aren’t asking them to write you back something super long and in-depth. 


Don’t think about how much you can get, think about how much you can give.


I heard you love Ahrefs. Can you tell us one feature in there that you love?


He uses it primarily for keyword research. He loves being able to click into a keyword and you can really understand what it’s going to take to compete on that keyword.

Twitter: @dohertyjf


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *