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News & Views from Alchemis

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Call us for a chat on +44 (0)20 7836 3678 or email Amanda Francis


New business is like an election… very hard to win, but extremely easy to lose

A news story in the paper last week was encouraging the electorate to vote. At the time, Boris was romping ahead in the polls and looked certain to win the majority he craves. However, the article highlighted the danger of electoral complacency, both on the part of the Conservative party, but also for the voters. Will the Tory battle bus take its foot off the pedal with the job all but done? More importantly, would the conservative public bother to turn out if they felt Boris had already won without their vote?

Neil Kinnock’s infamous “we’re alright” speech at the Sheffield rally back in 1992 provides a case in point. Labour were ahead in the polls, but a few days after that triumphalist speech the election was lost.

So what has this got to do with winning new business?

We all know that agency new business is hard, whatever route you take. You work hard to get the right message across, in the right way, at the right time and to the right people. That will have cost time, money, blood, sweat and tears. But you’ve succeeded, got through the barriers and booked in a first meeting. The prospect is genuinely interested in you and your agency. You may be able to offer something different and, in fact, you’re sure you can. You’ve prepared to the hilt and done your homework. You know the touchpoints. Of course you have researched the company, looked at past activity and have some great ideas, but you’ve also researched the prospect. You know they went to Costa Rica on holiday last year. They told your sales person about little Johnny’s 8th birthday party. This is it, what can go wrong?

Nothing – the meeting is spot on. There’s great chemistry and you’ve given it the best shot you could. You leave that meeting on a high with an agreement to get together again in the future. You send a courtesy follow up email. This is in the bag. That phone will ring at any moment. Or will it?

This is where the danger of complacency and, dare I say it, laziness could send the opportunity tumbling over the cliff.

Clearly I am being slightly facetious, but only to make a point. I have heard the most heinous of new business crimes over the years and with so much time, effort and money being put up front, it’s critically important that investment is maximised.

Here are a few examples. I would not be surprised to hear an audible scoff – you would never do that! But it happens………all the time!

  1. Not responding post meeting – as unbelievable as it sounds, people walk away from really good meetings with potential clients and offer zero follow up. You don’t need much, just something that builds on the meetings and importantly emphasises any agreed next steps (which you should always have).
  2. Not returning calls – again, of course you would not do that. Or would you? Recently, I have heard of a prospect calling a client back proactively to follow up on a meeting. Message left and three weeks later we have been informed of this and asked to call them back as our client has been too busy. Interest in the agency 100 to 0 within three weeks!
  3. Not providing the agreed output – again a real example. The prospect has actively asked for a proposal. They like you, you’ve impressed them. However, after two weeks when they have received nothing and they chase you, it is somewhat embarrassing. Indeed in this instance, the prospect highlighted that they were disappointed in the response after a positive meeting and if that was the client service, then maybe it wasn’t right for them. People do this.

It is not our place to be judgemental. We totally get the fact that agencies are busy, things move fast, clients are important and things get prioritised or missed. But if you prioritise new business at the front end (i.e. prospecting and lead generating), you have to do this at the back end as well. Make sure someone is dedicated and accountable for new business who can ensure prospects are nurtured effectively post the initial contact or use your new business agency to do it. Often a business development agency is viewed and measured by brand new targets and leads, but it’s about winning business and the follow up is key. Any new business agency worth its weight should help you with this.

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