New business is a game, a very serious game that can make or break an agency. Get it wrong and it can be expensive and ineffectual. Get it right and it can drive an agency upwards and, as a business owner, achieve your company and personal goals.
Hopefully the recommendations and referrals will keep coming in, but that may mean you end up doing work that is just helping the agency tread water, or it may not be that exciting. It is usually worth doing as the cost of sale has been minimal, but will it make you or the agency famous? Probably not! Proactive new business allows you to dictate your target client criteria and screening/qualifying via calls and interaction will allow you to select the correct prospects for your business. Proactive new business is, however, potentially expensive and with that comes risk. Done correctly this is a risk worth taking. If you can see the process building up and working you must stick with it. Stopping a campaign that has gathered momentum and is heading in the right direction could mean zero value is realised from any investment to date in that campaign.
The casino analogy is an apt one. At what point do you call it a night and walk away from the table? But more importantly, how do you start to stack the odds in your favour?
Choose your game and stick with it:
Once you have decided which route or strategy to take on new business, you need to give it the time to create momentum and build a pipeline. You may have a few strands such as email, outbound calls, social media etc, but whatever channel or blend you choose stay with it until you have the information to decide what is working and what isn’t. Stopping and starting a campaign or chopping and changing personnel or strategy will, in most situations, cost a lot of money and not work. We often hear of agencies parting company with new business agencies or internal sales staff after 4 or 5 months as they have not had an ROI. The reality is you would be lucky to get a return in that timeframe, the campaign may just be starting to get traction and you put yourself back to square one. It would be like throwing some money at roulette, moving to blackjack, giving up after a couple of losing hands and moving on to poker.
Stack the odds in your favour:
In reality, a casino always wins. However, with a good new business campaign and strategy you can stack the chances of converting business in your favour.
Take a roulette table with a 1 in 37 chance of hitting the right number. Imagine if you could eliminate 15 of those numbers immediately because the ball never lands there. To continue the business development analogy, these represent companies that you have identified as being too small or unlikely to do business with you. This may have been through smart targeting and data selection, or it may be through the honing of your case studies, collateral and assets to focus in on your “sweet spot” of experience.
Of the remaining 22, you could then eliminate a further 10 because you have screened them out through calls and conversations, so you know they are not in the market for your services for whatever reason.
You are left with 12 and the chance of the ball landing on your number is significantly higher. These represent 12 valid prospects and if over time, they are nurtured through calls, meetings, emails, direct mail, etc, eventually, the law of averages suggests that your number will come in. So yes, while there is always an element of luck in new business with timing, situation, etc, you can increase your chances of success significantly if the process is followed and executed properly.
Don’t cash in your chips at the first win:
The temptation is there. You have thrown money to the casino all night, but suddenly, your card, number, or whatever comes in.
Do you cash in the chips and leave, or do you keep playing? In the case of the casino I’d advise you to turn on your heels and run, but with new business you need to look deeper and answer the following questions:
- How long have you been running your new business strategy?
- Has a process been followed as planned?
- As well as the new win, have you had opportunities?
- Do you have a pool of qualified leads, currently being nurtured until they may have a requirement?
If your new business strategy is in it’s infancy (up to 6-8 months), then hold fire. Answer the other questions and if the answers are yes, then things are on the right track, the campaign has built up equity, potentially much more valuable than the new win and you should keep going. Yes, you can look at the successful elements, be it emails, outbound calls etc. and hone the strategy, but you are doing it the right way.
If your new business strategy has been running for a significant time (18-24 months) and this is the first significant win, OR the answer to the other questions is no, then something is not right and it may be back to the drawing board. You should never reach this stage with close and regular evaluation and review of the new business process from day one.
The casino may be a slightly off the wall or crude analogy, but it is not too far off the mark. With preparation, thought and a well-constructed strategy and high level execution, you can significantly stack the odds for new business in your favour.