1. Practise active listening
- You’ll never convert an opportunity into a win if you don’t actively listen to what the prospect wants
- Avoid the temptation to talk or to try and solve the problem right there and then
- Confirm your understanding of their need – repeat it back to your prospect to ensure you understand exactly what their concern/challenge/issue is
- Acknowledge the prospect’s point of view. Practise empathy; don’t try to impose your views on them at this stage. You may well know more about a proposed solution, especially in the digital or social arena but they don’t necessarily need to feel inferior at this stage of the sales process.
- Probe for hidden needs; there may be something they haven’t shared with you yet which may be the critical element in you not winning their business.
- Your prospect will often have several needs, on average 3-4, so you really shouldn’t leave the first meeting until you have uncovered all of them. Then and only then can you arrange a follow up meeting to present some potential solutions to these range of needs.
2. Don’t ignore statistics
- Be very aware of the fact that the rate of change is accelerating and that client-agency relationships have and continue to change.
- AAR now says that the average life of a relationship between an agency and a client lasts between three and four years, so consider how many clients will change agencies during 2013.
- A recent survey commissioned by Adweek showed that 45% of companies surveyed planned to change one or more of their agencies in the coming year. If you have a prospect list of 250 for example, then over 110 of them are looking to hire new agencies. However, you then have to contend with the increasing number of new agencies on the market, on the surface all offering the same service at competitive rates. If you’re not getting yourself out there you will never win this business, and in this climate you have to put yourself out there a lot more in order to secure new business. Decision makers are far more fickle than ever before and it’s become more of a numbers game.
- This doesn’t mean that if you throw enough against the wall some of it will stick but it does mean that you need to have a system of generating more and more leads/opportunities in order to secure the ever diminishing percentages of meetings to wins.
3. Develop a new business system
- Significant numbers of agencies still have no new business system in place, preferring to generate their leads/opportunities from infrequent activity and casual referrals. It’s such a waste when you consider the statistics in point 2.
- We recommend that you build a list of around 500-600 prospects that you have identified as:
- having a need for what you do
- operating in markets you are familiar with
- having issues/challenges you are confident of solving
- targeting a particular demographic you have helped other clients communicate effectively with
- Then you must develop an active program to reach out to them, either by email, DM, SM or most effectively with an outbound telemarketing program (still consistently the most effective way to identify needs)
4. Make new business your top priority
- There are many leads and opportunities out there
- Don’t bother trying to convert those prospects who don’t already use agencies and therefore value what they can bring to the table – there are too many prospects who DO use agencies for this not to be necessary
- Similarly, don’t waste your time trying to convince companies with in-house agencies to use external support instead – it’s a very frustrating and slow burn and in most cases doesn’t pay dividends
- Waiting for leads to come in is a luxury few agencies can afford
- Don’t let your current clients or these few and far between incomings define who you are as an agency – if you go out to market you have the opportunity to define who you are and what you do
5. Put in place a client development programme
- Make sure you proactively develop your existing clients to retain them or grow them organically. This will NOT happen by default especially when your competitors are constantly contacting them with better, cheaper and quicker offers.
- It is the responsibility of agencies to develop these relationships by treating each client meeting as though it was a new business meeting. In other words:
- Come up with new ideas about how to approach their issues (you’re much better placed than a new agency would be, so make the most of this)
- Carry out some competitor research and share your findings
- Prepare some ideas to stimulate a discussion about new, better ways to deliver
These are just a few ideas on business development, watch this space for more…