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Some of the best ideas for posts come from the agencies we talk to every day.

A recent case in point: this week I was discussing a few facets of ad agency new business: agency specialization, prospect qualification and agencies being able to “walk the walk.”

As the story goes, this agency had several strong in-house disciplines but digital was not one of them.

Luckily, they’d been able to partner with another local agency when needed and could provide quality digital work along with their other services.

The agency at the time had an internal new business development person and she often included digital as a service in her initial new business pitch.

On this occasion, the new business person met with success and set up a face-to-face meeting in town.

As in the past, she mentioned digital as an offering but then failed to qualify the prospect properly.

She found out a small sliver of information, but as you’ll see, not enough to be successful.

One other piece you need to know: when digital was a necessary piece of the puzzle, this agency typically asked their digital partner to come along so they could speak intelligently across all necessary disciplines.

As you may have already guessed-no partner along on this pitch.

As it turns out, digital was about 80% of what the prospect was looking for, and as the agency principal put it, “they were standing there with their pants down.”

They didn’t get the business.

Since then, they’ve been gun shy as to how to present themselves and weren’t really sure what the best course was-using a more specialized approach or a more general approach.

That’s an age-old argument, but the short answer is there has to be a balance-if you ask yourselves the hard questions about who you really are as an agency and then go to market passionate and focused about who you are, you’re a long way toward success.

Of course, the bigger point is that all this could have been avoided with better prospect qualification and time spent up front.

You’re not going to get the prospect’s entire plan in that first call, but you’ve to get as much detail as you can.

If you do so in a respectful way, ask questions and listen, you should be able to get what you need for a successful initial meeting.

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.