Agency New Business

Agency New Business: Put On That Damn Sales Hat (Chapter 3: Your Prospect Homework Isn’t Good Enough)

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This is Part 3 of a 17 chapter eBook, “Agency New Business: Put On That Damn Sales Hat,” which you can download at no cost here.

The eBook covers everything from pre-prospecting preparation to working opportunities to close. 

The majority of the eBook focuses on elements that agencies either often overlook, are too busy to consider, or are simply too lazy to pursue.

The agency landscape is changing rapidly and daily, not only for agencies, but for clients: doing things the same way won’t cut it.

We released “Put On That Damn Sales Hat” as an overall agency new business primer for marketing services firms, so they can put on their sales hat with purpose and confidence.

That Damn Sales Hat

Chapter 3: Your Prospect Homework Isn’t Good Enough

It’s time to prepare for that upcoming initial prospect meeting and you know you can’t just walk in the door and open up the capabilities presentation.

You know you need to do more.

In the surveys we conduct every year, marketers tell us they expect more during initial meetings with marketing agencies.

They want to know you’re interested in them, and understand their business, but they tell us what they actually get is a lot of talk from agencies about themselves – and very little about their world.


Be in the Top 10%

We would argue that simply finding information about the prospect company and the individual in that company isn’t good enough.

That’s what the above average agencies are going to do.  You need to carry it to a better level.

Agency New Business

You need to think like a salesperson and decide what best motivates your prospect to engage with you.

You need to plan a strategy for the meeting:  where do you want the meeting to go,  what do you want the prospect to walk out of the meeting believing?

Knowing what you know about the prospect and their business and their potential challenges, think about how to best manage the conversation.

Are there certain paths you want the prospect to go down?  If so, this might dictate the kinds of questions you open up with.


You Don’t Always Have to Go for the Big Prize

We had an agency client recently walk into a meeting as the first of six agencies being reviewed for an AOR of a major hospital system.

Our client’s initial concern was the prospect would see them as too small to handle the account, given they were only a five person firm.

That didn’t stop them from going in and trying to win the big prize, but that also didn’t stop them from going in and trying to walk away with the Silver either.

Going in, they knew the hospital’s service lines were managed by a separate individual also in the meeting and whose business might also be up for grabs.

So upfront they decided to come prepared with a number of questions specific to this individual, armed with examples of service line success, and made certain they not only worked the AOR angle, but also worked the service line angle during the course of the discussion.

As of this printing, the client is still interviewing firms, and our agency client is now planning strategy for continuous contact (with both prospects) as other agencies present their wares.

Agency New Business

Apply Your Creative Skills in Brave New Ways

While you certainly don’t know everything about your prospect’s business, you can begin to formulate a point of view. 

Come to the table with some interesting ideas and perspective based on intel you’ve gathered, questions you’ve asked, marketing support you’ve seen.

For example:

1) Interview a few distributors or retailers, run a quick survey among your friends.

2) You could look at the global trends in the category that the prospect plays in, and use these to talk about how you think it could potentially impact businesses like theirs and discuss what you think companies like theirs should do.

3) Talk about a competitive situation and provide your armchair quarterback perspective on what you think the competitor did right or wrong – and what you would have done differently.

4) Leave behind a flash drive with some interesting articles or a trends report you picked up or might subscribe to.

It won’t necessarily provide you with all the answers, but it will show the prospect you care enough to dig, are interested and are thinking about their business.

Bottom line is put your creative cap on…and come to the table with some thinking that shows the prospect you don’t just know about their business, but you’re thinking about how to move their business forward early on.

It’s easy to just modify your capabilities presentation to fit the prospect’s category.

The hard part is adding real value to the prospect’s world and taking the time to think about what you’re walking into.

And while I know it’s no easy task to do it for each and every meeting or intro phone call you have, I say do it…and if you alone can’t handle it, assign folks in your firm.

They’re there to help, so get them on board doing what you think is the right thing to do for your upcoming call.

Remember, in the end…no matter what step of the new business development process…you always need to put on that Damn Sales Hat!

Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.