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As if rejection isn’t bad enough, this is the first of a two-part series on the topic.

This Harvard Business Review article, 5 Reasons Good Deals Get Rejected, refers to situations outside the realm of the agency new business proposal specifically, but the reasons DO apply.

The article does a great job describing the “why” behind rejection of good deals, and is well worth the read.

The reasons and their agency new business applications follow:

1. You didn’t justify it (your proposal).

Begin the relationship with your prospect with a strategic, objectives-based focus.  As you develop and then present your proposal, connect the dots between what you are recommending and the objectives the prospect has already shared with you.

In my days on the client side, more than one (many more) agency came in with proposals recommending “cool programs that worked well with Client X.”  That was possibly meaningful if Client X had the same objectives I had and data was available to show how the cool programs delivered on those objectives.

Justify each new business proposal with substantive rationale that supports the prospect’s stated objectives.

2. You didn’t help them sell it internally.

We’ve hit on this before.  Ideally, when you are at the proposal stage, you’ve already met everyone who has a decision making role on it, and everyone who has influence on the decision.   Certainly, in the introductory phase, it’s likely that the first person/people you meet with will be doing some initial vetting.  Often, they will need to sell your company/your proposal to others on their team.

Ideally, a follow-up meeting with the full team will be a next step that can help the internal sale – with you present to do your part!

Still, a lot of internal selling happens – or not – in spontaneous, informal conversations that come up passing in the hallway or over refilling coffee cups in the break area.

Prepare your prospects to be able to sell for you at any time.

3. You didn’t respect their constraints.

Sure, “my budget’s been frozen” or “a hot project has just landed on my desk that takes priority” can be just false objections.  However, by the time you are asking for agreement on the proposal, you should know your prospect well enough to discern if their constraint is real or if they are just trying to let you down gently.

If the constraints are real, respect that.  Give them the time they need to move past the constraint.  And, do stay in contact on a regular basis in a relevant, value-added way.  When the constraint is removed, the prospect will call you, if they haven’t felt harassed in the meantime.

Terrence Cody blocks a field goal as time expires to secure Alabama's 12-10 victory over Tennessee last season. It was Cody's second blocked kick of the fourth quarter. CW | John Michael Simpson

We’ll come back in two weeks with two more reasons that a good new business proposal may be rejected.

Keep that new business development machine humming in the meantime!

Mark Sneider
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.