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Mark McMullen

As EVP of Business Development, Mark works alongside agencies to help them grow their new business efforts with outsourced sales solutions like Catapult New Business.

Interview Questions You Need to Ask Your Next Agency New Business Director

On average, agency-client relationships last about 36 months, which means that at any given moment one of your competitors is about to lose one of its clients. Or you are.

It’s no surprise that experienced new business professionals capture a bigger slice of that business. If you’re looking to grow your agency through building your client portfolio, you should consider hiring a full time new business director.

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Why Outsource your New Business Efforts? –“Buy vs. Build”

Many agencies and marketing services firms over the years have made the decision to outsource their new business development efforts vs. handling new business outreach in-house. In fact, this has been a very common practice with U.K. agencies– and now more U.S. agencies are following suit. Why? They’re seeing multiple benefits including time-savings, incurred costs and overall performance.

If you’re currently deciding which route your agency should take, consider the following 5 reasons why “Buying” may be more beneficial than “Building:”

#1 Expertise – when outsourcing your new business to a firm that specializes in helping agencies with business development, you are getting a proven, successful, dedicated team working for your company on a consistent basis. Business development firms have “hunters” leading their prospecting efforts; senior professionals with a proven track record of results – and who know how to effectively work a sales pipeline.

#2 Time Saving – having a new business firm handle prospect outreach can be a big time-savings opportunity for agencies – as these firms are 100% focused on prospect outreach vs. relying on in-house teams that typically execute sales in their spare time or in spurts. Working with a team of veteran new business professionals also reduces your ramp up time. For example, our team at Catapult is trained to be in-market within the first 30 days, whereas we find that agencies who train this role in-house can take up to 60-90 days, depending on the new business tools and process they currently have in place.

These firms also typically offer list-building software and technologies like marketing automation and CRM that equip them to execute hyper-targeted outreach – all which offer additional, significant time savings.

#3 Consistent Pipeline of Qualified Leads – many agencies do not have a strong new business “pipeline,” and we often find it’s because they don’t have an effective, repeatable new business process in place. Often times when agencies work on a RFP and do not win the piece of business, they find themselves back at square one, frantically trying to drum up qualified opportunities. Executing new business in this manner can be stressful and unresponsive.

Outsourcing to new business firms provides ease-of-mind knowing you have a proven expert with the tools and network in place to deliver consistent meetings with brands you’re uniquely positioned to win business from.

#4 Cost Savings – when looking at the fully loaded cost of hiring someone in-house to manage your new business, agencies typically find it’s much more economical to buy vs. build. Most business development firms charge a monthly fee for their services that is often less than the salary, bonus and benefits incurred by hiring a new business director.

#5 Success – the name of the game. New business development firms enjoy a strong success rate of teeing up a consistent number of qualified meetings each month– while also working alongside the agency to help them turn those leads into paying, renewable accounts. When hiring a firm, ask about their success rates, and when possible inquire about other agencies that have found success in using them.


>> Need help deciding if buying vs. building is best for your agency? Learn more by contacting Catapult today.

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Top 5 Marketing & Advertising Associations for Agency Executives

There are a few reasons why agency executives decide to dedicate their time to volunteering in an industry association. One, they want to learn more about what their peers are doing to achieve success or two, they’re simply looking to expand their network and drive a few sales on the side. Regardless of your intentions, participating in different groups within your industry can provide tremendous benefits for your business. In this post, we’ve organized the top 5 marketing and advertising associations we think are worth investing your time in.


Brief Bio: The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) provides leadership that advances marketing excellence and shapes the future of the industry. Founded in 1910, the ANA’s membership includes more than 680 companies with 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion in marketing and advertising. The ANA also includes the Business Marketing Association (BMA) and the Brand Activation Association (BAA) which operate as divisions of the ANA, and the Advertising Educational Foundation which is an ANA subsidiary.

My Take: As one of the leading associations within the advertising and marketing industry, I highly recommend getting involved if you’re an agency executive. They host a large amount of conferences throughout the year, all highly relevant to agencies and companies. Since most of the members are corporate marketing executives, it’s a great opportunity to collaborate and network with some of the leading global brands.

Event Recommendation: The ANA has an impressive list of industry events each year however my personal recommendation is the Masters of Marketing Conference, held in October, which typically brings together top brand marketers around the world.


Brief Bio: Working closely with agency CEOs and their management teams Mirren supports agencies with consulting and training regarding best practices in new business development. Through their membership you get access to their resource center which includes their Daily Leads, On-Demand Learning and Advanced Webinars.

My Take: Although Mirren isn’t technically an ‘association’ I wanted to include them on this list because Mirren is a household name for agencies, specifically those responsible for new business. Across events, on demand training and their new Mirren Talent platform agency professionals leverage Mirren to crank up their growth by staying on top of the cutting-edge best practices.

Event Recommendation: One of the go-to annual events for those responsible in driving agency new business, Mirren Live consistently brings together an impressive group of leading agencies and search consultants each year to learn about hot topics and growth drivers for successful agencies. A newer event they’ve recently added to their calendar, the CEO Summit, is also highly recommend. Note – only agency executives are allowed to attend this one.


Brief Bio: Founded in 1917, the 4A’s is the national trade association representing the advertising agency business in the United States. As a management-oriented association, the 4A’s offers its members the broadest possible services, expertise and information regarding the advertising agency business. Its membership produces approximately 80 percent of the total advertising volume placed by agencies nationwide. Although virtually all of the large, multinational agencies are members of the 4A’s, more than 60 percent of our membership bills less than $10 million per year.

My Take: In my opinion, the 4A’s is the ‘mother organization’ of agencies, and is a great fit for agencies of all types and sizes. They offer valuable training, conferences, and best practices in how to drive agency sales, profits and develop new business.

Event Recommendation: In addition to national events such as the Transformation Conference, they also offer Regional Forums for small to mid-size agency principals to discuss business issues and challenges that they all face.

Marketing Research Association

Brief Bio: Founded in 1957 and based in Washington, the Marketing Research Association is the leading and largest U.S. association of the opinion and marketing research profession, which delivers insights and strategies to help guide the decisions of companies providing products and services to consumers and businesses.

My Take: The MRA – still a common moniker, despite the different connotations of that acronym these days – has a bit more wide-reaching content designed for easy consumption. You’ll find videos and case studies on particular trends, as well as frequent editorials on the latest marketing news. But underneath this sort of aggregation is a solid foundation of research and marketing communities available to those who take the next step. Membership is divided in multiple levels, but again the focus is primarily on research and data as opposed to more social aspects of marketing.


Brief Bio: IAB serves as digital media’s biggest tent, comprised of more than 650 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling, delivering, and optimizing digital advertising or marketing campaigns. Working with its member companies, IAB develops technical standards and best practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising, while educating brands, agencies, and the wider business community on the importance of digital marketing.

My Take: Like the MRA, the IAB is a polished and news-friendly association that covers a broad number of topics across the marketing and advertising space. They provide many tools and classes for free without requiring membership or certification which is always a plus. This includes fee calculators, ad viewability guides, and much more. Certification is divided into several different specialties and levels of expertise, allow you to customize your training based on your position and goals.

Event recommendation: Like others, IAB has a large list of trainings, webinars and conferences. My preferences would by the IAB MIXX, typically held later in the year in NY.



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4 Stages of a Successful Sales Call for Agency New Business

Just because someone is a skilled marketing professional does not mean that he or she knows how to sell.

New business development professionals at ad agencies very often, it turns out, get little to no training on how to effectively complete large, complex sales. Yet using some proven techniques and a little pre-call planning, business development reps can greatly improve their success on calls with prospects.

This article explores how mastering a few basic sales call techniques will develop the right approach to effectively establish a relationship that moves a sale forward.

Mastering the SPIN

Neil Rackham developed a new approach to the selling process in 1988. Rackham’s company Huthwaite, Inc. assessed more than 35,000 sales calls for products and services. Rackham identified the techniques most frequently used by successful sales professionals.

These observations disproved a number of popular myths about the selling process, such as objection handling, which Rackham argued could actually hurt the chances of selling. In turn, Rackham established a new sales model – SPIN selling.

SPIN selling focuses on four core sets of questions:

  • Situation Questions, which focus on finding background details that help form a better understanding of the prospect’s situation
  • Problem Questions, which allow you to unearth the problems a prospect has that your product can solve
  • Implication Questions, which gets a prospect discussing the ramifications if the problem is not resolved
  • Need-Payoff Questions, which address how your product can help address the implications raised

Today, sales professionals around the world incorporate the SPIN selling model into their sales process and sales calls with great success. Using the SPIN framework, an agency business development professional can achieve significant results. Business will not be won on the first sales call, but through multiple sales calls that establish a relationship and lay a foundation. Each call will have its own objectives and outcomes aimed at moving the sales forward.

Stage 1: Opening

The purpose of an effective opening is to gain the prospect’s agreement for you to ask questions. You are seeking permission to begin a relationship and gain a deeper understanding of the prospect and his or her business needs.

In the Opening stage, there’s no need for benefits statements. In smaller sales and brief calls of 10 minutes or less, an opening benefits statement may help engage the prospect’s interest. But in longer B2B calls, there is no link between success and an opening benefits statement.

It’s tempting at this stage to share everything that’s great about your agency and jump right to a solution. But research shows that successful sellers don’t talk about themselves until late in the call. If you start talking about yourself or your services too soon, you allow the prospect to start asking the questions and take control of the call.

That said, it is important to communicate who you are, why you’re making the call and establishing a basis for asking questions, but it’s not about giving a large number of details about your agency or services.

This opening needs to be brief, 30 seconds at most.

Stage 2: Investigating

The Investigating stage is the most important stage in complex sales.

The core objective is to uncover a need the prospect has. Before that conversation occurs, however, you need to do pre-call planning homework.

Look at your prospect’s industry, company and at the prospect himself or herself. What are the potential weaknesses or opportunities that you can identify?

Make a list of each of your agency’s capabilities that can improve upon the prospect’s weaknesses or take better advantage of an opportunity you’ve identified.

Frame several questions for each of these weaknesses or opportunities.

Your focus in the investigating stage should be to ask these types of questions that lead the prospect into explicitly identifying a need that you are uniquely positioned to solve.

How will you know when that need is expressed? It’s a matter of keying in on any statement a prospect makes that expresses a concern or want that can be satisfied by your agency.

Once you’ve identified a problem or dissatisfaction, ask key questions about where the issue arises, when, how often, and to whom. Explore what happens if or when the problem arises.

By asking thought provoking and relevant questions, you add considerable value to the relationship. Prospects say that asking questions about specific problems increases their respect for sellers.

Stage 3: Demonstrating Capability

Once you have a firm grasp on the needs and the ramifications of those needs, it’s time to turn to your agency. There are three main ways to describe your agency’s capabilities and the solutions you can provide.

  • Features. Using this approach, you detail facts about your services; such as how large your social media team is or what awards the agency has won.
  • Advantages. This approach focuses on how a capability can be used to help a prospect. For example, “Using our [capability] we can engage with your audience on social media quickly, typically with an average response time of four hours or less.”
  • Benefits. This method describes how a feature or advantage meets an explicit need expressed by the prospect. “We can give you the real-time responses you said you want on Facebook 24 hours a day.”

Of the three, focusing on benefits is the most persuasive way to secure business. Why? Because in doing so, you are connecting the dots for the prospect. You are drawing the line between your services and the need the prospect confided in you.

Waiting to introduce your solution is more effective. By waiting for the prospect to express a specific need you can meet, you can tailor the capability message to address that particular issue.

Stage 4: Obtaining Commitment

Ask most people what makes a good sales person and they will sale it’s about closing the deal. In large, complex sales this is not true. Asking questions is.

In small sales you often get a commitment to buy or not buy on the first call. In complex sales it’s different. Fewer than 10 percent of calls result in a sale or no-sale. If this is the case, how can you define success?

In most complex sales it’s about advancing. This means taking deliberate movements forward with commitments that get closer to the sale.

What constitutes an advance for an ad agency new business call? It depends certainly on the business and your agency, but typical examples of successful advances are:

  • Agreement to meet in person at their office or yours
  • Agreement to schedule a time to review relevant case studies or thought leadership that the prospect has identified to be of interest
  • Introductions to other relevant decision-makers at the company that were identified on the call

If the outcome of the call does not reach an agreement on an action that moves the engagement forward, it’s a continuation. The call is unsuccessful, no matter how nice the other party was. Building rapport is not an advance.

You can prepare to avoid a call ending in just a continuation. It begins by understanding what kind of advances will be used to decide if the call was successful.

This planning requires you to set realistic call objectives that move the sale forward. You then need to select the advance that involves the highest realistic action you think you can achieve. Make this your primary call objective.

Top sellers will plan out these advances and ask questions during the Investigation stage that lead the prospect in the direction of the primary objective.


In agency new business, your first sales call with a prospect is not a pitch or a presentation. It is a way to establish two-way communication.

Each sales call requires pre-call planning that identifies objectives that moves the sale forward. To accomplish this, you have to strategically uncover the prospect’s needs by asking the right questions at the right times. You can’t expect the prospect to come right out and state their challenges.

With a little planning and practice, you will see better outcomes from your calls. Prospects will come to trust you more and to rely on you and your agency as a problem-solving expert. 

Author Bio

Christian Banach is an advertising agency new business consultant and sales director at Catapult New Business. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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How to Write an Effective Sales Script

Are you ready to make a new sales script that will increase your successful lead generation, improve sales numbers, and increase your brand recognition? Here are several keys to a great sales script in any circumstance, from telemarketing to complex cold call selling.

Talk in Specifics

If you aren’t being specific, you are wasting time. This can make some scripts more difficult to write, but the extra effort will be rewarded by hard-won attention. This rule applies to nearly every line. Don’t ask how their day is going, ask how this day of the week is going. Don’t ask them if they want to save money, ask if they want to save 30% of their monthly fees using your new system…and so on. This helps provide actionable data and keeps the lead’s focus on your words.

Never Waste Time

This ties closely to the first point: There’s no room on a sales script for unnecessary words. So don’t try to ingratiate people by spending time with pleasant nothings. You are wasting a decision maker’s time, and they will rightly hang up on you for that. Instead, be professional and get straight to the point. A brief introductory phase is important, but don’t wallow there.

Hook and Net

Every good script needs a hook – a line that dives right into what you are trying to sell and why it’s important. Usually this focuses on the money people can save or new features they can use – however, it’s important that it actually hooks the listener. “Do you want to save more on your monthly mortgage payment?” is a nice line, but falters when the customer says “No.” Make your intro interesting and provocative – with a good reason to listen for more.

Use Questions Wisely

You have a limited number of questions before even the most patient lead will hang up on you. Use them well. Important goals for questions include:

  • Finding out who has the power to make decisions
  • How the offering can be adapted to this particular lead
  • What budget range/package works best for the lead
  • Which competitors the lead is considering
  • What problems the lead has with your offering

Use Different Data for Different People

A good script should include a reference to data and research backing up your points and the reasons to consider your product/service. However, a single research point or set of data is limiting – what if it doesn’t apply to a lead, or a lead doesn’t understand it? Include several data references as options in your script, so that it can be tailored to the questions and concerns of individual leads.

Allow for Adaptation

This is one of the most important and most difficult features of a good sales script; There needs to be room to go off script. This applies not only to conversations but also to the sales contract and purchase deals being made. Adapt the sales script for the consumer you are speaking to and explain the product benefits to which they can relate. Cold callers need to adapt on the fly to meet the needs of the lead, no matter what.

Once you realize your script is successful, you now have a prospective customer engaged in a conversation with you, and from there you can determine if they are a good lead for you and your company.


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Why Advertising Agencies Lose Clients [And How that Impacts New Client Acquisition]

One of the most dangerous traps your agency can fall into is thinking that once you’ve signed a client, your job is done. This mentality is even more dangerous if you or your business development team overpromised and oversold to get the client in the first place.

In fact, signing the client is just the beginning of the work. Maintaining a high level of client satisfaction is critical — and not just for client retention. Just as employers check references and look at a candidate’s tenure with previous companies, new prospects share the same concerns when hiring an agency.

If a potential new client hears negative feedback through word-of-mouth referrals or online reviews, it immediately undermines whatever relationship you have built up to that point and discounts your agency’s credibility. To be fair, every agency is going to have at least a couple of disgruntled former clients, but if your agency is known for over promising and under delivering, or for its struggles with client retention then acquiring new business is going to be an uphill battle.

Although you can’t prevent every client from leaving, you could be chasing clients away without even realizing it. Here are three of the most common reasons why agency relationships fall apart, causing clients to walk out the door.

Allowing the Quality of Service To Slip:

Allowing your customer service to decline once you’ve secured their business is one of the top ways to ensure that you lose that client.  Your level of service and excitement should stay the same during your working relationship as it did when you were pursuing the client.  Letting the amount of attention, care, and creativity decline will lead clients to believe that they aren’t as important as they were before, which will lead to discontent with the product they are paying for, and eventually they will move to another agency.

Not Meeting Their Needs/Evolving With Them:

Don’t let them get bored with you! If a client feels that you are out of new and exciting ideas for them, what reason do they have to stay with you?  Just because a campaign has been successful, doesn’t mean that you get to stop innovating.  Successful agency/client relationships are built on an ever changing and improving flow of ideas and communications, when you stop listening to your client and anticipating their needs, the odds that you will lose their business skyrockets.  Become an expert at anticipating your clients needs, read between the lines if you have to and learn to pick up any clues that might indicate they are dissatisfied.  If they appear to be losing excitement over a campaign, chances are it’s time to come up with a new plan.

Toot Your Agency’s Horn:

If your client forgets how successful your agency is and how much quality work you crank out, what is going to keep them with you?  Remind them how successful you’ve been with their account, highlight major wins, and always keep a tight handle on their budget.  When you stop meeting their needs and either go way over budget, or way under budget, they will start to wonder what they are paying you for.

Clues Your Client Is About to Stray:

If you notice a dramatic change in these three clues, you’re client relationship is likely in big trouble.

Lack of communication – has the client stopped taking your calls or contacting you?

New and Unusual Requests – is the client asking for different or more specific methods of measurement for your service?

Sudden Micro Management – is your hands off client suddenly on top of everything you do?

Stay tuned into your client, keep the lines of communication open, and ASK them if they are satisfied with your service, or if there is something more you can do to meet their needs, doing so might save you from losing their business!

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Best Tools & Resources for Growing Agency New Business

The expanding reach of the Internet is increasing competition for clients, making it difficult to find the right marketing mix to generate new business. Fortunately, using online tools to aggregate your marketing efforts can streamline your business development initiatives and boost your gross sales. In particular, comprehensive online marketing platforms tend to be the best tools for winning new business.

Online Marketing Platforms

If you’re having a hard time managing ad campaigns, lead generation campaigns and your marketing research objectives, then online marketing platforms can make a substantive difference in your life. You can perform all of these functions and more, simply by logging into a single platform that aggregates these services for you. There is no reason to log in and out of multiple applications to win new business, when a single platform makes the process easier.

In addition to making the process more efficient, these platforms also enhance the quality of your activities and the results you generate. You’re able to generate real-time analytics that can help you optimize the way you gather leads, and who you actually gather them from. Whether its higher sales conversions and sales, lower levels of bad debt and higher repeat business, online marketing plaforms can change the dynamics of your business.

Additional Resources

In addition to online marketing platforms, online marketplaces can help you generate new business without a lot of additional marketing costs. Online marketplaces help you reduce everything from your operating expenses to your cost of sales, because the marketplace maintenance is typically handled by a third-party service provider. You can advertise your services to clients all over the world and conduct transactions is a single currency, depending on the construction of the marketplace.

There are also organizations that specialize in content marketing and online marketing strategies that can help your advertising agency generate new business. The content you put out to the world has a high impact on your ability to generate and retain business, making it one of the most important marketing factors to master.

5 of the best online tools and resources for new business development include:

  1. DailyVista
  2. Winmo
  3. Content Marketing Institute

Winning new business is a process that requires research and effective online marketing tools that help you leverage the power of the Internet to grow your company. Be sure to use online marketing platforms to optimize your marketing campaigns and advertising strategies.

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