10 New Business Tips From An Agency Search Consultant

New Business Directors have an ever-growing list of responsibilities and time continually serves as a limited resource. As a result, new business executives are always on the hunt for the best insights, tips and tricks that will make them more efficient and all around more successful at their jobs. And who better to provide the inside scoop than an agency search consultant?

Sitting in on every pitch their brand is presented and hearing all of the brand’s feedback from what they liked and what turned them off, search consultants see a side of this business no one else has access too.  Today, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the author of @AARLisa: New Biz in 140 Characters (or Less) and renowned agency search consultant, Lisa Colantuono.

Through our conversation, Lisa shared her insiders perspective on how agencies can improve their new business with these 10 new business tips:

  1. Relationships Will Always Win Against Tools

    Lisa explains, “We are selling relationships and team extensions, not tools. Agencies think they can win the pitch by showing off the technologies they use, but the truth is, if the team can’t truly work together, those tools are inconsequential.” People want to work with people they like.  Credibility + Trust + Relationship Building = New Business Success.


  2. Have a Position and Stick To It

    When it comes to your agency’s new business program, differentiated positioning is the foundation. Brands are coming to your agency for expertise in which they do not have in-house. That means your agency needs to be an expert in something. H  Lisa explains “Being an expert in something trumps being a jack of all trades; it’s much richer. Client’s don’t need an agency that follows a one size fits all policy.” Of course, standing out can be difficult when you have 66K+ competitors in the US market alone. It’s critical that your agency identifies where you stand out and focuses on those specific markets in which your expertise will deliver uncontested value.


  3. Pitch With Passion

    We all want more clients and more revenue, but you’ve got to stop chasing anything and everything. Be truly focused on the brands you want to work with and more importantly, have the expertise to help (your “right to win” business.) It makes all the difference to a client when you’re truly interested in building their brand for authentic reasons starting with sheer passion.  “When you really love something, it shines through and it’s contagious. Truly be interested in that prospective client’s brand and the rest will happen more naturally.”


  4. Protect Your Intellectual Property

    “Do not do full-blown creative spec work for nothing,” Lisa says. Of course, clients need to get a sense of your creative expertise. And you can give them a taste through creative explorations but do not fall into the trap of producing creative spec work as part of the pitch process. These brands are paying you for your expertise for a reason, so don’t hand over your knowledge and hard work for free.


  5. Be Proactive, Not Reactive

    Stay ahead of the curve. So many agencies are still trying to sell instead of offering value. You want to teach, not sell. By teaching, you are being proactive. In our interview, Lisa claims, “This works for both new business and stewardship. You want to make sure that you know what’s going on in the industry, what’s news, and what’s new. Then bring that info to your prospects and current clients.” It’s crucial that you are sharing information that they can think about and possibly integrate for their brands. Whatever you do, don’t make them come to you and ask about some new trend they found on their own. You are so much more than a salesman; you are an educator.

  6. Know When To Say No

    Growing your skills and portfolio are always a plus, but your agency isn’t going to be a great fit for every brand, and that’s okay. The worst thing you can do is take on a client in which you don’t have the proper expertise. As Lisa explains, “Don’t chase new business that you end up saying yes to anything and everything. No is a very powerful word and it should be used appropriately and strategically to be fair and benefit both parties.” In fact, use these opportunities to recommend other agencies and build those strong referral relationships that are sure to lead to better fitting opportunities in the future.

  7. Use The Element of Surprise

    There is a time and place for pitch theater, but you definitely don’t want to overwhelm or overpower your knowledge, insights or expertise with glitz and glam. As Lisa puts it, “Why are fireworks so engaging?  It’s the element of surprise.” The element of surprise is very powerful because it helps people to stay engaged and remember. Don’t confuse it with pitch theater, which the glitz and glam can overpower the actually content, that is much more important.


  8. Don’t Text and Talk

    It might seem like a no brainer to not text while meeting with a potential client, but apparently, this happens way more often then it should. Give your undivided attention to your prospects and clients when meeting with them. Put all interruptive devices away. Lisa said, “ I have seen new business professionals lose the pitch for something as simple as texting their assistant to bring more coffee into the meeting.” The prospect or client doesn’t know who you are texting or what it’s about. All they know is that you feel that text is more important than listening to what they are saying. Word to the wise, put down the phone.


  9. Use Public Relations to Your Full Advantage

    This is an ongoing effort, but start by building relationships with the media. Pitching to journalists is no easy task without having first established some kind of relationship with them. PR will benefit your agency by putting a magnifying glass on your story. It will help project your knowledge and expertise. Lisa adds, “The best way to pitch media a compelling story is to stand for something or stand against something. Let your opinion be heard.”

    There are many agencies who do a great job but one agency who stands out  is The Richards Group. They have  a news section on their website full of published press releases about company updates and news, client awards, the agencies awards, and campaigns on which the agency is working.


  10. Listen more than you speak

    Your clients have a lot to stress about. Losing talent is something they worry about, they need agility, they require quick thinking, and they do expect different innovative creative solutions. On top of all of that, they want bold thinking, but none of that happens without listening first. Lisa quotes, ”Clients get agitated when agencies think they know more about their brand then they do especially during the pitch process.” By being a proactive listener, you are listen “between the lines” and truly analyze what keeps the marketer up at night, what’s pressuring them from the top, and what they actually need to accomplish. Some of the best relationships and outcomes are based on truly listening to understand, not merely respond.

  11. BONUS

    Become friends with the client team! As Lisa mentioned, “Friends care about each other and do things to help each other without thinking ‘what’s in it for me.’ When you do things that are selfless, everybody benefits from that.”


Overall, Lisa’s advice is to focus on building relationships in all aspects of your profession. Building relationships require you to care, be honest and establish trust. The truth of the matter is, people do business with people they like (it’s worth mentioning again). And if you can make a prospect like you before they do business with you, you’ve already won!

Erynn Laflamme

As the Senior Digital Marketing Specialist, Erynn works directly with the Catapult Sales team to execute targeted campaigns that generate qualified leads. With a background in agency new business, she delivers a unique insiders perspective on the challenges agencies face in regard to business development.