What happens in your agency after the new business call ends?
For too many agencies, it goes something like this. Everyone is pleased with the call, how nice the prospect seems and leave hopeful for future possibilities. But, too many agency new business calls end without a clear idea of what was learned about the prospect or the company. What’s worse, often there’s no clear sense of the timeline, next steps or who’s responsible.
That’s why it makes sense to follow the same approach that legendary NFL coach Paul Brown did when he started reviewing game film to evaluate opponents and his team. Brown, who was the first to use film study, took the time to dig into each contest, understand what happened, and use the information to plan for the future.Your agency should do the same.
Poor follow-up is a chronic issue at many agencies. It creates stress, uncertainty, and disappointment for all involved. It’s an emotionally draining experience, whether you win the business or not. You know the firm could do better with a different approach.
Finding a Solution: The New Business Call Debrief
A post-call debrief is a structured conversation that revolves around the sharing and examining of information after a prospect new business call or meeting. The conversation enables a team to discuss what went well, identify opportunities for improvement, and define next steps.
It also brings a team together, strengthens relationships, and fosters team learning.
Coach Brown of the Cleveland Browns knew the importance of using information to strengthen his team. Brown climbed from high school coaching to become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His approach to film study created a blueprint for the modern NFL. He was the first coach to scout opponents through game films, leading to finesse and insight that led the Browns to three NFL championships and four AAFC titles.
Football coaches and players spend hours each week poring over film of a 60-minute game, yet in the business world, such a review of a much-shorter new business call is extremely rare. That’s unfortunate because studying the “game film” yields valuable insights.
In sales, the post-call debrief is an opportunity to “review the game film.” It helps us assess what we did well, what we did not so well and what areas we need to improve. Unfortunately, we are often so busy that we do not give the proper amount of time and attention to this debrief.
A football coach watches game film to gain insights on how the team can improve and how to prepare for the next game. As a salesperson, you should use the post-call debrief for the very same reason, gaining valuable insights into your improvement and preparation.
The Post-Call Debrief: Know What’s Been SAID
The post-call debrief is a four-step process – SAID – Schedule, Assess, Interpret, and Document. Each step is important and gets your team’s ideas and recommendations to the forefront.
Here’s a closer look.
With a formal debrief process, your team will treat the time and topic more seriously. Making the team aware of the post-call process will help them gather useful insights during the call and come prepared.
You need to schedule 15 or 30 minutes on everyone’s calendars immediately after the new business call. If not possible, it should be scheduled within a few days. The details of the call will be freshest, and you can begin to take action.
Eventually, the more you debrief, the more effective and efficient the process becomes.
This stage calls for a candid evaluation of the call. The expectation, set by the most senior leaders in the room, should be for people to learn and that one’s position on the org chart is not relevant. If those leaders make themselves vulnerable and admit to errors, it permits everyone else to do so too.
Leaders need to set guidelines for the assessment. There should be no pointing of fingers. The results, both good and bad, should be considered team results, recognizing that everyone had a hand in creating them.
The U.S. Army refers to this approach as “leaving your stripes at the door.”
Be prepared with the questions you and the team need to answer to understand the call. Here are some examples:
- Did we accomplish the goal we outlined in our pre-call plan?
- What did we do right?
- What could we have done better?
- What should we do next time?
The crux of the debrief is asking additional questions about each stage of the call and its outcomes. Ask all participants to come to the meeting with thoughts on the following two sets of questions:
- Does the prospect fit our ideal client profile?>/li>
- What are the compelling reasons for the prospect to make a change?
- What did we find out about our competition or the incumbent’s relationship with the prospect?
- What is the prospect’s sense of urgency to act?
- Do we understand their decision-making process?
- Is there truly an opportunity?
- What is the next step with this prospect?
- What assets do we need to create or provide?
- What is the timeline?
- Who will own the process?
It’s important to record the answers to those questions, especially any lessons learned, in a format that can be used for later reference and use. Using a template can be a helpful way to create uniformity across the agency and familiarity for employees.
Be sure to take notes and distribute them to all those present and other key stakeholders. Save those notes in your CRM.
It bears repeating that documentation needs to be done as soon as possible after the meeting or new business call. Memories fade fast! If the debrief is not happening immediately after the call, instruct each participant to scribble down or dictate their key impressions, thoughts, and answers to the questions above. It’ll save you hours of trying to remember details in the long run.
The biggest hurdle to debriefing is starting to do it, especially if you have a culture where this sort of open communication isn’t the norm. If you do so, your teams will be stronger, more confident and clear.
Using the SAID framework and a template for your post-call debriefs gives everyone a voice and has longer-term advantages, too. Analyzing the results of these calls gives your agency more data that can reveal patterns of behavior that can be changed. The “teachable moments” help everyone improve their approach to initial sales calls. Over time, everyone will get better and more new business will come your way.
Paul Brown made his teams champions by carefully analyzing what happened and using that information to play better. It’s a winning plan for agencies to adopt for their new business strategy.
Are you dissatisfied with how your last sales discovery call went? Do you often find yourself complaining that the prospect was unqualified or not ready to buy? Maybe you felt great rapport but hung up the phone with no clear next steps. Or maybe you sent follow-up materials and never heard anything back. Without pre-call planning, those outcomes are likely.
Stop blaming the prospect and take responsibility. Pre-call planning helps prevent failure on the call itself, which is often due to one of the following:
- Not enough preparation
- Lack of understanding about what makes an initial call successful
- Too much focus on the agency’s offerings, not the prospect’s business needs
In agency new business, your first call with a prospect is not a pitch or a presentation. It’s a way to establish two-way communication. Business isn’t won on the first call, but through multiple calls that build a relationship and lay a foundation. Each call needs its own objectives and outcomes aimed at moving the sale forward.
To be effective, each call requires pre-call planning that identifies objectives that advance the relationship. To accomplish this, you have to conduct research, share insights from your agency’s unique point of view, and strategically uncover the prospect’s needs by asking the right questions at the right times.
Getting Your Agency READY for the Pre-Call
Pre-call planning is the research process and alignment of stakeholders used in preparation for a sales call to optimize the call’s effectiveness. Agencies should follow the READY framework of pre-call planning to be more successful.
R eview the Research
It’s critical to invest time understanding the prospect’s business. Failing to invest time upfront will greatly affect your success. Research and review takes time, which is why many agencies skip this step.
Understanding the prospect’s business is the first opportunity to differentiate yourself from competitors. It empowers you to ask smart questions and align your services with their needs.
You can collect information from many sources, including:
- Analyst reports
- Annual reports
- Blog posts
- Company website
- Financial press
- Industry media
- Social media
- Speeches and conferences
Along with basic information on the company (employee count, revenue, fiscal close, year founded), you’ll also want information on the prospect (name, position description, past roles, education, volunteer roles). Finally, you need to understand the company’s agency relationships, media spend, media mix, planning and buying periods and creative work.
Prepare a meeting brief in advance for key stakeholders, including everyone who will be on the sales call, your subject matter experts, and senior leadership. The focus will be on reviewing the research, defining roles for call participants, and agreeing on the questions to ask.
E stablish Your Value Proposition
You want to set your agency apart by providing interesting and new insights that get the prospect thinking about new possibilities. You need to provide new perspectives that will address the most critical needs in a compelling and resonant way. This includes clearly and concisely articulating the value your agency brings to the prospect.
Today’s enterprise-level decision-makers are busy. They expect you to have an idea of the impact you can make and share that with them on the first call. At this level, they won’t take time to do a needs assessment.
Establishing your value proposition should be a focus of the pre-call planning. You’ll need an understanding of the following:
- What challenges is the company facing?
- How can your agency impact these challenges?
- How is your solution different than other agencies?
- How can you prove this?
To develop your value proposition use this formula:
Value Proposition = Business Driver + Movement + Proof
The pre-call work should shape what these value propositions are and how to present them effectively.
A ffirm the Desired Meeting Outcomes
Your team needs to be on the same page about the desired outcome of the call and make sure to plan for the call with that outcome in mind.
Here are a few examples of possible outcomes:
- Schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss an identified situation or problem
- Schedule a demo of your product or service
- Schedule a follow-up meeting to review a proposal, case study or work example
- Secure a referral to another person involved in the decision process
D etermine Your Questions
Asking the right questions of your prospect will get you the information you need to make informed and appropriate suggestions about solutions.
While you never want it to feel like you are reading from a script, you should prepare questions ahead of time that will advance the conversation. Use open-ended questions, and be prepared with follow-ups. But don’t be afraid to deviate from your list if the situation calls for it.
These questions should focus on gaining information about problems and gaps, the business impact of existing solutions and the payoff of making an agency change.
How many questions?
Gong, a conversation intelligence software solution for sales teams, analyzed conversations with executives at mid-sized and large companies. Surprisingly, their research shows that successful initial sales calls include only four questions on average. Unsuccessful calls have eight.
This means you need to be aware that after a few questions, your odds of success decrease with each additional query. That means asking the right questions is critical. Here are a few examples.
- What’s the central issue you’re hoping to tackle?
- How long has it been going on?
- What have you tried to do to solve it?
- What happens if you don’t solve this?
- How do your employees and customers see this affecting them?
- Compared to other things on your plate, how important is it to solve this issue right now? Why?
- What’s your timeframe for fixing this?
- Who would notice most if it didn’t get done?
- What baseline results are you looking for to determine if the work is worthwhile?
- What would it look like if we were wildly successful together?
- How would the results show up on your balance sheet?
- Who else needs to be involved?
- Who will get the most benefit from the solution we’ve discussed?
- Who will be the most vocal support and the loudest opponent?
Y our Speaking Roles
Once you’ve reviewed the information, it’s time to assign roles for the call. This step eliminates confusion about who is quarterbacking, who is asking questions, and who is taking notes.
Consider assigning a chairperson, who’s responsible for ensuring the meeting achieves its objectives and helps the group reaches decisions efficiently. The chairperson resolves issues and ensures everyone is clear on the will of the meeting, even if not everyone agrees with it.
The chairperson is responsible for making sure the research is reviewed and the value proposition is clear. This work should then inform who needs to attend the actual call and what part they will play according to the four stages of a successful sales call.
The chairperson should open the call, explain its purpose and gain the prospect’s agreement on outcomes. Others might ask questions or deliver the value proposition. The chairperson should close the call after agreeing on next steps that advance the sale forward.
The Value of Getting READY
Consider again that last frustrating and unsuccessful sales discovery call. Are you going to keep lying to yourself that the lead was unqualified, or are you going to take responsibility for the call’s failure?
Imagine how different it would have been for you and your team if the READY framework had been applied. READY provides your team with confidence and ensures you end every call with clarity.
If you’re ready to take to responsibility, implement the READY framework for your next five sales calls. After the fifth, evaluate their outcomes and compare to your other most recent calls. You will find your team conducting the calls more harmoniously, asking better questions, getting better answers, and advancing a greater percentage of calls toward new business wins.
As the business development lead at your agency, you may already have a solid understanding that the CMO has more turnover than any other c-level position. What you may not know, however, is why and how it directly affects your prospecting efforts.
In December 2018, our sister company, Winmo, released the annual CMO Lifecycle Tenure Analysis report and it’s full of new business opportunities that you can bank on. The report analyzed over 2,400 CMO tenures across a variety of industries and also by gender.
So before you kick off the new year by pounding the phone with cold calls and shooting out emails to every CMO in the US, here are a few items that will help you build a strategic plan and reach CMOs more efficiently:
Who’s Coming In, Who’s On Their Way Out
When a CEO hires a CMO, they expect a complete brand transformation…and fast. We’ve found that CMOs typically rotate up or out of their positions around the 43 month mark. Six to 18 months later is usually when the new CMO will shake up their AOR. What does this mean for you? Start paying attention to this ‘new biz sweetspot.’ Not only do you have a possible win with the incoming CMO, but potentially with the outgoing CMO…if you know where he/she lands.
Not Every Industry Is Created Equal
According to Winmo’s report, more traditional industries such as financial services, education, associations, and travel average longer tenures. Other sectors such as consumer goods, digital business providers, restaurants and retail, however, show higher turnover rates. When prospecting, prioritize those top turnover categories to fuel your prospecting lists with new potential opportunities.
Prioritize Your Right To Win Categories
After analyzing the tenure report take a look and see if there are particular industries in which you specialize. These right to win clients will be low hanging fruit for prospecting. If you are experts in retail and consumer goods, prioritize your prospecting and spend time crafting your messaging to appeal to the CMOs and decision makers in those spaces. Your credible portfolio in these spaces will make them much more inclined to have the initial conversation.
Unfortunately, no crystal ball can tell you exactly when to contact a CMO, but this Winmo report is pretty close! Keep an eye on those brands you’ve been hoping to work with and use this resource to your full advantage! If it’s creeping up on their 3 year anniversary, get your messaging ready. Tailor your outreach strategy by prioritizing your right to win categories. Now you’re ready to go out there and win over those dream clients! Happy prospecting!
With the rise of in-house agencies and management consultancies, your prospects have more options as an agency, and you have to work harder than ever to prove your value proposition. Without a process in place that is solely focused on developing new client relationships, how can you best forecast a positive revenue trajectory? Sure, you may get that occasional referral here and there, but other than that, you are just blending in with the crowd.
In 2019, your agency needs to get aggressive with winning the clients you were made to work with! So if you are ready to start going after those clients, the first thing you need to do, after you hire a dedicated person to manage the workload, is identify your agency’s right to win business.
What Is “Right To Win” Business?
Right-to-win business refers to prospects that should have been clients yesterday. They check every box in your list of an ideal client and your agency can confidently say “We are the best at solving your particular problem”. RTWB Is an extrapolation of the client successes that you’ve had within unique segments. These are segments that you can explicitly convey a measure of impact through the SOW and deliverable for your client.
If we can say that we have a “right to win” to your business, then we need to be able to prove it through case studies and past work that is directly applicable to those right to win prospects.
Naturally, there are challenges of accessing the information needed to develop a case study or show success metrics. But this is an essential part of the process and should be built into the program and agreed upon by all controllers of information before the assignment is started. Your ability to prove success is imperative to retaining the client you’re engaged with as well as proving to new prospects that you’re able to deliver.
How You Identify Your Agency’s RTWB
RTWB may be based on a specific industry, like adult beverages, or it could be tied to a niche audience, like moms. The important consideration is to be as specific as possible and thoroughly evaluate how and why your team has expertise and impact with your RTW target. At Catapult, we often concentrate on a specific problem that we solve for our clients better than anyone else, which in turn can be applied across verticals. Understanding your clients’ and prospects’ problems shows that you understand more about them than just what vertical they operate in.
Many agencies believe they know their key categories, but as they begin to do the work, they are unable to clearly convey how or why their smattering of clients fit the definition of RTWB. This is often due to the nature of network-related business or assignments that fall in their lap, dismissing the agency from establishing and investing in a specific expertise, like category.
Yes, there are exceptions, but the majority of marketers want to understand and see evidence of your ability to “be successful” in their category. For a CMO, whose job is on the line based on the partners they select, they need to feel fully confident that you can understand and deliver on their objectives. However, success is a very subjective idea, and you need to make sure it is clearly defined by your prospect, so you and your team can understand and appropriately set expectations.
Need Help Getting Started?
As you begin identifying your RTWB, find answers to these three questions:
- Who have I had the most success with in the past?
- Who do I want to work within the future?
- Where can I honestly say that our agency is superior to other agencies?
If you need a second set of eyes on your agency to help establish your right to win business, contact Catapult. Identifying RTWB for our clients has helped our firm generate over $1B in new business opportunities. We would happy to provide you with any additional value that will make your agency more successful.
Are your business development reps spending the right amount of time on the right targets for agency new business? At many agencies, those tasked with prospecting struggle with how much time to put into email personalization and which prospects are worth the effort. They may also struggle with where to go to get the best information about their prospects.
You need a clear process that focuses your time where it’s most likely to pay off. Sales reps need access to resources and data that will enable their personalization efforts to have the best chance of success.
What can you gain? By personalizing with relevant information and sharing valuable content, your outreach will receive higher open rates, more responses, and position your agency as an expert.
Here’s a closer look at the Three R’s to email personalization at scale.
Step 1: Rank Your Prospects
As seen in this recent piece, ranking your prospects is a crucial element to any agency new business strategy. Ranking lets you focus your efforts proportionally.
Ranking puts your prospects into tiers based on their fit and value to your agency. Each tier gets a different level of research and personalization. Here’s a common approach to tiers:
- Tier 1: Your top ten to twenty most ideal targets accounts for fit and value land here.
- Tier 2: You have a right to win these prospects, but their fit or value is not as strong as the Tier 1 group.
- Tier 3: These prospects generally fall at the edges of your ideal client profile.
Once your ranking work is completed, you have a much clearer perspective on what work needs to be done for which prospects. Your biz dev team will thrive with the clarity and context.
Step 2: Research Your Prospects
Knowing what to research can be challenging, but this can be broken into two components: Information and Resources.
The information you’re looking for are the news, characteristics, or connections that allow you to demonstrate your relevance to the prospect. Here are a few examples of insights to consider in your research:
- Trigger Events– Look for recent happenings with the company or prospect that often bring about change. Examples include a decision-maker who’s on the move, a successful funding round, acquisition, new office opening or relocation, awards, new business win, industry recognition, or a promotion.
- Market Dynamics– These factors consider conditions and forces that are at play for the company, including size, growth, maturity, disruption, competitors.
- Company– Corporate fundamentals are important, so be sure to know the size, revenue, profitability, growth, market share, stock performance, outlook, history, and job postings.
- People– This category goes beyond leadership profiles, but also looks at the stability tenure, attitudes and preferences of those leaders, along with corporate culture and values.
- Strategy– What is the company’s business model? Look at strategic initiatives, priorities, successes, and failures.
- Agency Relationships– Which agencies, if any, does the company have relationships? What are the type, size, and locations of those agencies? Are they working with independent or networked agencies? How long have they had these relationships?
There’s another set of information that’s much more personal for the sales rep and the company:
- Connections– Know if there are any links from your company into theirs via past employment, association memberships or mutual LinkedIn connections.
- History– Understand the complete interaction history with the prospect, including emails, meetings, deals and outcomes.
- Door Openers– Look at personal connections such as university ties, shared hometowns, conference attendance. The connection may be a common one (fan of the same sports teams or bands) or an uncommon one that’s dug up.
This information, when used strategically, will help get the email read and lead to more responses. The question is where to get that information. Here are the resources to consider:
- Company website
- Annual reports
- SEC filings
- Analyst reports
- Investor relations
- Press releases
- Product and technical literature
- Speeches and conferences
- Blog posts
- Industry publications and websites
- Financial press
- Influencers and bloggers
- Social media
- WinmoEdge, which provides industry insights and news
Now that you have your information secured, it’s time to make the pitch.
Step 3: Write to Your Prospects
Armed with your information, the writing needs to be done for each tier. Here are some suggestions:
Tier 1: You need to approach this writing with the mindset that it’s your right to the prospect’s business and your job to figure out how to get it. The content should be highly personalized and creative so it grabs your prospect’s attention.
Meet with your team and create an account plan that examines their business, identifies ways you can impact their company and what content (case study, white paper, video, work examples) will be most relevant.
It’s interesting to note that Hubspot research confirms that email personalization leads to better response rates … to a point. After more than 50 percent of the template is changed, the impact on response rates is negligible. As such, group prospects around a shared attribute so templates can be created as starting points.
Tier 2: Personalization still matters in this tier, but you don’t need to do as much, generally spending about 5 minutes per account. Each of these prospects also receives personalization but not to the same degree as Tier 1 prospects. Less research is sufficient and should be embedded at the beginning and end of the email with the remainder of content templated.
A little can go a long way. A SalesLoft study of 6 million sales emails showed that personalizing just 20 percent of email content increased open rates by more than 40 percent and reply rates by 112 percent compared to those with no email personalization.
Tier 3: You will not provide the same level of personalization but use templated content that’s customized to the prospect’s industry, persona or problem/challenge the industry typically faces. Include basic email personalization such as name and company. This catch-all approach does not require or merit high touch and personalization.
Maximizing Agency New Business with Email Personalization
Whatever the level of personalization or customization, every touchpoint should add value back to the prospect. The content you share needs to be so valuable that a dream client should want to pay for it. It needs to play off of the challenges you identify and tie them to your agency’s unique point of view.
The Three R’s (Rank, Research, Write) help to optimize your prospecting by providing the appropriate levels of research, personalization, and scale. Your prospecting volume will be balanced, and your work focused proportionally. What’s more, your sales reps will feel empowered and be more successful.
The Three R’s are powerful for your agency not just in the business they’ll help you win. They also empower your business development reps to create compelling, relevant messages. By scaling your email personalization, your agency gets more meetings, more opportunities and more business won from your most sought-after clients.
As a new business professional, success lies in taking action, doing more than presiding, and empowering others around you to work as effective teams. Each week is an opportunity to make progress and build lasting relationships with prospects, clients, and partners while finding transformative business opportunities for your clients.
This insightful webinar lead by the Managing Director of Huge, Matt Weiss, explains the journey to success within the new business space is not one that comes free of many challenges both professionally and mentally. There is a reason that only 21% of New Business Directors last with a company for three or more years.
After watching the webinar, I have learned that if you seek to pursue a long, impactful and successful career in agency new business, you should direct your focus towards these four tactics:
- Find the center of the organization- Within any large organization, there are all kinds of people at all different levels, and each of them has a different agenda. Your job in business development is to find the center of your prospects organizations. Why? Because the center is what drives direction.There are two types of centers to identify, one being the leadership center and the other being the cultural center. At the center of leadership, you will be able to clearly identify the organization’s vision and overall mission. At the center of culture, you will be able to understand the atmosphere and the people who make up the organization as a whole.If you find these two elements before pitching to a company, you will be able to appeal to the decision makers and their agendas, in which they are actually trying to accomplish, whether they verbally mentioned it to you or not.
- Develop true grit- New business is one of the most difficult and grueling positions to hold within the agency sphere. Typically, the teams aren’t large, and they are a cost center for the company. The expectations are high, and the pressure is on at all times. You will have many moments in which you feel you can’t get the job done.In those moments, you must think of people like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood in just about every movie they’ve ever been in. No matter who they were playing, they demonstrated the ability to get the job done, regardless of the odds. In those moments where you feel overwhelmed, remember to breath, prioritize and know confidently that you will get through the day.Also keep in mind that new business is a long-distance race, not a sprint. Those who try to sprint through it will burn out in a few months, and those who treat it like a long distance race see substantial success and build stamina along the way.
- Stop selling, start helping- The first deadly sin of new business is selling. Your instincts naturally compel you to sell your agency’s services because, well, it’s your job! But the truth is everyone HATES sales. Think about the last time you visited a car dealership. If your experiences have been anything like mine, you were immediately swarmed by salespeople, and the one you landed with was extra pushy. So pushy that you left because you were incredibly uncomfortable.Your sales tactics shouldn’t repel your prospects, but rather, attract them and add tremendous value to them. So change your mindset from selling to helping. Change your pitch to show how your agency will help the company grow, transform their offerings, master a skill set they don’t have, solve a problem, or even beat the competition. How does working with you solve their problems? Agencies who can answer this question, without selling the answer, win.
- Make the pitch process fun- The decision makers you are meeting with at the pitch have day jobs, and they are attending the pitch as their night job. To them, while the pitch is necessary, it’s also taking time from other, more pressing matters. What they are not expecting from you is a fun experience. So make one. Keep it light, make everyone in the room feel good about themselves, bring your culture with you, and most importantly, add value. At the end of the day, people work with those who they want to be around.New business is a tough business. Our job is to be coaches and help our teams and clients be as good as they can possibly be. There is no way to avoid the blood, sweat, and tears that come with the profession. However, if you start each of your prospecting efforts by identifying both the of the organization’s leadership and cultural centers, have grit, offer continuous value, and make the pitch process fun for your audiences, you will have a long and fulfilling existence career-wise.
If your agency lacks the bandwidth, resources, or knowledge that is required for a sustainable new business process, Catapult can help. Having generated over $1 billion in new business opportunities for our clients, we provide you with the proper training, tools, and resources that deliver revenue growth. Give us a call today for more information.
It’s Q4, and many agencies are strategically trying to plan out their new business efforts for 2019 while brands are thinking about their marketing plans. This year, like every year before, we have seen massive changes across the entire marcom industry. From rapid technology advancements shaping the digital landscape to consumers taking more and more control over user experience, we all stuck asking “what’s next?”
Are you finding lead generation to be a frustrating part of your work as an agency principal? If so, you’re not alone. Many agencies are struggling to find enough leads to fill their pipelines. What’s more, many of those leads – especially from inbound marketing efforts – are unqualified. Agency new business is critical to success, yet without strategic approaches, your bottom line suffers.
For you and your business development team, the lack of leads and the poor quality of those leads can result in desperation and frustration. If there’s no consistent methodology and strategy in place for outbound sales leads, your agency will flounder.
However, agencies can take a cue from a time-honored activity to develop a new, balanced and strategic tack when it comes to outbound: fishing.
For centuries, fishermen have understood that you need different types of approaches to be successful. Each method has its advantages and challenges. There’s no one best method for landing a catch. In some cases, hand-to-hand spearfishing is the smart choice. At other times, trawling – casting a big net – will get you the best results.
To be a successful fisherman, you need to identify the types of fish, quantities of fish, and approaches that are going to secure the haul you’re seeking. You need to know which method works best and create a plan for the fish you want to bring in. The same is true in your approach to agency new business.
Using Account-Based Sales for Agency New Business
Your sales reps are likely struggling to find the balance between scale and personalization in their outbound approaches. Do they spend their time crafting highly personalized emails or should they rely on more general templated emails that can reach more prospects?
Account-Based Sales (ABS) takes a strategic approach to how your team spends their time. It’s a sophisticated, strategic approach to agency new business that uses a combination of outbound activities that include personalized, multi-channel, and multi-threaded messages.
ABS creates a layered approach to your fishing activities that results in reps spending their time on activities that are designed to target different types of accounts.
At its heart, ABS uses tiers that each have their own outreach strategy. Not all accounts are the same. Organizing them into tiers, based on how valuable and viable they are to your firm, helps determine how much research to do and how much personalization each account gets.
Build the Tiers that Drive Agency New Business Success
When fishing, you need to understand the type of catch you’re after, how long you’ll be out on the water and how much gear you have to get the job done. You’ll also need to base your decisions on how successful you’ve been in catching a particular kind of fish in the past and, finally, how much attention and commitment you have to the type of fishing you’ve decided to take on.
Ranking your accounts is very similar. To determine how many accounts you want to target for each tier within your ABS strategy, you need to have a clear understanding of the following:
- Your expected deal sizes
- The length of the sales cycle
- Your available sales resources
- Your current level of engagement with significant prospects
- The intensiveness of your account-based strategy
Here is a closer look at the tiers you should be using for your agency business development.
Tier 1: Highly Personalized
Your most ideal target prospects belong in this tier. These are the accounts where the opportunity is greatest, and you have a strong right to win the business.
Think of tackling these accounts like spearfishing, which uses sophisticated diving equipment and is often favored for fishermen wanting to zero in on a particular species. Spearfishing is usually most effective in clear water that makes the targets easy to see and follow. It also takes patience, specialized training and equipment, and deep knowledge of the species you’re after.
In ABS, Tier 1 accounts are often considered a “market of one,” and require deep research and planning. With clear insights about the target’s business and needs, your interactions can be personalized and customized for the account and, ideally, the person being approached.
Tier 2: Personalized
While requiring a lighter approach to research than Tier 1 accounts, the goal is still to ensure that each outreach is personalized or customized. This is the tier where most of your prospects will fall, where you have a right to win the account.
With a Tier 2 approach, sales reps spend time researching ‘3 things in 3 minutes,’ where they find facts or insights about the industry, company, persona or contact. Sales reps then use those data points in a 10/80/10 approach to emails (10 percent personalization in opening, 80 percent templated content, and 10 percent closing personalization).
Rod-and-reel fishing, known as angling, uses the same approach. Sports fishermen try to find the hook that can be attached to a line and baited in an attempt to lure fish. All these tools are controlled by the fishing rod and reel (akin to the lightly personalized research and emails) that add more line as necessary. While you may not know what kind of fish you’ll catch, you’ll catch more of them than spearfishing with less personalization.
Tier 3: Customized
When fishermen want to cast the widest net, they call it trawling. Boats pull large nets (trawls) through the water. Dragging these nets lets a fishing vessel catch a large number of fish quickly. However, there’s not as much art as in rod-and-reel or spearfishing. You don’t know what you’re going to get and you’re likely to entangle some sea turtles and spare tires along the way.
In Tier 3, the messaging is templated and targeted to the industry or persona. It’s a catch-all approach to see what’s out there. These may be possible clients in the same or similar category as your ideal prospects, but you have less of a right to win the business.
Cast a wide net and see what gets caught. While this may unearth some potentially good clients, it is not typically where you will catch a prize fish and thus not an area where you want to spend much time.
The Impact of ABS on Agency New Business
ABS is all about optimization. You’ll be applying an appropriate level of personalization to the accounts that will have the most impact on your agency. Your sales reps will be able to spend the right time on the right accounts at an appropriate level of engagement.
Your fishing for new business requires the use of multiple techniques to find the right range of accounts, discover what works best, and make adjustments accordingly. Doing so will give you a healthy balance of the types and quality of new accounts.
ABS is a strategic approach that will lead to more clarity of the work that needs to be done, better systems and processes for approaching outbound work, and more confidence and success throughout the agency.
The next step is to plan for your next outbound round. Rank your target prospects and place them into the right tiers. That work will help guide what messages are personalized and customized for each potential account. Decide what fish you’re going for and use the right gear to haul ’em in.
Did you know that almost 50% of all new business efforts fail within the first six months of the year? That is a pretty terrifying statistic, and the truth is, the agencies who make up this number have typically never dedicated the time to create a new business development strategy.
As a marketing agency, you understand how marketing and sales work, but why don’t you apply the same techniques you are using for your clients to fuel your own agency’s growth? Until recently, business development has never received much attention from the agency world. Without a dedicated focus comes a lack of investment in the time and resources needed to build a scalable new business process. Today, we find that many agencies are relying on referrals and are unable to predict revenue growth accurately.
So, if you are like most agencies and have found yourself here, how can you start moving forward and avoid falling back into the statistic above? Having a successful business development strategy starts with having a strong culture that makes new business, everyone’s business.
Here are 5 factors that are crucial for building a culture that promotes new business growth on all fronts.
- Find the right new business person– While every agency requires a specific personality type to mesh with their culture, there are several qualifications you must search for when filling this role. First, they must be a high energy person who can sustain a high outreach plan. Second, they have to be a strong communicator that can adjust their messaging in a moments notice depending on their prospects needs. Finally, this person needs to be process-driven to ensure your new business machine is scalable, repeatable and will never stop running.
- Start from the top– Designate your C-suite with the responsibility of encouraging each team member, at every level, to contribute ideas about what will bring the agency new opportunities. It has to feel like a team sport in the sense that your new business cannot be an individual pursuit. In addition, encourage your C-suite to build a strong network. If they aren’t actively attending events, meeting other industry professionals and referring trusted partners in an effort to pursue new business, your agency is missing out on opportunities.
- Rally the troops– Whether you host a weekly meeting or have a YouTube channel, make sure your entire agency is up-to-speed with what’s happening on the new business front. When your business development rep or pitch team goes off to pursue a new opportunity, wave them out the door with words of affirmation and encouragement. When they return, greet them with excitement and applaud them for their efforts. If they win a new opportunity, make sure the whole agency feels involved and celebrated. If you don’t, you risk losing the opportunity for cultural growth and leave your new business stuck inside its current box.
- React appropriately to wins and losses– For your new business lead, winning is the best feeling in the world. On the flip side, losing is the absolute worst. In the case of a loss, most agency executives focus on picking out what’s wrong with the individuals on the new business team. I challenge you to change this behavior and instead focus on building a culture that says “winning or losing, we are all in this together.”
- Leave a legacy– As an executive, how are you leaving a legacy for your agency? I guarantee that there are people at your agency right now who don’t like sales and want nothing to do with it. They also don’t feel that new business falls on their shoulders. Your culture allows them to think that this is attitude is okay and even assures them that the task isn’t on them. Start building a legacy that puts the weight of new business on every team members shoulders. Whether we are talking about the C-suite, account managers or the pitch team, everyone can be playing an active part in using their network to expand the growth of the agency.
Embedding new business into the culture and DNA of your agency is crucial to your success, and it can only happen if you hire a dedicated person who can make it their sole focus. But as mentioned, you cannot allow this enormous task to fall on this one person’s shoulders alone. As an agency executive, you must hold your entire agency accountable for generating new business, starting with yourself.
From hiring a New Business Director who fits your culture to actually sitting down and thrashing out your business development strategy, there is a lot of work to be done. At Catapult, we understand the incredible impact an agency’s culture can have on the organization as a whole. That’s why when you partner with us, our first step is to explore your exact requirements and provide you with a Sales Director who replicates your ideal characteristics. From there, we build a new business plan and go to market.
If you are ready to embed new business into the fundamental core of your agency, give us a call today to see how we can help get you on the right track.
Any agency owner that has gone through the task of hiring a New Business Director has surely come across the new business pro that touts their “huge” network of opportunities. They claim to have worked with everyone and can easily get your agency in the door with the brands you want just through their sheer charm and extensive array of friends and ex-colleagues.
If you want to use a network to win new business, every agency should start by actually mining their own network first. Most agencies I speak with have a huge cache of network connections that they have not even begun to take advantage of.
Stop scratching the surface of your contacts, stop depending on an outside rainmaker, and start mining away at the connections that have been sitting in front of you the whole time. Here are a few tips to get started
1. Create your Core 100 Network- Sit down and go through a list of every past client, every current client, vendors, industry colleagues, and people from school. It only takes a few minutes to build up to 100 people that can absolutely begin making a difference in the number of referrals you receive over the coming months. Those 100 people need to be put into a personalized communication cadence where you reach out to each person at least once a month, even if just to say “hi”. Sound like a lot? 100 people in 20 days, that’s 5 emails a day…or 15 minutes if it takes 3 minutes per email. Not a lot of time at all.
2. Don’t only track your prospects, track your clients- Set alerts in LinkedIn, Google, and Winmo for all of your current clients. In Winmo’s database, they see one-third of their data points change every 6 months. This means that your current client’s teams are constantly turning over, especially in the lower ranks. Get to know those people and track them. They will eventually leave your current client and land somewhere else, and that’s a much easy intro to that new brand when they have already worked with you.
3. Have a real conversation with your network- This means you don’t just send a monthly newsletter telling everyone about what has happened at your agency. Take the time to reach out to each contact in your Core 100 with a personalized message. It may be as simple as a “hello, how are things”, to a more involved request of an introduction to someone that they know. The idea is though that we are producing real conversations with these contacts by talking to them, rather than talking at them.
To keep your pipeline full of qualified, referral-driven leads, continually stay top of mind with your tightest contacts that have seen and been beneficiaries of your great work.