Posts Tagged ‘generate new business’

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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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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How to Define the Ideal Vertical for Your Agency to Serve

One of the biggest mistakes that a marketing agency can make is trying to be all things to all people. At first glance, casting a wide net seems logical. After all, isn’t it the best way to ensure that your message is seen by as many people as possible? It is, and that’s the problem. Here’s why: Most of those people would never have been interested in your offerings anyway, so your message is lost on them–and so are your efforts, time and money.

Instead, define a very specific target audience on which to focus your efforts. In doing so, you’ll get way more bang for your marketing buck and will set the stage for long-term growth, profitability and success.

Five Tips for Identifying the Ideal Vertical for Your Agency

With a clearly defined target audience, it will be much easier to know where, when and how to market your products and services. Keep these tips in mind to more easily define a target vertical on which to focus your marketing and branding efforts:

  1. Get to Know Your Current Customers – Much of what you need to know can be found in your sales records. Who currently buys your products and services? What needs are they trying to fill by using them? What kinds of things do your current customers have in common? Consider things like age, interests, education level and the like. While you’re at it, closely examine your biggest customers. What traits do they share? This research should give you a great head-start in defining your ideal audience.
  2. Scout Out the Competition – Take a look at your closest competitors. What do their customers look like? Who do they appear to be targeting with their marketing efforts? Don’t attempt to go after the same exact audience. Instead, look for niche markets that your competitors may be overlooking, as they could be your best opportunity.
  3. Consider the Benefits of Your Products and Services – Painstakingly list each of the products and services that your agency provides and the benefits that they provide. Next, consider the problems that these products and services solve. Who typically experiences these problems? These are the folks who could benefit the most from your offerings.
  4. Define Your Target Audience – Consider the kind of person who is most likely to buy your products and services. They should not only need to buy them but should be able to also. Jot down a list of the demographics that they share, including age, gender, income, education, marital status and occupation. Dig deeper by considering their shared interests, attitudes, values and other personality traits.
  5. Assess & Grow Your Newly Defined Target Audience – Finally, make sure that marketing to the target audience that you’ve selected will help you achieve your objectives. Will these folks truly benefit from what your agency has to offer? Can they afford your offerings? Are they easily accessible? If so, which media or channels  do they typically prefer? Do you understand the motivations behind the decisions that they make?

Finding the right vertical for your agency to primarily serve is a small but crucial part of achieving long-term new business growth. With a specifically defined audience, your sales and marketing efforts will go a lot farther.

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5 Reasons Your Agency Fails to Generate New Business

Generally speaking, agencies fall woefully short when it comes to prospecting for new business.

And although there are always certain case-by-case factors at work, in our experience, agencies’ inadequacies with new business largely come down to two things: limited resources and ad hoc sales strategies.

Sound familiar? If so, we highly recommend reassessing your entire business development strategy. Also, if you are not already doing this, start supplementing reactive prospecting with proactive business development as soon as possible. Of course, this is always easier said than done, especially if you don’t have expert guidance on where to start.

We know firsthand how overwhelming this process can be for agencies. For that reason, we’ve provided a list of strategic elements our own business development advisors and agency clients have used with great success.

Make sure your agency has clearly defined and compelling positioning

Many prospects and clients operate under the perception that all agencies are alike; the only real difference being the people they will work with.

Because of this, it’s important for you to communicate differentiated value in order to position your agency as the stand out candidate in the minds of prospective customers. Also, make sure that your “elevator speech” clearly speaks to the agency’s core competencies in a few simple sentences.

Develop a consistent, ongoing prospect outreach program and stick to it

If you do this right the first time, this strategy will be a sustainable and scalable framework for proactive business development in the long-term. Many agencies don’t have anything like this, choosing instead to be reactive and wait for new business opportunities to come knocking on their door.

An effective prospect outreach program should be consistent and involve multiple strategies and a variety of touch points – i.e. e-mail marketing, event marketing, telemarketing, attending conferences and events, etc.

Only present relevant case studies to prospects

Want to know the quickest way to undermine or discount your agency’s results? Send a random case study that is completely irrelevant to a prospective client’s industry or business objectives.

Be sure that every case study presented in a sales pitch or RFP response showcases results that are relevant to that prospect’s industry, pain points and marketing goals. This will enhance your ability to engage the prospect.

Use the sales funnel as a road map for your prospecting strategy

In order to build an effective new business pipeline you have to reach out to enough prospects on the front end to give you the best chance to “win” on the back end. That way, as you nurture leads down the funnel you have a solid base of prospects to pull from at all times.

Your outreach strategy should be targeted to top prospects in priority vertical categories. Remember, only a small percentage of the prospects you reach out to will turn into meetings and clients.

Befriend the Admin!

Administrative assistants can be your best friends. If you cannot reach the top decision maker in your outreach efforts, make it a priority to reach out to the admin to develop a relationship and ask for their help in scheduling a call or meeting. Befriending the admin can lead to enhanced new business success!

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