Ad Agency New Business Mistakes are Magnified in a Challenging Economy

The skills of your hunters and farmers are critcial to landing and retaining clients
by Todd Knutson

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Tight client budgets, hungry competitors, and aggressive new business hunters make for a tricky new business environment. That's what we're all experiencing now, and probably will for some time - despite news that the recession is over.

The challenge for agency CEOs and new business teams is that any mistake is magnified in importance. Your prospects are talking to your competition, investigating alternatives. Mistakes that may seem insignificant to you could be the last straw for them. For example:

  • Not following up as you promised in a voicemail message
  • Having a promised participant not join a conference call
  • Rescheduling a meeting at their office (or even worse, doing so for the second time)
  • Talking only about your agency and not asking your prospect relevant questions
  • Not focusing on what they need, but instead proposing "nice to have" solutions

The same applies to your account service team: they are your key to organic growth and must be constantly aware that competitors are knocking on your clients' doors every day. Their attention to customer service and focus on the client's business is critically important.

To remain sharp and compete at your optimum level focus on your new business and account service fundamentals:

  1. Ask smart questions. Start with comfortable, general questions and as you develop rapport ask more in-depth questions that will reveal business opportunities.
  2. Listen, listen, listen. Even if you think you know how they're going to answer the question you've asked, listen very carefully. What's their inflection? When do they hesitate or pause before answering? Do they "mumble an aside"? Do they sound like they've making something sound better than it really is?
  3. Ask "why" and "tell me more about that" questions to follow up on areas revealed in #2.
  4. Be sure you're talking to the decision makers! Decisions are now being made higher in organizations, so the people who used to make decisions may not have that authority today. Be sure to ask, "who else will be making the decision to hire an agency with you?" It's almost never one person.
  5. Role practice. Practice on yourselves, not on your clients. Practice asking questions, listening, and asking follow up questions. This skill alone will separate you from your competition and distinguish your agency in the eyes of your prospects.

 

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