How do you improve your agency’s new business win ratio?
There are valuable lessons from the 80,000 agency searches on Sourcebook’s search technology platform, CommunicationsMatch™, dozens of agency search consulting engagements, and research we have conducted with Fortune 1000 clients, as well as our own careers on the client and agency side of the business.
As experts in agency search and hiring we get to see what agencies do well in the new business process, as well as common mistakes. Among the issues we see are agencies pitching for business that isn’t a good fit in terms of expertise, “boilerplate” responses to RFPs, not really listening to or responding to the specific needs a client is looking to address, and upselling.
Research we conducted with partner Researchscape highlights clients’ experience of the agency hiring process, and underscores common gaps between agency new business practices and what clients are looking for.
Drawing on our experience, here are several key questions agencies can ask themselves to increase the odds of success. Using these as a yardstick to evaluate the new business process and specific pitches, provides a framework for delivering proposals and presentations that are most likely to resonate with clients.
Are you focused on areas of differentiation?
-Do you target business for which you are uniquely qualified?
-Can you be found based on your unique capabilities and expertise?
Are you really qualified for the opportunity?
-If you were the client, would you consider yourself among the top firms for the project/assignment?
-Are your industry expertise and communications skillsets aligned with the project? Are you the right type/size of agency for the assignment?
Are you focused on “selling” your agency services?
-Are you selling what clients are really looking for?
-Are you offering client-specific solutions to achieve a prospect’s business goals?
Do you ask the right questions and listen to client answers?
-Does the research you have done underscore your understanding of the client’s business?
-Do your responses to client questions demonstrate that you have listened to clients’ needs?
Is what you do consistent with your stated new business strategy?
-How do you avoid over-selling, upselling, pushing ideas a client hasn’t asked for, or generic presentations?
-Are you able to be authentic in client presentations?
In our experience, success comes from following the mantra: “Agencies and professionals should pitch business for which they are qualified or qualify themselves for business they pitch.”
When agency expertise is aligned with expertise clients are looking for, you have a track record of success related to the business you are pitching, pricing is consistent with a client’s budget, and there is a genuine chemistry, conversations are much more likely to result in “You had me at hello.”
Having a disciplined process to evaluate opportunities and a new business process that plays to strengths (whether through RFPs or individual recommendations) the odds of winning will be stacked in your favor.
And a last point that’s often forgotten: Take the time, win or lose, to better understand what you did right or can do better. Using these questions as a guide, it’s always good to look in the mirror, ask tough questions and incorporate takeaways into the next pitch.
Former corporate communications and agency leaders, Locke, Drake and Udowitz partnered to deliver the industry’s first integrated online agency search and RFP tools, Agency Select™, and help clients with projects that range from finding agencies in local markets to complex turn-key agency of record assignments.