Improving agency new business success starts internally…not externally!

dyr&r1If you want to improve your new business closing rates and be more successful in your prospecting efforts, look no further than within your agency. How often have you heard or said the following yourself?

“We just need one big win”; “It’s just a numbers game, our turn will come”; “we just need a lucky break” or “The client just does not get it”.

If any of the above sound familiar you may want to look internally in order to solve the problem and improve your closing rate. Here is a list of tips that will help you improve your current success rate:

Pitch less, win more: You must always go in pitching to win. When you get the call or the RFP asking your agency to participate, resist accepting the invitation immediately.

Qualify the opportunity: Consider issues like fit? Do you have the necessary experience/expertise? Who is the competition and what is the timeline? Do you have the team to win and will it stretch you too thin right now? Will it put existing client business at risk? etc. Also consider the specific client and their past history with agencies. Do they change agencies every year? Are they known to be cheap or difficult to work with? Chasing everything that moves only leads to pitch fatigue, low agency morale and overwhelming new business strain. Make sure that you have a pre-determined list of qualifying criteria ahead of time. Prioritize the criteria by importance to the agency.

Allocate a pitch budget: Based on your estimated value of the opportunity, allocate a pitch budget right up front, make it clear to everyone involved and have someone project manage the pitch to make sure that you keep within the budget. I have seen pitches that ended up costing the agency $400,000 for a project that has a total budget of $250,000.

Make sure you have a pitch process: Once again there needs to be an agreed process that is clear to all involved and is implemented. Often the activity that occurs in the first couple of days determines how smoothly the pitch will go or how costly the pitch will turn out to be.

One presentation template, one leader: It goes without saying, make sure you have one template (PowerPoint, keynote or whatever). And make sure you have a defined pitch leader with both the responsibility and authority to make the tough calls when necessary. A committee approach will only end in disaster.

Collaboration, alignment and motivation: Pitches are normally high pressure environments characterized by long hours, unreasonable deadlines, high emotion and complicated by the need to still do existing client work at the same time. Keep the team collaborating, share information and keep them aligned and above all keep them motivated.

Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse:  A well rehearsed presentation with really good work is far more effective than an unrehearsed presentation with great work. Avoid the temptation to continually improve the presentation right up until the last minute. Spend the last 24-36 hours doing at least two and preferably three rehearsals.

Follow up immediately: Have your follow up planned before you pitch so that it can go out immediately and be as effective as possible.

I can assure you that if you adopt the above approach you will see a marked increase in your new business pitch wins. Go ahead and give it a try.


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