New business development is both a costly and time consuming task for most agencies. When we finally get that opportunity to talk to the client prospect for the first time, we often make the mistake of doing too much talking and not enough listening. This often results in us wasting time and money chasing prospects who may never convert into clients and, if they did, they would probably turn out to be unprofitable to the agency.
The first personal contact with a prospective client is the ideal opportunity to find out whether they are likely to be the type of client you are looking for. By asking the right questions and, more importantly, listening to their answers and the questions they ask of you, you can quickly get an idea of what type of client you are dealing with. In fact, their response to your initial communications preceding the call will often help start to paint a picture for you.
Here are some positive clues to look for that might indicate you may well have a potential client in your sights:
- Positive past agency relationship history and reputation.
- They will take and return your call.
- If you sent something in advance they have taken the time to read it and have questions related to it.
- Don’t view agencies as vendors or agency services as a commodity.
- Will tell you who their incumbent agency is and why they might be considering a change or adding additional capabilities.
- Open to sharing current marketing challenges and objectives.
- Are engaged in the conversation with you and not multitasking.
- Demonstrate an interest in what you bring to the table and what differentiates your agency.
- Interested in what results you have delivered for existing clients.
- Will discuss a potential project or opportunity that exists that might be suitable for your agency.
- They are relatively open about budgets and timing and in some instances will share confidential information with you.
- Honest about their situation. “I am happy with my current agency however keep in touch and follow up with me in 8 months”
On the other hand, you can also indentify a number of clues that may lead you to believe that this is not the type of client you are looking for. Here are some warning clues that you may find useful:
- History of changing agencies as often as their socks. Negative reputation in the industry.
- Difficult to get hold of and elusive about answering questions. Cannot follow a direct line of questioning.
- Do not value the work and are more interested in cost and execution.
- Questions on how you charge for project management or client service etc.
- View agencies as vendors and their services as a commodity.
- View marketing as a necessary evil and may come from a sales background.
- Ask where you are located and then lament the possible travel costs that may be incurred.
- Don’t know what their budget is or alternatively ask you to suggest what you believe the cost/budget should be.
- Tell you that procurement has all the say and that they have no input on the decision.
- Not interested in an ongoing relationship. Just a project or worse still a small part of a project.
- They agree to meet however only want a capabilities presentation. Provide no guidance as to any particular areas of interest.
- Keep telling you how many projects they have planned for next year.
In most instances our proclivity for not wanting to hear bad news combined with our inherent inability to listen, often causes us to chase new business opportunities that are just not there. We could all save ourselves time, money and frustration if we just listened more effectively.