Why agencies need to pitch like pigs

We know we win the pitches we commit to. An intention to win is simply not enough. Pitching should be all or nothing. All in or fold. One pitch at 100% rather than two pitches at 50%. Clients want to know you want their business more than the other competing agencies. Saying it doesn’t cut it. You have to mean it. And that starts with you and your pitch team committing to winning it. Everyone wants to win but what does commitment look like? You may have heard the story before. A pig and a chicken were walking by a church where a gala charity event was taking place. Getting caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution. “Great idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs?” “Not so fast,” said the pig testily. “For you, that’s a contribution. For me, it’s a total commitment.” So pitching is like ham & eggs, chickens are involved but the pigs are committed. That’s why we all need to pitch like pigs One smart agency we know ensures everyone is committed to winning by using a ‘triage’ system. The senior pitch leaders, who…

How to Create Pitch-Winning Stories

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word.  Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”  Emily Dickinson Stories can help us to connect to others at a deep, almost primeval level through the power of their emotional energy.  And stories are the narrative architecture formed by words. Words captivate and influence our emotions; they have stirred nations to triumph and instil hope.  Used carelessly, they cause disappointment or worse still, wreak havoc.  Every relationship we build starts with an interaction, with words.  For us in new business, as in all spheres of our professional life, honing our communications skills, mindful of the extraordinary power of words, is an invaluable talent to nurture.  By being imaginative and playful with words and thus stories, we build our credibility, trust and powers of persuasion.  Facts alone are dry, uninteresting and easily forgettable, but stories we remember. How to create a pitch-winning story. Simply put, a story is about the transformation of a character, the hero, as he or she is tested through the unfolding of a series of challenges and struggles in the endeavour to achieve a particular goal.  The…

Want better answers? Ask better questions

The truth is, most of us are pretty poor at asking questions. We can all do it, of course; we can all ask ‘What’s your name?’ without thinking too much. But once we move up the questioning hierarchy we need to do just that – think. Asking a good question isn’t something we just do and by ‘good’ I mean a question that delivers useful answers. Formulating questions of this kind is a skill that allows us to extract extra value, and therefore learning, during our conversations with clients, teams, mentors, groups – in fact just about everybody. Honing our questioning skills means that we can probe deeper and understand better our prospects’ nuanced thinking and needs. So, how do we ask better questions? The 5 Ws A friend of mine, a journalist at Bloomberg TV, regularly conducts interviews with the global titans of the financial world. When I asked him what he thought made these encounters so successful, even with strait-laced business leaders whom I assumed were pretty tough to crack, he spoke about the importance of doing his prep, of adopting an easy going conversational style (making interviewees feel at ease) and deploying well rehearsed questioning techniques. Chief…

How to Lead and Grow your Clients

The most effective path to growth is through client development. Now more than ever, keeping and growing the clients you have is essential for sustainable growth.  Your agency is at least 5 times more likely to win new business from your existing clients than new clients. And yet, most agencies fail to approach this significant area of potential growth with the same rigour and vigour as a new client opportunity. Moreover, it’s not a choice – given the first 6-12 months of any new client revenue will be offset against the cost of winning it, you will only achieve profitable growth if you can successfully grow your new business wins into established, long-term, growing clients. So given its importance, here are some tips if you want to engage your Client Leaders / Account Directors in growing your Agency’s existing clients:   1 Help them recognise the importance of New Business to the Agency. Tell them if they have any aspirations to lead an agency one day, they will need to be able to grow one! It is definitely in their interest to develop these skills. 2 You need to give your client teams insights into the New Business marketplace so they…

Post Pitch Feedback

Some do it, some don’t, but every Agency should. It can be sensitive to manage and communicate, it can be painful, but post pitch feedback is the medicine that can help an Agency heal following the emotional pain of discovering that you have lost a pitch. In short, it can make you better. And isn’t that what we all want, to improve our performance both as individuals and as a team? After all, pitching presents us with a unique opportunity to showcase just what we’ve got – our thinking, our powers of persuasion, our creativity, our ability to connect at a deep emotional and intellectual level with the client.  Pitching allows us to grow professionally, and demonstrate that we can win. Win a lot – and certainly far more often than we lose. If we don’t have the driving ambition to win, well maybe we’re in the wrong job. Pitching devours resource, time and money, so when we lose, we need to recoup some of that loss if not in financial terms, in some other less immediately tangible way. That way has to be by applying the lessons we’ve learnt from our losing experience when we next enter the fray.…

The Law of Reciprocity

In Robert Cialdini’s highly acclaimed best seller, “Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion”, he identifies reciprocity as one of six principles for getting others to say “yes”.  And getting others to say “yes” is a pivotal new business skill. Stephen Covey describes the Law Of Reciprocity in his book “The Seven Habits Of Highly Successful People” and likens it to an “Emotional Bank Account”.   It is just that.  As humans, hardwired within us at a deep emotional level, is the idea that one good act deserves another.  It can be described as a value exchange, and as such comes with the expectation that something of value will be given in return. Reciprocity is a powerful new business tool, and now more than ever.  Not only does it yield results, it’s actually rather a pleasant way to do business. Let’s take networking, which you may be born to or which may instead fill you with dread.  If you feel that the sole objective of entering a room largely comprised of strangers, is to exit with a client brief as demanded by your agency chief, you’re hardly going to enjoy the situation and are most likely to be met with disappointment. Look at…

Gain an Advantage in New Business

We all know that New Business and Marketing is a tough job. The role has expanded exponentially over the past few years, competition is fierce, clients and procurement teams have become more demanding. And the result is ever-increasing pressure on resource and time. So where do you start and how do you deploy your time, resource and energy? How do you position your agency to win more business, more often? The answer is to gain clarity around your goals and apply a strategic framework that allows you to create the right kind of valuable pipeline opportunities. Needless to say, it’s a road well travelled by the most successful new business winning agencies. So here’s the outline approach: Start with the Agency Business Plan Work together with senior management on the detail of the agency business plan. Their growth targets and strategy (including new services, products, skills and expertise) will define yours. Make sure to agree your new business and marketing budget for the year. Work alongside agency management It’s important that you update senior management throughout the year (they’ll be coming to you, so don’t worry, it’ll happen). Signal any areas that will require investment (both financial and importantly, their…

The Pitch Holy Trinity

Pitch PerfectHow to be a pitch-winning leader The holy trinityPerfect timing. I’ve recently emerged from a roller coaster pitch ride, ready to impart a snapshot of my learning. As a seasoned pitch veteran, what my experience has taught me is this: there is a holy trinity of successful pitch skills, namely leadership, talent and process. Along the way, I’ve found that some things remain the same, yet each client, brand and agency team presents a series of unique and exciting challenges. The holy trinity is, however, a constant. ProcessWhat remains the same? To a large degree, this is the process itself. We’re talking about nailing the schedule of events, the all-important ‘to-do’ list. It ranges from knowing and analysing the brief well enough to recite it in your sleep, to timetabling deadlines for all the deliverables- and sticking to them. For some, this is a learning curve, but once you’ve successfully navigated the curve, next time up, the journey should be smoother. TalentTalent – intellectual and creative, is embedded in an agency’s DNA. The fine art of pitching demands that this collective talent is applied to what is often a business issue not encountered before, and that insights are gleaned…

How to Build an Agency Client Referral Culture

How to ask for internal and external referrals from clients. 1. Why Client Referrals Asking for client referrals is one the easiest and most powerful ways to get in front of new business prospects – an effective and proven strategy for helping to build new business pipelines. The problem is, many agencies don’t exploit this opportunity or if they do, it lacks consistency. Therefore, the benefits are not fully realised. And the benefits are numerous – if everybody was to offer up say 2 potential contacts, these are potential easy wins. 2. Who to ask Who in the agency should you be asking for help in identifying clients that could make referrals? You should definitely be asking the senior management, client services and those who are generally well networked, but the truth is that everyone has potential connections that could be of value – either directly or indirectly.  3. Mindsets Overcoming negative mindsets is the key to success. These negative mindsets hold people back, and include: – It’s not my job – Fear of opening up a conversation with clients who may then turn the spotlight on the agency’s (poor) performance – It looks desperate, like I’m being a salesperson – It…

So you walk into a room full of strangers. What next?

It seems to me that you’re either born to network or you have to work at it – for many of us it’s the latter. There’s nothing particularly exciting or easy about walking into a crowded room full of strangers, with sole intent of striking up a conversation, keeping it flowing and leaving it at the right moment. But, as we all know, relationships drive business and New Business Directors need to thrive in a networking environment. Knowing how to build a network of valuable contacts is pretty essential to the job. So here are some tips on how to approach it, make the most of it, and even enjoy it. What is successful networking? For us in new business, it’s largely about developing professional relationships which could ultimately lead to referrals and new business opportunities. But shift the perspective a little and there is arguably a more enjoyable and valuable way to meet and nurture your connections. Fulfilling your role as an integral part of a network has one central goal: helping others in the room. The mantra playing in your head could usefully be expressed as “How can I help you?” with little regard for your personal agenda.…

Listen Without Prejudice

Easy to say, hard to do. Good listening requires us to put aside our prejudices and preconceptions until we have collected all the information we need to respond. But in the background, our inner voice speaks to us and demands that we respond in various guises, be it the ‘expert’, (I need to say something very clever right now), the ‘competitor’, (I need to show that I am ‘better, smarter’), the ‘judge’ (judging not only the other person, but ourselves), or the ‘dreamer’ (spinning far out of orbit with ideas). All of this stops us from listening.  Listening is a multi-sensory activity, not restricted to sounds and language but embracing body language and silence too. The key here is the ability to play in the space between listening and responding to what you hear. Learning to control or master these instincts and motivations is so very hard to do. But if you achieve it, if you improve your listening skills, the benefits are substantial. Not least in your interactions with new business prospects, clients, and colleagues. Great leaders have many outstanding qualities and one of these is undoubtedly being a good listener. Interested in learning more about listening better? Then…

WHY WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT PROSPECTING

It’s the issue that weighs heavily on the mind of everyone working in new business – how to ensure that you’re able to deliver a continuous flow of new business opportunities.   The health of your new business pipeline is paramount, and knowing how to create, fill and manage a pipeline is arguably the New Business Director’s most valuable skill. Which is why we need to talk about prospecting. Given the pressure on delivering new business revenue targets, agencies often direct much of their effort on short-term tactical opportunities, for instance taking advantage of those key events that trigger account reviews: client moves and new marketing appointments, changing brand/market dynamics, M&As, statutory reviews and so on. In order to succeed, agencies need to work hard to ensure that they’re well positioned and ready to compete. The problem is, too much focus on today could leave your agency exposed in the future. The pipeline may run dry. You need a new business insurance policy that safeguards your pipeline longer term. To achieve this, it’s important to take a broader view, and plan your prospecting strategies to deliver for the short, medium and long-term, mindful of the 70/20/10 rule (respectively) designed to…

A different way to sell to your clients

Sales. What a dirty word.  No one likes to be thought of as a salesman, yet “selling”: the persuading-the-client-to-hire-us-rather-than-our-competitor (who is probably equally talented) is what we all have to do, in the constant battle between our wits and the client’s money, in order to thrive and grow. Only if you try to adopt the honed tactics of, say, car salesmen, you will fail, because what they are selling and consequently how they have to sell it, is sufficiently different from our services to mean that an entirely different approach is needed. Fortunately, if you sell your services properly, it doesn’t feel like “selling” at all – to you or to your client. Where there are similarities between us and our automotive friends however, is that clients are becoming increasingly demanding, technology is changing the shape of the market constantly, and competition is hotting up. So if you want to be one of life’s winners in this commercial world, you had better master the right sales approach, quickly. The starting point is to really, truly understand what makes clients buy and what turns them away. Whilst theoretically this is something agencies understand better than almost anyone else, in practice too…
The truth is, most of us are pretty poor at asking questions. We can all do it, of course; we can all ask ‘What’s your name?’ without thinking too much. But once we move up the questioning hierarchy we need to do just that – think. Asking a good question isn’t something we just do and by ‘good’ I mean a question that delivers useful answers. Formulating questions of this kind is a skill that allows us to extract extra value, and therefore learning, during our conversations with clients, teams, mentors, groups – in fact just about everybody. For those of us in new business, honing our questioning skills means that we can probe deeper and understand better our prospects’ nuanced thinking and needs. So, how do we ask better questions? The 5 Ws A friend of mine, a journalist at Bloomberg TV, regularly conducts interviews with the global titans of the financial world. When I asked him what he thought made these encounters so successful, even with strait-laced business leaders whom I assumed were pretty tough to crack, he spoke about the importance of doing his prep, of adopting an easy going conversational style (making interviewees feel at ease)…

Writing a New Business Plan Made Easy

We all know that New Business and Marketing is a tough job. The role has expanded exponentially over the past few years, competition is fierce, clients and procurement teams have become more demanding. And the result is ever-increasing pressure on resource and time. So where do you start and how do you deploy your time, resource and energy? How do you position your agency to win more business, more often?The answer is to gain clarity around your goals and apply a strategic framework that allows you to create the right kind of valuable pipeline opportunities. Needless to say, it’s a road well travelled by the most successful new business winning agencies. So here’s the outline approach: Start with the Agency Business PlanWork together with senior management on the detail of the agency business plan. Their growth targets and strategy (including new services, products, skills and expertise) will define yours. Make sure to agree your new business and marketing budget for the year.Work alongside agency managementIt’s important that you update senior management throughout the year (they’ll be coming to you, so don’t worry, it’ll happen). Signal any areas that will require investment (both financial and importantly, their time). Audit your new…

How To Grow Your Existing Clients

Your agency is at least 5 times more likely to win new business from your existing clients than new clients.  And yet, most agencies fail to approach this significant area of potential growth with the same rigour and vigour as a new client opportunity. Moreover, it’s not a choice – given the first 6-12 months of any new client revenue will be offset against the cost of winning it, you will only achieve profitable growth if you can successfully grow your new business wins into established, long-term, growing clients. So given its importance, here are some tips for New Business people who want to engage their Client Leaders /Account Directors in growing their Agency’s existing clients: 1. Help them recognise the importance of New Business to the Agency. Tell them if they have any aspirations to lead an agency one day, they will need to be able to grow one! It is definitely in their interest to develop these skills. 2. You need to give your client teams insights into the New Business market place so they understand what the Agency is up against 3. It’s important to share your New Business plan with the agency and to make clear…

HOW TO SUCCEED AT THE ‘MOST DANGEROUS JOB AT AN AGENCY’

An article published in Adweek was headlined ‘What’s the Most Dangerous Job at an Agency?’ This question of course piqued my interest. So, fingers on buzzers. Let’s have your answer. The most dangerous job at an agency is … New Business Director. So it’s simultaneously the most dangerous job whilst arguably one of the most valuable. After all, the successful growth of the agency is largely dependent on the ability of the New Business Director to win new business. Why is it dangerous? Partly attributable to the nature of the role which is nothing if not accountable. Sometimes due to lack of clarity around the scope of the work and responsibilities.  For some it seems that the bar is set unrealistically high by senior management and failing to live up to expectations means that ‘life expectancy’ can be short. Managing multiple demands was always part of the job spec – from generating, qualifying and nurturing leads to managing the pitch process; owning RFI/RFPs to creating agency collateral; capitalizing on and creating PR opportunities to managing prospect meetings– as the universe expands, so does the remit of new business – and there’s more. Rapid advances in technology have witnessed a re-engineering…

Growing Pains – Getting your agency through the adolescent years

Article on Marketing Communication News – Published on January 4th, 2018  The early years for any agency are tough. Everyone knows that. However, what is less recognised is that the really hard times often come when an agency has broken through to the medium-sized point. JFDI’s 2017 New Business Barometer survey of nearly 100 agencies highlighted this issue: once you reach the 50 to 150 people stage, life does not suddenly become much easier. In reality these “adolescent” years are often even tougher than the childhood days. Get through it – keep on growing – and you can come out the other side as a large agency. Here, you benefit from efficiencies of scale, an established reputation, bigger marketing budgets, and life does often become easier. So, the question is how to make it through that tough phase of between 50 to 150 people. What should those agencies be doing to make it more likely they emerge successfully to the other side, and what should the smaller agencies be preparing to do so that their adolescent years are as trouble-free as possible? The Problems of Youth The challenges small agencies face are well known, but no less real for that. For…

TAKE PART IN OUR NEW BUSINESS SURVEY

We’d like to ask for a few minutes of your time to take part in our survey: The 2017 New Business Barometer. Our partner, Opinium Research, is conducting the survey on our behalf. The Barometer’s been created as a valuable benchmarking tool for everyone working in new business, with the aim of providing insights and trends into new business resourcing, performance (including number of pitches undertaken during the year and conversion rates), remuneration incentives and challenges to winning new business both now and in the future. Your chance to gain complimentary access to one of our webinars: ‘How To Win Your Dream Client’ or ‘Post Pitch Feedback’. We appreciate how busy you are and have kept the survey short. We’ll be sharing the results with you later on this year. Once you’ve completed the survey please email phoebe@jfdi.uk.com with your choice of webinar and she’ll send you the link. To take part, please click here Many thanks in advance for your co-operation, The JFDI team  

HOW TO LOVE THE WORD AND WIN NEW BUSINESS: JOIN OUR TWO PART WEBINAR ON 15TH AND 22ND JUNE

Sales. What a dirty word.  No one likes to be thought of as a salesman, yet “selling”: the persuading-the-client-to-hire-us-rather-than-our-competitor (who is probably equally talented) is what we all have to do, in the constant battle between our wits and the client’s money, in order to thrive and grow. Only if you try to adopt the honed tactics of, say, car salesmen, you will fail, because what they are selling and consequently how they have to sell it, is sufficiently different from our services to mean that an entirely different approach is needed. Fortunately, if you sell your services properly, it doesn’t feel like “selling” at all – to you or to your client. Where there are similarities between us and our automotive friends however, is that clients are becoming increasingly demanding, technology is changing the shape of the market constantly, and competition is hotting up. So if you want to be one of life’s winners in this commercial world, you had better master the right sales approach, quickly. The starting point is to really, truly understand what makes clients buy and what turns them away. Whilst theoretically this is something agencies understand better than almost anyone else, in practice too…