I have had several phone conversations lately with agency owners who have sales pipelines that have dried up. They’re frustrated and scared about business development. I get it. We’ve all been there. But when I asked them about their new business activity, they all admitted that they’d taken their foot off the pedal. Sure — they all had great reasons why they didn’t do the follow-up or initiate the new tactic. You know what I’m going to say because you’ve said it to yourself. There will always be another reason/excuse. There’s always a fire to put out or something to be done internally. You have to carve out the time to work your new business plan and protect it like it’s your favorite kid’s birthday. It’s too easy to slide backward and once you lose the momentum, it’s back to the starting gate. Like exercise, it’s a lot easier if you work the muscle on a regular basis. By the way, this is never going to happen by accident or wishing. If you don’t calendar it out, your day is never going to suddenly free up. This was originally published in the weekly AMI newsletter. To subscribe, click here.
I have had several phone conversations recently with agency owners who have sales pipelines that have dried up. They’re frustrated and scared. I get it. We’ve all been there. But when I asked them about their business development activity, they all admitted that they’d taken their foot off the pedal. Sure — they all had great reasons why they didn’t do the follow-up or initiate the new tactic. You know what I’m going to say because you’ve said it to yourself. There will always be another reason/excuse. There’s always a fire to put out or something to be done internally. You have to carve out the time to work your new business plan and protect it like it’s your favorite kid’s birthday. It’s too easy to slide backward and once you lose the momentum, it’s back to the starting gate. Like exercise, it’s a lot easier if you work the muscle on a regular basis. By the way, this is never going to happen by accident or wishing. If you don’t calendar it out, your day is never going to suddenly free up. In our Best Practices of Agency Owner’s workshop, Running Your Agency for Growth, Profit (and a little sanity!) in March, we’re going to show you some strategies for actually controlling your days so new business happens on a consistent basis. We’re also going to walk you through how to construct a business development plan that is actually sustainable and successful. Be sure to grab a seat if you think it would be helpful! This was originally published in the AMI weekly newsletter. To subscribe, click here.
Given the amount of competition out there, the challenges of landing a new client and the struggles with keeping the clients you have – I totally get the hunger to have the right answers. After all, that’s what they’re paying us for, right? Our expertise. Our years of experience. Our guidance. I want to suggest that while all of that is true – our expertise, experience, and guidance should show up in a different way. It’s not about the answers we provide, it’s about the questions we ask. When we are meeting with a prospective new client, the sentence I love to hear more than any other is “I’ve never been asked that before.” That means I am adding value. I am taking them in a direction they haven’t been before or coming at their issue from a different perspective. And odds are, the closer I am getting to the best answers. Many agency owners are frustrated that they’re the only ones who can do strategy inside their shop. I believe that’s because they’re the only ones who know how to ask questions that go beyond the surface or the expected. If you recognize your shop in that description, it’s time to teach your employees how to ask better questions. It helps if they’re naturally curious. Is their brain wired to wonder? That’s a critical trait when you hire. But if you have some team members who aren’t, then you need to help them exercise that muscle/develop that habit. Here are some tips you can offer as you’re coaching them. Keep it open-ended: Try to keep the conversation going by asking questions that require a longer response than a yes or no. Certain words trigger [...]
Most agencies struggle with sales. Honestly, I think one of the challenges of business development is that many agencies blur the lines between marketing and sales. Many agencies are getting better at marketing. Technology and social media, and all of that make it easier for you to create content or do an e-newsletter, or have a Facebook page. The challenge with that is — it’s not sales, it’s marketing. It feels like you have a new business program when really you have marketing activity. In some ways, the fact that agencies are better at marketing makes some even worse at sales. All of that marketing “stuff” makes them feel as though they can check the box of new business activity. But really that’s just erroneously putting two things in the same box that should be in separate boxes. Many agency owners say to me, “If we can get across the table from someone, we can make the sale.” And what that says to me is: A) they’re probably punching below their weight class because nobody wins all the time. B) they’re waiting for opportunities to present themselves as opposed to going out and creating an opportunity that really is the right kind of client, the right fit, the right industry, and the right size. Take a good look at your business development efforts. Do you really have a sales program or are all of your marketing activities blurring your vision? If you’re waiting for luck and referrals to completely fill your pipeline — is that helping you grow the agency you actually want to build?
Last week, one of my mornings was consumed with podcast recordings and interviews. In some cases, I was the subject matter expert but in most, I was the host, asking questions of other agency- centric subject matter experts. By sheer coincidence every conversation danced around some aspect of business development, retaining clients and creating a culture that had the capacity and passion for chasing opportunities. Interestingly, there was a thread that wove through all of these separate conversations. The theme was consistency and the overarching opinion was that agencies live and die by their habits and by the agency owner’s habits. What we do (or don’t do) on a consistent basis sets our course. That got my wheels spinning and I came up with a little quiz for you to take. Do you have at least 4-5 hours a week blocked off on your calendar for new business sales (not marketing) activity? Do you hold (and not cancel) a weekly new business meeting with your internal team? Do you have a list of no more than 25 “I’d love to have them on our roster” prospects that you proactively touch at least every 6 weeks? Have you defined your agency’s philosophy/point of view so you can differentiate yourself and does every agency employee know, understand and use the same language to describe it? Now, a tangential question. How many new clients that are individually worth at least 15% of your agency’s current AGI have you earned since January? My guess is that there’s a correlation between how you answered the quiz questions and your answer to my tangential question. You and your agency are a product of what you consistently do. Are you reaping the [...]
Hey there — folks have been asking me what tools I use to create our weekly videos, so I thought I would spell it out for you. Here’s the equipment I use. My criteria for anything I am using is that it has to be durable, reasonable small, and lightweight because every week, I am throwing it all into my suitcase and taking it on the road (except for my phone!) And I did not want to spend an arm and a leg. I'm sure you could go higher quality, but this works for me. Camera: My iPhone X Microphone: Shure MV88 iOS digital stereo condenser microphone (plugs into my phone) $149 App for the filming: Shureplus MOTIV video (get in app store) Tripod: Fotopro Phone Travel Tripod $23 (I needed two -- one for the camera & one for light) Lights: Rotolight NEO on-camera LED light $149 15 foot extension cord: Amazon recommended $7 I use an app on my iPhone (Shureplus MOTIV Video -- tied to the microphone) to record the video. For a long time, I was relying on natural light but some of the videos were just too dark so I decided to invest in a light (hence the 2nd tripod and extension cord) box which is about 4 inches square and about an inch and a half thick, so easy to pack. I don't use any sort of teleprompter. Honestly, I don't script these out. I have an idea of the main point I want to make and I just shoot from the hip. Usually, I shoot it a couple times before I'm happy with the flow of the message, but I am rarely shooting for more than 10 minutes. [...]
I totally get it. You’re busy putting out fires, delivering high-level strategy for your clients and trying to mentor and grow your team. Who has time for new business? This is one of those head versus heart things in agency ownership. You know you need to devote more time to new business but somehow something always pushes those best intentions aside. I’m here to tell you — you cannot afford to let your biz dev efforts ebb and flow. The only way it works is if you keep your foot on the pedal every day. MediaPost asked me to talk a little about this issue and how agency owners can overcome the lure of “I’ll do it tomorrow.” As always, I’d welcome your feedback. In January, we had one of the best live workshops we’ve ever had — and it was two days of talking about nothing but new business strategies with two agency search consultants who see agencies at their best and their worst. They were so generous with this knowledge and insights that everyone walked away raving about the content. In fact, it was so awesome that we’re doing it again next January. It’s going to sell out for sure — so if you want to do a deep dive on biz dev, check out the workshop and get your spot before they’re gone. However you fire yourself up and inspire yourself — let 2020 be the year that you finally embrace your role as Chief Prospect Hunter!
Business development is a challenge on many levels. If you don’t have every base covered...being good at all the other aspects may not be enough. Many agencies have not defined their sweet spot client — so they don’t bother chasing after prospects that aren’t a good fit Most agencies don’t have a consistent new business machine that is actively and regularly touching prospects and working a targeted list The lion’s share of agencies have a great win rate with smaller, less profitable clients but struggle to win with “stretch” prospects that could really change their agency and help them elevate their game About 50% of agencies do not have a retention program to actively and intentionally keep and grow their best clients A weakness in any of these areas can really compromise your efforts overall. As you begin to plan for 2020, having a holistic business development plan of attack (with action items, a calendar and most important — regular accountability meetings) may be one of the most important aspects of your vision for the next year. It’s not too early to start working on this. If you’re getting at-bats but not winning or if you’re not getting invited to the pitches/opportunities that you think you should be, we’ve got a great two-day workshop for you. AMI is partnering with the agency search firm Mercer Island Group to help you work all the bugs out of how you chase new business. These guys see proposals, RFP responses and live pitches from agencies big and small. They’re going to give you a sneak peek into the mistakes that you’re making, the missteps of agency positioning and so much more. This is a very hands-on, work ON [...]
I had a great conversation (podcast) with Andrew Dymski, the host of Inbound Agency Journey about how and where agency owners should be investing their time. We talked a little inbound but the lion’s share of the conversation would be relevant for any agency owner. Take a listen here. In the podcast, I talk about how a primary focus for any agency owner should be new business. In fact, about 50% of your time and attention should be devoted to it. How are you doing on that? To make that happen, you need to get out of the weeds of daily client work. You also need a plan of attack. Take a look at our online business course - AMI’s Agency New Business Blueprint. It just might be what you need to help you get out of the weeds. Like all AMI work, if you don’t like it, we’ll give you the money back. Check out the content here and hurry up before 2020 budgets and plans are created and you’re not part of the mix.
With all the buzz about establishing yourself as a thought leader and the long-term value of that effort, many agency owners have written or are thinking about writing a book to demonstrate their expertise. There is assumed esteem that comes from being a published author, whether you self-publish or choose to work with a hybrid or traditional publisher. No matter how your book comes to life unless you’re James Patterson, the promotion of your book is pretty much going to be on you. Odds are you didn’t write the book to make millions of dollars, but instead to use the book to build your position as a thought leader, open up opportunities to speak, or be sought out as an expert by the media. Some agency leaders write a book merely to be used as a three-dimensional business card! No matter what your end game, you have to get your book noticed before you can enjoy the benefits of going through the hard work of writing it. Here are some ideas on how to launch and promote your book. Ideally, you’ll have time to plan for all of this before your book comes out. But many of these tactics can be effective, no matter how long ago your book was first published. Build your audience before you need it: Depending on the subject matter of your book, start creating relationships with potential readers before the book is out. Focus on growing your social reach on the channels that you typically use and where you think your core audience is hanging out. You’re also going to want to build up an email list of people who are interested in your book’s topic. Hopefully, you are already [...]