Working in an agency new business role can be a lonely game. Often it feels as if no one truly understands the challenges you face or what you really do all day. But new business needn’t, and shouldn’t, be such a lonely role. The most successful agencies and new business people understand how to encourage the wider agency team to hop on board the new business bus and journey with them in search of fun, fame and fortune.
Any agency, small or large, can have this agency-wide approach to new business. It’s simply about leveraging more effectively what you already have around you – your people. Empowering everyone in the agency in the right way, from the receptionist up to the CEO, can really help your agency stand out from the crowd.
But how can you ensure everyone’s engaged with new business and that it isn’t just down to the new business function or senior team to identify and convert new business opportunities?
I believe there are ‘4 Ps’ that form the building blocks of a strong new business culture: Proposition, Plan, People and Performance.
Nailing your agency proposition is fundamental to a strong new business culture. Get it right and everything else will fall naturally and easily from that. Try to focus on the WHY, not the what. Why does your agency do what it does? It’s the WHY that clients buy and that agency staff buy into, not the what.
Clearly communicate your agency proposition to all agency staff. Make sure every person in the agency from the receptionist upwards truly understands and believes your proposition. A strong agency proposition helps to create standout, but when backed up with a real belief from agency staff, even greater standout can be achieved.
Aim to be a unified team with a unified message, with every member of staff talking about the agency in a consistent manner at all times – when chatting to prospects, clients, suppliers, friends, on social media etc.
As Antoine de Saint Exupery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”.
So often agencies forge ahead with new business with no clear goals and no plan in place. Creating and sharing a solid new business and marketing plan is crucial for cultivating a strong new business culture. You’re far more likely to encourage the wider agency team to hop on board that new business bus if they understand what it is they’re working towards. The whole agency needs to be aware of and buy into your plan. Transparency and clear communication of your goals, financial and otherwise, is key. Share the short, medium and long-term strategies you want to adopt for filling your pipeline and be clear about which elements the wider agency team can get involved with. Organic growth, agency contacts, client referrals, client alumni and agency marketing are all areas to which everyone can contribute.
We’ve already established the importance of transparency and the need to regularly update all agency staff on new business and marketing goals. But there are other initiatives that can help foster a strong new business culture and tap into people’s passions. Why not introduce quarterly ‘competitions’ or new business challenges? Pick a prospect, get into teams, give each team a one line brief and ask them to present their response to the whole agency. Pitch the best ideas to your prospect and reward the winning team accordingly. The reward needn’t be huge – lunch on the agency or an agreed bar tab will suffice.
Don’t be tempted to think that introducing a financial new business incentive will automatically improve your new business culture. Financial incentives can encourage the wrong type of selling behaviour and drive selling just for the sake of it, simply to get the cash. A profit share for the whole agency can work better – winning a pitch is a team effort after all and never down to just one person.
The way we present ourselves can hugely influence people’s impressions of us, both as individuals and as an agency overall. It’s so important to train all agency staff to perform well in new business meetings and to present with genuine enthusiasm, energy and passion. Tap into people’s passions and use these to your agency’s advantage. Make sure that everyone understands that what a client notices most in a first meeting is body language, attitude (energy, confidence, passion) and expertise. Content is the last thing they notice. Encourage everyone in the agency to spend time perfecting their body language and presentation skills rather than spending hours getting hung up on the content and what they’re saying. For maximum impact, make sure everyone feels empowered and equipped with the right skills to present the agency in the best possible light, all with genuine passion and enthusiasm.
Nail each of these 4 Ps and new business should no longer feel such a lonely game. You’ll find you have plenty of passengers journeying with you on that new business bus in search of fun, fame and fortune… and you’ll find yourself a step closer to mastering the art of a strong new business culture.