A practical guide for agencies and other professional services firms

Have a targeted list of prospects

While there is no magic number, 20 seems to work for most people.

Know why each company is on your list and be able to articulate this in your “elevator pitch”. Don’t have an elevator pitch? Check out this article from Fast Company.*

The most important thing is to be able to state in a short, sweet, and precise manner, the value you add and the problem you solve for the potential customer.

Have a quota – for example, decide you’ll make 3-5 calls per day. As it turns out the best time to call is between 8:30 – 10:00 am in the morning and between 5:00 – 6:30 in the evening. Most people are “in meetings” for the balance of their day. When you call, emphasize that the person you are targeting can reach you “anytime” and mean it.

Point of entry

With direct marketing, it was easy the person in charge of direct marketing, direct response, relationship marketing, customer marketing, or upgrades

Ask for the VP of Marketing, but expect to end up talking to his or her assistant. Chat with the assistant to learn the person in charge of the function that is a key decision maker for your product or service e.g. direction marketing, promotions, packaging, collateral, annual reports, field marketing, etc.

Spend the majority of your time asking question and listening to the answers. When you are talking you aren’t selling.

The first contact can be made using email. Make your email short and to the point. Follow up with a phone call. Target your call for 2 days after you send the email. Script the call, particularly the questions you will ask.

Ask for the “sale”

The single biggest mistake people make in new business development is forgetting to ask for the sale. Usually the issue isn’t so much one of memory but of fear. Doing new business means you have to be willing to face rejection. Make it easy on yourself and your prospect. Close for a meeting not for a sale. You’ll find this is more difficult than it sounds. Schedule the meeting at a time that is mutually convenient for both you and your prospect to spend quality time together. If you know you are crazed with other things, push the meeting out a bit, to allow you time to get ready. About 1-2 days before the agreed upon meeting time, call your prospect to confirm that the meeting is still on and send an email as an additional form of confirmation.

Initial Meeting

The initial meeting is generally called a capabilities meeting. Here you introduce yourself, your firm, and what services and solutions you typically provide your clients. Come prepared with a point-of-view about the prospect’s business and the problems they are facing and how your firm can help solve them. Remember to make this a two-way dialogue, where you spend a little bit of time talking about your firm with the majority of time listening to your prospect and learning about their particular challenges. With your case studies, focus on the results that you delivered to the client. Make sure you leave the meeting with a good idea as to who is the decision maker and your next steps. Often times, this is phrased as a presumptive close like so:

  • “So what I hear you saying is that we might be a good fit for Project X which is under budget review with a decision expected Monday. Do you want me to call you Tuesday a.m. to see if it’s a go/no go. The next steps from our perspective — after you have a budget in hand — would be get briefed in detail, set up a schedule….”

Follow Up

Even if the answer you get back is “no”, we awarded the business just not to you, you should follow up. First, the firm that won the business might not work out. Second, if you are diligent about doing so, you will learn valuable information about where your capabilities, team, or approach were lacking. Information you can use “next time” to refine the new business development process. New business development is a process not an event, so look to keep activity going in periods when you are “slow” as well as when you are at your busiest.

At both Firewhite and Miller/Kadanoff, we defined success as an inbound phone call, when someone calls us seeking out our unique skills and capabilities. This doesn’t happen immediately. You have to build your reputation in the market place. Here are some ways to maximize your visibility in the market place:

Positioning

Top of mind awareness starts with meaningful positioning. By meaningful, we mean positioning that expresses what makes you different/unique in the market place. Your positioning should answer the question: “The reason I hired BLANK is because ______________”. Good positioning should be something you can put on the back of your business card – with space to spare!

Awareness

Here are some tried-and-true techniques for increasing the visibility of your professional services firm:

  • Speaking opportunities
  • Lurking/posting user groups
  • Events
  • Contributed articles
  • Ongoing PR campaign
  • Quarterly mailings

Pitch materials

Guidelines for preparing the materials you’ll leave with a prospect as part of the pitch:

  • Benefits not features
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Model your methodology visually
  • All of your cases should showcase your methodology + results
  • Make sure your cases are relevant to the category you are pitching … clients find it difficult to generalize from category to category

Marquee accounts

If there is an account you must have, go after it like with a full blown campaign. This can include doing unique creative e.g. a mailing campaign that is made up of 4 separate mailings designed to get noticed within that account.

Giveaways

Are they necessary – no. Do many firms use them – yes.

  • Giveaway/leave behind should showcase your creativity but not at the expense of timing
  • Keep it under $25
  • Books work — if they are relevant to your target
  • Personalization also works, but only if it is done well. The trade off here is that personalized items may not have passalong value, so be sure you are reaching the right decision maker. Consider customizing for the company not the person.
  • Protypical budgets/schedules are something clients will ask for a lot
  • Ditto for case studies
  • Consider putting up in a closed section of your website
  • Track usage statistics to understand how long prospects spend here
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