New business consultants Gray Matters have identified what they believe are the top five reasons most agencies fail at new business. They’ve written a guide on how you can start to put in place the right steps to combat them. This is a five-part series that will be released over the next couple of months, which includes:
Part One: Failure to differentiate, stand out and target a specific audience.
Part Two: Thinking just outsourcing will get you results.
Part Three: Lack of patience and consistency.
Part Four: Little knowledge or experience in sales.
Part Five: Failure to demonstrate value.
Part Two: Thinking just outsourcing will get you results.
My views on outsourcing are the same as my views with everything else in my life – the answer is a balance; there’s no right or wrong. But if you run an agency and think you can ever dust your hands of new business, you’re in for a rude awakening and it’s in your interest to change your mindset.
I cannot tell you how many agency bosses I’ve met that have said: “we’ve tried this, and that, nothing works, it’s all crap”. But the reality is, they’re trying to blame everyone else for their failures, rather than stepping up as a leader and taking responsibility for the growth of their business. Leaders lead from the front, unlike the late King Joffrey in Game of Thrones. And leaders also know when to ask for help; you just have to be careful about who you listen to.
Far too often we see agency owners think they can fully outsource new business to an agency or even just delegate to an employee. Many turn their back and expect to see quick results, and when they don’t materialise, they point their finger and go searching for their next potential ‘magic wand-answer’ that is going to deliver all these leads.
Many that haven’t come from a sales background can naively underestimate what it takes to be good at new business and what is involved or simply don’t show enough respect for what an incredibly difficult skill sales are. The sales process for agencies can take 6-18 months to close a deal, so thinking short-term is the worst thing you can do. If you aren’t nurturing a large database of contacts over this period with quality, valuable content, then you won’t have a consistent pipeline.
Remember that no one can sell your business better than you can – they just won’t have the same passion. And in the early days of your business, you will be doing all of the selling but as time progresses you will need to get your new business machine well-oiled so that it is bringing you good quality leads, that you can then convert. However, you can never step away entirely.
Now before you start telling me that you’re incredibly busy service clients and sorting out internal problems that you don’t have time for new business; I am not saying that new business has to solely be reliant on you. The key to creating a new business culture is through being a leader who takes ownership, inspires and shows others the ropes. Thinking sales is “beneath you” will not help. Think about the guys selling for you, are they going to work with the guy fighting in the trenches next to them or the guy in the ivory tower who just waves them out to battle?
Employees have to be motivated and also need focus, which tends to be an issue when it comes to new business! Constant competition can be emotionally draining and therefore finding a way to systemise the way you market yourself, obtain leads and convert can reduce this strain on yourself and the agency. You need to stay on the front foot by delivering against short and long-term metrics that you should set early and obsess about, particularly the short; i.e. what you should be doing daily and weekly. Don’t make the mistake of purely focusing on trailblazing client work, take your eye off the numbers and suddenly you find yourself in a world of cashflow pain.
Depending on the size of the agency, you will have different resources, budgets, and requirements for new business. These will all impact on what you may need to, and can, outsource. I like to think of the new business machine as a production line that needs lots of people contributing but also needs an orchestrator to make everyone work in harmony and keeps them motivated toward one universal vision. Who is this person in your business?
The new business agency or salesperson is just a part of your machine. Without the vision, clear focus, targets, motivation, brand positioning, case studies, thought leadership, marketing platforms, products, pricing tactics, etc., they won’t succeed. And this will be your failure, not theirs. You must ensure all of these things are written down in clearly defined in documents and have been shared with everyone in the business. And don’t change your mind and direction constantly, the key to being renowned is consistency.
So, before you leap for an outsourced solution that isn’t you or you go to point the finger on why it hasn’t worked, maybe it’s time to step back and look in the mirror to find out why it’s really not working. Be honest with yourself and if creating a sales process isn’t your forte, then don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often, by putting in place the processes and giving people the right responsibilities, you can create your new business machine.
Then you can relax, and your primary focus should be inspiring the agency so that when your team comes to work, it is not just for your client’s benefit, they are also there to help grow your business and deliver against your vision. You can focus on writing good content, being PR’able and being wheeled out to big important pitches to close deals.
Have regular new business meetings with the people who contribute most to new business and remain focused on those short-term metrics that you can control such as the number of meetings you are going on, calls and emails being sent out, events you are running, content being distributed, etc. Be pedantic about the numbers as this can be the difference between winning and losing.