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You have to be in it to win it

Hunting down new business isn't a process you should stop at the moment. And it really isn't an option for most agencies that are worried about how they're going to keep the lights on in the New Year. As Ardi Kolah reports, agencies need to use this time in the run up to the Christmas Holidays to recalibrate their whole approach to new business

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In the summer, it was likely that a new business campaign would generate some opportunities for an agency  to present its "cred" to potential clients with the view to initiating a dialogue around future PR, marketing and sponsorship budgets.

The reality -- post credit crunch -- is that all agencies must work that much harder to achieve that level of response.

Don't get me wrong. There are opportunities out there. It's just they're tougher to find.

So it's not a time to be carrying passengers. Everyone needs to be looking at targets and making sure they're hitting the numbers.

Agency heads should be looking carefully at those targets and perhaps recalibrating them in line with the current market.

According to David Regler, managing director of new business agency Maine Associates, PR, marketing and sponsorship agencies that take this approach are likely to be making money in 2009.

"One thing all agencies must do is to become much more realistic about their sales pipeline. It's very easy for anyone involved in new business to kid themselves that potential deals are going to happen. It's time to get real" he says.

According to Regler, who himself runs a highly successful telemarketing business, it's in the area of "lead qualification" where most agencies go wrong.

Passing leads through to the Account Director, MD or Agency Head which still need to be developed further simply wastes time and money.

Instead, leads need to be sorted in terms of budgets and timescales irrespective of the size of agency or indeed prospective client.

"In terms of scoring prospects in the pipeline, budgets and timescales are hard measures that will help determine whether these opportunities will happen at the moment or whether you need to work harder on them" says Regler.

And with many PR, marketing and sponsorship budgets currently frozen or pushed back, Regler's advice is worth noting.

The other criteria to look at in terms of leads in the sales pipeline are whether you're dealing with the right level within the prospective client organisation and whether that person has the actual authority to push the "go" button.

If some of these "sales leads" look a bit dodgy from this perspective, it's probably best to seek out the key decision maker within the prospective client organisation or remove the lead altogether from the sales pipeline.

Regler warns: "The critical aspect here is to think about quality over quantity. Going for a high number of poor quality leads will just make you a busy fool and lead you to waste valuable time and money."

Right now, prospective clients will tend to fall into two camps -- those that are interested in cutting costs from their marketing budgets and those that are interested in revenue generation.

Your sales proposition will need to take account of these two different needs and objectives otherwise your new business effort isn't likely to succeed.

Given that margins are tight for everyone in "Agency-land", does it make sense to keep all new business activity in-house or outsource this to a telemarketing or new business agency?

Well, if you're one of those who hate new business and would much rather prefer delivering PR, marketing and sponsorship solutions rather than prospect for new clients, then the telemarketing and new business agency route may be for you.

But a word of warning.

Not all telemarketing or new business agencies are the same!

So how do you tell the difference if you've never used one before?

Regler advises: "You need to check that the people being used within a telemarketing or new business agency have direct experience in outbound telemarketing or new business sales rather than employing graduates fresh out of university who don't have that kind of experience.

"We employ people who have at least 10 years' experience in the relevant PR, marketing and sponsorship sectors -- so we know we can get results for our agency clients.

"The other thing to look for is a reward basis for the telemarketing or new business agency based on getting results."

By this he means actual appointments with the relevant individual within the prospective client organisation.

It may be a good idea to start with a pilot sales or new business programme which should be short enough to get some results and long enough to see whether the telemarketing agency is worth carrying on with.

Ardi Kolah is the Founder of Guru in a Bottle - a new DIY sales and marketing service aimed at B2C and B2B clients that launches in the New Year. He can be contacted on 077100 77941 and ardi@kolah.com.

 

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