Was your agency able to win new business from 71% of your first meetings in 2008? How about 60% in 2009? That’s what one small agency in New Jersey accomplished after being on the brink of closing its doors in 2007.
Crisis often creates opportunity, which is what happened for John Cinquino. His agency won zero accounts after 34 first meetings in 2006-07. As he and his team faced the possibility of losing their agency, they decided to things differently.
They made a pact to put the quality of first meetings before quantity. And they vowed to learn how to win.
Here’s what they learned:
- Start with a hard target list that’s focused on specific categories.
- Develop key case studies for each category.
- Hire a strong new business hunter.
- Your new business hunter is responsible to prospect and set up first meetings.
- Your new business hunter also preps the prospect for a “10-minute qualification call”with one of the ad agency’s principals, who will be the only person at the first meeting.
- The agency principal uses the qualification call to identify the prospect’s pain points and needs. When it goes well, this call may last 20-30 minutes (and the prospect will NOT be looking to get off the phone).This call:
- Establishes rapport between principal and prospect.
- Helps the principal understand, “What hurts?”
- Provides specific areas for the agency to research to prep for the first meeting.
John’s recommended questions to ask the prospect:
- What did you do in the last year that didn’t work?
- What issues are you having with your competition?
- What issues are you having with your brand?
The key is that you identify their pain points quickly, and then move on to the next question. You want to get just enough information to be able to connect the dots. This will enable you to do your research on the prospect’s competitors, distributors, and the brand itself prior to the first meeting.
- Conduct meaningful research based on what the agency principal learned on the qualification call. Keep top-of-mind that every prospect wants to know more about:
- Their customers
- Their competitors
- The agency principal goes to the meeting prepared to take charge. Share your research and talk about the prospect’s business. Try not to let them ask about you; when they do, answer briefly and then move on to something else you learned, or ask them another question.
- The agency principal leaves the meeting with very clear next steps. By now you should have a very good idea what the prospect needs. Before you leave the meeting, agree on a date for you to return to present a proposal to solve one or more of their issues three (3) weeks later.
With this approach, Cinquino & Co. closed 71% of their first meetings in 2008 and 60% in 2009. They now have three new business hunters instead of just one…out of a total staff of eighteen people.
John has proven that these nine steps work and is now in rapid-growth mode – and did so right through the recession.