Qualifying new business enquiries in your agency

Hopefully your creative or marketing agency machine is firing on all cylinders.

The efforts of your new biz director / partner (if you have one), you and your team (everyone has a part to play) are leading to enquiries.

In fact (and ideally) your profile – your reputation – in the market and your structured inbound marketing endeavours should mean that prospects come to you rather than you chasing the market.

Although there’s still a place for outbound activities.

I’ve seen agencies being proactive to great effect with phone and with mailings. Yep.

So, you hear from a prospect and they may have issued you a brief, a request for information.

At this point hopefully you have a radar in action: spotting which of these opportunities to go for, which to decline.

If you don’t have a qualifying process, time to get one.

Qualifying your leads

Don’t feel flattered and produce proposals or pitches for every prospect who knocks on the door, they may not be right for you.

Don’t (blindly) chase the money.

I spoke to a couple of agencies over the last 2 weeks who had got in pretty deep with prospects – only for it to turn into vapour.

Wasting a lot of their time.

As we know, time is money in agency world.

One of the agencies had gone as far as preparing a strategy, creative and a fully priced-up project plan.

All in a nice slide deck. Lots of work involved.

Only to find that the budget wasn’t there.

Never had been, it turned out.

Ouch.

And when I asked them if the prospect was their kind of business to work with – one of their target buyer personas – the answer was no, not really.

Cue scowly face from me.

Have a process – here are a couple:

So how do you qualify your new business prospects? Your sales leads?

Years ago I was told about the BANT approach to qualifying prospects.

I wasn’t in the new business team (although I worked closely with them) but the new business director at the time used the acronym as a filter.

It’s a sense check, things you should find out asap as the prospect first makes an approach

  • Budget – do you know the budget?
  • Authority – is the person contacting you a decision maker, do they authority to buy the agency’s services? Or if not the decision maker, are they still ‘influential’ in the client business related to using agencies.
  • Need – is there a clear need from them for your services? Is it a driving need?
  • Timeframe – have timescales been talked about?  Is there a defined project or campaign date in mind (or even a timeline to progress to pitch and selection).

Added to BANT, I would have:

  • Is the prospect one of our targeted Buyer Personas? e.g in the sector we serve or looking for the marketing services that we focus on. Can we really help them solve their marketing problem, meet their goals?
  • Does this prospect ‘look like’ one of our GREAT clients (in their approach/culture and financial standing..)
  • If we have met them face to face already but not yet committed to pitching: what’s the chemistry like? e.g do we really think we can work with them above and beyond BANT?
  • How many other agencies are they talking to? And what’s the relationship like with the incumbent?

If you are stretched for time or want to triangulate your thinking, you can go with the 3F approach too:

  • Fortune
  • Fame
  • Fun

So your thinking would be:

“If the budget looks too tight for their ambition (e.g no ‘fortune’) will the project / campaign bring us ‘fame’ ? e.g great PR, maybe an award down the line, a great case study etc.

If not those two and we’re happy to service this at cost, will it be ‘fun’ e,g will our team of creatives, coders, copy writers, animators et al get a buzz out of this, energizing the agency?”

There are other qualification scorecards / lead qualification flowcharts out there but if you don’t consciously qualify leads then start with my list above.

And I know that BANT is maybe old skool now, muddied to degree by automated CRM workflows and sales funnels.

But the human decision making, initial ‘do we go for this’ moment should be driven by a signed up to process not gut feel (or no decision at all).

Here’s a video in which I say much the same but with a red face (too much coffee I think):

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