Questions to Ask Before Chasing New Business

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Fall is in the air in New York City.

It's a great time to be here. Cool breezes blow in at night, the summertime stench that is baked into the sidewalk disappears, people head back indoors to gather with friends and the pace of daily life slows down a little bit.
Noelle Weaver
Noelle Weaver
It also means that the first wave of end-of-the-year new business opportunities is starting to hit a lot of us.

This is the time that clients are looking forward to 2007. And that means reaching out to agencies in order to get the executive team to sign off on a new strategy and their new firms on board. More importantly [and I've heard this quite a bit the past week] "So everyone can 'hit the ground running' come January 2nd."

In a recent post, Marc Brownstein hinted at the need for agencies to learn to say "no" in order for the team to stay focused, have energy and a greater belief in what they're selling. I couldn't agree more.

The question is, who do you say "no" to? And which opportunities warrant a "yes?"

Over the years I have compiled a list of what I call the 'golden ten'. They're tweaked here and there depending on the agency and client we're actually talking about, but they pretty much hold true. More importantly, they challenge your agency team to ask the hard questions before they begin to jump at opportunities you may not be qualified for. In no particular order they are:

  1. Does this client / assignment represent an interesting strategic or creative opportunity for the agency?

  2. Does this client / assignment represent an opportunity for our agency to do our best work possible? (and possibly get famous for it?)

  3. Is this client looking for a proactive or reactive agency?

  4. Is the client team someone we want to work with on a daily basis?

  5. Is the client's definition of a successful campaign realistic?

  6. Does this client present a viable revenue opportunity?

  7. Can we fulfill their wish list of deliverables?

  8. Do they have realistic expectations on pitch timing (and the steps involved?)

  9. Is the opportunity a project, long-term or AOR? If project, is this a realistic "foot in the door?"

  10. What value does this client / assignment add to the agency?

  11. Is the process competitive? Who are the other players? What skills / capabilities / relationships do they bring to the table? How does your agency stack up against them?
A pitch can cost time and money on both sides of the fence and it is clearly in the best interests of you and your client to determine if the opportunity is really worth pursuing. I can't tell you how many times, in an effort of transparency and honesty I've told a prospective client that 1.) we don't' have the staff bandwidth to serve them 2.) the timing of the pitch didn't work with regards to other current client production that was happening in the agency 3.) the budget for the type of work that we would do plus the amount of energy we would spend doing it, just wasn't there. More often than not, the client was not only appreciative of the truth, but called us back at some point later with another opportunity.
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