What to Do Now That the Phone Is Ringing

Feel Free to Get Excited, but Don't Lose Focus

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Karen Albritton
Karen Albritton
The economy must be improving because the new-business calls are picking up. And there are some interesting and even nutty prospects out there. I'm a sucker for them all. I love hearing about ideas and vision. I love the thrill of meeting a new prospect, learning about their business, figuring out how we could solve all their problems and make them wildly successful. If you're like me, here's some advice on what to do now that the phone's ringing again.

Don't be distracted. One telecom industry CEO described it this way, "It's easy for salespeople to get distracted by snacks when what you really need for a healthy business are meals." The same is true for agencies. After a long dry spell without much new business activity, it's tempting to chase any prospect that calls. Don't do it.

Don't chase any prospect that doesn't fit what your agency needs to be successful. At Capstrat, we have a screening questionnaire that is only six questions, starting with budget and ending with whether we have the right experience. We hold each other accountable for asking these tough questions.

"They won't tell us their budget, but we need the business!" I understand. My agency needs business too. We've hired 10 people this year. I wake up every day wondering who is going to hire us. But wasting time on prospective clients that aren't a good match is not going to help anyone sleep better. Spend that energy identifying who you ought to be working for based on your experience and capabilities and then thoughtfully engage those prospects.

No time for thoughtful pursuit? I understand this feeling too. My advice is to start with your current clients. They are your first, best opportunity for growing business this year. Conduct strategy sessions with clients who represent the best prospects for growth. Use these sessions to identify new opportunities. Bring clients ideas and programmatic solutions rather than mere tactics. Many clients who were hunkered down are ready to reemerge and launch new ideas.

Once you've generated additional revenue (and likely referrals) through existing clients, then you can turn your attention outward to a very narrow list of prospects that fit your criteria. This is how you'll control your agency's destiny.

Karen Albritton is president of Capstrat, Raleigh, N.C.
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