The scenario: two agencies in the same niche; both equally capable of producing quality creative. One of them has a great new business close rate and the other has a mediocre close rate. The one with a better close rate is able to be more selective about which clients they choose, is steadily growing their bottom line, and has a less stressful working environment. What’s the difference? Very likely they are much better at qualifying prospects.
Prospect qualification indirectly touches your entire agency business and quality of work life. The better you are at qualifying prospects, the better your close rate will be. And the more freedom your agency will have to reject less desirable clients and choose those that will be more profitable and enjoyable to work with.
How do you get better at qualifying agency prospects?
The first step is knowing who your ideal clients are and positioning your agency to attract them. When your agency’s positioning is clear and you have a sales process in place, you can create a list of questions to eliminate unqualified prospects. Your goal should be to qualify or disqualify prospects as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once you stop wasting resources on opportunities you will never close, you can focus your efforts on the opportunities that are a better match for your agency, and your close rate will increase.
Forget your agency’s presentation. Burn your “sizzle reel.”
When you engage a prospect, take the mindset that you are solving a business challenge for them. Approach your pitch and communications with a prospect-first mentality, instead of overloading them with information about your agency and prior creative. In order to qualify or disqualify a prospect, you need to understand their needs as quickly as possible. So stop talking. Get really good at listening and fine-tune your questioning strategy. Identify the prospect’s challenges and pain points, so that you can provide a business solution that achieves everyone's financial goals.
On average, salespeople talk 70% of the time in a meeting, when the proportion should be reversed. Use questions to get the prospect talking.
Tips for more productive prospect qualification:
TIP: Establish early on whether a prospect is genuinely interested in your services, or just “window shopping” for information to go back and share with their incumbent. Develop an effective questioning strategy to determine their level of interest.
TIP: Ask questions that go below the surface. Prospects will often reveal only the topline issues; you need to dig deeper rather than stopping at what the prospect readily offers you.
Here are some questions to better qualify prospects:
- How long has this been an issue? (TIP: If they say “years,” beware. That’s an indication they are used to “living with it,” and most likely will continue to do nothing.)
- What have you done to address this issue?
- How much have you invested in fixing it? (TIP: This is a great way to introduce the topic of budgets. You need to discuss money early in the conversation, because if the number is not within range of your sweet spot, you may need to disqualify them and move on).
- Have you established a budget for this opportunity? If they say, “No, we are looking for you to tell us how much it will cost,” then you need to give them a range of costs. For example, “Normally something like this would be in the range of x-y. Is this within your thinking?”
- On a scale of one to five, with five being “immediate,” how likely are you to engage with an agency to address this issue?
- Take me through your decision-making process. (TIP: This is a good way to determine if you are speaking with the sole decision-maker, or if there are others. If there are others, then you need to involve them in the process).
Tips to increase agency new business close rates:
TIP: Never send another proposal. Inform prospects that you don’t send proposals; you need to walk them through it. Get a join.me account or some other software that allows you to share your screen. Then you can ask questions and make adjustments for anything that might not be right on target for the opportunity.
TIP: Create equal business stature with the prospect. Too many agencies are just so happy to be in the meeting that they give away their power. Establish from the very beginning that it is a collaborative process, and don’t play a subservient role.
Not all business is good business!
Remember, sales relationships are a two-way street. Your prospects are evaluating your agency, and you should be just as vigilant about evaluating your prospects. If you don’t know what kind of prospects make good clients and don’t weed out those who are a bad fit, you will end up with high-maintenance clients who demand more resources than they are worth. It’s better for your agency, in the long run, to say “no” to a bad-fit client instead of taking on “bad” business that leads to poor working relationships. That takes a toll across your entire agency and can cost more than it generates.
Improve your agency’s prospect qualification to close more “good” business and less “bad” business.
- 7 Steps to Eliminate Unqualified Agency Sales Prospects
- Improve Agency Sales: 4 Ways to Tell a Suspect from a Prospect
- Why is “No” the 2nd Best Word in Sales?
- 6 Practical Reasons Why Your Agency Needs A Sales Process
- Tips to Make the Most of Your Next Prospect Meeting
Learn how your agency can benefit from outsourcing new business support: