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Qualifying Inbound Opportunities

Qualifying Inbound Opportunities

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Hooray! You’ve received an invitation to pitch new business. The client came to you directly. That alone can feel like a win. Before you get ahead of yourself and let the excitement get the better of you, remember that smart agencies qualify all inbound opportunities before they say yes.  

Where to Begin

With every invitation you receive, your new business team (which may be you and you alone) should start with the following steps:

  1. Review the invitation
  2. Conduct your own quick secondary research about the prospect’s business
  3. Compare the opportunity against your own growth and new business objectives (scale, category, location, etc.)
  4. Assemble key unanswered questions for your prospect
  5. Assess the opportunity vis-à-vis your established new business screens

Step number 4 is key. I can’t tell you how many agencies we invite to participate in a search that say yes without asking a single qualifying question. And once you say yes, it is considered bad form to pull out of a search that is underway especially if it could have been avoided by asking the right questions in advance. Clients and search consultants respect an agency that has a qualifying process. It saves everyone time; it also makes your firm look professional and respectful.

Reviewing the Opportunity Per Your New Business Screens

When qualifying the prospect, make sure to ask yourself if and how this opportunity meets your business goals. Examine all aspects of the assignment and the prospect’s business. Possible screens for inbound opportunities include:

  • Length of the Opportunity: Is this a project? If so, how big? Is this an AOR relationship?
  • Culture & Structure: Does the prospect seem easy to work with? Do they have a good reputation?
  • Location: Local? Regional? National? International? Travel expectations?
  • Size & Growth Potential
  • Business Health
  • Strategic Benefit: Is this a new category for your firm? Does the company have a credible name?

Do your homework and dig deep to find out as much as you can.

Additional Considerations & Questions

A few additional items to consider…

  • Fit: Would the prospect be a good cultural fit?
  • Capacity: Can your firm handle the increased workload if you win the business; without impacting existing clients?
  • Current Situation: Can you immediately discern why they are looking at your agency?
  • Business Issues: What are the potential business problems and implications?
  • Solutions: What unique benefits, experience, ideas and solutions can your firm provide?
  • Budget: Has the prospect provided any budget guidance?

Wrapping Up

When it comes to pitching new business, especially participating in a formal RFI or pitch, saying yes to a prospect results in a great deal of work for your team. Dedicating effort and time should require careful consideration. By qualifying every inbound opportunity not only will you save your firm future potential headaches, you’ll reserve your agency’s enthusiasm, hours and hard work for the prospects that are truly worth the effort.

Lindsay O’Neil, a Senior Consultant at Mercer Island Group, has participated in extensive research across all marketing practices including Media, Digital, PR, Advertising, and Social. She has led and participated in numerous agency searches for clients like Envestnet, Zillow, Barre3, TrueCar, Brooks Running and Hitachi Vantara. One of her key strengths as a consultant is her deep understanding of marketing strategy and agency new business development practices.