Variety is the key to a pitch-winning team

Building a sales team with the right mix of skills is the best way to improve your agency's chances of winning new business.

It would seem that many of us are addicted to the buzz we get from the last-minute rush to complete a new-business pitch. Or maybe we are just a little disorganised? Either way, as with the journalists our industry serves, the deadline is what often gets the creative juices flowing and sets fingers to the keyboard. But the reality is that consistently winning clients takes long-term planning.

Let’s start with the most critical part of the successful new-business pitch: the team. Founder and former CEO of Kaizo, Crispin Manners, is a man who takes the long view. In his opinion, the foundations of successful pitches are laid in the interview room.

When building a team we are often more concerned with a candidate’s fit with existing employees and clients than we are with building the sales skills of that team. Yet we all know that without a regular flow of new business to replace departing clients – which motivates and excites the team, and provides opportunities to raise the profile of the business – an agency will soon start to decline.

So does everyone have to be a hard-nosed new-business getter? No. But it is critical that you have the right mix of acc­ount handlers, presenters and those with the confidence to spot and exploit new-business opportunities. It is rare to find a consultant that is excellent at all three of these activities. So take an objective look at your team’s talents and keep this in mind when recruiting the next team member.

Profiling techniques, such as Thomas International’s DiSC personality test, will give you an indication of an individual’s preferred working styles, while a tool such as the Color Code can give you insights into the personalities of your current team and prospective recruits.

In addition, you need to decide on your preferred approach to new business. I know from the work of my colleague Richard Houghton, in his role as chairman of the PRCA’s New Business Group, that few agencies employ new-business directors and that there is not a defined career path for this role.

Of course, cost is a huge influencing factor in this but every agency can make sure that their approach to winning new clients fits the culture and personality of the agency. Does responsibility sit with one person? How is a team put together? Is new business everyone’s business? Do you outsource lead generation?

I don’t think one size fits all but you do need to play to your strengths and be realistic about your weaknesses. New business is a long-term play because it must be ingrained into the daily, weekly and monthly activities of the agency – not just when time allows. Start planning now, and while you will probably never avoid that last-minute rush, having the right people doing the right jobs in the right way will reap its own rewards.

Theresa Guppy is a senior coach and facilitator, and a partner at Agency People

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