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Getting help for your agency business development efforts

Many agency owners feel that they struggle to find the time needed to work on business development to grow their businesses.

In this episode of the Small Agency Talk Show, Jody Sutter of The Sutter Company and Chip Griffin of SAGA discuss how to make effective use of your internal team as well as external resources to improve your ability to invest in sustainable growth.

Jody also shares a quiz for agency owners that helps them understand better the kind of business development activities that they should consider to maximize effectiveness and improve the return on their investment of time and money.

Chip and Jody offer up some practical tips, as well as some cautions about how mistakes that they commonly see agency owners make when they try to ramp up business development activity.


Jody’s quiz: https://jody435371.typeform.com/to/BKe8mkYd

Key takeaways

Jody Sutter: “For an agency between five and 55 people, the owner or CEO or partnership, they’re the best business development resource that agency has. Not necessarily the only one, but it’s got to start there.”

Chip Griffin: “Too many owners say, I don’t want to waste my team’s time on this. I want them to focus on the execution and I’ll be out there being the rainmaker, but that’s a horrendous mistake if you shoulder all that burden yourself.”

Jody Sutter: “It’s easy to blame the lead generator. Often when I hear agencies say, I tried that it didn’t work. I say, well, did you give that lead generator good information to work with? Did you give them a clear strategic positioning? Did you give them great case studies? Did you give them a series of messages that are compelling to your audience and often they go, maybe not as much as I could have.”

Chip Griffin: “Your business development program doesn’t need to be getting 50 leads a month. You couldn’t handle it if that was the case. You need to be getting quality and you need to be focused on getting your actual ideal clients. And if you can’t define those things, you’re not going to be able to work with any outside firm to generate those.”

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Small Agency Talk Show. I’m your host Chip Griffin, the founder of SAGA, the Small Agency Growth Alliance. And I am delighted to have with me a regular panelist and good friend, Jody Sutter from the Sutter Company. Welcome to the show.

Jody Sutter: Thank you. It’s always nice to be here.

Chip Griffin: It is always great to have you here. It is a great way to start to wind down the week to be able to have these conversations with smart, interesting folks like you. And today, we’re going to be talking about some topics that are of particular interest to many agency owners. I know, and that is business development, which is of course your particular specialty, but we’re going to be talking very much about how you can get help in executing your business development plans or even developing them. So we’ll talk about that in a minute, but before we do, why don’t you share a little bit about yourself for someone who may not have seen you on the show?

Jody Sutter: Yeah. So I am a career business development expert, working with agencies, design agencies, creative services firms.

I started my own business about eight years ago, the Sutter Company, it’s evolved over time, but now my focus is on working with the owners of small agencies who find themselves struggling when it comes to winning new business and want to control their business development destiny. So I help them with the strategy and I also help them operationalize that strategy so that they have a long-term sustainable approach to winning new business.

Chip Griffin: And of course they can find out more about you at thesuttercompany.com and you’ve got lots of great resources there and we’ll be sharing for those of you watching after the fact, we’ll be sharing a link in the show notes to a particular resource that we’ll talk about a little bit later. It will help you as, as you continue on your journey as an agency leader of doing business development.

So, that’s a little bit of a tease, so you’ll have to stay tuned to the conversation over the next 30 minutes or so. So, okay. So business development, it’s something that a lot of agency owners, uh, feel like they’re not spending enough time on either because they don’t have enough time or maybe because they don’t particularly enjoy doing it.

They’re not sure where to get started. And so a lot of times they will come to me and say, you know, can I, can I just hire someone to do this? How do I get help? I just, I’m struggling. And so we’re going to talk about some different ways that you can use both your existing team to help you as well as some external resources that you might consider tapping into depending on where you are in your growth cycle.

Jody Sutter: Yeah, absolutely. Yes. It’s, you know, My point of view, and it informs my approach and agency owners might not love hearing this, but my point of view is that for an agency of a certain size, say between five and 55 people that in general, the owner or CEO or partnership, they’re the best business development resource that agency has. Not necessarily the only one, but it’s got to start there.

It’s got to start from a strategy that is initiated by them. And, and which is why it’s so important that they are involved, but you also point out the reality is that they’ve got a thousand other things that they’ve got to do.

Chip Griffin: Yeah. And I think it’s, it’s one of those things where you can’t take yourself out of it entirely, but you also shouldn’t shoulder the entire burden yourself.

Even if you’ve only got a team of two or three people, you still need to be involving that team in the process in some fashion, maybe they’re not sitting in the actual meetings if you’re that small, but you need to be having conversations with them, thinking about the strategies that you’re undertaking for growing the business, talking to them about the proposals before you put them together, talking to them most importantly about the pricing before you put it together, because you need to make sure that whatever you’re promising, they can actually execute absolutely essential part of business development.

And too many owners say, I don’t want to waste my team’s time on this. I want them to focus on the execution and I’ll be out there being the Rainmaker, but that’s, that’s a horrendous mistake. If you shoulder all that burden yourself.

Jody Sutter: Yeah, I think you’re right. Especially if you’re bringing back work that the team can’t execute properly or profitably.

Chip Griffin: Profitably is even the most important part. Right? Cause usually they can, you know, most agency owners can sort of figure out what their capabilities are. They do overpromise from time to time, in order to win a project. But more often, it’s just that they’re, they’re saying, you know, I could do this in two hours and their team member actually takes four hours.

Now, all of a sudden you’ve got a huge profit hole that you’ve created because you didn’t talk to them before you submitted the proposal.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. Or the owner gets stuck saying, you know what, I’ll just do this myself, or I’ll lead this myself. And they can. But they’re taking – they’re siphoning time away from doing business development.

Chip Griffin: Exactly. Well, not only that, but they’re also the highest paid hopefully and scarcest resource. From a labor standpoint that the agency has. So why would you do that? It makes absolutely no sense. And so you need to make sure that you’re fully integrating your team, whether you’re 5 25, 50 employees, it doesn’t matter.

It needs to be a team effort, but it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn elsewhere for some guidance or for some, even some arms and legs, in some cases, depending upon what your business model is.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of times what I’ll do with one of the things you were talking about before this call is one of the first things I’ll do is I’ll say, okay, knowing that the top leadership has to be involved, but involved in a smart way.

What the first thing I do is say, let’s alleviate you of this preconception, that there are certain things that you must do. And sort of the obvious example I use to illustrate that is, um, is outreach. Cold or warm outreach, which some people actually love and are successful with. Most agency owners do not love.

And so intellectually they know I’ve got to do this and yet they avoid it. And so business development doesn’t get done. So when I sort of had this epiphany about this, I thought, you know, these agency owners aren’t doing the things that I keep telling them to do. I thought, okay, you know what, I’m approaching this the wrong way.

So I developed these four new business profiles and only one of them is really good at outreach. The other three are much better at generating content. At one-on-one interpersonal relationships at, like that sheer PR promotional activity, they’re like, they’re really strong on social media, but they’re not actually not that great with, with one-on-one conversations.

And so I think you’re going to share this later, I actually have a quiz that people can take and they can determine what their new business personality is and the right approach for them. So what I’ll often say to my clients is like, okay, let’s figure out what your strength is and the strength of your team and the strengths of your team are.

And often we’ll do a one to three-year plan. So year one, again, bad news is year one is you’re developing this probably you will be doing a lot of it or your existing team. And as you gain momentum and see some success, then you can start hiring more experts or outsourcing to experts, but you’re still focused on that general approach, whether it’s an outreach approach, a PR approach, a, you know, content generation, whether that’s podcasting or speaking, but it’s the type of approach that feels right to you that will still generate leads.

Chip Griffin: And I, I love that you say that, and the quiz will be something that we’ll include in the show notes so that you can go take that yourself and learn from it. Um, if you’re listening live, you know, just stay tuned. We’ll, we’ll have it posted shortly after the show. If you are watching on a replay, obviously it’s already there.

And so you can just click over and get it. But what I, I love that you are talking about leaning into your strengths, and I think that that’s one of the biggest mistakes that I see agency leaders make is that they’ve, they’ve watched a video read a blog post, you know, or a book that says this. These are the three steps you need to take to doing business development.

And that’s based entirely on what that expert believes works, which is fine. It’s, it’s something that works, but it’s very difficult if it’s something that you’re not comfortable with. As the actual agency, owner, or leader, you need to lean into your strengths, do the things that you are most comfortable with because you’re more likely to do them.

If you hate making cold calls saying to yourself, well, some experts said, I need to make 10 cold calls a day and that’s how I’ll grow. You’re just, you’re not going to do it. Or if you’re going to do it, you’re not going to do it well. So figure out what it is that, that you’re best at that you enjoy doing and do more of that.

And I guarantee you, you will generate enough business for your agency to get where you want to be.

Jody Sutter: You know, sometimes I also find that, and one of the things I say is that the, the agency owner who contacts me and says, I just need more leads in my pipeline. That’s a signal to me that they’re actually not the right type of client for me, because sometimes they find that those that need also masks a greater need, which is often around positioning, differentiation, identifying the right target and speaking directly to them.

Um, which has also I’m know I’m skipping around a little bit, but I think a big thing that maybe agency owners are thinking is like, okay, can I, do I have permission by experts like Jody and Chip to go hire that lead generator, uh, that cash cow like golden goose and, um, You’ll find is that often those agencies will be disappointed after an expensive six or 12 month contract.

And it’s easy to blame the lead generator. And I bet Lee McKnight, who has been on this conversation on this program before will say, yep, I get those. But often when I hear agencies say like, well, I tried that it didn’t work. I say, well, were you, did you give that lead generator good information to work with?

Did you give her a clear strategic positioning? Did you give them great case studies? Did you give them a series of messages that are compelling to your audience and often they go, maybe not as much as I could have.

Chip Griffin: Well, and what I usually tell folks is before you turn to, to an outside lead generation firm or, or anyone like that, to help you out, you need to figure out what works already.

And so you need to work to develop a program that, that they’re really just helping you scale. They’re not, they’re not creating it from whole cloth. And so, you know, if you just say, Hey, I just, I just need leads. First of all, you’re probably not correct. Right? The vast majority of agencies, really, of any size, don’t need to be getting tons of new clients on a regular basis in order to be doing really well. I mean, a really good agency probably has 10 to 15 clients total at any given time. Now I’m not talking about the high volume digital shops or things like that, or SEO or PPC or that kind of stuff. That’s a whole different animal, but the vast majority of agencies really have a small number of clients that they service really well.

And so your business development program doesn’t need to be getting 50 leads a month. You couldn’t handle it if that was the case. You need to be getting quality and you need to be focused on getting your actual ideal clients. And if you can’t define those things, you’re not going to be able to work with any outside firm to generate those.

Jody Sutter: I agree. Yeah, totally agree.

Chip Griffin: And, and I think that this also goes back to something that an old boss of mine used to talk about, which is you have to be careful that you’re not mistaking motion for progress. And so a lot of times agency owners, when it comes to business development, they feel like they just think I need to be doing something.

I can’t just be sitting here, particularly if maybe you’re you’re in a dip in your revenue, or you’re not growing as fast as you’d like to. And so you’re like, okay, You know, I, I need to, and it’s, it’s why a lot of agencies respond to senseless RFPs, right? Because it feels like you’re doing something. I put together a proposal.

I respond to this RFP. They don’t know what their odds of winning that RFP are because they’ve never had a conversation. They’ve never, you know, that it’s just literally something that came over the transom, but they felt like they did something. And, and that is a real problem. You need to be focused on things that you actually believe have a high probability of success.

Otherwise you’re wasting those scarce resources that you have available.

Jody Sutter: You know, it’s something I think a lot about in the last few years as the leading versus lagging indicators and. So in some ways, yeah, the action – misguided action is unfortunate. Um, but a big thing that I try to do with my clients is also have them look for the leading indicators again, to get them sometimes.

But sometimes I do find like it’s important just to get them to take action. So I was just, as you were saying that I was like, well, what if an agency said to me, well, our best way of getting new business is pitching RFPs. So our leading indicators. In other words, those things that you can see that you can measure on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that we’re doing, as long as that is going up or meeting expectations, you know, that’s the whole nature of a leading indicator, right?

It, it is leading you towards success. So they may say, well, we just have to answer more RFPs. Maybe. And that, but then the key is at the end of whatever period, a quarter, six months, a year, to be able to look at the lagging indicator, which is how many RFPs did we manage to participate in? And more importantly, how many did we win?

And if that is not meeting your, your lagging indicator. Let’s say you want to win, you know, two out of three, and you’re nowhere near that. Then that’s when you need to be brave enough to say, okay, we’ve got to change the strategy.

Chip Griffin: Well, I think you’ve, you’ve touched on something really important there, which is your win rate.

If you’re, if you’re engaged in a lot of lead generation that has a very low rate of success, then you need to really focus on working smarter, not harder. Don’t just generate more leads, figure out how to get better leads, figure out how to qualify them faster so that you’re not wasting your time on a low win rate opportunity.

And instead you’re focused on the things that are going to be really good fits and, and as much easier for you to close. So you really need to be, to have that clarity with yourself, which unfortunately, a lot of agencies don’t have. They just, they’re sort of grasping out there because they want revenue.

And they’re not really thinking about, is this a good fit? They’re thinking will the check clear and, and sometimes that’s important, you know, most agencies go through a period where they do just have to generate revenue, but you can’t have that as your strategy all the time.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. It’s, it’s exhausting and it’s not reliable.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, and it, and it leads to, you know, inertia guiding your agency, as opposed to you deciding where you’re going to take it. And suddenly you, you know, one day you wake up and you look at your, your roster of clients and the work that you’re doing. And you’re like, I hate this. This is, this is not why I started this business and that you’ll never be successful if you hate your own business.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. Hopefully. Yeah, no, yeah. You’ll be unhealthy, unsuccessful, and probably in


Chip Griffin: Yeah. All right. So, you know, if you are looking for some outside help, so let’s, let’s assume that you’ve, you know, you’ve put together a decent biz-dev program. You have a pretty good sense as to who your ideal client is.

How do you think about bringing some, some external resources to bear, whether it’s a firm, like the one that Lee works for, or, you know, any, and there’s a whole variety out there, right? Because there are different kinds of lead generators, appointment setters. Some that take you even further along in the process, sort of more outside outsourced, you know, biz dev operators, if you will.

So how do you figure out what you actually need? How do you figure out, you know, should I go for one that’s you know, using cold calls versus LinkedIn outreach versus, I mean, there’s so many different options. I think it’s a dizzying array for most agency leaders to contemplate.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. I think there are a few variables that you have to consider.

Uh, one is I always go back to, I guess this is maybe you’ve already made that assumption is going back to how strong is our sales proposition, because if you’re handing something to a third party, Um, they are, they’re only going to be as good as that sales proposition and the material that you’re giving them.

So make sure that that is the communicates the value that you provide as best as possible. Um, I would also, there are so many lead generators out there. Um, I’d always look for someone with agency experience. So again, Lee’s a good example, there are also other there, you know, There are a handful of others that also have agency experience.

And I’m also very happy to offer my opinion on the ones that I think are worth looking at and, and getting prices from and talking to. Goes back to also what you were saying. How many leads do you need? Also the category that you are, um, that you’re trying to pitch, you know, I’ve been working with one agency right now on new business strategy and two of their big categories are higher ed and healthcare.

And, both of those categories, the. The nature of how the clients are, how the contacts interact with the outgoing messages. Totally different. Right. Totally. But they’re different. And so different styles, different things that are going to work different things you’re going to have to try. So I think you want to make sure that you’re very clear about the categories that you are pursuing.

Um, and I think also to your point, yeah, you got to, you have to go back to your strengths. So if you know, If you know that like one of my profiles is the communicator and they’re the ones that have to get out onto the speaking circuit and doing keynotes, either online, or now that we’re coming back out into the world into real life, real life events.

Um, so if they already feel like they are there, they’re out there, they’re pitching themselves. They’re getting speaking gigs and they’re getting leads through the speaking gigs. And following up on those leads. The decision to use a lead generator might be, you know what, we’ve where we’ve got this engine running and we’ve now grown to the point where we could, uh, we could accommodate so many more leads.

So we’re going to use this as a complement to. Although I’d actually argue that you probably, you know, you may never need a lead generator. So you want to look at that like, well, if my strength is around communication, I’m the CEO and I’m going out there and I know I should be speaking more. Have I maxed that out?

Um, and even with some other agencies, too, things like referrals and strategic partnerships for agencies that don’t love outreach, I would rather than see a, see them build up a strong relationship with their close contacts and their network, former clients, former employees, some agencies will say, well, we’re, we’ve, we’re starting to exhaust that pool.

My personal, my direct experience is that most agency are not taking a full advantage of that. So I’d rather you try that, then spend a lot of money each month trying to generate new leads.

Chip Griffin: Right. And, and I think that, you know, you need to look at, you know, what are you hiring this outside firm to do? Because you can hire people who will help fit into, you know, the way you’re categorized on your quiz or your own strengths, that you’ve self-identified, whatever it is.

So, you know, if your success is based on speaking, hire someone to help you get more speaking gigs so that you don’t, you don’t need to hire someone necessarily for direct leads. You need to have the help to get what you know works for you. Yeah. I think the other thing is if you’re, if you’re going to be hiring a firm like this, you need to look at how they’re interacting with you.

How are they trying to win your business? Because that’s just as your agency is a reflection of your style as the owner. Generally speaking, these firms are a reflection of the way that they win their own business. And so, you know, if they came to you because you know, you got spammed on LinkedIn and they said, you know, oh, we can, you know, fill your pipeline, you know, with, with no effort on your part.

And you know, you’ll, you’ll have more business than you know what to do with, that’s probably how they’re going to communicate with prospects too. Is that what you’re comfortable with is that how you want to present yourself to the world? On the other hand, maybe they’re like Lee McKnight and they’re putting out great content and they’re demonstrating expertise in order to win your business.

Well, that may be a better fit for some agencies because that’s how they want to present themselves to the world. So look at how they’re winning your business because the chances that they’re doing something different in their outreach on your behalf than the outreach they’re doing to win you is pretty small.

Jody Sutter: Yeah, that’s a really great point.

I never really thought about it that way. And that makes so much sense. And it’s interesting. And, and it’s such an easy filter to apply. Like, do I like their pitch? That’s the issue? Do I like it? Is it effective? Do I respect it?

Chip Griffin: And unfortunately there’s a lot of garbage out there these days. I mean, there are so many firms out there promising that they can generate leads for agencies.

I mean, my inbox on LinkedIn is just filled on a daily basis with people telling me that they can, you know, win business for my agency. Clearly they’re doing a terrible job. I don’t have an agency anymore. They have a search that says agency. And because of the name of the group is Small Agency Growth Alliance. They’re like, oh, agency. We’ll pitch him. It’s just dumb.

Jody Sutter: I get that all the time and every now and then when I’m feeling particularly snarky and I have a couple moments, I’ll write back saying, what makes you think that like, oh, this is, can you tell me more about why you think I’m the perfect or when he gets something like, you’d be the perfect, you’d be the ideal, blah, blah, blah.

And I often write back. Can you tell me more about why I would.

Chip Griffin: Right. I mean, it’s, it’s absolutely nuts. It’s like all these agencies that are out there trying to book people on podcasts. And so they’ll, they’ll reach out and say, oh, you know what? We’ve got a great guest for the Agency Leadership Podcast. The one I host with Gini Dietrich and they, we listen to it all the time.

You do? Have you ever heard a guest on that show? We’ve been doing that show for almost four years now. We’ve not had a single guest,

Jody Sutter: I guess that works. It must work for some people.

Chip Griffin: I mean, look, it it’s like anything else, right? It’s like any spam, you know, it’s like the Nigerian prince stuff that it only gets sent because it does work on a percentage of people.

You just need to send so much of it and they don’t care that they’re turning people off. So, but that’s something for you to look at, you know, is that the approach they’re taking with you because if they are, they’re probably going to be doing that with the prospects that you help them to identify, which I think is one of the other critical things for success.

You need to make sure that you’re working with anyone that you hire on the outside, or even internally to clearly identify who you should be reaching out to. Right. Cause there’s nothing worse than, than hiring one of these outside lead generators. And they bring you all sorts of leads that just aren’t good fits because that becomes a time burden.

So not only are you paying for something that’s ineffective, which is bad enough, it’s eating up your time because now you’re getting on the phone with people who aren’t good fits. And I see that happen all the time with sort of your run of the mill appointment setters, because they’re really just focused on getting people in your pipeline because that’s what they promised.

And they figure as long as we’re showing some activity, You’re going to be happy and keep paying us at least for a period of time.

Jody Sutter: That’s how, that’s how they agreed that you would measure their success. And I will also say that sometimes you will find that with higher quality firms, but it can. And if that’s happening, then it’s also an indication that, again, you’re not equipping them with the best story or materials. They’re doing their best, but.

I want to ask you is like to, well short of shifting the subject, what about some of the more, cause I have some theories, ideas, opinions about this, some of the real, like nuts and bolts of the, you know, like the logistics of business development activities. And I think sometimes agencies can get really caught there and get, you know, get stuck in all the stuff that really you need to do to support that.

Um, how many of the agencies that you work with are willing to do things like hire a VA in the Philippines? I think that’s, I actually think VA’s are very under leveraged in the agency world to get someone, to hire someone else for a fraction of what you would pay your own team to do things like maintain your database, write your auto responders or whatever it is that you need to do in order to support whether it’s outreach, public speaking, campaigns, writing your book. Um, I think that’s a really easy answer that I think is often neglected.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, look, I think that there, there is a real place for hiring help to help you with some of these individual tasks.

And I think, you know, VA unfortunately, has become one of these terms has just gotten overused and it’s almost any freelancer doing anything these days. Right. Um, and so you, you have to make sure that you’re getting someone who can really do what you particularly need them to do. Uh, and so that might be.

You know, if you’re, if you’re a content focused person that might be having someone do some of the podcast production and you know, all of those things that can take a few hours a week, that there’s no reason for you to be doing yourself. If it’s maintaining your database, you know, that, that you just need to make sure that it’s someone who is good at that particular thing, but you’re right.

There are these resources out there. They are generally available at a relatively affordable cost. I guess what I would say is before you do that, be really clear about what you need done. Ask yourself. Okay. Two or three times, is that, do I really need to be doing this right? Because I, I see a lot of, uh, again, sort of in this motion, not progress category.

I see a lot of activity that’s not really needed. Like, I mean, how much time do you really need to spend maintaining your databases and agency? If I’m looking to get three or four new clients a year, is it really that big of a thing where I need to be massaging it?

Jody Sutter: You and I are probably like CRM nerds.

And I wouldn’t even say that I’m at that advanced, but I don’t know. I couldn’t live without my contact database. Couldn’t run a business without it, but there are so many, I think there are a lot of agency owners who are just like, oh, please, please do not bring up how I need to do something more than sticky notes around my monitor

Chip Griffin: And you don’t, you don’t, you just need to have some way to track it to be, I mean, like you, I’m a nerd. I mean, I love databases. I’ve built databases from scratch. I wrote software for one of my own companies that, that turned into a big product. I love doing it. The reality is, you know, and I get asked all the time by clients.

What CRM should I use? What project management tool should I use? My answer is always, it doesn’t matter. Just pick one and use it consistently. If you’re actually, you know, it can be an Excel spreadsheet who cares just use something. Yeah. Yeah. And so, so we have a tendency to overcomplicate these processes, so absolutely hire help where you need it, but ask yourself, does this even need to be done?

I mean, I, and I see this a lot later on in the business development process, where way too much time gets spent on the actual proposal. Right. And, and, and you just, you’re investing so many resources and this happens particularly with RFPs, but I don’t want to just dump on RFPs. I spend plenty of time doing that on this show, but even just, you know, regular ones that, that you’re working through the normal process too much time gets spent.

And guess what? Nobody looks at most of this stuff that you’re submitting, right? It’s not, when you send in a 40 page proposal, nobody is reading what’s on page 36. I guarantee you.

Jody Sutter: Or maybe they are, but that’s the only thing they’re reading and they had to get through all that dreck at 35 pages of, of unimportant information.

Do you? Yeah. Why do you think that is? Why do you think agencies spend more time than they need to on an RFP?

Chip Griffin: Fear of losing.

Jody Sutter: Yeah. And maybe also it could work again.

Chip Griffin: Yeah, I it’s, again, it feels like you’re doing something, it feels particularly, and you and I both work primarily with smaller agencies.

And so they feel like they need to stand out. So this, this happens a lot when they’re going for that big logo account. And so they feel like, you know, I’m competing with the big boys, which may or may not even be true. Right. Most of the time, they have no idea who their competition is because the prospect won’t tell them.

And so they’re like, I need to stand out. And so we’re going to put together this sample and that sample and these ideas on this mock-up. And, and I think, you know, it’s because they’re afraid, it’s, it’s frankly, lack of self-esteem for the agency, right? Lack of confidence in your ability. And so you need to go above and beyond in order for you believe in the business, it doesn’t usually work.

It doesn’t usually work. And the other thing is frankly, the agencies aren’t spending enough time figuring out how much time they actually spend doing these things. Right? And again, this is very frequently in the RFP process. Cause RFPs tend to have a fairly low win rate in most cases, and they don’t add up all the time it takes to win.

So if you’re winning one out of 10 RFPs, you need to add up all the time you spent on the nine losing ones. In addition to the one that you won and say, okay, I need to subtract that total cost out of all the profit I get on the one that I won. Yeah. Guess what most of the time you’re coming out behind, you really need to be clear with yourself about the amount you’re investing in business development to make sure you’re getting return on that investment.

Jody Sutter: I think there are also three things can make a big difference in reducing the times with RFPs. One: again, make sure you’re pitching the right things that you have a value proposition that is going to be really clear. And it makes sense that that it makes sense for you to pitch that client based on your value proposition. Two: before you just compile a lot of boiler plate or patchwork stuff from past RFP responses, think really strategically about, you know, the 1 to 3 things that are going to win you that business. What are those win themes and make sure your response, uh, reinforces that over and over and also help you keep you focused

and I think may make the content and the time reduce that. And three is have a conversation with the client. Yeah, take some of that time that you’re saying, Hey, listen to this case study in. Add that, that beautiful image in, and instead have a conversation with the client, if you can. I know sometimes formal RFP process restrict that, but like talk to them, what’s motivating them.

What’s going to, what’s the most important for them so that you can create a plan of action based on that, that responds to that.

Chip Griffin: Absolutely. And I think that last point is, is probably the most important takeaway from this conversation. Really any discussion about business development, you have to have a conversation.

You have to shut up and listen to the prospect because I know you’re excited that you might be able to work for Coca Cola or GE or whomever, listen to what they really need. Figure it out. Don’t don’t say, oh, well, it’s Coca-Cola I have this great idea. I’ve I’ve been ruminating on this for, for years. I want to pitch this to them.

Is that what they’re actually looking for. You actually have to have those conversations because that’s how you win business. It’s not by proposing. And sometimes agencies even go so far as to propose something the client didn’t ask for. Well, we know you, you asked for A, but we know you need B.

Jody Sutter: We’ve got a great idea.

Chip Griffin: Maybe they do, but get there through a conversation first. Don’t, you know, don’t just dump it on them in a proposal and expect that you’re going to be able to go outside whatever bounds they’ve created.

Jody Sutter: Yeah, it’s a lot of work and it ends up mostly in a real disappointment.

Chip Griffin: It does. And, I think the, you know, part of that is because you get to – not you, but agencies get too obsessed with winning some of these big logo accounts, which oftentimes particularly small agencies end up regretting because it looks great on your credentials deck, but it doesn’t end up being a profitable account and ends up being painful.

You end up dealing with more procurement people.

Jody Sutter: Less likely to be a valued partner for sure.

Chip Griffin: But hopefully this has not been like a conversation with procurement. Hopefully we’ve given some practical ideas. We’ll actually make you money and not take away from your bottom line as an agency owner. So, but unfortunately it has brought us to the end of the time that we have available.

Jody Sutter: It always goes so quickly!

Chip Griffin: It does. I know we could go on for probably another three hours or more, uh, on what we’ve been talking about today. Jody, I really appreciate you joining, in order to, to share this valuable information with listeners. It’s always fun conversation. I look forward to having you back again. Very soon.

As I mentioned earlier, we will include a link to the quiz in the show notes. So be sure to check that out and check out all the resources that Jody has at thesuttercompany.com. So with that, we are at the end of this week’s episode, you can go to smallagency.tv to find previous episodes of this show, as well as other videos that are useful to small agency owners. And you can go to small agency growth.com to learn more about SAGA. So with that have a great weekend. And I hope to see you all back here again, very soon.

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