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LONDON - How often do you hear that a pitch was won or lost because of the chemistry? At its core, winning new business is about relationships, and I believe the wonderful world of dating, and the trials and tribulations we've all faced (or just me?!), has much to teach us about how to be better new business professionals.
When figuring out how to build and convert your new business pipeline, it helps to consider the fundamentals of a good relationship and treat the exercise as if you were on the hunt for your perfect partner.
It's easy to get deeply involved in a process with a new client before realising the relationship's not right, and there's a clash of views around creative ambitions, company cultures or budgets. So before setting your sights on a new business target, consider the elements required to make the relationship a success.
When considering brands in sectors you don't currently work in, think about the historical or personal experience you have that you can leverage. Explore whether you are both culturally aligned. Are you both B Corp? Is there a specific budget you want to work to? Also, make sure your target is attainable. If you want to pursue a brand but they've just signed up with a new agency or partner, your energy and investment are likely to be wasted.
The same rules apply to dating. Like any successful first date, you need to find your commonalities, so ask questions. It's not going to work if your prospective partner wants different things to you. You don't want to discover too late that the new-found love of your life plans move to Iceland or likes to spend their weekend's declawing cats. It helps to know what you want from a new client and who you want to work with, so you don't waste anyone's time.
Some of the best relationships start as friendships via mutual acquaintances, eliminating the need for that awkward first date. A 2020 YouGov survey shows that 18% of couples met their present or most recent partner through work. The same goes for new business, where a warm approach is better than a cold call. Get out your little black book and investigate who you or your colleagues know that could help, such as old contacts or agency comrades that could connect you, and try and get a recommendation or introduction. Also expand your network and use the experts around you to connect to new opportunities - intermediaries or new business consultancies.
When was the last time you responded to a thoughtless and unsolicited message on Instagram? So why would it be different on LinkedIn or your inbox? Before you hit send on an InMail, think about making it personal. Switching out the name is not enough; make it relatable to the person, outline what's in it for them, and explain why you are suitable.
Keep it as natural, conversational and human as possible. Short, sweet and to the point. According to research from Experian, personalised emails receive 6x higher transaction rates, yet 70% of brands fail to personalise. Our proprietary research at Wunderman Thomson found that 2 in 3 people stopped using a brand precisely because of poor communication.
Meanwhile, Econsultancy revealed that 74% of marketers say personalisation increases customer engagement.Pay attention to what time and day you are getting in touch. No one wants to work weekends or find their inbox full on a Monday. HubSpot sees the highest click-to-open rates happening on a Tuesday at 10 am, with a 21% CTR, followed by a spike at 1 pm and 6 pm. And don't spam; if people don't reply, sending five more emails isn't going to help. Find new avenues or give it some time.
And let's not forget this trusty piece of tech called the phone. Emails are great for engaging with people on their terms, but once you have a relationship think about picking up the phone or attending the same events together to get to know people outside of the laptop.
Personalising your approach is also more likely to get you noticed in the dating world. In a 2021 Cosmopolitan article, a dating expert advises: "Definitely avoid simply saying "hey" in a first message. This is almost equivalent to saying nothing and has a high chance of being completely ignored."
In a 2019 BuzzFeed survey, 81% of people said they ghosted someone because they weren't into them. The same is true in the new business world, with many stories of leads going cold, trailing off or clients disappearing. Agencies often put a tonne of work into proposals, meetings, and pitches, so if you're a client and decide not to hire an agency, give them feedback and why. Don't just ignore them or say you've gone with someone else. Even if you revert to "the chemistry wasn't there", at least we know where we stand and can move on.