In our latest New Business & Growth interview, we spoke with Jessica Sinn, Team One's Management Director of Growth.
How would you define your role, it is simply about bringing new clients into the agency or is it more nuanced? Please tell us about your responsibilities.
It’s never been solely about bringing new clients into the building. Finding clients can be the easy part sometimes. The hard part, the real craft, comes from finding clients that are a great fit for the agency. Those relationships that bring out the best in both sides, client and agency. It takes a lot of work and time to pitch a piece of business, so when you do pitch, you want it to be a good fit for the long-term. I think the brave thing to do is to be selective about what you decide to pitch and then to go all-in on that opportunity.
New biz gets the knock about being only about the $$$ and yes, money is a factor. But I think fundamentally new business is about new opportunities, new ways of working, new models, new people, new teams. As head of growth, my job is to be as open to opportunities as possible. To not evaluate something on face value, but to dig deeper to uncover ways I can make it work for my team, to set everyone (clients included) for long-term success. It’s easy to say yes to something, it’s a lot harder to deliver successfully to the yes. So that might mean having difficult conversations initially. Just because clients asked for xyz, doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation to change it. We are in advertising. Think of all the amazing innovations out there that probably weren’t included in the initial RFP and/or brief that probably started with someone asking a question.
Where does most new business come from, where does the process tend to begin?
I used to think that new business only came from one or two sources, but after looking at the data and being in this role for over a decade, I now know that opportunities are everywhere. The key is to be curious about each new opportunity that presents itself, ask a lot of questions, and be true to yourself as an agency.
Those initial early stages are my favorite. Some people like seeing it all come together, but I love the beginning. When we don’t have as much info as we would like, when we haven’t met yet, when we haven’t put any filters or expectations on it, when it’s still raw. I love that uncomfortable unknown beginning.
The process never stops. New business is a fluid process and dare I say non-linear. You start, you stop, you crack it quickly, you don’t. Successful pitches couple structure and the unknown. Yes, you need a framework to build from, but you also need undefined space to allow that creative magic to incubate, grow and bloom.
It seems that many clients are moving towards project work rather than the old AOR model. How, if at all, has that changed how you approach a pitch?
I don’t agree that clients are moving more towards project work. I think project work was a byproduct of the AOR model. Clients need something that offers more flexibility in terms of scale, scope, being able to pivot quickly and access different talent. The retainer model as it stands now, doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility or fluidity. So they tried to go with more projects. With project work though, it takes too much time to on-board a new agency, learn the ins and outs of your business and make a successful impact.
Really what I think clients are looking for is a dedicated partner who they trust, can look at things at a 30,000-foot view and get in the weeds, connect the dots, find efficiencies of scale, be able to call up in times of crisis or unprecedented circumstances (COVID) and deliver creative solutions.
That relationship is what is needed to bring breakthrough thinking and creativity that drives the business forward.
In your opinion, what are the key things a client looks for in a pitch presentation, aside from the work?
I think clients want to hear a story that is presented clearly and concisely. A story that makes them feel something, a POV on the way forward that delivers something they weren’t expecting to hear or see.
Things I would look for in a pitch presentation if I was a client:
- Did they show me new ways to approach the business both strategically and creatively (dare I even say financially here)?
- Will this agency push me? On the flip side, will this agency listen to me?
- Do I trust them?
- Do I have chemistry with them?
- Do I believe that this solution will drive the business?
- Do they bring something to the table that complements my team and business?
How did you adapt your process during COVID? Were there any advantages that emerged?
The advantages to COVID were that it took away a lot of the pitch theater moments and brought a renewed focus on the thinking and work. It allowed for more people to attend and experience than usual. It forced us to use creativity to come up with ways that kept the energy levels high, and people engaged.
What are your predictions for agency growth in 2021, where do you see opportunity?
Summer is over, Covid is not going away as fast as we all would have liked, but life continues. I think it’s going to be a busy back half of the year and I can’t wait to see what new opportunities will present themselves.