“Challenger” agencies and their new business success, part one

What kind of an agency new business professional are you? Are you a relationship builder? Hard worker? Problem solver? Or maybe a challenger?

A friend of mine recently shared a Harvard Business Review blog post  that defines these profiles, and then goes on to suggest the “challenger” profile is the most successful one. Yours truly read this article, put on his agency new business cap, and then thought you, you, you might find value in understanding how a “challenger” perspective might be used to win new business.

Fair warning, these guys are selling a book. But the authors found the “challenger” profile to be defined by three key capabilities. What follows are excerpts from the post (that you should definitely read) as well as some agency-speak from yours truly:

“Challengers teach their customers. They focus the sales conversation not on features and benefits but on insight, bringing a unique (and typically provocative) perspective on the customer’s business.”

Agency new business translation: Uh, yep.
Sure, these sentences elegantly capture the mission of many a finals presentation. Agencies identify insights on what’s happening in the prospect’s category, with their consumers and the brand. Typically, we share the insights, then the implications of that observation. These implications can be strategy, creative, media, yadda yadda…

But to me, agencies shouldn’t forget a little of the feature/benefit idea. You must do this because more than likely you are in a competitive situation. Tell the prospect WHY and WHAT your thinking can do for their business. The benefit of your thinking. Paint the picture of success. In many cases, it could be showing them the money.

Also, who says this kind of thing should be reserved for later rounds? This idea of having unique insight can be used in any stage of the new business wooing process: credentials; RFPs; initial meetings; prospecting efforts…

In prospecting, for instance, an easier way to get a meeting might be to have some piece of agency-developed intellectual property that can be used to generate awareness and initial interest.

Stick around. Later this week we’ll explore two other capabilities of challenger profiles and discuss implications around them that will sharpen your new business acumen.