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Sparking a reaction: How to stimulate a prospect to become a client

This is the scenario – your agency has developed a confident and distinct proposition and you have a defined engagement strategy to communicate this to the outside world. So far so good.

Even better, your engagement strategy has identified a number of prospects that have expressed admiration for your output, and have made positive noises about your methodology.

This is brilliant, but how can you move these potential clients through the narrowest and most difficult phase of the business development funnel and convert this interest into a mutually beneficial commercial partnership?

Assert your relevance

Clients don’t need agencies – they need a solution to the business challenge or opportunity they are facing. Your job is to make sure your agency becomes the front of mind solution to the specific challenge your prospect faces. Use your research, sector knowledge and curiosity to create relevance for your approach and methodology to demonstrate that ultimately, you’re the agency to deliver the solution they need.

Personalise every communication

The time has now passed for generic engagement techniques – you are now at a stage of the conversion funnel when you need to address the needs of an individual brand and an individual client. Be it a keep in touch email, a case study update, an event invite or a credentials pitch.

Continue to drive fame throughout the organisation

Your early research identified that your prospect is the budget holder and decision maker but no-one likes to make decisions in a vacuum. Make sure that your agency is on the radar of junior and senior members of your prospect’s team – by creating an ongoing stream of relevant targeted content you can encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter or social feeds, and also drive PR to make your agency familiar. This way, once you are in the mix for a project or a pitch, you will enjoy a degree of familiarity throughout the business, giving the decision maker the confidence of their peers.

Prove the impact of your work

Your clients and prospects are demanding (and are receiving) increased accountability for their marketing and development investment. Your prospect is likely to be ultimately working to a measured objective. Show your knowledge and interest in your prospect by asking what their objectives are, then tailor your communications to them to position your methodology and solution to deliver against these.

Listen and empathise

Business development is not the same as sales – we aren’t selling widgets here. Spend your time listening to your prospect during any communication window, use the intelligence gathered to inform your next approach.

Ease the purchase barrier

Pre-empt a traditional pitch process by proposing a joint session to develop a brief based on an immediate challenge you have identified that faces your prospect. The preferred outcome is to distill a brief that you can respond to as part of a future formalised engagement and to use the face-to-face opportunity as a chance to build trust and confidence from the prospect in your approach. Remember these sessions are to define the brief – be wary of turning these sessions into creative or idea generation workshops which would undermine your value and your ability to monetise your skills.

Don’t always be the sales person

You may have a single-minded aim to win a new client but there is no bigger turn off than a persistent and pushy sales person. Vary your approach by adding value to the prospect in different ways. Inspire them with other examples of innovation from their sector and invite them to take part in your agency activity – suggest they contribute to your thought leadership pieces or invite them to an event you are organising or attending. Think of this as building a relationship as much as securing a sale.

Persistence is rewarding

Business development takes time and is a school of hard knocks. You are seldom a prospect’s number one priority so build your awareness and relevance in your prospect’s world. When you have a defined role, purpose and benefit in the mind of the prospect you’ll be number one on the list when the time comes. Be prepared for periods of inaction and silence, but considered and managed persistence bears fruit.

Conversion of leads from prospecting or inbound is always going to be challenging and time consuming, but with a strong product, persistence and confidence you will build relationships and instil the confidence that starts the journey towards a commercial relationship based on partnership and a shared purpose.

DBA Experts Register – professional advice at hand

If you have a particular business challenge or are looking to move your agency to the next level, we’ll work closely with you to connect you to an expert, whatever the issue. We’ve identified expert consultants with sustained and relevant experience in supporting the design industry, so you can rest assured that we can introduce to the right one to meet your needs.


Our Experts have extensive experience supporting the creative industry and are DBA approved, recommended by peers and reference checked. Visit the DBA Experts Register.


If you’re interested in becoming a DBA Expert, find out more

About: Jeremy Paterson

Jeremy is a DBA Expert. Through his hands-on consultative approach, he has helped multiple SME agency owners to position, structure and plan their businesses to drive commercial and operational efficiency and growth.

To use Jeremy’s expertise to support the development and growth of your business please email

Image credit: Leonard von Bibra | Unsplash


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