At its core, winning new business is about relationships. How often do you hear that a pitch was won or lost because of the chemistry? Now I’m no Cupid, but 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 to treat the exercise as if you were on the hunt for your perfect partner. Here are a few tips:

Know what you want and ask questions

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, take time to consider the elements required to make the relationship a success.

Explore whether you are both culturally aligned, for example if you are both B-Corp companies. Ask yourself, is there a certain budget you want to work to? Have you spotted a specific problem you think you can help with? When considering brands in sectors you don’t currently work in, think about the historic or personal experience you have that you can leverage. 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 is likely to be wasted.

The same rules apply to dating. Like any good first date you need to find out 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 weekends declawing cats. It helps to know what you want from a new client and who you really want to work with from the get-go so you don’t waste anyone’s time.

Sometimes it’s who you know

Some of the best relationships start out as friendships or meetings via mutual acquaintances, cutting out the need for that awkward first date. In fact, even in the age of internet dating, many of us still meet our partners at work, with a 2020 YouGov survey showing 18% of couples met their present or most recent partner through work.

The same goes for new business, where a warm approach is far 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, partners or agency comrades that could connect you, and try and get a recommendation or introduction.

Also, intermediaries or new business consultancies could be seen as the new business equivalent of dating agencies. It’s worth expanding your own network and using the experts around you to connect to new opportunities.

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If you’re going in cold, don’t be weird about it

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 in-mail 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 why are you right for them. Keep it as natural, conversational and human as possible. Short, sweet and to the point.

Personalised emails receive 6x higher transaction rates yet 70% of brands fail to personalise, according to research from Experian. Meanwhile Econsultancy revealed that 74% of marketeers say personalisation increases customer engagement. Through our own proprietary research at Wunderman Thomson we found that 2 in 3 people stopped using a brand specifically because of poor communication.

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 see the highest click to open rates happening on a Tuesday at 10am, with a 21% CTR, followed with a spike at 1pm and 6pm. 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 own 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 titled “How to slide into DMs”, 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.”

Don’t ghost

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 you decide not to hire an agency, give them feedback and a reason why. Don’t just ignore them or just say you’ve gone with someone else.

Even if you do just revert to the old dating line of “the chemistry wasn’t there”, at least we know where we stand and we can move on.

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