business development

Is now a good time to speak?

In the same way there’s rarely a time when a flat tyre wouldn’t be inconvenient, it’s rarely true that “now is a good time to speak” when an agency cold calls.

Like most marketers, I’ve taken hundreds, if not thousands, of introductory calls. I respect the individuals who do this as it’s a tough gig, and I’ve often thought about what works and what doesn’t in my experience.


  • Read from a script. Don’t even have a script. Unless you’ve got Robert de Niro working your contact list, it’ll come across inauthentic and unconvincing.
  • Have the same play for every target. Delivering award-winning DM work for a midlands council won’t strike much of a chord with software retailers.
  • Be too chummy (“hello mate, how was your weekend”) or too flattering (“I know you’re a busy executive”)
  • Ask open-ended, over-familiar questions, “what are your strategic objectives for the next 12 months?”. They’re not going to tell you (and they might not even know themselves).


  • Get to the point. A polite, expedient manner acknowledges that the client’s time is valuable, but so is yours. That makes you worth listening to.
  • Know the brand and its issues. This means more than a quick Google, but a real think about what the client will be worrying about and why your agency is specifically, demonstrably suited to help – “we’ve seen this situation before and we were able to…”
  • Have an opinion. It’s OK to challenge and show confidence – just build on it and end up with a way forward not a dead end disagreement.
  • Be persistent. Much as I hesitate to say this, it is true that calling back time and time again works. Just do it with a touch of humour a tone that says it’d be simply criminal if we didn’t at least hear each other out
  • Have some work to present. There is nothing more powerful than already having work you want to show. “Don’t think us presumptive, but we’ve mocked up a campaign idea for you. Just give us 10 minutes any time this week and we’ll show it to you, no strings attached.”