Photo credit: Dean Gugler
You’re going to find these tools indispensable. You’ll save time, and you'll find it easier to sustain the kind of momentum that is the mark of successful prospecting.

I want to shift the attention in this post to the more practical side of selling and highlight some tools that will keep your team organized and effective. They’re all software-based – indeed they can all be used as SaaS -- and, while they require an investment in time and money, they’ll continue to pay off the more you use them.

My last post was about getting your house in order before you start to sell anything and I focused on knowing your audience and getting your story right.

1. CRM database – You need a place to store and track info about your prospects (and clients, search consultants and press contacts, while your at it). When you’re prospecting on a regular basis, things get complicated fast as you build up intelligence that gets you closer to winning business. A CRM database organizes that information in a way that lets you use it strategically. This is especially crucial if there is more than one person at your agency responsible for prospecting. You want your representatives to be buttoned up and working towards a common goal, not tripping over themselves.

I recommend software like Salesforce,  ACT! or Sugar CRM (and one day I’ll get around to writing a post reviewing the pluses and minuses of each). I don’t recommend Excel because, for all its strengths, it is not a program designed for CRM. But I’ll admit it’s better than nothing, as long as you consider it a temporary solution and keep your data clean until you’re ready to upgrade to a real CRM solution.

2. Data source – Next, fill that database with lots of juicy leads. Let’s assume you’ve done your homework and you know who your best targets are. You’ll need a reliable source for names, titles, contact information and other intelligence like media spend, agency incumbents and current advertising. In our category, there are two leaders – The List and Access Confidential. I fully endorse both, but each have their limitations so I always advocate cross-referencing with LinkedIn as a way to dig deeper for more targeted contacts.

3. Email marketing platform – Now that you’ve got a database of prospects, make the most of it by communicating with them on a consistent basis. For your one-on-one outreach, you’ll probably find that you focus on your best contacts, maybe 10 to 15 percent of your total. Email marketing is a good way to make sure you’re not neglecting the rest.

Again, there are many good options, including EmmaConstant Contact and Mail Chimp, which is the one I use. Choose one that integrates well with your database software – most of them do.

4. Marketing plan – Even if it’s rudimentary, have a plan that maps out your marketing activities for the year. Start with the basics – monthly blog topics (and here’s how to never run out), conferences, PR exposure and new business wins – heck, even your holiday card should be on there.

Here again, starting with an Excel spreadsheet is better than not starting at all, but if you’re committed to go big or go home, look into a marketing platform like HubSpot that can help you automate your marketing and analyze its effectiveness.

5. Social media – Your marketing messages should be communicated through all relevant channels, especially social media, which has become one of the most inexpensive and effective ways to promote your ad agency. HubSpot is also a great tool for this because, among other things, it will manage your social media streams, letting you post to multiple streams at once, as well as schedule posts and track interactions. But if you’re not ready to make the kind of investment that HubSpot requires, settle for a cheaper (often free) and very good application like HootSuite.

These tools will take some time to set up and get used to, and I understand that spare time rarely exists in ad agencies, but once you start using them, you’re going to find them indispensable. You’ll save time and find it easier to sustain the kind of momentum that is the mark of successful prospecting.

The opposite is also true. It gets increasingly complicated to sustain a serious prospecting effort without these tools in place and it’s harder to make the transition to more sophisticated, effective tools the longer you wait.

What’s working for you? Are you using other tools that I haven’t mentioned that you can’t live without? I’d love to hear your feedback!
They're prospecting tools that I couldn’t do without – and neither should you: