Not everyone loves process, but when you’re managing the chaos of a new business pitch, it can really help. Process is especially important in unwieldy situations (think of a global pitch at a big agency with dozens of stakeholders across continents), but it’s just as useful for a small one-office agency. Working within a standard process gives everyone the reassurance that they are all playing from the same playbook. It can also empower your new business team to make decisions that will save time, limit confusion and keep things moving forward.

For these first weeks of 2014, I’ll be focusing on new business process and its operational components – what they are, why they’re important and how to use them.

Step 1 in any new business process: qualify the opportunity.

For this post, let’s start at the start. You’ve received an RFP. What’s your first reaction? Maybe it’s “let’s go for it!,” but is the opportunity right for you? Maybe you’ve even received multiple RFPs, all probably due at around the same time. Are they equally important and do you have the resources to tackle them effectively?If you don’t have one yet, draw up a set of selection criteria. Then empower your business development director (or whoever you’ve charged with that responsibility) to assess opportunities using those selection criteria as a filter. That point about empowerment is an important one because it’s extremely easy for an agency to feel obligated to pursue a bad opportunity that leadership is unrealistically enthusiastic about it.

Next, as a CEO, establish a practice of always meeting with your new business person to qualify the opportunity based on those criteria. It doesn’t have to be formal – a 5 minute phone call often does the trick. Here’s what should be discussed:

  • what’s the opportunity (the nature of the assignment, the value of the business weighed against the requirements of the pitch, etc.)
  • who the players are and whether that puts you in a more or less favorable position
  • how this opportunity meets – or does not meet – your selection criteria

This approach lets your new business team do what you hired them to do – use their expertise to advise you on a plan of action – and enables you to make a better, more informed decision. Sometimes, despite a thorough assessment, you may still decide to pursue a risky opportunity (more on that in my next post in selection criteria), but at least you are moving forward from an informed position with your eyes – and the eyes of the new business team – wide open.